The Rousseau in me

A father and daughter were recently “discovered” living in a large urban park in Portland. I find the reaction, both by the police and the media, to be astounding. The discussion on MF gets at my discomfort in the story.

The father was getting by on a disability check of $400 a month. He and his daughter cultivated vegetables and he taught her. The police found the 12-year-old to be well spoken and in excellent health. They went to town once a week to go to church and the bank and do some shopping. The father made the very sensible decision of moving into the park rather than exposing his daughter to the street.

With the help of the authorities, he now lives in a trailer and is mowing lawns. I know this might be short-sighted of me, but I have to wonder whether they are really better off. The “authorities” have noted that she is reading and working at a 12th grade level, and is articulate and bright. No doubt, this was in large part exactly because of the environment in which she lived. Now, she gets to go to public school while her father mows lawns.

I don’t have enough information to really know, and I do know how badly the media can skew news when they decide to invade people’s privacy, but I can’t help but think that this child was lucky to have had the experience she did, especially considering many of the alternatives.

The television station has set up a college fund for her. Money may be donated at any Bank of America for “Ruthie’s Education Fund.” I hope she decides to go somewhere that will fit her interests. Heck, if she goes to Evergreen or UCSC, she can move back into the woods.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 5/23/2004 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Indeed, limitations of the State.

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