Germany To Ban Noisy Kids?

All of Germany wants them damn kids off their lawns. According to the Times of India, the “German government on Friday said it was working on a bill aimed at battling a growing tide of complaints against noisy children in what is a rapidly ageing society.”

This makes sense; or, better said, this makes senescence. Because there is a strong, well-documented negative correlation between advancing geezerhood and tolerance for noise. Consider: a twenty-year-old is so insensitive to repellent sound that he can fall asleep to the Beatles. By the time he reaches thirty, he can still be soothed to somnolence by listening to celebrity tittle tattle from a late-night talk show.

But once past forty, silence rules at night. And fifty onwards, that cone of quiet extends to waking hours. Once a man is eligible for a senior citizen’s discount, the sounds of screeching children begin to grate. Unless, of course, the cacophony arises from one’s biological grandchildren.

All this is natural enough; even the call by grumpy old Germans that “There outta be a law!” is understandable. What saddens, however, is that instead of being “laughed out of court”, the proposed German law has to be vetted by the “environment ministry.” A spokesman for that agency said, “Noise made by childcare centres, playgrounds and places where ball games are played do not generally constitute a harmful environmental effect”.

A, Lord help us, “harmful environmental effect.” And it’s not that kids can’t constitute a “harmful environmental effect,” but that they “do not generally” do so. After reading this appalling language, we picture an army of government environmental engineers dispatched to playgrounds with dB meters in hand, documenting potentially “harmful environmental effects.” Studies will be written, and meetings convened. Serious discussion will ensue.

How depressing.

15 Comments

  1. I’m afraid you are mistaken: the proposed law does *not* ban noisy kids, quite the opposite. It clarifies that kids do *not* constitute “a harmful environmental effect”. The goal is to prevent people from suing childcare centers etc. because of the noise the kids make. Please reread the Times article…

  2. Gorgasal,

    Thank you for the correction!

    But it does not quite say “do not“, it says that do not always, which means that they sometimes do or can. Perhaps this comes from the translation to English?

  3. With respect to bothersome noise, I feel the same way about crows and now have an air rifle to lay down “Bernie’s Law”. Fair warning to all those crows hanging about and making a racket.
    Please note, I do not suggest Germans adopt the same approach to noisy children. They did quite enough of that between 1933 and 1945. I am just finishing Tom Snyder’s devastating Bloodlands, a book that should be required reading in all countries with a history that includes some form of genocide, i.e., most of them.

  4. You do have wonder how silence would be enforced if their output were ever declared more than Not Always a harmful environmental effect. I can just see it now: A squad of arm banded child-police yelling “Keep it down! Don’t make us come over there!”

    Bernie,

    Obviously, you are not a denier.

  5. You may not know this but Rachael Carlson’s original manuscript for “Silent Spring” concerned itself with the issue of noisy kids and how to deal with them, but her publisher thought her solution was a bit too final, if you know what i mean.

  6. Did a project at Autek, a navy installation on Andros Island in the Bahamas. Having the evening libation, I was thinking that something about this reminded me of suburban Minneapolis in the ’40s, but what?

    It was the sounds of children playing without the heavy background of automotive noise. I hadn’t been anywhere i could have heard this music in many many years — too much background noise, you can’t hear them.

    Bernie, you aren’t just back from a trip to Arkansas by any chance?

  7. My vast experience as a parent has taught me that no natural human noise is louder than the screams of 7-year-old girls at play. They often screech just for the fun of it, in group disharmony, at decibel levels that break eardrums.

    My vast experience has also taught me that no lifeform on the planet is more precious than 7-year-old girls.

    So suck it up, aging Germans. You are luckier than you know.

  8. Is it really appalling language to say: “do not generally constitute a harmful environmental effect”, or is it just cautious language? After all, if that conclusion is based on a relatively small number of dB measurements, it would be statistically irresponsible to conclude that there will never be any risk. Mr Briggs, if you were hired as a consultant on this issue, how would you express the risk? A Bayesian analysis, perhaps?

  9. “All of Germany wants them damn kids off their lawns”. I put it to you, Mr Briggs, that many Germans don’t have lawns – many live in blocks of flats. So noise is potentially a big problem and its regulation a sensible thing to address. If this law is saying that one of the things you can’t complain about is, for example, noisy children in the playgroup on the ground floor, that is – I suggest- a useful clarification.

  10. Not “always” an environmental hazard. Good lord!

    As a child growing up in Spain, I witnessed the mass exodus of people from rural to urban areas that began in the 60s and 70s. Me and my family also moved from a small village –a hamlet really- to a large city when I was 10. Today, many of those very small communities are empty, many others holding only a few old people. One of the most common and apparently sincere laments I’ve heard by people in those places is the hopelessness that the absence of children gives to a place, and how they miss seeing and hearing children, the voices of children playing in the streets.
    I would not be surprised if the presence of children playing voices might one day be shown to have therapeutical benefits to old people, just like the presence of pets is said to do. I envision the possibility of artful recordings of playground cacophonies from a distance, to be played in nursing homes to lift the spirits of the depressed. I propose that nursing homes for the elderly organize excursions to the vicinity of playgrounds, where senescence could sit in benches, close its eyes, and drink the rejuvenating free treatment of the music of children at play, at least 20 minutes every day.

  11. @Francisco

    Further to your excellent idea might be the “play room” at the retirement home where the sounds of children at play might be heard. Even better, would be to locate the play-grounds adjacent to such places.

    In 1949, there were 40 children on my suburban block, oldest born in 1940, most of us ’42s and post-war. And I’ve been informed by parent, that we were very noisy. And of course fewer cars and much less traffic then to mask us.

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