Free-Range Kids

How Free-Range Kids Became an Answer on Jeopardy!

It took a lot of work to clear this quiz show milestone.


"Wow!!!!" "Congrats!" "Next step: New York Times crossword puzzle!"

I began receiving such texts on Friday, after achieving the modern-day equivalent of immortality: I became a clue on Jeopardy!.

The category was "Points of View," and the clue was this: "Lenore Skenazy, who wrote of letting her 9-year-old right the NYC subway alone, moved this term from raising chickens to raising kids."

If you can't guess the answer, there's a clue at the top of this article.

So, how does one become a Jeopardy! clue? It's easy: Just let your kid do something the world considers dangerous, then write a column about why the world is wrong. Then write some more columns about it, appear on every possible talk show in defense of yourself, and then graciously accept the nickname "America's Worst Mom."

Then, start a blog about the issue and give it a catchy name, manage to trademark said name (shout out to Dale Cendali, America's top intellectual property lawyer and my dear friend from college), and write a book with the same title. Next, you have to speak at about a million schools, as well as corporate behemoths like Microsoft and DreamWorks. Perhaps most importantly, write to Matt Welch at Reason, out of the blue, and propose yourself as a columnist.

In fact, I recently rediscovered that first letter to Reason, which began:

Hi Matt!

Looking over all the topics on the Reason blog—ever fascinating—I see one that's not covered much: Parenting. And yet looking at parenting is how I found you and the whole Libertarian movement.

I was angry to learn about parents who'd been arrested for letting their kids wait in the car, or walk to the pizza parlor, or play in the park. I couldn't believe some daycare workers had to check in on sleeping babies every 15 minutes to record their sleep positions. I heard from teachers who had to fill out hazardous materials reports for each different brand of baby wipe and dish soap in their classrooms. And I still don't understand the drop-side crib recall — or so many of the CPSC's crusades (like this one against a sandal with a flower on it). And of course I hear about pretty much every Zero Tolerance travesty in this country, often days before the mainstream media gloms on. And that's not to mention all the so-called "safety precautions" set in motion after Sandy Hook, or the insane and arcane background checks now required of school volunteers. (I wrote about those in Monday's Wall Street Journal.)

So if you want to be on Jeopardy!Jeopardy! Masters, actually—and have the contestant answer the clue correctly, just dedicate about 16 years to one specific topic and all its strange and infuriating ramifications, become the world's leading expert on the topic, and write for Reason!