Monday, September 27, 2010

Crisis Report: U.S. Kids Can't Tie Shoelaces Like They Used To

A recent report issued by the influential Center for Motor Skills Research indicates that the United States has now fallen to 47th worldwide in percentage of six-year-olds who can tie their own shoelaces. Fifteen years ago, the United States ranked third.

The sobering reality on America's playgrounds today.

What's behind the precipitous decline in this traditional core childhood skill? No one really has any idea, but this blog still went the rounds and asked the experts. Their theories:

Blame Flip-Flops

Shoelace industry insider Robert E. Bell, Jr., CEO of Old Hickory Shoelace Co., blames flip-flops. "We used to think that Velcro was the big threat," said Bell "We never imagined our culture would turn casual enough to make flip-flops a problem. They aren't good for your kids' feet, they keep kids from learning this core skill: if parents keep dressing their little girls in flip-flops all summer and half the fall, we're on our way to becoming a third-world country, shoe-wise." Bell added, "this is making me upset. Let's not spend any more time talking about it."

Blame Eastern Europe

"Yes, fewer American children can tie their shoes today than could in the age of the dinosaurs" says Facebook's Jim Breyer, "but the fall to 47th has a lot to do with the rapid gains countries like Romania and Moldova are making, and we don't need to always compare ourselves to them. So turn off the red alert and go back to playing FarmVille. Your kids aren't from Moldova, and for Americans, they're doing just fine."

Blame Technology

"Did Peter Thiel really say that? How ironic!" says a character played by actor/director/producer Jeff Daniel Phillips. "Look: if kids weren't playing the video games and parents weren't spending their lives on Facebook and your blog, you wouldn't be interviewing me about this so-called 'crisis'."

"Why are you interviewing me, actually?" Daniels added.

Blame Pres. Obama's Low Approval Rating

"People need to spend less time being disappointed with my husband and more time building their children's skills" says Michelle Obama. "Next time you're tempted to read and forward an email saying that Barack is secretly Muslim, ask yourself if you've taught your kids about how the rabbit goes around the tree and down the hole. And I mean the shoelace rabbit, not some conspiracy theory one."

Blame No Child Left Behind

"I'm sure you've gotten all kinds of explanations, but the truth is pretty simple," says kindergarten teacher Tejinder Dhaliwal of Visalia, California, "We used to help kids with these sorts of skills in kindergarten. No Child Left Behind changed all that. I'm not surprised by these numbers and wouldn't be surprised to see similar declines in jump-roping, finger-painting, and social skills. We chose to raise a generation of test-takers. We've got to live with the consequences of those decisions."


  1. Dear James, I'm French and I love your blog! I love your blog but I am French! I've always been distressed by the fact that my son never quite mastered the art of tying his shoes. He's 31 now. He's also got a PhD in Astrophysics, looks and acts happy, quite normal indeed. Never wore flip-flops nor played video games. He loves to read though. Could this be the reason why he still has a hard time with his shoes?
    Keep writing. You are brilliant and you make my day every time you write a new entry on either blog.

  2. Marie,

    Your son's situation reminds me of a poem my little brother once wrote. I quote it here, without permission, in full. Hopefully he won't sue me.

    "The point of snapping" by my little brother

    I can snap my fingers, can you? Snap, fingers, snap! See thumb, see index finger: see thumb and index finger. Learning to read is as easy as snapping your fingers. I didn't learn to snap my fingers 'til I was 15. Maybe that's why I read so good.

  3. Thank you also for your kind words. I am more crazy than brilliant, but if it makes your day, I will do my best to keep writing anyway.

  4. Maybe kids cannot tie their shoes because their Moms are putting no tie curly elastic shoelaces in their shoes.


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