Editorial: Off of the couch and into danger

TreasureHuntersComic-1It’s easy to complain that kids don’t exercise enough these days. A common stereotype of young people is that they sit on the couch all day with an Xbox controller in hand, a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew to their right and empty boxes of Bagel Bites to their left. While many complain about this, few people do anything to actually try and get kids to go outside and play.

Forrest Fenn, however, is doing something about it. After getting fed up with young people’s lack of adventurous spirit, Fenn, a millionaire and art curator, put millions of dollars’ worth of gold coins and jewels in a treasure chest and hid it all in the mountains north of Santa Fe, N.M.

Fenn hid the treasure three years ago, but its popularity rose after he appeared on the TODAY Show. Clues about the whereabouts of the treasure can be found in Fenn’s memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase,” in the form of the poem listed at the end of the article.

Before it was unsafe to leave your doors unlocked at night or ride your bike to school, kids had a sense of adventure. They would go into the woods and explore just because their minds were curious about what lies beyond the backyard fence. We applaud Fenn for attempting to re-inspire this sense of wonder and adventure in America’s youth.

In fact, if the treasure had been hidden somewhere in Central Texas, the Lariat would not print this week because the entire staff would be out combing the plains.
If online reaction is any indicator, Fenn’s methods are effective. While this may be the coolest thing to happen in New Mexico since the alleged UFO crash in 1947, there are other, better ways to get kids to play outside—ways that don’t potentially endanger their lives.

Fenn’s investment could have funded a statewide project to build safe playgrounds for kids. He could have started recreational youth soccer leagues or funded an existing program, like NFL Play 60, that encourages kids to get their much-needed daily exercise.

A lot can go wrong with sending kids into the mountains.

It is easy to envision a scenario where “The Goonies” turns into “Lord of the Flies” when groups of kids head out into the wilderness without the proper supervision.

There are bound to be adults looking for the treasure as well. Fenn’s efforts might be in vain when you consider that adults have the intelligence and means to find the treasure.

Ethical questions also arise. If kids run away to find the treasure and then go missing, to what extent is Fenn responsible?

Are people willing to break the laws to get to the treasure before anyone else? Is it right to just hand someone, especially a child, millions of dollars and hope that family and friends won’t extort or steal from the kid?

It’s a rough world out there, and it’s a much different time than the 1930s and 40s when Fenn grew up.

While Fenn is fighting for a good cause in the most awesome way possible, there is potential for disaster here. Investing in community recreation areas or middle school physical education programs would probably be more effective.

As I have gone alone in there

And with my treasures bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt

And take it in the canyon down,

Not far, but too far to walk.

Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is ever drawing nigh;

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know,

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

So hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth the cold.

If you are brave and in the wood

I give you title to the gold.