On the Road With “The Biking Vogels”: What the Kids Are Learning

When we last visited the Vogels, they were in the middle of a two and a half-year quest to get their twins the Guinness Record for the youngest boys to spend their childhood on bikes, or something like that. The Vogels are a couple that has taken their twin boys on a biking odyssey (actually two)  through the Americas, requiring them to abandon a normal childhood to be part of their parents’ chosen lifestyle. It is being funded by the presumption that this is a novel and healthy experiment in home-schooling. Fans of the Vogels, including a fawning American media, pronounce the effort a wonderful educational opportunity for Daryl and Davy, now 12, and the adventure of a lifetime. Critics, such as Ethics Alarms, express concern that the boys are being exploited by their parents at the cost of the children’s comfort, safety, health, and socialization.

Our only information about how the boys are faring and what they are learning on their forced march comes from their own journals. This is Daryl Vogel’s entry on September 25:

Today we woke up in a hotel that supposedly included a buffet breakfast. When we went up to the breakfast area to get our breakfast a lady gave us a plate that had bread, butter, jam, and juice. We ate that and went to get more but, because they had given us a discount, we didn’t get a full buffet. So we snuck over and got stuff while she wasn’t looking. She caught me once and got pretty mad. I was tempted to see what would happen if she caught me again.

After a while we left and headed to the border and crossed into Argentina. On the border they had us take off all our bags and let them scan them for drugs. The person in charge of the border patrol gave us an Argentinian flag.

I think that Argentina is a lot like Bolivia because both countries speak the same language, they have the same quality of roads, and the scenery is the same. They are different because most of the hotels in Argentina have air conditioning, Argentina has tamales, and Argentina puts more stuff in their parks.”

The boys’ obsession with food in their entries, as well as incidents like this one which appear to show the development of the skills and ethics of a young grifter-in-training, fuel concerns about their welfare. And for the object of an education that revolves around travel and, supposedly, learning about other countries, Darryl’s musings about Argentina and Bolivia do nothing to dispel suspicions that the Vogels’ journey is less about teaching the children than it is about accommodating the parents.

Ethics Alarms will continue to look in on Daryl and Davy from time to time.

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