Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Fair Exchange

Conversation with Younger Daughter on picking her up at the bus stop:

YD: (showing me a duck-shaped eraser): "Look at this cute eraser!"

Me: "Very nice. Where'd you get it?"

YD: "A boy in my class said he'd give me his eraser if I stopped talking to him!"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Future of Work, Marriage, Children

What kind of world will our kids graduate into when they're done with school? What will the economy look like? Will decent jobs be available?

On a completely anecdotal level, I've been noticing for a while that those with young-adult children report that their daughters are completely job-focused and hard-working, while their sons are drifting around finding themselves. This NYTimes article confirmed my observations: Young Women are More Career-Driven than Men.

The headline statistic was this one, comparing young men and women who said that being successful in a highly-paid career or profession is "one of the most important things" or "very important" in their lives: 59% for young men, 66% for young women.

The poll also reveals that marriage and parenthood are becoming increasingly separate goals, at the expense of marriage. Young women say these issues are "one of the most important things in their lives" at these rates: 37% for having a successful marriage and 59% for being a good parent.

What careers will be available to our kids? Some speculate that in the future there will simply be less work to do, because of advances in technology. I've been meaning to read this book about it: The End of Work, by Jeremy Rifkin. As reported in the Atlantic Monthly, in Making it in America:

There’s a joke in cotton country that a modern textile mill employs only a man and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to keep the man away from the machines.
I liked this article in the NYTimes: Let's Be Less Productive. Productivity is not a useful way to think about caring professions, e.g. teaching. A teacher with more students in the classroom is more "productive", but it's usually not in the best interests of the kids.

I'm also WAY in favor of a drastically shortened workweek as a way to increase the number of jobs. Of course, to make that work, we'd need universal health care, so that employers wouldn't be penalized for taking on more employees.

Readers? Thoughts? What will the future look like? What should it look like?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Attributing Motives to Kids

Over on Jessica Lahey's blog, she's got a post about hubris. Among other things, she talks about the desire of kids to "test boundaries" and "challenge authority".

Well, maybe. I've been noticing lately that controlling, authoritarian teachers (and, doubtless, parents) are very quick to attribute these motives to kids, in almost any situation. One such teacher thought my daughter was being defiant when she had simply forgotten a trivial piece of her homework.

There's a narcissism at work here; like a certain type of vain, clueless man who thinks a woman is flirting with him even as she's walking away.

Jessica Lahey says:

I think students test their teachers because they know they are safe with the teachers who care about them. They push us away because they know we will still be here when they return to their senses.
Or perhaps these adolescent students, in the tricky phase between child and adult, are trying to establish a more equal relationship with an adult they care about. They won't manage it if the adult in question can only think in terms of "boundaries" and "authority".

Maybe that child who behaves in a way we don't like is "testing boundaries". On the other hand, maybe she's trying to tell us we've restricted her freedom too much. Maybe she's right.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Novel Way to Aggravate Parents

Concerned Parent (thanks, CP!) sent in a link to this article: Parent Report Cards are Novel Way to Boost Support.

I really hate the article, beginning with the headline. There's nothing novel about report cards, which are highly over-rated as a motivational tool. And I'm not reassured by the point that the parents are encouraged to grade themselves, which, if possible, is even more patronizing. "We know it would never occur to you to wonder how you're doing as a parent, so we've provided a handy rubric!"

This paragraph had steam coming out of my ears:

Nashville resident Christi Witherspoon favors the measures. Despite her busy schedule as a doctor, she and her husband, Roger, spend as much as three hours each night helping their two young daughters with homework.
The daughters in question are 6 and 9 years old! Homework has eaten the family's life, and Mom is OK with that? There's a word for spending 3 hours a day doing academic work with your kids -- it's called "homeschooling."
Under Tennessee's contract legislation, parents in each school district are asked to sign a document agreeing to review homework and attend school functions or teacher conferences, among other things.
Correlation is not causation, people! While it may be true that the children of parents who attend parent-teacher conferences do better in school than the children of parents who don't show up, that doesn't imply that the parent-teacher conferences actually accomplish anything. It's more likely that the kind of parents who show up for conferences are also the kind who offer a supportive environment at home.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Parents as Drivers

Overheard in the car while chauffering Older and Younger Daughter:

Younger Daughter (to Older Daughter): "How come Mom isn't yelling at the traffic?"

Older Daughter: "No, Dad is the one who yells at the traffic. Mom just gets lost all the time."

This was the same trip where Younger Daughter got into my wallet and exclaimed in a voice of wonderment: "Wow, Mom's got a driver's license!"