Rich man, poor man

From Maggie's Farm, a sociologist who suspects her colleagues don't live up to their ideals of listening to the people they study instead of imposing their own elite preconceptions. She quotes sociologist Annette Lareau, who contrasts elite-vs.-non-elite parenting styles and scarcely attempts to conceal her preference for the former:
The middle-class [parenting] style of cultivation entailed verbal reasoning and negotiation between parents and children; organizing out-of-school activities and transporting children to and from them; and intervening in schools to ensure that their children were treated well. The “natural growth” style [of working-class parents], on the other hand, entailed verbal directives issues to children without much questioning or negotiation; unorganized, free-flowing out-of-school time; and reluctance to confront and question authorities such as teachers. The result was that middle-class children developed an “emerging sense of entitlement” which we might view as encouraging independent acting and thinking—just the kinds of skills that can be used to obtain and succeed at a high-paying job.
First of all, of course, one wants to chuckle at the idea that the approved elite parenting style makes kids ready for success and high pay by inculcating a sense of entitlement.  (Just what those bosses are looking for.  "Send me some more kids with a strong sense of entitlement!") But the author's more serious objection is that Lareau lacks the self-knowledge to notice that she's trying to impose her elite mores on poor families who have their own way of doing things--ways that, frankly, have a lot to be said for them. I suspect kids raised in this non-elite way will have a decent shot at upward mobility; I'm not optimistic about the kids raised with a sense of entitlement while being shuttled from activity to activity and never allowed to play outside.  Come to think of it, my own parents must have been distinctly non-elite.  They managed to adopt a "natural growth" style that inculcated both self-sufficiency and ambition.  Bonus: I've managed to avoid a life of either crime or sociology!

I'm all for "encouraging independent acting and thinking," but I have great difficulty detecting the connection between this useful skill and the ideal elite upbringing described by Ms. Lareau.


Grim said...

My parents were good parents, and I appreciated the freedom I enjoyed as a youth to spend time alone in the forest with a dog and a machete. I didn't want any other after-school activities besides as much time to explore my world on my own terms as I could get.

I think they engaged my teachers on occasion, but not to make sure I was being treated well: to make sure I was pulling my weight and not causing problems. Parent-teacher conferences invariably led to some sort of punishment, as they caught up with all the complaints from my teachers about laziness or resistance to authority.

I don't know how much of a sense of entitlement I came out with, but a capacity for independent thought and action I certainly had.

Texan99 said...

My parents had the quaint idea that I could make my own way to and from school, and to and from after-school activities, such as they were. I didn't have what you would call a 5-day-a-week lesson habit!

I, too, have fond memories of long days outside, in my neighborhood when we were at home, and in the woods when we went to visit cousins.

Is it just a lost society, the one in which I could walk or bicycle to elementary school, junior high, and high school? No one thought anything of it.

Grim said...

Maybe so. On the other hand, people here might be OK with it if the schools just weren't so far away. I see high school kids walking home from school if they live in the town where it is located, but the middle school is not in any town. They built it in a bean field in the middle of the county, where it is equidistant from everyone.

douglas said...

My wife wouldn't let our kids walk home from the elementary school 1/3 mile away when they were both there (and she's a pretty reasonable woman). I walked to and from that same school alone 40 years ago, and it was great.

When CPS is threatening to take your kids for you letting them walk a mile home from a park, yes, it's a lost society. Pray we find it again.