The first study by Sabino Kornrich and Frank F. Furstenberg, “Investing in Children: Changes in Parental Spending on Children, 1972–2007,” found that spending on children grew over the past four decades and that it became more unequal. “Our findings also show that investment grew more unequal over the study period: parents near the top of the income distribution spent more in real dollars near the end of the 2000s than in the early 1970s, and the gap in spending between rich and poor grew.”
The rich are spending way more on their children's education than they did in the past. Rich parents are investing more than ever in tutors, after-school enrichment programs, camps, and private schools. The gap between them and their poorer peers grows every day.
But all that enrichment is making kids miserable. The intensive enrichment is coming out of parental anxiety, and the kids pick up those vibes. (I can't tell you how many of Jonahs' peers have serious anxiety problems.)
Research from Suniya S. Luthar, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College finds that upper-middle class kids are reacting all this enrichment and pressure in unhealthy ways. She found high levels of substance use, depression and anxiety, particularly among the girls. They were more at-risk for these problems than inner-city kids.
Upper middle class kids are feeling the stress of their parents. The anxiety of falling out of the middle class. The backup plans for average middle class kids do not exist any more. There is the perception that there are fewer and fewer winners in this new economy. And kids and parents are freaking out.
The New York Times magazine profiledthe Avenues school in New York City. Avenues is a private school that was recently opened by the media and education entrepreneur H. Christopher Whittle; Alan Greenberg, a former publisher of Esquire magazine; and the former Yale president Benno C. Schmidt Jr. (and current chair of the Board of Trustees of CUNY colleges).
Working with $85 million in start up money and annual tuition payments of $43,000 per child, they are tapping the great minds to build the most perfect school ever. Sound good, doesn't it? Imagine having a blank check to create the perfect school. Imagine building your own team of fresh, energetic teachers and consultants from scratch. Sound good, right?
The problem with building a school that needs rich parents and their tuition payments is that you have to deal with the parents. You'll have to sell your program to them. Any education program would have to sound fun and new. So, you couldn't sell an old school program that had the kids read the classics and write, re-write, and re-write essays.
The school also has to deal with parental anxieties. There are meetings, after meetings.
And then there was the food committee. After the PowerPoint presentation concluded in the black-box theater, the questions started flying: Why so much bread? What was the policy on genetically modified organisms? Why no sushi? Nancy Schulman, the head of Avenues’ Early Learning Center, who was sitting among the parents that night, has a theory about the wealthy parents of young children. Privileged parents want to control everything in their kids’ lives. When the kids go to school, the parents can’t control what happens for eight long hours; hence, food. She dutifully worked with parents to implement many of their ideas, including more education about nutrition, and more snack time.
The article mocks the mission of the school, which seeks to provide the kids with humility. They want to promote humility, because elite colleges and businesses say that super rich kids coming out of New York City are too arrogant. Elite colleges are sick of them, and companies end up firing them. The idea of an exclusive, expensive, elite school creating committees trying to figure out how to make rich kids less arrogant is a little wonderful.
I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in a wealthy town. The professors lived on the same blocks with the cops. The lawyers, doctors, CEOs, and the occasional musician lived on the other side of town. So, I thought I knew rich people, until I moved to Manhattan and took my first job as an editorial assistant at major book publisher. While I entirely supported myself on my $15,500 salary (rent, food, entertainment, clothes), some of the other assistants were society page types whose daddies paid the rent on their midtown apartments. Their salary was pocket change that contributed towards their entertainment funds. One fellow assistant told me that she had never ridden on a subway before.
When Nick discovers the truth about his wife's abduction, his lawyer tells him to keep quiet. It was too complicated a story, he said. Juries and the public wouldn't be able to follow a complicated reality. People like simple, predictable stories, like "the husband did it." Nick needed to package an alternative story that the public could latch onto.
is just that. A simple, well-packaged novel with one twist that happens in the middle of the book, but it lacks depth and some basic believable characters. [Spoiler alert!! ]
A wife, Amy, is missing. All signs point to the husband, Nick. Halfway through the book, we learn that the chapters that were written in the wife's voice were works of fiction. (It's very meta.) Her diary was all lies and was designed to frame her cheating husband. We learn that we've been manipulated, just like all the other characters in the story. The wife eventually comes home and manipulates the husband even further to keep their marriage together.
That's how the book was sold to publishers. I could probably hone that last paragraph down to a single catchy sentence, the elevator pitch. Publishers want the quick blurb, the neat-o concept, the dramatic title. The words inside don't matter so much. They just want to make that book sale, knowing that most books sit on a coffee table and are never actually read.
Gone Girl is all pitch, and not enough substance. Amy is a two-dimensional psycho - unbelievable at times and inconsistent other times. The supporting characters are too predictable and wooden to feel real. She had no idea of what to do with Nick at the end.
The most honest voice in the book comes from the lawyer, who sneers at the stupidity of the public and their ability to be manipulated. Gillian Flynn, the author, takes this message to heart. She's giving us a well-packaged story, and we're buying it for our book clubs and our coffee tables. Like Amy, she researched the science of pitches and mystery novel plotlines and the formula for bestsellers, and gave us just that.
Call me old fashioned, but I don't like books that assume I'm stupid and easily manipulated by formulas and book club-friendly plot lines. I want a book that is more than a pitch, please.
As I was filling up my kids with eggs this morning (state standardized test week), Steve read the newspaper in the midst of the chaos. He likes to stand up at the counter and read the paper in Ground Zero for the morning routine.
It's a great article that talks about the extreme starvation that the colony faced. It also describes the break throughs in genetic research that have helped historians understand the past.
From the state of her molars, she is judged to have been 14 years old. Isotopes in her bones indicate that she had eaten a high-protein diet, so she was probably not a maidservant but the daughter of a gentleman.
Dr. Owsley said in an interview that he could tell she was English because of his familiarity with English skeletal remains of the 17th century and from scientific tests. The ratio of oxygen isotopes in her bones indicated that she had grown up in the southern coastal regions of England, Dr. Owsley said, and the carbon isotopes pointed to a diet that included English rye and barley.
As my frustrated historian hubby walked out of the house, he was talking about tree rings and core samples from Greenland and entomology and all the other new techniques that anthropologists and historians have at their disposal.
Alicia’s an artist, too, and understands how audiences tend to ascribe magisterial intention and control to artists, when more often we’re just making it up as we go, doing the best we can by deadline.
Walter Kirn has an amusing essay in the New Republic. He tells Susan Patton, the mom who told the Princeton girls to grab those Princeton guys quickly, that she shouldn't show her cards.
Almost as grateful, I wager, are the young fellows who read her letter in their college paper and suddenly ballooned in self-esteem as they realized just how much extra leverage they could exert in the campus dating scene. The Princeton Man is an opportunist, see, which is why he got into Princeton in the first place, why Mrs. Patton deems him a hot property, and why (bad news, you pretty, scheming sophomores in your fetching lacrosse shorts and black cardigans) he won’t be cornered. He won’t sell himself short. And herein lies Mrs. Patton’s great mistake, which I’ve waited for weeks now for someone to point out but knew, as a Princeton Man, that no one would, leaving to me the job of stating the obvious: You should have kept your investment letter private. If it’s women’s interests you truly wished to serve, you should have addressed them discreetly, girl to girl, not on the floor of the Ivy League Stock Exchange, which—don’t you know this?—still belongs to guys.
I started taking the bus into Manhattan when I was 15. It was the early 80's, and I was in love with the gritty streets of the East Village. Sometimes I would roam around with friends and shop in the boutiques on Broadway that have long since disappeared. Other times, we would get dressed up and sneak into dance clubs.
Looking back, it's rather surprising that my parents gave me that much freedom. I suppose they didn't know that we were scamming drinks at the dance clubs or stepping over cracked-up bodies on the sidewalk or getting lost on the subway.
It was marvelous fun. The early 80s was a time when the city was recovering the devastation of the 1970s, but it was still cheap enough for people to open alternative boutiques and odd after-hour bars. The artists could still afford to live in the city.
This weekend, I walked along that very familiar strip on Broadway between Houston and Canal, and it was no different from the shopping malls on Route 17 in New Jersey.