Sean F. Reardon has an excellent rundown of the research on the education gap between the rich, middle class, and the poor in Sunday's Times. We all know that kids from poor families have a huge disadvantage when they start school. They begin school behind their peers, and the gap between them and their wealthier peers grows over time.
These findings are sad, but nothing new. What is new is the growing research that finds that rich kids have huge advantages over middle class kids.
The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.
Reardon believes that the rich are able to do more with their kids, because they have more money than in the past. The rich are richer, so they are spending more money on tutors and fancy camps. They are also parenting differently.
High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success. They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich.
Are rich parents really parenting differently or are middle class parents under so much economic pressure that they don't have time to parent like they did in the past? I need to poke around in the research a little more, but I am very interested in your impressions.
When Ian was five, his food sensitivites were pretty bad. He only ate certain foods. His gag reflex was so sensitive that I had to mop up vomit off the kitchen table a couple times a week. Lunchtime was particularly difficult, because he would only eat peanut butter sandwiches. However, I wasn't allowed to pack any nut products, even Nutella, for school lunch. There were too many kids in the cafeteria with severe peanut allergies.
I can't remember how we resolved this problem though I do remember lots of phone calls with the school. I think he ate his lunch by himself in the hallway for a few months, until I figured out another food that he could tolerate.
This was my only issue with the Peanut Police. In fact, I am very sympathetic to their needs, because my BFF has a daughter with extreme celiac disease. I know what one stray gluten can do her. My BFF has to educate teachers and other parents, because people are constantly handing her kid questionable snacks and treats. She has to pack alternative foods, whenever her daughter goes to a birthday party. She had to track ingredients in everything from medicine to condiments. It's a lot of work, which is very similar to the work that I've had to do with Ian.
Basically, the research finds that parents who talk and talk and talk to their kids end up with smarter kids. In addition, they find that parents with a higher SES talk to the kids more than parents from lower SES. Therefore, kids from lower SES families start school with a much greater deficit than other families, and they never catch up.
This research is pretty solid. So just on a personal note, don't ever shut up around your kids. Babble all the time. Car time is talking time. Do not have silent dinners. And words on TV don't count.
So what to do about this gap in parenting experiences? If we all want to reduce inequality, and we all do I think, then we have to start giving parenting lessons. It's almost too late even by Kindergarten. You have to start earlier. But then we start moving into a really icky area of government. Who wants government to start intruding into the very personal matter of parenting?
Providence, RI has an interesting program that will provide parenting advice, but in a non-icky fashion.
The idea has been successfully put into practice a few times on a small scale, but it is about to get its first large-scale test, in Providence, R.I., which last month won the $5 million grand prize in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, beating 300 other cities for best new idea. In Providence, only one in three children enter school ready for kindergarten reading. The city already has a network of successful programs in which nurses, mentors, therapists and social workers regularly visit pregnant women, new parents and children in their homes, providing medical attention and advice, therapy, counseling and other services. Now Providence will train these home visitors to add a new service: creating family conversation.
That seems a fairly benign way of teaching people about the impact of family speech.
Melissa Harris-Perry's promotion TV spot is still getting lots of attention and push-back. Harris-Perry said that we haven't invested enough in education, because Americans view children as a private responsibility. Instead, the entire community should embrace the responsibility of raising children.
I happen to agree with her, so I really liked the ad.
Push-back is coming from people who fear the stupidity of the state. A sensible counter-point comes from Conor Friedersdorf.
A couple of years ago, Ian drew a cartoon of himself and Jonah wrestling. A profoundly stupid teacher thought that this cartoon showed Jonah abusing Ian. Meetings and lawyers. So, I am not unsympathetic to Friedersdorf.
But Harris-Perry isn't advocating for expanding the state's role in parenting. She's saying that the community needs to invest in kids by providing them with good schools and other opportunities.
She was just reviewed by a psychiatrist and found fit for trial, but I guess it wasn't a clear decision.
The judge, Justice Gregory Carro, said two state psychiatrists had interviewed Ms. Ortega and reviewed her “rather voluminous” medical records and determined that she was able to participate in her defense in a meaningful way.
Sounds like the Stabbing Nanny had a long history of mental illness.
Should nannies have to get a license to practice? If gun owners have to go through a background check, shouldn't the same go for the people who left to mind your children?
Like me, millions of high-school seniors with sour grapes are asking themselves this week how they failed to get into the colleges of their dreams. It's simple: For years, they—we—were lied to.
Colleges tell you, "Just be yourself." That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms. Then by all means, be yourself! If you work at a local pizza shop and are the slowest person on the cross-country team, consider taking your business elsewhere.
Although there aren't enough activities for kids like Ian, there never seems to be enough teenagers volunteering to help out. His swimming class is so packed with volunteers that sometimes there are more volunteers than diabled kids in the pool. Same goes with his art classes and bowling league. At the library, there are always more volunteer tutors than kids who need help.
Why? Because teenagers need stuff to put on the college resume. Some of the volunteers genuinely want to help and are awesome kids; others not so much.
Suzy doesn't want to do fake-volunteering and doesn't have a Tiger Mom to push her to do this stuff. Does she deserve a spot at Penn anyway?
I'm still working through the report, but there are some interesting findings buried in there.
First, it seems that parents are not relying on one kind of care for their children, while they are at work. They utilize a piece-meal approach. They use a little daycare, a little help from relatives, and sometimes the kids are left alone.
Second, the study itself wasn't that great. For example, they asked parents whether or not their kids spent any time in self-care. Self-care means being left alone at home. But they didn't break down the age of the kids well enough. They lumped 5-14 year olds together. Leaving a 14-year old at home for an afternoon isn't a big deal. A five-year at home for an afternoon is another story. I also wonder how honestly parents reported this information.
Third, it's clear that extended family, as well as older brothers and sisters, are providing a lot of free care of children in this country.
Fourth, I wish they was some data here on whether the child had special needs or not. Childcare is MUCH more complicated and more expensive when the child needs specialized help. I have my own horror stories.
This is a request for advice: I am discussing Modern Love with my teen boys. Any input from the 11D peanut gallery about things I am missing would be appreciated. I’ve been trying to cover the stuff I think they may not have heard otherwise. The local schools have been doing their bit on the Birds and Bees: sperms! eggs! a condom over a wooden penis! vigorous discussion of STDs! Abstinence! Be scared, be very scared. This is all very well, but as near as I can tell, there has been no moral discussion, nor any sense of romance or excitement.
So I’ve made the following points, in no particular order - usually when driving, since the last thing they want is to hear their old Dad talking about girls, and sex, and desire, and romance. When we are going 25, and there are no available screens, they can't escape.
1. We have gotten you guys Gardasil. Okay, but this protects against only two of the four strains of HPV. HPV can lead to throat or anal cancer for you in thirty years, and it can make you the mechanism by which a girl for whom you care has gotten vaginal warts and a risk of later cancer. Don’t be silly, wrap your willy.