Don't mistake activity with achievement
June 10, 2015 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Aspirational parents condemn their children to a desperate joyless life From infancy to employment, this is a life-denying, love-denying mindset, informed not by joy or contentment, but by an ambition that is both desperate and pointless, for it cannot compensate: childhood, family life, the joys of summer, meaningful and productive work, a sense of arrival, living in the moment.
posted by bodywithoutorgans (86 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
In the US, this attempt to instill ambition is often born out of necessity though. In this country you have to fight not only to get ahead to fulfill some abstract misplaced vanity of your idle upper middle class lifestyle, but to stay in the place you are in. Why?
A. Everyone above you, especially those at the very top, are actively working to stomp on your face.
B. There is no bottom to how far you can fall. Billionaires kids could end up eating out of dumpsters and dying in the cold through pure bad luck.
C. This goes triple for anyone not born here, or born not-white, or not-straight or anything else that hiring managers and schools entire industries shy away from secretly.

Under these circumstances I 100% understand the desire to train your children to be resourceful, ambitious and dominating.

I agree that the current situation results in tormented, scared, coddled, imagination-deprived children, but I also am not willing to go after "tiger moms" or something as the cause. Paretns should ease up on being jerks to their kids, sure, but maybe our systems should ease up on everybody first.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:48 AM on June 10, 2015 [72 favorites]


An international survey of children’s wellbeing found that the UK, where such pressures are peculiarly intense, ranked 13th out of 15 countries for children’s life satisfaction, 13th for agreement with the statement “I like going to school”, 14th for children’s satisfaction with their bodies and 15th for self-confidence.
The survey they linked to is crazy interesting. I haven't finished reading it, but it's worth pointing out the other countries participating: Algeria, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, Israel, Nepal, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey.
posted by erratic meatsack at 9:54 AM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I doubt the people doing internships at Barclay's Global Power & Utilities group are "children."
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:01 AM on June 10, 2015


I clicked on this article prepared to dislike it. After all, I was an aspirational parent. I wanted the best for my child, and I like to think that I had something to do with her becoming a happy, generous, and well-educated young adult.

But then I got to the part about NYC playdate coaches charging $450 an hour. Oh. OK. "Aspirational," as limned by this article, is something I can only be morbidly fascinated by. I can't afford that kind of aspiration, and I'm glad I couldn't. I might have been tempted down that path, the one paved by good intentions.
posted by kozad at 10:02 AM on June 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


If aspirational pressure is not enhancing our wellbeing but damaging it, those in power don’t want to know.

But there are hints. Mental health beds for children in England increased by 50% between 1999 and 2014, but still failed to meet demand. Children suffering mental health crises are being dumped in adult wards or even left in police cells because of the lack of provision (put yourself in their position and imagine the impact).


This is not a 'hint', it's almost a non sequitur. He goes on to say that there isn't good data linking the two, but given the strong correlation between low socioeconomic status and mental health problems, I think it is very unlikely that this has much to do with an increase in pressure at the very top end of the social scale and everything to do with increases in economic stress at the bottom.

The only reason he put that in at all is to prevent this being nothing more than a re-tread of the mentioned FT article about the rich spending money on playdate consultants, which Guardian readers wouldn't like.
posted by atrazine at 10:02 AM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh, I withdraw my comment -- I'd misread, and the interns aren't being called children. They're former children who may or may not have been raised that way.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:03 AM on June 10, 2015


It's never too early to teach your kids that capitalism never sleeps.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:04 AM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


In the US, this attempt to instill ambition is often born out of necessity though. In this country you have to fight not only to get ahead to fulfill some abstract misplaced vanity of your idle upper middle class lifestyle, but to stay in the place you are in. Why?

Relevant tweet
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:06 AM on June 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


B. There is no bottom to how far you can fall. Billionaires kids could end up eating out of dumpsters and dying in the cold through pure bad luck.

Might be more accurate to say, "College graduates could be dying in the cold through pure bad economies," or, "Middle-class families could have their houses foreclosed upon, through pure bad financial systems," or, "You could die of a preventable disease through pure, bad health insurance options."
posted by entropone at 10:06 AM on June 10, 2015 [40 favorites]


In New York, playdate coaches charging $450 an hour train small children in the social skills that might help secure their admission to the most prestigious private schools.

Okay, I'm a bit awkward sometimes but I bet I still have better social skills than a 3 year old. BRB, switching careers.
posted by desjardins at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh, and George Monbiot's parents were a politician and a businessman, his parents sent him to an independent school and he won a scholarship to Brasenose college.

In other words, I bet his parents were 'aspirational' and look where he is now, a successful writer. Does he think his own life has been joyless?
posted by atrazine at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]




The word "aspirational" makes nearly no sense here — anyone who can spend $450 on a play date while credibly planning for their infant to attend Cambridge is already part of "the elite," not some striver seeking to join it — but I suppose that's a symptom of Monbiot's being utterly confused, as he always seems to be, about class and about power. But of course you can't harvest enough clicks just by scolding the genuine elite for an ethos of overwork, so you have to fudge things enough to play on the anxieties of the merely bourgeois.
posted by RogerB at 10:19 AM on June 10, 2015 [24 favorites]


Quite a bit of overlap with this essay by the same author.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:22 AM on June 10, 2015


But then I got to the part about NYC playdate coaches charging $450 an hour.

omg I could do this

DAMMIT CALEB WHY'D YOU SAY YOU WANTED TO BE CAPTAIN REX

DO YOU WANT TO BE A COG IN A MACHINE YOUR WHOLE DAMN LIFE?

GET BACK THERE AND TELL LOGAN YOU WANT TO BE ANAKIN SKYWALKER
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:24 AM on June 10, 2015 [32 favorites]


DO YOU WANT TO BE A COG IN A MACHINE YOUR WHOLE DAMN LIFE?

wait what is the right answer to this
posted by griphus at 10:36 AM on June 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


A. Everyone above you, especially those at the very top, are actively working to stomp on your face.

Really? Really?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


So what's a parent to do if they want children that grow up to be mature, productive, well-adjusted adults that don't have to constantly fight to feed/clothe/house their own families?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:44 AM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is there some sort of corollary to Betteridge's Law where if you append a "Do" to the beginning of the headline and a question mark to the end you can then use that as the headline for Betteridge's Law purposes?

Also, I swore a blood oath with three friends from Rhetoric for Freshmen back in 2008 to never use the phrase "straw man" in an internet forum. Sorry TJ, Shannon and Jamel.
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:44 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like Monbiot and have been reading him for quite a few years now. He's consistently provocative but to me always with good intent, like he wants to genuinely get people grappling with issues or move the discussion forward. I read this the other day and enjoyed it, but in my case he's probably preaching to the converted.

From his other writings, I think he's pretty aware of his own privilege but I get the sense that he's trying to use his writing gift as a tool for good, as well as for his own career. He's an excellent writer and could probably be making more by writing more populist stuff, but he's not.

I've just finished one of his books, Feral, which is about rewilding areas of the UK and elsewhere. I thought it was excellent and remarkably balanced for a book that's making some bold suggestions. It's not without its flaws but well worth a read.
posted by dowcrag at 10:48 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like Potomac's first comment was doing an over-the-top maneuver, but sadly there are not clicks to harvest here. Only favorites.

B. There is no bottom to how far you can fall. Billionaires kids could end up eating out of dumpsters and dying in the cold through pure bad luck.

As opposed to bad luck cut with some questionable substances. But really, what bad luck would empty a billionaires accounts outside of a complete market and worldwide collapse? Having all their money in one single company, and it goes bust? That's not bad luck, that's bad planning.

But back to the article... any good parent knows you have three kids. A feisty, anger-prone first born who dies in a hail of bullets, a weak-willed and sad second son who betrays the family and a third child who kills a police captain then has to flee to Sicily til the heat dies down.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:50 AM on June 10, 2015 [27 favorites]


If only "making them successful" and turning them into self-centered a-holes weren't so often synonymous. I see the effects of these type of people decried here often. Amusing to see such self-centered familial support for creating them. I admire reptiles: shit your kids out, let them figure it out or not. 3 kids, btw, all doing great in their 30's. I think having children later in life exacerbates this. Achieve! Achieve what I didn't, damn you!
posted by umberto at 10:52 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Startup idea: play on the anxieties of the merely bourgeois.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:53 AM on June 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


In New York, playdate coaches charging $450 an hour

This smacks of bullshit journalism. A little fake detail in the mix to make the larger point a little more sticky and viral. Horseshit.

The article links to another article that talks about a single company named Aristotle Circle, which claims to offer tutoring and test prep and admissions assistance. Their many offerings don't specifically list another of their offerings, "mock play dates," which appear to be part of their offering of social skills tutoring for children that may or may not go on to receive autism spectrum diagnoses.

The phrase "playdate coach" appears to be wholly made up.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:56 AM on June 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


I think "playdate coach" is a great startup idea.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 11:01 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


This wasn't a particularly good article, even though the topic is interesting. The biggest issue for me is the focus on the silly noodlings - playdate coaches? You dummies! - of a few elite bankers in New York and other big cities (or "flyout country" as I like to say) as some sort of norm for how people are raising their kids. Financially I am in a high percentile I guess but most of the people I'm around just send their kids to public school and y'know, it's fine. My kids are in grade school and they mostly sit around and draw and stuff, and I make them help me with various chores. They get a maximum of 1 extracurricular activity at a time because driving them around to a bunch of stuff is more than I want to do. When my 4th grader had her EOGs I told her not to worry about them because they aren't that important, but just to do her best. Pretty much my goal is to have kids who:

- aren't lazy and try to go a good job at things
- are helpful and empathetic
- know how to balance fun and work
- don't die in some stupid way or get into addictive or other toxic habits or relationships

That's about it. I try to stay away from the cliques who have their kids in 8 billion activities. Not saying that's bad, just not my style. It's interesting too that the people I know with overscheduled, over-stressed kids tend to have zero overlap with the ones who really need to worry about their kids clawing their way up from the bottom. Honestly if I spent a lot more time catering to their needs I think they'd end up not just stressed, but spoiled. I mean I asked about my 8-year-old getting into swimming team at the Y and another dad told me 8 was "probably too late to start". Fuck that!

However, I may be a terrible parent ...
posted by freecellwizard at 11:05 AM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


any good parent knows you have three kids. A feisty, anger-prone first born who dies in a hail of bullets, a weak-willed and sad second son who betrays the family and a third child who kills a police captain then has to flee to Sicily til the heat dies down.

Weren't there 4 children in that family?
posted by JanetLand at 11:05 AM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


My dad used to warn me that I would end up pumping gas if I didn't finish college.

Ha ha, I proved him wrong.

Because that job no longer exists.
posted by maxsparber at 11:08 AM on June 10, 2015 [83 favorites]


Haha maxsparber, for us it was "toll booth collector."
posted by Melismata at 11:10 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


My dad used to warn me that I would end up pumping gas if I didn't finish college.

Ha ha, I proved him wrong.

Because that job no longer exists.


You need to move to New Jersey then!
posted by theorique at 11:12 AM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


There are still toll booth collectors though. That forms the basis for my next book, Gas Dad, Toll Dad. Please buy it, or my daughter will be in the next Hunger Games.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:12 AM on June 10, 2015 [47 favorites]


any good parent knows you have three kids. A feisty, anger-prone first born who dies in a hail of bullets, a weak-willed and sad second son who betrays the family and a third child who kills a police captain then has to flee to Sicily til the heat dies down.

My children are clearly underachieving bastards.
posted by umberto at 11:15 AM on June 10, 2015


> So what's a parent to do if they want children that grow up to be mature, productive, well-adjusted adults that don't have to constantly fight to feed/clothe/house their own families?

> It's never too early to teach your kids that capitalism never sleeps.

Here, I'll start:

"Freedom... Ambition... Competition... These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect capitalist economy. But Professor Uncle Sam accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction: CHEMICAL "EXPLOITATION". And now we're fucked!

Using their extralegal powers, the Wealthy, Powerful, and Well-Connected have dedicated their lives to staying that way by promoting existing hierarchical structures in society!"


Which is just a tongue-in-cheek way of saying it's a false dilemma: that the tea leaves say most children who grow up to be mature, productive, well-adjusted adults will have to fight—either to provide for their families, or to create an environment where such a fight is no longer required of productive, well-adjusted adults. The latter is idealistic, of course; it's not lost on me how hard it is for people just to stay afloat, although treading water is not the same as making progress.

But I'm a cynic, so it's a miracle whenever you can crank out a well-adjusted adult as opposed to manchildren and people who think "frattiest" is a compliment worthy of a Wall Street power group.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 11:15 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


From freecellwizard, above:
Pretty much my goal is to have kids who:

- aren't lazy and try to go a good job at things
- are helpful and empathetic
- know how to balance fun and work
- don't die in some stupid way or get into addictive or other toxic habits or relationships
I've definitely lowered my expectations, from 10 must-do items for my children (back when I didn't have kids) to about four (when the first child showed up) down to just one item (now that we have plural children), and here it is: God damn it, you've got to be kind.

Surprisingly, I get some pushback from grandparents and other relatives when I explain that my daughter may not be the best student but is happy in school and generally keeping up with her work and that's just fine with me, or when I talk about how we decided not to continue the expensive sport lessons and just spend more time at the municipal pool. Which is where I'll be going in about 30 minutes, because it's a pretty nice afternoon and I don't want to keep working any longer and so will just pick up the kids after school and head over with some friends.

Take that, future hedge fund managers!
posted by math at 11:20 AM on June 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


I'm reminded of the time my then wife & I went to meet with our son's day care provider.
The teacher said "I love little Foont, he's such a good little worker!"
"Oh," his mother sighed, "I was hoping he'd be management."

The kid turned out all right in spite of us.
posted by Floydd at 11:24 AM on June 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


My kid has, all his young life (he's 4), told us he's going to be a construction worker. He is very specific and consistent about this. We're like, maybe you want to at least be a foreman? Or maybe an engineer? He's like, nope, construction worker. Don't you want to go to college? No, I want to be a construction worker.

Honestly, with all the student loan debt and lack of jobs these days... I think maybe he's on to something. At least it's a job that can't be sent overseas. So we're like, all right, cool. You do you.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


My kid has, all his young life (he's 4), told us he's going to be a construction worker. He is very specific and consistent about this. We're like, maybe you want to at least be a foreman? Or maybe an engineer? He's like, nope, construction worker. Don't you want to go to college? No, I want to be a construction worker.

... have you suggested union organizer yet?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:29 AM on June 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


I know a lot of parents who would like their children to do well in their lives.

I don't know any parent who'd hire a nursery consultant (seriously?). And the working conditions at Barclay's? That's not an entry ticket to the "elite". That's an idiot stamp.

The assumption which Monbiot makes is that we all aspire to be in the "elite". Really? A good, solid middle class existence is fine for most of us, thanks very much. A middle class existence like uh, Monbiot himself.
posted by storybored at 11:31 AM on June 10, 2015


It's like uber but for playdates.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:33 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


"They don't grade parents, but if your kid's a banker then you fucked up."
posted by colie at 11:33 AM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


You could probably hire playdate coach Manny for less than $450/hour.
posted by lagomorphius at 11:39 AM on June 10, 2015


My son has a "play date coach," AKA a psychologist who does supervised playgroups for kids with autism. For kids like mine, it's a necessity. If you're bright enough you can always get caught up on academics but being regarded as a creepy weirdo and left out of play on the schoolyard ... that shit sticks with you forever and is more of an impediment to future success and happiness IMHO.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:40 AM on June 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


I think the writer of the article made a mistake by using the Barclays interns and $450 playdate coach as examples, since these are outliers and give the impression, not corrected until one reads more than half the article, that the problem is affluent "aspirational parents". In reality the problem, which is manifesting itself as a mental health crisis in the UK, that there are fewer resources for kids these days.
posted by Nevin at 11:43 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


In addition, I let my son have as much free time play as he wants when he gets home from school. Utilizing imagination, playing in the dirt and tinkering will probably serve him much better in the future than back-to-back scheduled activities and hours of homework. He's not the top student in his class but he's keeping, up and most importantly he's not so stressed out that he's lashing out at teachers and his fellow students. That to me is a win.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:47 AM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


The flip side of this is that any of the kids who nope their way out of parental attempts to make them into lifelong gasping strivers are often treated as baffling (and dangerous!) semi-radicals. Even people in their twenties not wanting to buy cars makes a healthy dollop of rich people go into raving fits of despair (aka WSJ and NYT op-eds).

What do you mean you can't afford to get married or have kids? What do you mean you aren't interested in owning your own house? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT WHAT THE JONESES ARE DOING MY GOD I'VE FAILED AS A PARENT.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:52 AM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Utilizing imagination, playing in the dirt and tinkering

I remember those days fondly. My daughter prefers tweeting in bed whilst binge-watching season 6 of Pretty Little Liars.
posted by colie at 11:57 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


As long as my kid doesn't fall in with the wrong crowd and get mixed up in **shudder** politics, everything will be ok.

Looking back at my own awkward-youth, kindness and the pursuit of wisdom got me farther than anything else in my life.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:03 PM on June 10, 2015


My older son is ten. As far as I can tell, he doesn't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. He doesn't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career. He doesn't want to do that.

He loves animals though. Very much. And he's really into martial arts. He trains hard every day and he's getting pretty good.

So he figures when he grows up he's going to develop and teach a new form of mixed martial arts. For dogs.

We live in New York, so I figure my retirement is pretty much covered.
posted by The Bellman at 12:03 PM on June 10, 2015 [32 favorites]


So he figures when he grows up he's going to develop and teach a new form of mixed martial arts. For dogs.

My sister is training her cat how to do parkour. I think it's some sort of silly 'thing.'
The few videos I've seen are pretty hilarious.
posted by Jalliah at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


My son has a "play date coach," AKA a psychologist who does supervised playgroups for kids with autism.

Hopefully no one took it this way, but I definitely wasn't making fun of kids who need special playdate coaching or attention because of developmental issues or differences. Glad you are taking the care to do this, echolalia.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:24 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Playdate coaches sounds like a game no one can win. You're either the asshole who grabs the crayon first, or the wimp who lets everyone else eat the paste while you go hungry.

Also this just sounds like an expensive way to build more cogs for the machine. I'm not hearing anything that sounds like true confidence or wisdom is being brought out of these kids. It's all just: I will wear you down with the sheer force of my will, cunning and determination a la Tracy Flick.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:24 PM on June 10, 2015


“I wanted to introduce you to the 10 Power Commandments … For nine weeks you will live and die by these … We expect you to be the last ones to leave every night, no matter what … I recommend bringing a pillow to the office. It makes sleeping under your desk a lot more comfortable … the internship really is a nine-week commitment at the desk … an intern asked our staffer for a weekend off for a family reunion – he was told he could go. He was also asked to hand in his BlackBerry and pack up his desk … Play time is over and it’s time to buckle up.”
Imagine going back in time to shortly after Office Space was released, and telling someone who'd just seen it that, before they knew it, the life depicted in the movie would seem like the optimistic case.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


In LA you can hire a 'Sports Dad'. They're for the millions of really well-off guys who are on their second or third wife, so they've now got too old to throw a ball around with their most recent set of young children. And too busy.
posted by colie at 12:30 PM on June 10, 2015


I will note that the writer of the "Playtime is over" epistle has been sacked. Not that that does anything at all to ameliorate the culture at issue here.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:31 PM on June 10, 2015


My dad used to warn me that I would end up pumping gas if I didn't finish college.

Ha ha, I proved him wrong.

Because that job no longer exists.


Yuh-uh, dude -- still exists in New Jersey! The land of No Self-Serve gasoline.
posted by holborne at 12:40 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


From the last paragraph:

In 1653, Izaak Walton described in the Compleat Angler the fate of “poor-rich men”, who “spend all their time first in getting, and next in anxious care to keep it; men that are condemned to be rich, and then always busie or discontented”. Today this fate is confused with salvation.

Serendipity has conspired to introduce me to Izaak Walton twice in two days, and I'd never heard of him before this week. (I'm reading Leonard Hall's Earth's Song)

Looks like I'm being encouraged to read the Compleat Angler.
posted by General Tonic at 12:41 PM on June 10, 2015


My sister is training her cat how to do parkour.

Isn't that just being a cat, though? I don't think there's anything a human can teach a cat about running along a rooftop and jumping off.
posted by Grangousier at 12:42 PM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


My kid says he is going to be a rock star scientist.

Just wait until we watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and he finds out that is actually a thing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:43 PM on June 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


So, regarding the Barclays banker, Justin Kwan, who wrote the email—apparently he has now been fired from Barclays, and also pre-fired from another job he was headed to:

http://gawker.com/source-barclays-banker-loses-two-jobs-after-leak-of-in-1709527410

Also, at least some people think his email was "quite obviously a joke":

http://dealbreaker.com/2015/06/barclays-junior-banker-who-tried-hand-at-comedy-in-email-to-interns-not-a-barclays-junior-banker-anymore/

So perhaps a different (even more depressing?) picture begins to emerge of the incident. At any rate, I think we're generally in agreement that it was a bad example for Monbiot's article.
posted by The Minotaur at 12:53 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


nothing obvious about it. the world is stocked with assholes like a trout stream.
posted by thelonius at 1:06 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Asshole stocking" is now my new favorite term.
posted by JanetLand at 1:11 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I suspect a large chunk of parents who hire the $450/hr playdate coach are doing it to give their preschoolers an edge in private school kindergarten applications, which typically include a "group playdate" so the teachers and admission staff can observe the kids in a school-like setting and decide who lives and who dies whose parents receive the blessing of bragging rights and huge tuition bills. If you're spending that much money already and the optimal outcome involves you spending tens of thousands more annually for the next 13 years, you're already well past aspirational.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:13 PM on June 10, 2015


The political system that delivers these outcomes is sustained by aspiration: the faith that if we try hard enough we could join the elite,

I had a recent discussion with some other parents at the public school my kids go to. They were complaining about homework. That there was homework. Beyond the lame excuses "we don't have time" and "this creates stress" one genius actually said that "it privileges students whose parents have the time to work with their kids" and then the kicker "and this is what creates inequality."

I laughed out loud at this Marxist nonsense.

I don't care if my kids ever become part of "the elite", but they will be hard-pressed not to be on the top of whatever pile of shit thinking like this produces.
posted by three blind mice at 1:16 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I laughed out loud at this Marxist nonsense.

Perhaps you could point the rest of us to the anti-homework portion of the Grundrisse?
posted by RogerB at 1:20 PM on June 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


> Looks like I'm being encouraged to read the Compleat Angler.

It will make you want to go fishing in the sixteenth century.
posted by jfuller at 1:23 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


the kids who can get help from their parents do better than the kids who can't: marxist gobbledegook
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:27 PM on June 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


So, regarding the Barclays banker, Justin Kwan, who wrote the email—apparently he has now been fired from Barclays, and also pre-fired from another job he was headed to

hooray, everything is awful for everyone, everywhere
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:34 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess he is still eligible for the pre-firing bonus.
posted by storybored at 1:38 PM on June 10, 2015


How easily this tragedy could've been avoided if only Karl Marx would have just helped that guy with his homework.
posted by griphus at 1:41 PM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


While I think three blind mice was tilting at a straw man, I do see what he is getting at. For a variety of reasons there is a lot of complacency when it comes to scholastic performance.

The number one reason is lack of resources (not a lot of money makes it to education) or misallocated resources (it costs the same amount of money to heat a school with 250 kids as it does for 300 kids, even though the per capita grant has declined).

So we settle for the bell curve, where the vast majority of student do "okay". Unfortunately, just "doing okay" is not enough when it comes to numeracy, for example. Up until the end of high school I would say aiming for 100% in math is pretty reasonable, and is not "aspirational."

And that's where the homework three blind mice mentions comes in. But it's not just that worksheets and rote learning is important (it is), it's also important that the parents participate in homework. I think parent involvement is one of the foundations of scholastic success.

Like the privilege cartoon that's been making the rounds demonstrates, not everyone has a parent who is at home after school or in the evenings to help with homework... or lay down the hammer and make the kids do what it takes (practice, practice, practice) to master a concept and move on up to the next concept.

I don't know what the solution is. Free tutoring?

But it's a hard world at the moment, and it's just getting harder, so there is nothing aspirational at all about wanting to see your kids succeed and do well.
posted by Nevin at 1:56 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I laughed out loud at this Marxist nonsense.

I don't care if my kids ever become part of "the elite", but they will be hard-pressed not to be on the top of whatever pile of shit thinking like this produces.


Not really sure this was serious, but given that most studies show very little evidence of any academic benefit from homework, I don't see why these parents shouldn't complain about it. I'm very happy that my child's school doesn't believe in the necessity of assigning lots of homework. She loves school and loves learning, and hasn't (yet) had that beaten out of her by the assigning of useless, rote homework to fill all her waking hours.
posted by dellsolace at 2:00 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


but given that most studies show very little evidence of any academic benefit from homework,

Based on our own experience with math I have to disagree. Mid-way through the fourth grade our son was doing terrible in math and the teacher said "maybe he's just one of those kids who doesn't get math." We said the hell with that and did 30 minutes of math at home at night. He was at the top of his class by the end of the year.

On the flip side, there are some teachers in earlier grades who assign fairly complicated tasks (write an essay, do a project, make something) to be completed at home, which is ridiculous for kids younger than 10.

But worksheets that reinforce basic concepts are the way to go. That way parents and kids always know where the kids are at, and problems can be identified quickly. Report cards are pretty terrible because they're just a rear-view mirror look at performance. If you get a C in math 3 months have gone by and you aren't going to get that time back.
posted by Nevin at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Homework (for kids aged 7+ or so) is good in some ways: For kids to feel they take control of their own learning for an hour or two; make a space for study/work in the home rather than associate it purely with institutions; to discuss weird stuff with their parents (which doesn't happen to non-middle class families as much); to keep off the internet for at least half an hour.
posted by colie at 2:08 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


My kid says he is going to be a rock star scientist.

Just wait until we watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and he finds out that is actually a thing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:43 PM on June 10 [3 favorites +] [!]


Wait until he learns about Brian May and finds out it's a non-fiction thing!
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Barclays email was a joke. Probably not a good joke? But a joke. I don't think he really meant that interns should wear sandles to the office. We call that a "tell."

Re crazy parents: I usually tell new parents that the two most important words in parenting are benign neglect.
posted by jpe at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


But it's a hard world at the moment, and it's just getting harder, so there is nothing aspirational at all about wanting to see your kids succeed and do well.

It's hard not to come to the conclusion that, in today's world, the kindest thing you can do for your children is not to have them, unless, perhaps, you are Scandinavian.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:49 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Or Japanese.
posted by Nevin at 3:25 PM on June 10, 2015


the two most important words in parenting are benign neglect.

WOOHOO I'M GOLDEN

says the mom who sometimes literally has no idea where her children are between when they run outside to play with friends and when I whistle them in for dinner
posted by KathrynT at 4:03 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Based on our own experience with math I have to disagree. Mid-way through the fourth grade our son was doing terrible in math and the teacher said "maybe he's just one of those kids who doesn't get math." We said the hell with that and did 30 minutes of math at home at night. He was at the top of his class by the end of the year.

This isn't evidence that homework helps, it's evidence that 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring every week, in addition to regular classwork, helps.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:46 PM on June 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


Up until the end of high school I would say aiming for 100% in math is pretty reasonable, and is not "aspirational."

I'm not sure about this. From the age of about 6 I failed math (arithmetic, 'numberwork') repeatedly. Repeatedly, as in over and over again. This was despite endless hours of homework, extra homework and various forms of tutoring, all supervised by my mother (who liked math so much she took calculus for pleasure).

I could not do flashcards or memorize times tables. I could not do mental math. I could not do simple arithmetic: to this day, if you put one in front of me, I panic. I got better, eventually, as the grades moved up the food chain: I liked geometry (which made sense) and really loved it when we started working with different bases; trig was hard but again made sense. But I wasn't really good at any of it, and I deplore the current STEM-based assumption that only those who are comfortable numerically are worth educating. I have a doctorate and I'm a tenured professor. Had I been judged on my numeracy, I'd be a dishwasher in a restaurant now.
posted by jrochest at 8:37 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


'do a simple arithmetic problem', that is. Bah, bad grammar!
posted by jrochest at 8:38 PM on June 10, 2015


Yuh-uh, dude -- still exists in New Jersey!

And Oregon, too. For now.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:40 PM on June 10, 2015


The thing is, there is a lot of evidence that our intuitions about how to raise successful adults are wrong. Especially when it comes to education. More homework does not produce better results. More sleep does. Pushing a three year old to read when they aren't ready causes academic problems later, while children who pick up reading early are at no special advantage by the age of 8. Good teachers make a difference, but it is absolutely dwarfed by the effect that poverty has on students. We know these things. We have studied these things. If we wanted to do the very best we could, we would encourage our children to learn new skills, but not push them into frustration when they were not ready for them. We would assign less homework. We would focus more of social programs to make sure kids had enough to eat and a stable place to live.

But there is something more important than giving our children what they actually need to thrive: teaching them how to perform the puritan work ethic. Because our culture rewards the appearance of hard work more than results. Three hours of homework does not teach a child math, we know that, but it teaches them how to be busy and stressed and frustrated over something pointless, which are all skills they will use in the job market.
posted by Nothing at 6:28 AM on June 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't know, I'm watching my kids bring home a variety of homework problems, most of which don't require more than a couple of hours a week to complete. I see them learning important things from this homework:

* they learn to manage their time
* they work with other kids to collaborate on assignments
* they learn some "project management" skills (informally, anyway)
* I've managed to communicate to them that math is interesting and fun, and they're both good at math and reading. They seem to be interested in problem-solving.

Mostly the younger one (12) does all his homework at school because he hates being supervised by his parents. As long as he's getting good marks, we have nothing to say about that. He's a go-getter, though.

The thing we're tying to teach them now is "Don't waste time sitting at your desk hating your homework - learn how to deal with it in the most effective way and still learn the material." They're both doing well in school and have a variety of interests.

The next problem area is going to be trying to avoid teaching them some of my bad attitudes towards society's work ethic and the working world.
posted by sneebler at 8:31 AM on June 11, 2015


But there is something more important than giving our children what they actually need to thrive: teaching them how to perform the puritan work ethic. Because our culture rewards the appearance of hard work more than results. Three hours of homework does not teach a child math, we know that, but it teaches them how to be busy and stressed and frustrated over something pointless, which are all skills they will use in the job market.
posted by Nothing at 9:28 AM on June 11 [6 favorites] [!]


And now I want to cry.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 1:40 PM on June 11, 2015


But there is something more important than giving our children what they actually need to thrive: teaching them how to perform the puritan work ethic. Because our culture rewards the appearance of hard work more than results.

the current STEM-based assumption that only those who are comfortable numerically are worth educating.

I like hyperbole as much as the next person but this is not a thing.
posted by phearlez at 8:06 AM on June 12, 2015


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