This is more of an autobiographical blog than a scholarly one. There is no more agreement over how to raise children than there is over what constitutes mental illness or mental health, or how to fix our public schools. (For related blogs, see http://clarespark.com/2013/01/16/gun-control-laws-quick-fixes-undoing/, and http://clarespark.com/2011/08/31/review-steven-brills-class-warfare/.)
Nevertheless, as one of his magic bullets, POTUS proposed in his State of the Union speech that “pre-school” for all middle class and poor kids would go far in lifting them out of poverty and on to employability in the [brave new world] created by social media and other math-science-heavy fields. Charles Krauthammer had a good time making fun of this proposal, suggesting that four year olds would no longer be allowed to dawdle and play without being pushed in a direction that did not even pay off with results past the third grade, as some studies of Head Start have shown.
This blog attempts to inject a bit of realism into the endless debate over child-rearing, with most of the Right lamenting the lack of father-headed households, and the decline of religion; presumably both repairs, bypassing overindulgent (yet pistol-packin’) mammas, would inject the sort of paternal superego that reduces crime and postpones gratification in favor of distant goals: family harmony, success in life, and fitness for family re-unification in Heaven. (Take three minutes to hear http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b39ALX4neIk.)
Almost no one utters the curse word “Puritan” any longer, for they, in all their variety, have been discredited as axe-wielding killjoys (Carrie Nation!), or worse: Harvard’s Talcott Parsons identified “romantic puritans” in America as resembling Hitler in his world-destroying rage, as if the temperance “crusade” and its related Protestant reform movements had been disastrously feminized. (There is an entire academic bibliography on whether or not Victorian women were good or bad for today’s feminists.)
I do not pretend to be any kind of expert on child-development, and in my own case, relied upon maternal instinct and my own favorite activities, shared with my three children. After I found a housekeeper, I amused myself and them by reading good children’s literature aloud (A.A. Milne, E. B. White, Roald Dahl), playing both classical music and folk songs on the piano or guitar, and with frequent trips to the local hardware store that sold art supplies. And then there were museums and concerts, with a few family trips to exotic locales such as Yosemite and New Mexico.
Had I not been a grandchild of immigrants, but rather a European aristocrat (or the child of a “political” family), I would have discussed world affairs at the dinner table as my children grew older (and returned from elite “public” schools), for it would have been assumed that my children would someday be running the world as men of affairs, probably with their wives as powers behind the thrones and competent, stylish hostesses for an elite, with both parents as experts in hiring multi-lingual governesses and/or tutors, and in selecting clothing, interior décor, and gardens as proof of class position and legitimacy.
What the President is proposing is typical for an inexperienced elite, who wave their magic wands to lift up the poor through government-imagined programs, without sufficient consideration of the dire material conditions in which inner-city ghetto kids live, and the likely confusion of their single mothers, whose education would have been inadequate to begin with, owing to outdated and/or partisan curricula (assuming that they were not high school dropouts owing to teen-age pregnancy).
My most popular blogs have been given to speculating on Barack Obama’s “narcissistic” personality and ambiguous politics. This I can say with rare certainty. No leftist would propose such a pathetic Band-Aid for the poor and badly educated as an enlargement (?) of Head Start (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_Start_Program.). This hit and miss proposal should be pinned on welfare statists, formerly known as “aristo-democrats” by the more sophisticated observers.