Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A few months ago, a co-worker gave me a copy of Joseph Epstein's WSJ article In American Culture, Children Rule. Our kids are the same age and we share the feelings of inadequacy as parents - we are not doing what it takes to make superkids out of our normal, happy go lucky brats. Teacher conferences terrify us - they depict us as penny pinching sloths who are set on ruining our children's future. The essay made for amusing reading though I can't agree that America is more child-centric than other cultures and countries as several comments on the blog post that references Epstein's essay correctly point out.

Around the world there are indigenous versions of suburban American soccer mom. While their aspirations for their children may vary, their tactics are largely the same. The kids are overcommitted and trying to best the competition at everything the parents sign them up for. The modern day nerd may also be prime NFL material. They become a hard act to follow but over ambitious parents will not quit trying even if a fiasco on the scale of Kaavya Vishwanathan results from their efforts.

One popular theory many teachers including Mrs H, J's kindergarten teacher have is that children must be exposed to everything out there until they recognize their true calling. In J terms that would be signing her up for hockey, ice-staking, theatre, clarinet, karate, painting, salsa and everything in between until she has her epiphany.

Some people I know have masters in multiple disciplines and are still in school because they haven't found that one subject that is just right for them. The parents are bankrolling these experiments in education even into their late twenties and early
thirties. Now, that is the kind of parent Mrs. H would whole heartedly endorse. She would love nothing more than for me to become one of them and is understandably frustrated by my obdurate refusal to comply.

After all the time and money invested in getting J to find herself she may discover that she wants with her heart and soul to be a professional clown and travel with a circus company. According to Mrs. H and her ilk, I should gladly bring myself to the precarious edge of bankruptcy if that is what it takes for J to know her mind. Apparently, that is the only way to get our children ahead in life and succeed in a world where meritocracy reigns supreme.

The last line of Epstein's essay is worth remembering for all parents "..meritocracy is merciless, and hardest of all on those it would at first seem to favor"


ggop123 said...

Is there a way to read Joseph Epstein's article?

Heartcrossings said...

Not unless you have a WSJ subscription I think..