Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Spoiled Kids

Mary is my clipping service: for the OC Register, the LA Times, and for, among other of the several magazines we subscribe to, The New Yorker.  Last week she dog-eared an article that she thought “(I) “… might like”, from the July 2 issue, titled, “Spoiled Rotten” by Elizabeth Kolbert.

She was correct.

Very thought provoking, Ms. Kolbert explains two studies an Anthropological friend was engaged in: studying how children are taught responsibility in different cultures.  She contrasts a six year-old Peruvian girl who assists a family, not her own, on a trip down the Amazon by, among other things, catching and cooking crustaceans, with one of thirty-two middle class Los Angeles families, where an eight year-old girl, sitting down to her place with no silverware complained, “How am I supposed to eat?” and her father got up and fetched her a spoon.

She quotes an author who coined a word called “Adultesence” to describe the delay in entering adulthood that is a consequence of parental indulgence, a delay that Ms. Kolbert feels may result in a generation ill-prepared to operate practically in the world they will inherit.

Los Angeles Public Radio features a program called “To the Point”, hosted by Warren Olney.  Mr. Olney must have been as impressed by the article as I was because he featured Ms. Kolbert and three other authors or educators on the show.  I have linked the show to this Post and it is worth the 43 minutes it takes to listen to it.  Mr. Olney prides himself on a balanced presentation of timely issues and he provides balance here.  For instance, his guests make the point that one of the reasons our children do not raise their children the way they were raised is because as two-income families, they find the efficiencies of doing things themselves rather than teaching their children to do them practical, because they cherish their own private time too much to waste it educating their children.

However, I find that an insufficient explanation as to why my grandchild was breast-fed until he was seven, nor why five year-olds cannot tie their shoes (when they wear them).

One of the “To the Point” guests was Steven Mintz of Columbia University.  I found one of his points particularly interesting.  Asked why the Peruvian natives are taught to cut grass with a machete by the age of three, he observed that Abraham Lincoln was helping his father clear land in Indiana when he was two, but so few people in the U.S. live agrarian lives that there are no current comparable opportunities.

One of my goals when writing my book:”Harnessing aHeritage” was to provide tools to allow our children or grandchildren to begin collecting memories of meaningful events in their lives.  After reading Ms. Kolbert’s article and listening to Mr. Olney’s show, I realize now that I should have had loftier goals: providing opportunities to ready our children and grandchildren for life itself.  Perhaps we are putting so much emphasis on education for education’s sake, that we are forgetting the practical side of life-preparedness.  Perhaps there is a reason that something like 65% of college graduates cannot find education-centered jobs the first year after graduation.

I know I am now approaching my relations with my grandchildren a little differently.

Do you have any comments on this topic?  Please share them.

In my next post I am going to visit a recent guest on another Public Radio Show, “Prairie Home Companion”: Arlo Gutherie.  I hope you will find it interesting.


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