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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Teach Your Children Well

After reviewing a book about the under-privileged kids amongst us, I had to go read a book about the very other end of the spectrum --- the over-privileged, over-scheduled, ultra-achieving kids in the San Francisco area. Teach Your Children Well covers mostly the ails of the upper-middle class and their children.

These include overly packed schedules, worrying about bullying and cyber-bullying, whether they're the best piano player and able to get into Carnegie Hall, etc., etc.

Madeline Levine advocates taking a holistic approach to the child, noting that it's far better for children to grow up to be good people rather than necessarily great mathematicians, engineers, doctors, or artists. She clearly lives in San Francisco, where most parents worry much more about their children's math classes than their ability to draw or play sports.

While Levine clearly has a good heart, I'm not sure her book can be very effective. It's one thing for her and her patients to abandon the rat race or paper chase, but unless/until society values ethics more than a big paycheck, the bankers on wall street will still command more respect than the people who did not cheat. That's what's driving society, and it has nothing to do with parents being pushy.

What's more, as I've noted over and over again on this blog, the world just simply does not need more English major journalists. Such journalists and writers actually do more harm to the topics they cover than if they did not exist, and I'm not sure a society should value such work. So to that extent I agree far more with the parents who think that their daughters should actually work hard at Math rather than say, "But I'm so much better at fashion."

I wanted to recommend this book. I certainly have no intention of pushing my son into things he doesn't like for the sake of being able to brag about piano recitals or other some such nonsense. But the entire book reeks of privilege and Levine lives in a society full of trust fund babies and people who not only have therapists but also have multiple therapists for their children. Such children will live in privilege regardless of how little Math they do and how little Science they know. But children of immigrants will have no such luxuries, and if you come from such a background you might find Levine's stories and anecdotes more than a little detached from reality. Hence: not recommended.

1 comment:

Tom Galloway said...

There's a very fine, but important, line between pushing and challenging kids. In my case, my father was pushed by his father, being specifically told "You will go to school X and become profession Y, or I will not support you for college". Dad started on that path, but was involved in a car accident and dropped out due to the injuries. He didn't return to college for almost two decades, until after his father died, and for a different profession.

This caused Dad to basically swear he'd never push his kids. All well and good; I certainly wouldn't have responded well to such. On the other hand, I was sufficiently smarter than other kids in school and the neighborhood that being challenged and getting knowledgable guidance in my interests would've been a very good thing for me. Unfortunately, Dad didn't really realize the difference between pushing and challenging.