Unequal Childhoods – Class, Race and Family Life

Good morning from Tokyo!

For some reason, I got up extra early this morning which is very different from yesterday, when I could barely drag myself out of bed! I’m not sure if it is jet lag, because it was inconsistent.

It was too early for breakfast so I spent the next hour or so lying in bed, thinking and reflecting. I thought about the book I had finished yesterday,

Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

and how it clashes with a previous book I read

Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

and also how is it relevant to these books that I also read The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)

and The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

which was the root of my Education section on elegantwoman.org

Baby ballet – a recent phenomenon.

In short, Annette Lareau, author of unequal childhoods concluded that children whose schedules are jam-packed with activities have a brighter future than those just ‘left to their own devices’ to grow up naturally in society today.

DESPITE the observations that the privileged children seem to be more self-centered, entitled and mean (to their siblings). AND also that they spend more time questioning and challenging authority (parents, teachers etc) and the tremendous economic burdens and time constraints their classes and grueling schedule is placed on their family, namely parents.

Why? It is because employers view a child learning and benefiting more from soccer practice than watching two hours of television (just to summarize).

The book is not quite what I expected. It is essentially a study of about eighty families from a variety of economic background from the poor, working class and middle class. Annette basically describes the house, the home, income, how the kids and family spent their time, school, relationships between the school, church, siblings and parents, teachers, peers, neighbours etc etc. So I’ve pretty much spent most of my time reading about how families live with a couple of comparisions at each concluding paragraph. The real juice is probably the last chapter; chapter 12 “The Power of Limits of Social Class” where it concludes the study and findings.

To me, the most interesting part of the book is its statement that up until recently … well, the period after 1920 was a dramatic decline in the economic contribution of children. In the past, children were seen as someone who contributes to the family in terms of work for example, farm hands, flower picking, tag tying, baby sitting. In colonial America, a boy of 6 and 7 was expected to move out of his parents home to live with a skilled craftsman as an apprentice (like in Great Expectations).

Children working in the garden.

She writes (shortened):

…it appears that it was for only a relatively brief historical period that children were granted long stretches of leisure time with unstructured play. In the period after world war 2, children were permitted to play for hours on end. Other than going to church, few organized activities children participated began at a later age than is typical today. The “institutionalization of children’s leisure” and the rise of concerted cultivation more generally are recently developments”

Hmmm…. my conclusion?

I’m generally a big fan of education. Though that is a recent statement for me because I’ve only changed my view of education about maybe 2-5 years ago. While I was in the education system, I was more interested in other intelligences and felt that academia was too rigid, recognizes only 2-3 out of the 10-15 types of intelligences and stifles creativity. I never believed in papers (read certificates) as well though I have some (haha).

After reading the book, I would say my education style – or the approach I was brought up in – was definitely poor or working class. I was left to my own devices and allowed to play as much as I wanted all the time. However, I was also privileged enough to attend ballet, piano, art, swimming classes though I never took them seriously. My mother had never withheld books from me. I was a bookworm. I believe in my time, a child’s life was not as serious as it is now.

Personally, I felt my real education began too late. I would think that maybe it started when I was about 17-19? But I only stepped it up maybe a year or two ago. I constantly find myself playing the game of catch up.

Though I don’t have children yet, I was reading these books for work and interest trying to figure out why people I admire behave the way they do…as well as writing for elegantwoman.org.

I think, exposure and environment and positivity and having role models are some of the most important in raising a child and anyone can make it work within whatever economic budget. Of course, it will be easier with a larger budget. However, I do not believe in jam packing schedules that makes the child dependent on being spoon-fed and easily bored requiring the parent to entertain or conjure some activity for him. Of course, this is a very watered down version of my opinion because it would be a couple of pages if I wrote completely what I thought.

Hmmm. Thanks for your company on this blogpost. I think it’s time to drag Colin out of bed for breakfast.

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