jason’s mom called us the other day and asked if we had read elizabeth kolbert’s article in the new yorker titled “spoiled rotten”. she figured it was something we would be interested in reading and responding to and she was right. we both felt like it over simplified a major societal problem without offering much in terms of what might be done. the article implies that parents should do less for their kids in order to make them more capable members of society.
first, she fails to recognize that the reasons for the young girl in the amazon being so capable was that her parents and community had no doubt showed her how to do such things as she became ready to learn how to do them. she instead suggested that in the amazon kids learn how to be a part of society because their parents ignore them better than we do. implying that by providing our kids with too much attention is what makes them lazy. second, she insinuated that the french might have something with their “unparenting” ways – ignore the children and they will find their way into society – while you as a parent will be well rested and svelt. i disagree with both of these notions. i do not think that the majority of parents in the u.s. provide their kids with too much attention. quite the contrary. how could they? they are too busy themselves to provide the kind of attention that would manifest such spoiling of children. instead, it is easier for them to do for the kids, rather than take the time to teach them how to do for themselves. it takes energy to be present with your kids and teach them how to be conscious, capable, critical thinkers and doers. i think that by default the kids are provided the tools of how to be a good consumer. parents might then act shocked by their children’s desire to consume and be “lazy” – but isn’t this is the american way?
the article also failed to mention that she was talking about a particular subset of the american public – namely the upper class – those that can afford to pay someone else to watch, care for and educate their children. to give them all that they ask for or “need”. the lifestyle that they are working so hard to support keeps them away from home. not that these three things are always by choice. most people cannot afford to hangout with their kids because they are holding down three jobs just to make ends meet. the kids are handed over to public school and after-care where they are taught by their peers who are simply reflecting back what they see and learn from the american way of life. why are we shocked by young people and their behavior? they are behaving like good americans. and yes, sometimes college just adds to the problem. it depends on what a person wants from college. if they have learned how to follow their interests and enjoy learning, they are more likely to come out of the experience ready to contribute to society. if they see college as freedom and use it as a time to explore an unstructured life and have not learned yet the joy of educating his or herself, then it should not be shocking that they come out of the whole experience unable to tie their shoe, cook a meal or contribute meaningful work to their community.
we both came away from the article feeling like a response was warranted. i figured since we had read the article a bit on the late side in todays up to the minute world, there were probably a few responses out there worth reading before attempting it myself.
i immediately stumbled across this blog and their response to the article. it said most of what i wanted to say and turned me on to a couple things i hadn’t read yet so i thought i would reblog it here: