Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Why parenting is different now than when my parents were growing up

I had a talk with my parents about what it was like for them growing up in a very very poor country before coming here, and I found out some interesting challenges that I wanted to share with you. My Dad grew up in a small village and he had to walk a mile to his farm which had lots of trees and plants that his family picked to sell the produce in the market. And they hunted for animals at night with a lantern. That’s how they grew up.

So, I wanted to ask them to tell me how things have changed for raising children from that environment compared to here in the affluent West. And below is the list of some of the challenges.

Education

  • My grandparents were not really focused on monitoring my parents education in school, they were more worried about passing on skills that would help them to tend the land so they could pass it on
  • The teachers in that country were mostly males and they were focused on academic achievement and competition, especially since intelligence and scholastic aptitude was a ticket out of poverty
  • There was NO emphasis on self-esteem, compassion, sex education, drug education, leftist politics or other secular leftist ideologies in the schools – and nobody wrote to politicians or attended marches for extra credit
  • The headmaster and the vice principal (both males) lived next door and they would come over to talk to my grandfather about my father, and to play cards while talking about politics in front of the children
  • Teachers were allowed to punish children in class with spankings
  • Teachers would inspect the students for dirty fingernails, messy hair, dirty uniform, or minimum decency clothing standards, etc. and you got rapped on the knuckles with a ruler if you were bad
  • My Dad attended a Presbyterian school and all the teachers attended church on Sundays
  • There was intense competition and last-man-standing contests for prizes, and all the sports were competitive with winners and losers – some people put a lot of effort into contests to get better so they could win
  • The teachers were not unionized and there was a free choice of which school to attend
  • none of the children had money for alcohol, drugs, contraceptives, etc.

Family and Community

  • My Dad grew up with a stay-at-home mother who monitored them, and they came home for lunch
  • There was no TV or video games, so family interaction was more common – like working together on things and doing chores to help make ends meet
  • my Dad’s chore was to fetch water in the morning from half-a mile away (several times)
  • No TV and no video games also means more sports and activities with the neighbor kids
  • Food was scarce, and there was no processed food or fast food – so kids were less obese
  • Neighbors came over more to play cards and discuss things so that children learned about adult stuff by listening and watching them debate and discuss ideas, instead of from watching mainstream news media, which is somewhere to the left of Satan, politically, on social, fiscal and foreign policy
  • My grandfather would make my father volunteer in a store in order for my grandfather to get credit at the store, and he was able to work because there were no regulations on children working to help to support the family as long as they also went to school
  • My father was earning money for the family at an early age – he saw his parents working hard and that was all the motivation he needed to want to contribute – not like today when it is difficult to make children do anything
  • My father used to volunteer to help other neighborhood children learn mathematics (I later did the same thing, but for money)
  • My father learned to hunt and fish so that he could help the family to survive
  • My father had 6 young siblings so he had experience raising children and learning to cook by watching my grandmother cook

If you’re wondering how I got into this long conversation with my parents, it’s because the woman I am performing acts of love on inquired repeatedly about my parents, and I got into a long discussion with them, touching on this topic and many other things related to parenting. The net effect of this on me was to make me a little more tolerant of my parents. They came from a simpler culture where they had more support from teachers and neighbors, while facing fewer challenges from the culture and secular leftist elites. My Dad worked 3 jobs when he got here. My Mom worked too. We were incredibly poor.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How socialism undermines family, community and the dignity of labor

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Free Canuckistan! Thanks for the link, Binks!

I saw this amazing post over on the Pugnacious Irishman, and I would highly recommend you take a look at it. Rich comments on an essay by Charles Murray on whether the United States should start implementing European-style social policies.

Here is Rich’s summary of the Murray article:

In the annual Irving Kristol Lecture given at the American Enterprise Institute Dinner, he argues that while such Europe-style policies might produce an economic benefit or two, they are ill conceived because they suck the meaning out of life.  They do this by enfeebling the institutions necessary for robust meaning in life: family, community, vocation, and faith.  Lastly, he argues that in the next few decades, science will provide ample evidence that such policies are ill conceived.

But how does European democratic socialism destroy human flourishing?

Murray writes:

To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don’t get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché “nothing worth having comes easily”). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.

There aren’t many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements…. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith.

…It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four institutions, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are. The stuff of life–the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one’s personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships–coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness–occurs within those four institutions.

Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that’s what’s wrong with the European model. It doesn’t do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.

And then comes Murray’s central thesis. Big government socialism, by taking responsibility away from individuals in the areas of importance and meaning, actually causes more problems than it solves. Murray calls this government involvement in these areas “taking the trouble out” of life.

Murray continues:

The problem is this: Every time the government takes some of the trouble out of performing the functions of family, community, vocation, and faith, it also strips those institutions of some of their vitality–it drains some of the life from them.

It’s inevitable. Families are not vital because the day-to-day tasks of raising children and being a good spouse are so much fun, but because the family has responsibility for doing important things that won’t get done unless the family does them. Communities are not vital because it’s so much fun to respond to our neighbors’ needs, but because the community has the responsibility for doing important things that won’t get done unless the community does them. Once that imperative has been met–family and community really do have the action–then an elaborate web of social norms, expectations, rewards, and punishments evolves over time that supports families and communities in performing their functions.

When the government says it will take some of the trouble out of doing the things that families and communities evolved to do, it inevitably takes some of the action away from families and communities, and the web frays, and eventually disintegrates.

…We have seen growing legions of children raised in unimaginably awful circumstances, not because of material poverty but because of dysfunctional families, and the collapse of functioning neighborhoods into Hobbesian all-against-all free-fire zones.

This next point is something I first read about in George Gilder’s book “Men and Marriage”. When the government steps in and takes away the responsibilities of a man, especially husband and father responsibilities, it destroys the male will to be a responsible contributor to society. If the welfare state awards money to women to raise children without the father, what honor is there in being a good man?

Earlier, I said that the sources of deep satisfactions are the same for janitors as for CEOs, and I also said that people needed to do important things with their lives. When the government takes the trouble out of being a spouse and parent, it doesn’t affect the sources of deep satisfaction for the CEO. Rather, it makes life difficult for the janitor. A man who is holding down a menial job and thereby supporting a wife and children is doing something authentically important with his life. He should take deep satisfaction from that, and be praised by his community for doing so. Think of all the phrases we used to have for it: “He is a man who pulls his own weight.” “He’s a good provider.”

If that same man lives under a system that says that the children of the woman he sleeps with will be taken care of whether or not he contributes, then that status goes away. I am not describing some theoretical outcome.

I am describing American neighborhoods where, once, working at a menial job to provide for his family made a man proud and gave him status in his community, and where now it doesn’t. I could give a half dozen other examples. Taking the trouble out of the stuff of life strips people–already has stripped people–of major ways in which human beings look back on their lives and say, “I made a difference.”

Murray’s article and Rich’s commentary continue, but for me this was the important point. When government distributes wealth, it gets involved in the decision-making of the most important areas of life: marriage, education, parenting, taxes, etc. Speaking as a man, when you take away choice and responsibility from me, you cannot expect me to engage in work or family or community in the same way I would if I were in charge.

By the way, I explained why European socialism leads to the decline of religion in a previous post.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wintery Tweets

Click to see recent visitors

  Visitors Online Now

Page views since 1/30/09

  • 3,957,568 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,746 other followers

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,746 other followers

%d bloggers like this: