Thursday, April 15, 2010

my kin love to name-check david brooks

David brooks at it again. trying to spin a narrative about duke and butler into something about how hardworking rich people are. clumsy--yes. stupid--you bet. let's go to the tape...

David Brooks: Here’s the trickiest case of all. Before 1995, mothers spent on average 12 hours a week with their children. By 2007, that number had leapt to 21.2 for college-educated moms and 15.9 hours for those with less education. Paternal time leapt from 4.5 hours to 9.6 hours, among the college-educated and from 3.7 to 6.8 among the less educated.

I was fascinated by how parental time correlates to education. Is it possible that college-educated parents are spending more time passing down their advantages than other parents? Could it be that the rich replicate themselves by dint of hard work and parental attention, on top of all the other less worthy advantages?

Uncomfortable questions.

No. no. no. not uncomfortable questions. obvious questions. paid work is not the only kind of work. if you have a better job, you can afford to live closer to food/shops/transit, you can afford a shorter commute (by car not 3 buses), you can afford to own a dishwasher or in unit laundry, you can afford to pay someone to clean your house/mow your lawn/fix your sink, you can afford to buy prepared food. you can afford not to participate in an unrecorded barter economy of favors. that extra time is freed up by more money. it is embarrassing to suggest otherwise. the uncomfortable question is not whether the rich are more darwinianly fit than the poor (hello eugenics!) but whether the structural disadvantages of the poor are being adequately addressed, you moron.


Senor Beavis said...

Hey, I don't love to name-check David Brooks!

And pardon my obvious math, but having to work multiple low-paying jobs = "harder work" = less time with your kids. Working a job where you have more command over your hours doesn't necessarily mean you "worked harder" to get it.

Also, fuck Duke!

Wade Garrett said...

There are significant structural disadvantages to being poor, and most middle class and particularly rich people in this country don't appreciate that.

Having said that, in a lot of cities, the poor live closer to the city center, and rich people live out in the suburbs. Its really only in a handful of major east and west coast metropolitan areas that the wealthy live closer to where they work; in most of the country the wealthy live in the suburbs.

I think a bigger problem is that less well-educated parents don't know how to educate their children at home. A lot of people resort to the "television is the cheapest babysitter" approach, and a lot of parents who, say, dropped out of high school can't help their children with their homework or teach them good study habits. My brother and I read all of the time as kids, and had good study habits instilled in us by our parents. They made certain that we had access to a lot of books, and that we read, for the most part, books from which we could learn something, instead of frying our brains on television. I think that studies will show that upper middle class and wealthy children learn more so much more over the summer and outside of school than do poor children that that disparity may account for a significant part of the achievement gap.

@ Senor Beavis - I think you can say that, but it depends on how you define "work." People with high-paying white-collar jobs usually studied really hard in order to get them - no matter how intelligent you are, or what resources you grew up with, you have to work really hard to become a lawyer or a doctor or a stockbroker or whatever. By and large, people who end up being doctors worked harder in high school and college than did people who ended up in minimum wage jobs, or dropping out of high school altogether, and I don't see how that's really up for discussion.

Having said that, I think there is a problem in that people who did not achieve academically when they were younger tend to get stuck behind the 8-ball and it can be very difficult to get out. If someone matures and decides at age 30 that they want to go back to school, there are enormous obstacles in their way. It should be easier for people to change careers, or to earn professional credentials, later in life. If somebody hates high school and doesn't work hard at it, and then, 10 years later, decides that they're tired of working at McDonalds and that they want to get an education, it should be less prohibitively expensive for them to do so.