Friday, January 7, 2011

"A Nation of Wimps"

"I'm not 'shy.' I'm 'conversationally selective.' Quote me on that." -- Um...that was me who said that. It was going farther down in the post, but then I thought it was funny, so I moved it here. (Actually, I am shy, but more of that shyness has morphed into conversation-selectiveness in the past year.)

This post is one of my commentaries on an article. This isn't one of the angry(er) ones, but it is rather long.

Thanks to Kenny (again, ha) for the link:

"'s playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And... wait a minute... those aren't little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves."

I used to think it was just my getting older that made me think the newer playgrounds were lame, and I only liked the older ones for the nostalgia. No. The newer ones really are lame. Give my an old wooden one any day. There's one at a park sort of near my house, and another at my mom's old elementary school, and another that used to be at the park of their hometown, but that one got replaced by the "safe" plastic. Mhm.

"'(A) 13-year-old "couldn't see the big picture.' That cleverly devised defect (what 13-year-old can construct the big picture?) would allow her to take all her tests untimed, especially the big one at the end of the rainbow, the college-worthy SAT."

*face palm* That was in reference to a supposed "condition" that required the teacher to make special accommodations.

"When he took over as president of Harvard in July 2001, Lawrence Summers publicly ridiculed the value of honors after discovering that 94 percent of the college's seniors were graduating with them." 

Good God. And I thought my middle school was bad, handing out "good behavior tickets" just for wearing school colors or getting an answer right. Sometimes even for coming to class on time. These tickets (if you have enough of them) can be redeemed at the end of the month to allow you to meander around outside for an hour, or attend a mandatory during-school dance. 
There's also an AR (Accelerated Reader) system where students are required (for a grade) to take content-based (Who was stealing the life force from Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets?) tests on books for points in hopes of meeting a point goal. If you make your goal 3/4 quarters, you get to go to the AR celebration, which when I was in 6th grade was a trip to the roller-rink, and more recently was with "inflatables." Come on.
In elementary school, it wasn't required. You could redeem your points at a monthly "store" to get silly erasers or cool pencils or little green army men or whatever. It was simply an incentive to read more. None of that "you should have done this anyway, but YAY BONUS FOR YOU FOR DOING IT." Also, the goal maximum in the middle school was (and is) 40 points. It didn't matter how fast or often or well you read. So my great accomplishment in 8th grade was to make over 1000% of my goal in one quarter.

"It is a pure index of emotional over-investment in a child's success. And it rests on a notion of juvenile frailty—the assumption that children are easily bruised and need explicit uplift."

I'm all for commending kids when they achieve stuff, but we shouldn't make up achievements solely for the sake of commending them. 
It's an argument I often have with my parents:
Them: "Olivia's got her book published on AMAZON. Isn't that AMAZING?"
Me: "It would be...only it wasn't based on the quality of the writing. There are so many typos in there (due to the rush I was in to smash it together), and most of the short stories aren't even that good, and the table of contents is even missing some of the items. Literally anyone could do it. It's self-publishing, and it's free."
Them: "But--But--So? We're allowed to be proud of you."
Me: "I'd rather you be proud of me for things worth being proud of. Otherwise your pride doesn't mean much anymore."  :(

"The organized sports many kids participate in are managed by adults; difficulties that arise are not worked out by kids but adjudicated by adult referees."

Case point: 3rd grade. 3 days out of the week, we were required to do an organized sport, or walk the track. 3rd grade recess became something to be endured, not because I didn't enjoy 4-square, but because I was required to play it during my free time.

Also, and I don't want to reflect badly on my mom because of this because she's an awesome mom and I love her, but here's another example:
My sister and I are yelling at each other over something stupid. She yells at us to stop fighting. We aren't allowed to peacefully (or otherwise) our own conflicts. When we're furious at each other, we're forced to leave the room. We're reduced to ranting about each other to either our other sister or Dad. Where is the social-skills-learning in that? Sure, I understand why she doesn't want to listen to us fight, but...Oh well.

Then there's a page about cellphones and parental contact during college, which I've already spoken of in previous posts. The thing with blogging so much is that it's a pain to fish around for hyperlinks. If you want to see that post, leave a comment and I'll be happy to find it for you, but otherwise I'm not going to bother.

"At age 2, none of (the kids genetically predispositioned to anxiety) wound up fearful if their parents backed off from hovering and allowed the children to find some comfortable level of accommodation to the world on their own. "

I don't know if I'm one of those kids, but I definitely exhibited some of the symptoms mentioned. 
And I have a story that definitely backs the above quote up, which doesn't really need to be told. 

"Children need to be gently encouraged to take risks and learn that nothing terrible happens."

Here's where my dad's paranoia kicks in:
I read that and think: Yes, but sometimes terrible things do happen; like car crashes. God, car crashes. No, no, no, don't want to drive don't want to drive don't want to drive.

Granted, I have been driving places, and nothing terrible has happened, and I'm feeling much more comfortable about it. It's an interesting feeling to be in control of the car, and one I'm still getting used to....but hey, I've had my permit for less than two weeks.

"They need gradual exposure to find that the world is not dangerous."

And here is the point where I temporarily lose open-mindedness about this article. B.S. 
The world is dangerous.

"Being examined all the time makes children extremely self-conscious. As a result they get less communicative; scrutiny teaches them to bury their real feelings deeply. And most of all, self-consciousness removes the safety to be experimental and playful. "If every drawing is going to end up on your parents' refrigerator, you're not free to fool around, to goof up or make mistakes," says Anderegg."

True. Very true.

"...ubiquity of video games that encourage aggression."

Not true. Very not true. I've been playing a game that used to be rated M(ature) for violence (which is now a T[een]) since I was three and watching it be played since I was two, and I am not a violent person.
Maybe some people who like violent video games happen to be more prone to violence. That doesn't mean it's the games' fault.

And...that's it. Off to reading a book. I only have about 7 out from the library right now on three-week loans...


  1. The part about risks not being, well, risky and the offhand attack on video games are among the few things that irked me about the article; the other one that I can think of off the top of my head is their casual jibe at divorce. I did appreciate their comment about the world being dangerous because, although the world is dangerous, I don't think it is nearly as dangerous as our culture seems convinced it is. I think back on the Subway Mom controversy in particular an evidence of this:

    America's "Worst" Mom

  2. Haven't read the article yet (although I plan to), but I just had to laugh at the quote about playgrounds. So you mean I'm not just being lazy when I sit on the park bench sipping my latte not interacting with my kids?? I love that that's considered a good thing! :) It made me think of this blog post of mine:

  3. Read the post--made me laugh. Thanks for giving me the link, and for dropping by and reading my own posts. :)


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