Friday, August 17, 2007

The economics of parenting

I came across a couple of really tough articles via Instapundit. I've known for a while that being a parent is pretty hard stuff and that it is getting to be very hard to raise kids, I know I worry about things my parents didn't, and I am censoring myself just by talking about it.

This is worth a little compare and contrast.

From Pajamas Media:

Piano lessons, tutoring, art classes and vacations to Europe can all be very enriching. But they become nothing more than highlights on a resume when they are forced upon a child whose life is completely controlled and scheduled.

From TCS Daily:

Parenting was always hard work, of course. But aside from the economic payoffs, parents used to get a lot of social benefits, too. But in recent decades, a collection of parenting "experts" and safety-fascist types have extinguished some of the benefits while raising the costs, to the point where what's amazing isn't that people are having fewer kids, but that people are having kids at all.

There are a lot of downsides to having children. DINKs have been around for a while but not all that long in the grand scheme of things. It isn't just the economics that are bad it is all the small and petty annoyances that really get you.

The money quote has got to be this one:

NPR reported this month on “competitive birthing,” an example of wealthy families choosing to have many kids because they view it as a status symbol. While higher incomes have historically led to smaller families, in the past 10 years the number of rich parents having three or more kids has increased by 30 percent.

That is bucking a trend that has been around for a good long time, but I guess it isn't a surprise. It used to be if you were rich you wanted pale skin because that was a status symbol of saying you didn't have to work outside. When a large portion of the population moved to the city and office work and everyone was pale then the status symbol became having a really good tan. The symbols change over time as the middle class follows the symbols, so now it is birthing.

I would not call this a good sign for our society.

Aug. 17, 1807: 'Fulton's Folly' Steams Up the Hudson

Aug. 17, 1807: 'Fulton's Folly' Steams Up the Hudson : "Nevertheless, he persevered and by 1807 'Fulton's Folly,' as the local wags christened the Clermont, was ready to sail. It was a leisurely trip, taking 32 hours to reach the state capitol while steaming along at about 5 mph. "

A great day in history.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Forced to Pick a Major in High School - New York Times

Forced to Pick a Major in High School - New York Times: "Two years ago, Akelia applied to the magnet program%u2019s law and public safety academy because she wanted to be a lawyer. But after finding many of the legal cases boring and hard to relate to, she was unable to take classes in other fields because she was locked into her specialization."

At first I was thinking this might be a good idea for some students, but as this quote shows all they are doing is following the European model. I spent quite some time in Europe and one of the things I've noticed was the enormous amount of time, money and energy they spent on hobbies.

Europeans tend to be very hidebound in their thinking. "This is the way it's always been done." Even being a non-conformist there is very structured, I wish I had taken more street pictures showing how all the "free-thinking" kids were the same city to city. Being anti-x is not the same as being different.

The problem here is that it isn't going to help. With the loss of pretty much everything outside of college track there really isn't much choice here. They dropped shop and home ec a long time ago.

This is going to be terrible.

We have to take control of our children's education, it's too important to leave it up to the professionals.

The most important thing about learning is making it interesting, which is very different from entertaining.
• One great way to learn electronics is to get a Ham radio license and start building your own antennas and radios.
• Want to learn small engine repair, which scales nicely to larger engines, is to grab an old dead lawnmower at a garage sale and fix it up.
• If business is something you want to learn you could turn that lawnmower repair experience into real summertime business. Setup the corporation, hire employees: someone to gather lawnmowers from yard sales, someone else to repair them and someone to sell them.
• want to learn archeology there may be a dig not all that far away from your home.

The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Little Learning Is an Expensive Thing - New York Times

A Little Learning Is an Expensive Thing - New York Times: "When I was a college president, I was never able to give incoming freshmen the honest talk I wanted to. But had I done so, here's what I would have said:"

The realities of the situation of the price of higher education.

Start saving now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Education 2.0: What%u2019s most important to do in college today? � Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk

Education 2.0: What%u2019s most important to do in college today? � Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk: "In general I think college kids should prepare for the work world by learning to make friends with a wide range of people on campus and lay off the books. But maybe that%u2019s because I found that the time I was getting straight A%u2019s in college was the time I was learning the least."

On the one hand I agree with her. Sacrificing a social life for education is a problem. On the other hand if you're not trying to do something important with your education why are you spending the money?

What I have to encourage my daughter to do is to balance these things. Spend time getting to know and network with other people and work on hard problems and generally be a nice person.

Friday, August 10, 2007

U.S. Drops Out of Global Math Test - Newsweek Education -

U.S. Drops Out of Global Math Test - Newsweek Education - : "The United States has quietly withdrawn from an international study comparing math and science students."

Ah, we don't really need math anyway. Besides it boosts school test scores

A whimper not a bang.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007



Engineers are just as bad. I've have similar conversations with my 4 year old and my wife actually.

Feeding the desires behind these questions are great, but it does get murky when gone far enough.

I am always amazed by people who say science has all the answers. They just don't get it. They've just stopped asking why too early. The fun part is when you get to the point of saying, "I don't know." If your next statement is, "I want to find out." You are a scientist.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Teaching and Learning Teamwork

"I'm glad that people who love sports have had a good time with them. But don't ever, ever say, "This is a life lesson that you just can't learn any other way." There are no life lessons that you can't learn any other way.

And a kid who's lousy at sports but good at music or theatre or writing or videogames should get as much encouragement and honor as any athlete.

But he won't.

And that's what I hate about sports. That these physical games get treated, by kids and adults, as if they mattered more than activities that are just as valid, just as competitive, just as rewarding -- and maybe more so.

There is no excuse for athletes being more respected and honored in school than scholars. But few indeed are the high schools that provide scholars and musicians and actors and poets with anything remotely like the honor given to athletes. And it's not because athletics is harder than those other activities."

One of the top business skills out there right now is teamwork. It seems like everyone wants team players for their team. If are are going into management team building skills are in huge demand. Obviously there is a disconnect between the desire and the reality.

I want our children to learn team skills. But I've been on sports teams in the past and those are just not the skills that are needed. "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." "Taking one for the team."

My boss was a soccer coach last year and he loved the kids but hated the parents who wanted to win at all costs. This year his 8-year-old is on a team that has practice 5 days a week for at least 2.5 hours until the season starts and then it will only be 3 days for 2 hours. He complains that pro teams don't do that much practicing. But they still go. I am not sure that lessons learn there will be ones that will provide for a good and happy life.

I enjoy being part of teams. I readily admit I don't know everything or am the best at any particular skill, but with a team we multiply are skills in ways that I've never really seen in sports.
In my dorm at the university the 6 of us quickly got a reputation for "knowing everything." Between engineering, physics, chemistry, computer science and political science, we did seem to know an awful lot about all kinds of stuff. One guy even complained about us having forgotten more math then he ever learned. But still people came for help and we did what we could which often was a whole lot.

Lots of good teams I've been on haven't lasted very long, sometimes just a few hours someplace to clean up a historical site or help out at the community cannery.

One experience at the cannery was amazing. We needed to assemble the boxes to put all the cans in. A few of us went to do that job and we were all going it alone getting a box, opening it, taping it, and putting the dividers in. A few minutes of that we realized that was too slow so we formed into an assembly line and cranked out more boxes then they needed by the time the head guy came around again to see how we were doing.

There are lots of places to learn teamwork and most of them aren't sports. A band, a choir, a theater group, Ham radio club (our current project), a scout troop, or any where that a group comes together to accomplish something is all you really need and a desire to dive in and help.

We want our children to learn teamwork but sports may only be one place out of many to learn that.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Teach your kids to read, no one else will.

Current View: "But if you are concerned about your children, teach them to read. Do it yourself, or in concert with other parents, but do not entrust them to either the public or most private schools. The teaching profession is dominated by professors of education, few -- if any -- of whom ever taught small children to read."

Make sure to read the article that Jerry links too as well.

Can the schools be fixed? It sure looks like they don't want it to be fixed and that is where the real problem lies.

Gateway Educational Subjects

We just took the first lesson in a Ham Radio class and I realize that getting a Radio Technicians license is a great gateway subject into electrical engineering. It's a bit of math and electronics and a whole lot of fun.

A gateway subject sparks the fire of curiosity into a line of inquiry. People learn faster and better when they are interested in a subject.

There are other educational subject that are gateways to greater understanding.
Cooking gateways into physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. Alton Brown of Good Eats does a great job of relating cooking to science.

Algebra for higher mathematics. If you have algebra down everything else is pretty easy. We used to complain in our calculus class that the calculus was easy the algebra afterwards was hard, mainly because that was the place we make the most mistakes.

Swimming may be a good gateway to other physical activities, by knowing how to swim you can be confident in water which is a good thing, and is gentle to your body for a workout.

Piano can be the gateway to greater musical talent and appreciation.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Teacher Grows Disillusioned After a ‘Fail’ Becomes a ‘Pass’ - New York Times

A Teacher Grows Disillusioned After a ‘Fail’ Becomes a ‘Pass’ - New York Times: "Mr. Lampros’s introduction to the high school’s academic standards proved a fitting preamble to a disastrous year. It reached its low point in late June, when Arts and Technology’s principal, Anne Geiger, overruled Mr. Lampros and passed a senior whom he had failed in a required math course."

The dumb thing is that this girl will suffer most over time and society will have to bear that burden. She is not likely to reach her full potential.

It may be even worse then we fear. At least the graduation rate is still good a that school.

27 Skills Your Child Needs to Know That She’s Not Getting In School | zen habits

27 Skills Your Child Needs to Know That She’s Not Getting In School | zen habits: "What follows is a basic curriculum in life that a child should know before reaching adulthood. There will probably be other skills you can add to this list, but at least it’s a starting point."

This is a pretty good list. Something we are working on for our daughter.

To Read with Speed, Get Hooked on Phonics, and…: Scientific American

To Read with Speed, Get Hooked on Phonics, and…: Scientific American: "The three processes: phonics (a letter by letter sounding out of words); contextual clues (earlier parts of sentences that help readers anticipate upcoming words); and holistic word recognition, or the physical shape of words."

There are many facets to reading faster and this study is interesting that way. It doesn't cover directly how to do it. But there are plenty of other that do.

From BoingBoing

Math Book Helps Girls Embrace Their Inner Mathematician

Math Book Helps Girls Embrace Their Inner Mathematician : "McKellar's math book for junior high girls, called Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math and not Break a Nail, will be at bookstores Thursday. It has the look and feel of a teen magazine, but puts heavy emphasis on fractions and pre-algebra.
Smart woman. I'll have to find this. Looks interesting.