Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Valuing Families

Whose responsibility is it to raise the next generation of Americans? The conservative or libertarian answer is simple: you are 100% responsible for your own kids and 0% responsible for anyone else's. I believe, however, that we all have some responsibility for the next generation, whether or not we have children of our own. What about a couple who chooses not to have children, do they have any responsibility to other people's children? Imagine a world where the childless decide not to exercise good stewardship over the earth's resources because their own lifetimes are limited, while parents fight to protect the earth's resources for their children. That's not a good fight. Childless and child-bearing alike need to look out for the next generation. This is true not only for environmental issues, I suggest, but also for the actual education and rearing of children. In an important sense, children are everyone's future.

Libertarians and conservatives believe that if whoever chooses to be a parent should bear the entire burden of child-rearing, from education, medical bills. Libertarian/conservatives also believe that if raising children is hard to do while simultaneously holding downa job because jobs want 50+/hours week plus weekends/nights, you should take a different job, hire a nanny, or make your spouse (er, wife) stay at home. I disagree with all that. I think it is entirely proper for me, as a parent, to demand that we, as a society and a country, make changes to our educational system, health care system, and above all to our workplaces to enable parents to both have good jobs and raise children.

The libertarian/conservative view suggests that we each must choose between (1) having a highly successful career but being childless or living in a "traditional" family with stay-at-home wife [or perhaps having kids raised primarily by hired nannies] or (2) having a family and being an involved parent but never really being able to rise to the top of your profession. These are the choices that tend now to be faced by highly-paid professionals entering their 30s.

Do we have a right to choose a different path as a society? Is it an "unfair burden" on childless people to tell them that they shouldn't get promoted faster by working 24/7? Is it an unfair burden to require companies to pay for generous maternity and paternity leave even though childless couples will not get the same leave? Will our economy collapse if we make such demands on the workplace, as conservatives argue? What about providing decent daycare? IS it unfair to tax childless couples for this, or for any public school? These are serious issues that confront us as a society. These are the issues that confront families today in big ways.


USwest said...

Conservatives have some serious contradictions about the family. LTG lays these out. They push for all the family stuff, but then cut all the social programs that help foster family. I swear, family for them is a way to keep control of everyone- especially those uppity women.

Recent studies show that socio-economic realities are making many people put off childbearing. Part of the reason is that there is perceived choice: freedom for children? Wealth or dependants? Happiness or stress? The expectation of hyper-parenting, intensive parenting, etc. is daunting for someone like me who is really on the fence about children. And I am running out of time on the fence as well. I didn’t see my parents struggling like this. They just seemed to go along naturally with us. There wasn’t all this psychological pressure.

Also, a recent study, which I can't now find, said that nearly 30% ( 2/3rd if the community is African American) of babies born in the U.S. today are born out of wedlock. Couples are choosing to live together rather than marry.

I think everyone needs more support. In France, pre-school is public and paid for. Parents have more social support; universities are much more affordable, etc. And their birthrates, while not as high as in the past, are keeping pace. It isn’t just immigrants either. They place a high value on propagating French families and they adopt policies to do this. Just try telling the French they have to cut funding to their “crèche”! Watch out! This makes a big difference.

LTG, remember the old perfume commercial from the 70s? "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget your man." The meta-message is the women could have it all and be all of it. Now men are obviously feeling the same pressures. I don't think any one person can be it all. It takes support, it takes help. Conservatives are delusional

Anonymous said...

I think the intensive parenting crap discourages a lot of people who are smart, interesting, and credits to society from having kids while idiots seem to be breeding like rabbits. It also puts this kind of ugly corporate face on childrearing - managing your "asset" for maximum return. A lot of it is class anxiety, which is understandable given the economy, but doesn't make Baby Nuclear Physics and Advanced Swimstroke Class any more useful or worthwhile.

If I understand conservatives correctly, the only women who should work outside the home are Sarah Palin and welfare mothers. And even worse, a lot of fundamentalists place an undue emphasis on homeschooling, which is a great way to make a person (er, woman) unemployable by keeping them out of the workforce for 15-20 years.

My position is enviable, at least in this country. I get 12 weeks of paid maternity leave,* a supportive husband who does at least half of the domestic chores, and Law Talking Toddler goes to an excellent, licensed daycare center. But what I have ought to be the baseline, not the exception.

-Seventh Sister

*My leave is actually a mixture of annual and sick leave, so it is not "true" maternity leave. I wish this would be changed, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Raised By Republicans said...

As a home owner I feel I have a direct interest in the quality of the local schools, child care facilities etc. When those things are good, the value of my home holds or improves. When those things get worse my home's value declines. To me, it's just that simple.

Of course part of the problem with our societies lack of interest in child rearing/education is (in my opinion) a result of generational politics - i.e. The Baby Boom/Me Generation.

When they were children in the 50s and 60s they were doted on by parents experiencing an unusual economic boom due to the lack of international competition following WWII. In the 1980s it was Baby Boomers who rallied around Ronald Reagan and began by cutting the benefits to their retired parents. Now, the Boomers are retiring and their children are starting to leave the education system. So Boomers are turning their "Me" philosophy to public eduction.

The country is debt! Boomer Solution? Cut public education. And the retired (and high voter turnout) Boomer bloc has little interest in additional funding for day care or K-12 school, let alone public universities (Vietnam is long since over so no need for public universities anymore). But Teabagging Boomers cry "keep government away of my Medicare!"

A friend of mine recently said, "Some day someone will write a book about how 'The Generation of Me Screwed You.'"

The Law Talking Guy said...

The connection between child-rearing and property values is important, I agree. It is often underestimated that the main problem in most neighborhoods is not crime, but youth crime. Also, those are the taxpayers who will pay your social security. Don't you want them to do well?

But in a larger sense we have to get past the "what's in it for me" mentality and embrace an "us" mentality.

USWest: I think the comparison with France is very instructive.

Raised By Republicans said...

I want the next generation to be rich as kings and highly enlightened about the benefits of aiding the elderly!

USWest said...

The state of California recently
opened its school districts. Parents in low preforming schools can now opt to send their students to higher preforming schools in their district. It's like a voucher system, only for public schools.

Here's the catch. The high preforming schools in our area pay about $13K per student. The low preforming schools pay about $6K. So when a student transfers, then the accepting school only gets $6K for that student. The rest is made up by property taxes. That's the down side.

My friend was quite upset about this, expecting then that all these new students would bring down the level of her school for her children. I made the same argument that is made here. The problem may not be the children, but the school. So why be afraid of the children? Also, consider the distance between schools. In the county mentioned in the news report, you are talking a commute of 30 minutes to an hour. Parents who are really poor or low wage probably can't make the trip. 2)They aren't going to be educated enough to really understand the option or make themselves aware of it.

And in the end, we want all these kids educated. I told my friend that if she didn't care to have them all educated, then I wanted a refund on the tax money that I am paying for her kids to go to school. I have no kids. So I wanted my money back. "but my kids will pay your social security." She finally got it that we are all in this together. Sometimes people can loose site of the larger goal. The "me-ism: that LTG mentions.

Per France: families tend to live closer together, so there is also a built in support mechanism. Here, we are all spread out. Part of the reason I ended buying a home near my family, other than the fact that I like my family, is that if I have a child, I want that child to have the family I had growing up. It just makes better kids to have all those trusted adults around. It makes happier parents who can still make time to enjoy each other.

Maybe this housing crisis will settle Americans down more. We have been very restless as a population and we have become alienated from each other as a result.

Raised By Republicans said...

I agree with everything US West and her friend said. Which is confusing for me because they disagree with each other. Bear with me while I untangle this - thinking out loud if you will.

US West is right that we are all in this together on some important levels. And she is right that travel costs will likely prevent a wholesale migration of kids from bad schools to good ones. Another point she could have made was that the only parents who WILL pay those travel costs (in time or money) will likely be the most involved parents in their kids' educations and their kids will be more likely do OK in the new school as a result.

BUT... US West's friend is correct that funding matters. It's not a coincidence that the underperforming school spends less than half the amount of money per kid per year ($13k vs $6k) as the better school. The curse of local funding raises its head. If we assume that a significant number of kids from the "bad" school will move to the "good" school, where will the extra $7,000 per kid come from?

The good school will have a choice between two unpleasant options. Either they lower the amount of money spent per student per year by raising classroom sizes, reducing teacher pay and/or cutting programs like art or sports or the library budget. Alternatively, they could raise property taxes on the residents of the good school district to help cover the additional costs of the new kids coming in from the bad school across town. The likely choice, in my opinion, will be to cut spending per student.

The result will be a slight improvement for the kids from the bad school but a big downgrade for the kids in the good school. The improvement for the kids from the bad school will be bigger and the downgrade for the kids in the good school less the fewer kids make the move. This is not a good strategy for improving education. The point should not be to eliminate inequality for the sake of making the system fair by making it bad for everyone but to improve the bad schools without damaging the good ones.

This is why I oppose these kinds of school choice programs. They sound cool and egalitarian but A) they probably won't work as intended because parents won't send their kids on an extra 30-60 minute commute to another school and B) if they do work as intended, they will hurt as many kids as they help. And the more people take advantage of the program the worse this pull to the lower, level mean will get.

It would be FAR better to institute some more aggregated mode of paying for schools across entire states or even nationally and use the entire range of tax revenue generation (not just local property taxes) to pay for schools. That way we could improve the bad schools without having to directly take resources away from the good ones.

To sum up. The problem with school choice programs is it forces redistribution of education resources while holding the total amount of resources constant. That makes things a zero-sum game between good districts and bad ones. If we open up the way we fund schools we can take money from other public priorities (like the bloated budgets in the military, 3 strikes laws/prisons, ag subsidies etc, tax breaks for favored constituencies etc).

Raised By Republicans said...

US West,

One snappy come back to your friend about her kids paying your social security... "Actually, your kids will outnumber my generation by a good bit and when it comes time to pay for my social security they will probably do exactly what the baby boommers did in the 1980s and cut the benefits to those kinds of programs.

The Law Talking Guy said...

And here's another way to put it: "What do you want the country to look like when you retire? Today's children will determine that. Shortchange them and you shortchange your own future."

Also, global warming teaches us that no man is an island, and that even if one were an island, one woudl not be unaffected by the decisions made on rest of the planet.

USWest said...

RBR, your analysis of the school choice issue is dead on. I was more interested in the "all in this together" part. You fleshed out the other side of this quite well. As for snappy comebacks, my friend is one of those who doesn't think there will be a social security system for us. I don't agree.

Interesting how you can't discuss families without going to the school issue.

There really does have to be a better way to fund schools. Before long, if we aren't already there, the public education system will be privatized. Then we'll see how much real "choice" families have.

LTG: I once told my former local congressman that if he didn't quit voting for budgets that cut university funding and student assistance, he'd be very sorry when he was ready to draw his Social Security. We'd all be so deep in debt with student loans, we wouldn't have enough money to cover the unavoidable payroll tax hikes.

In some ways, that has already happened. Our generation - or least the parts of it in our socio-economic class- have been late to purchase homes, have kids, etc. In part, this is because we are spending more time in school and taking longer to dig out from under ever larger student loans.

As I tell everyone, be nice to the janitor. People leave some terribly smelly garbage and he could forget to pick it up.

The Law Talking Guy said...

USwest: And it's more than just social security. Raise your hands, everyone who wants to live in a poor neighborhood - because the gradual impoverishment of the youth will lead to just that everywhere. And that's what happens when you put the financial burden of education entirely on students. Increasingly I see 'college' graduates from schools so bad they deserve my snooty quotation marks with loads of student debt and lowpaying jobs. Those persons slip to the bottom of the middle class or, frankly, below. The desire of the GOP to balance the federal and state budget on the backs of the middle classes, rather than those with means, means that the tax rates stay the same but they no longer buy the same services in terms of primary education, secondary education, museums, national parks, and the rest. And the spiraling cost of health care makes it even worse. All of this, of course, is properly termed the "Reagan Revolution" that accompanied the deindustrialization of the midwest.

This isn't alarmism, it's truth: the middle class is really starting to contract, and the threshhold for middle class existence has climbed above the means of most people who used to be able to aspire to it.

To quote Jesse Jackson from 1988, "20 years ago, a man could support his family in a middle class life. Today, with both parents working, they still can't make ends meet."

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