End of Year Hiatus

The foggy blogger is fogged out right now and will be back in 2007 with new materials and witty observations. Until then, Happy New Year!



Tiny Terrors and Super Nannies

One trend that i have been watching these past few years is the rise in parenting shows. The plot is always the same, distraught parents and kids that are evil incarnate. Then like an angel, salvation arrives on the wings of a nanny/psychologist/Mr T. Guess who the root of the problem is....the parents! Natch.

As for solutions, they're almost all the same. Firm boundaries/rules/regulations followed up with real consequences. We watch the parents cry, have heartfelt, tear-filled conversations about their shortcomings and anxieties. We watch the kids have spectacular melt-downs and tantrums and then through the magic of TV have a moment and realization and turn into angels, who do their parent's every command.

In looking at these show, some questions come to mind. When and where did we get to this state? Where is the community? Why must these parent's struggle alone? Didn't someone in their circle point these basics out to them? When did we need experts to tell us something that seems pretty basic.

On second thought after watching the Dog Whisperer, it seems to me that the raising of kids and dogs seem to have alot in common....hmm

Yet there's something going on culturally when we need these kinds of shows. Hillary Clinton said it takes a village, but many of us are not willing to let the village in. Or we only want to live in a village when its convenient and nice and warm and fuzzy. What this signals to me is that between divorce, suburban isolation and the rat race, we have forgotten how to live in a village and what it means to let the village raise our kids.


Tragedy in Oregon

Before I continue, a brief word on the Kim family. May God surround that family with love and wonderful caring people who can walk them through the loss of their father, son, husband. You will be in my prayers...

It seems as if every year there is always a case of a family lost in the woods. They make a wrong turn and get lost in bad weather. Its almost always someone from the city, not the woods, of course there are exceptions. In reflecting on this i am reminded of our fragility as beings of flesh and bone and how brains and ingenuity are no protection from poor, or ill informed choices that lead to tragic consequences.

While it would be easy to get preachy right now and talk about staying on well trod paths and carrying enough food to feed yourself in such an emergency, I won't. Look, we need to be real and acknowledge that when people get lost in unfamiliar terrain, they panic and don't always make good choices. It seems to me that an easier solution would be to find a way to mark roads that aren't plowed and that people shouldn't be on in winter, unless you're a local. Or simply close those roads off in winter and keep people to the main routes. Seems like a simple solution to a deadly problem...right?


Pediatricians Blast Inappropriate Ads

Today while trolling my favorite aggregator of news stories (google) I ran into this article. The opening line is "Inappropriate advertising contributes to many kids' ills, from obesity to anorexia, to drinking booze and having sex too soon, and Congress should crack down on it, the American Academy of Pediatrics says." (well duh!)

What really chaps my hide about this is this response "Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, an industry group for breweries, said parents have more influence than advertising on teens' decisions to drink" Which brings me back to an earlier post in regards to a NYTimes story showing that poor kids have an upbringing that puts them at a disadvantage in the workforce.

Which brings to mind some questions; "How can we expect children, whose parents may lack the skills necessary to combat these ads, to be able resist their allure?" "What kind of society targets children, who don't have the safeguards of a middle class upbringing, to purchase or engage in unhealthy behaviors that will keep them trapped in a destructive cycle?" (and we wonder why these people can't work themselves up or out?) My final questions are "What took the American Acadamy of Pediatrics so long and how come this isn't getting any more press?" Finally; "Where are the prophetic voices in our society who can speak up and out for those who are unable to speak for themselves?"


Annoyances In The News

I have to admit that i get really annoyed by how the press covers "evangelicals". Take this lovely gem Obama discusses AIDS epidemic with Orange County evangelicals

It goes without saying that AIDS is important and that in Africa, it's a major problem. No arguement here on that, but why is it that whenever the press covers evangelicals and social justice, it's almost always with a sniff. Take this example "The pastor, dressed in blue jeans, cited the millions of African children from families afflicted with HIV." What does the pastor wearing blue jeans have to do with African people with HIV??? Do we say things like "Nancy Pelosi, wearing a suit, announced her candidate for speaker of the senate"?

Or even better "The senator did not shy away from remarks that might have discomfited his audience..." Has this guy not taken a look at recent evangelical publications? Um, hello, postmordernism, Gen-X ministry, renewed interest in social justice?? Evangelicalism is not the same thing as Falwell or Pentecostalism!! Why can't they send someone to cover these stories who has a clue as to what's really going on within american christianity and can tell a boomer evangelical from a millenial youthworker, who probably sports at least one tattoo or a piercing, if not both! So Obama speaking to a group of "evangelicals" about AIDS is not really that shocking. In fact i'm pretty certain that a fairly sizeable chunk of them agree with Obama and Rick Warren (after all they all buy his books!).

But wait there's more!

I hate being sick and I hate it when sick people infect me. Of course if i infect them, that's ok...right? The San Jose Mercury ran a story titled Growing problem: Sick workers who don't stay home

What's funny, is that everyone agrees that this is a problem, but they could only find one company willing to compensate their workers enough so they keep their sick selves home...Google! Seems like a no brainer to me, if you want sick employees to stay home, don't penalize them for choosing to stay home. Right? Course i could get into the competitive nature of business and the breaking of the social contract, but i'll save that for later.


What It Takes to Make a Student...

This week the New York Times Magazine ran a fascinating article on poverty, education and legislation.

At first this looks like a typical NYTimes attack on the failing on No Child Left Behind and it's impact, but upon further reading there are several statements that really stand out and need to be examined further. Starting with this statement "By 2014, the president vowed, African-American, Hispanic and poor children, all of whom were at the time scoring well below their white counterparts and those in the middle class on standardized tests, would not only catch up with the rest of the nation; they would also reach 100 percent proficiency in both math and reading." A great statement a great promise, but upon further reflection, this statement links minorities with poverty and white with middle-class. The great American divide White=wealth and Black/Brown=poverty. Later on our president is quoted as saying “I’m proud to report the achievement gap between white kids and minority students is closing, for the good of the United States.” What happened to the poor kids? Are they catching up?

But I don't want to spend this blog posting on racial and economic divisions. That's been done and at this point the dialog on that point is stalled, instead what's significant about this article is that it admits that poverty is more than just an economic condition, it's also a cultural condition.

"The academics have demonstrated just how deeply pervasive and ingrained are the intellectual and academic disadvantages that poor and minority students must overcome to compete with their white and middle-class peers. The divisions between black and white and rich and poor begin almost at birth, and they are reinforced every day of a child’s life."

So it's going to take more than just bussing kids to better schools, you're going to have to teach them how to learn in that kind of school. It does no good to lead a horse to water, if they don't know how to drink from the pool. The article later goes on to show how little most poor kids are able to drink from the academic pool.

"Hart and Risley showed that language exposure in early childhood correlated strongly with I.Q. and academic success later on in a child’s life. Hearing fewer words, and a lot of prohibitions and discouragements, had a negative effect on I.Q.; hearing lots of words, and more affirmations and complex sentences, had a positive effect on I.Q. The professional parents were giving their children an advantage with every word they spoke, and the advantage just kept building up."

Notice this is a difference that transcends race, instead it is a class difference, let me remind you gentle reader that white people can be poor too, and perhaps it's not necessarily their fault...

"...Middle-class children argue with their parents, complain about their parents’ incompetence and disparage parents’ decisions.” Working-class and poor children, by contrast, “learn how to be members of informal peer groups. They learn how to manage their own time. They learn how to strategize.” But outside the family unit, Lareau wrote, the advantages of “natural growth” disappear. In public life, the qualities that middle-class children develop are consistently valued over the ones that poor and working-class children develop. Middle-class children become used to adults taking their concerns seriously, and so they grow up with a sense of entitlement, which gives them a confidence, in the classroom and elsewhere, that less-wealthy children lack. The cultural differences translate into a distinct advantage for middle-class children in school, on standardized achievement tests and, later in life, in the workplace."

How can we expect an adult who has been taught to respect his elders and not challenge the boss to succeed in a competitive business environment. What if that adult is a female? Two strikes right there, add race and forget it, it's 3 strikes, out. Often in the business environment people from this background are invariably perceived as not being intelligent, because their middle class peers are unable to look beyond the cultural conditioning.

The article goes on to detail how some schools are overcoming this divide, let's just say it takes a lot of work and you can't assume what the kids know, in terms of knowledge or behavior.

Let's think about some of the other social consequences of this upbringing, teen pregnancies, gangs, drugs...? In this light, harder consequences won't work, because it's respect not social acceptance these people seek.

The bottom line, you put your money where your heart is and if we in America want to get serious about poverty and racial inequality in this country, then we have to be willing to spend the money and the time and not expect any real results for several generations.