Thursday, October 07, 2010

College and Kids Have Switched Positions

Continuing our class discussion of The Feminine Mystique.

For the feminine mystique women in the '50s, marriage and children seemed obligatory, while the substance of college education, or even a college degree, were optional.

Now, the women in class agreed that a college education was essential, as they viewed their lives. Marriage and children, though desired by most of the women in the class, were optional.

I think this says as much about the changing class mores of the middle class as it shows a revolution in women's options.

Since children are not really optional for society as a whole, and smart educated people know that marriage is the best institution to raise children in, I expect that there will be another swing of the pendulum.

What we will try to think through and model, starting with my social theory class, is a view of life in which both college-and-career AND marriage-and-children are equally valued core aims in life.


Kelly said...

Do you think there's been a change in considering society as a whole when making personal life choices? I don't think most people act day to day with long term society gratification in mind, but maybe they do or maybe they used to. I feel like we're all very
into instant gratification, or at least short-term in my lifetime gratification now.
Obviously, we need to reproduce to keep the human race alive, etc, etc, but I can't ever see myself thinking about having a kid in terms of benefiting society. Do you think people do, or did? Granted, I don't feel much of a connection between how much I recycle and the future of the planet, but intellectually I know that we can't all rely on other people to do the right thing or it won't get done.
So, maybe I'm especially self-centered, or maybe it's generational. Or maybe having kids for the good of society has always been there biologically but not consciously. What do you think?

Gruntled said...

I think it is normal in all societies for most people to think about themselves and their social circle in making life decisions, large and small. However, educated people do have the advantage of sometimes thinking about the larger social context and impact of their actions. Some of them will make big decisions with society in mind, which will influence the decisions of people in their social circle, even if the latter are not also thinking of the big picture.

Kelly said...

I think it's easy for me to agree with you on all of that if I think of environmental issues. It just seems like the effect that having a child has on your life is so great that while we might think about reproduction and society theoretically, I can't see that being actually applied in the actual personal decision to have a baby.
I think the world would benefit (obviously) if I continued my genetic line by having a lot of children, becuase I'm awesome and the world deserves that. When it comes to deciding if I should actually have a kid, though, my life not being where I think it should be to raise a baby is the only thing I give any weight to. Sorry, world :)
I think the biological drive makes the decision for most people, so I guess I just doubt how consciously that biological imperative comes into play, and if it matters less to people now than it did in the past.

michelle said...

The fewer selfish couples that choose not to have children the better.

Gruntled said...

Kelly, I think knowledge about the real state of the population can free couples who wanted to have children to have them with more assurance, and perhaps sooner, and more of them.

Michelle: I think there are many people who do not miss kids because they are selfish, but because their plans were vague and the time gets away from them. Also, children can make us all less selfish (though no guarantees).

Whit said...

I have long thought that the Fifth Commandment is better translated: Honor the father and the mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Otherwise the second part of the commandment makes no sense. Filial duty is part of it, but in a larger sense God is telling the Jews to honor those who bring children to life to help perpetuate the nation.

I agree that much of our dangerously low birth rates are due to selfishness/other priorities due to the (quite proper) expansion of the role of women in society. We have not yet figured out how to accomodate this, as a culture, without committing cultural suicide. But we probably will.

But another cause of this decline in birthrates, I think, is the breaking of the former conceptual unity among marriage, sex, children and family which has come with the sexual revolution. The sexual revolution was not a necessary part of greater participation for women, and in many ways actually hurt.

Gruntled said...

Looking at it with a cold eye, one might say the sexual revolution was a plot by men to get more sex with even less responsibility.

Whit said...

Couldn't agree with you more Gruntled.