Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Birth Order Advantages of Chattering Parents.

The best environment to grow up in is basically two parents who are chattering away at you with fancy words.

So says Frank Sulloway, author of Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives. Sulloway was quoted in a New York Times story, "Birth Order: Fun to Debate, But How Important?" which I thought mostly missed the point of Sulloway's study.

Sulloway says that there is not a specific character that goes with each birth order position. Rather, the dynamic rule is "first born gets first choice." Normally the first born will gravitate to the things the parents value most, will get the most parental conversation, will seek to work hard, do well in school, and succeed in life, because that is the simplest path to eminence. The later-borns then have to find a different niche, especially when the kids are young and all at home. But if the first-born does not choose that niche, it is available for the second, and so on.

Sulloway cites a recent study of birth order using Norwegian military data. That study found that first borns have a modest but real 3-point IQ advantage over second borns. Sulloway's conclusion from this is the wonderful quote above.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Background, Education, and Effort Matter in About the Right Proportions

In the Social Structure class we are working through the classic studies of social mobility (for SOC nerds that is Blau and Duncan, as modified by Jencks). They look at which factors in your background help predict your likely socioeconomic status (SES).

The basic finding is roughly this:

The class of your family, plus the way that class shapes your schooling, predicts a fifth to a quarter of your ultimate SES.

Your own education predicts another fifth to a quarter.

The other 50 or 60% is due to other factors - including your own effort in getting, keeping, and improving in a job.

As we talked about it, it seemed to me that this is an ethically satisfying distribution. As a parent, I am glad that my efforts to help my children be cultivated and successful do matter. As a teacher I am glad that education adds a sizable hunks to my students' ultimate success. And as a citizen I am glad that there is such ample scope for personal effort to make the biggest difference in one's achievement.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Darwinist Dating Should Not Be A Template, But a Cautionary Tale

Kay Hymowitz has another fine piece on mate selection in City Journal, "Dating in a Time of Darwinism." She gives their due to single men who have been burned and become jaded about dating. They try to be nice guys, but get dumped for bad boys. They try to be chivalrous, but get attacked as sexist. Or try to be egalitarian, and get scorned as inconsiderate. So some men turn to a brutal Darwinian calculus that they will be more successful in their sexual conquests if they are more callous to women. As women's biological clock ticks louder, men can get away with even less consideration. And the saddest part is that many of them are right.

Hymowitz rightly notes that what a Darwinian approach to sexual relations misses the fact that human beings can be cultivated and civilized past their merely biological desires. This goes for women just as much as it does for men. There is a short-term sexual advantage to men in being jerks. Today there are more women with the freedom to do the same. But they are both still being jerks.

What strikes me about this sad state of affairs, which might affect as many as a fifth of single young men and women, is that it is so short-sighted. Most people do want to marry and have kids and stay that way. Nearly all of the pleasure-seeking young women of the New Girl Order harbor the desire for real marriage and a family, and most of the single young men now studying up to be Pick-Up Artists will want that, too.

The smart young men and women, like most of the students I teach, can figure out that if they want something eventually, they will be better off is they start seeking it now. The happiest group of grownups are likely to have married in their mid-twenties and gotten on with a solid, building-up life.

Monday, September 07, 2009

If You Are Ready to Marry in Your Mid-20s, You Will Be No Happier if You Wait

This is the conclusion of a paper by University of Texas sociologist Norval Glenn and colleagues. One of them, Jeremy Uecker, presented the paper at the American Sociological Association meeting in San Francisco. I attended that session.

The Texans cautiously conclude that "it would be premature to conclude that the optimal time for first marriage for most persons is ages 22-25." The bottom line, though, is this:

However, the findings do suggest that most persons have little or nothing to gain in the way of marital success by deliberately postponing marriage beyond the mid twenties.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Lawless Courts Undermine The Legitimacy of the Law

I believe this rule applies to the courts and the law of all kinds of institutions. This Sunday I have in mind the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of Boston in their ruling on Rev. Jean Southard performing a same-sex marriage in First Presbyterian Church of Waltham.

Everyone agrees on the facts. Jean Southard, a Presbyterian minister, did perform the usual wedding service in a normal church, joining two women. Everyone involved called it a marriage, both in the civil and in the religious sense. Yet the church's Directory of Worship clearly says that Presbyterian ministers and Presbyterian churches can only assist in the marriage of a man and a woman.

Southard's defense was that the language of the Directory is "merely descriptive" and reflects outdated social conditions. The Boston PJC bought this argument. Or rather, as part of their desire to overturn church law, which has been reaffirmed by the votes of the whole church several times and recently, the judicial commission legislated for the church. Worse, as the dissent of two members of the commission strongly protested, the majority of the commission is ruling that the church law should be determined by the lead of the state law.

The Southard decision follows on the Orwellian reasoning of General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission last spring in the Spahr case. Rev. Jane Spahr had also performed a same-sex marriage (actually two, just to be sure) in order to create a test case. The GA PJC ruled that since the Directory says a marriage can only be between a man and a woman, the thing that Spahr performed, which all present regarded as a marriage, couldn't really be a violation of the Directory since it didn't involve a man and a woman. Case closed.

Such games undermine the whole church. Wrong, wrong.