Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Natural Growth Childrearing is Like Having Cats

My students always learn from Annette Lareau's excellent study, Unequal Childhoods, about the difference in the way middle-class parents typically raise their children, compared to the way working-class and poor parents typically raise their children.

Middle-class parents use what Lareau calls "concerted cultivation" - marshaling their own resources, and that of many other teachers, coaches, tutors, and others to cultivate the talents of each of their children.  This is the typical upbringing of Centre students.

Lareau found that poorer parents use what she called "natural growth" parenting.  Good parents make sure their kids are fed, clothed, sheltered, and loved - and make them go to school, as the law requires.  They depend on the school to do the teaching, since the teacher are the professionals.  When kids come home, they are free to choose how to spend their time, either in the house or out of it.

My children were raised in the way typical of my class - concerted cultivation, but not over-the-top.  I realized as I was letting the cats out after feeding them this morning that I raise my cats by natural growth.  Once they mastered the litter box, I have not worked much on developing their skills.  They are free to come and go.  I feed them, get their necessary shots, and pet them sometimes.

My students also learn from Edin and Kefalas' excellent study Promises I Can Keep, about teen welfare mothers.  For Centre students, it is a through-the-lookingglass experience to read about teenagers who think raising a child at their age - with no husband, no job, and no real plan - is a sensible thing to do.  The difference, they come to see, is that the women in Promises I Can Keep are using a natural growth standard of what being a good mother would be, whereas my students are using a concerted cultivation standard.

At the same time, many of these same students, especially the young women soon after they graduate from Centre, will casually take on the care of a cat.  Because for cats, they find the natural growth standard is sufficient.

Monday, May 04, 2015

The Railroads Won the Civil War

I have long puzzled over how the Republican Party, which was born as the progressive do-gooder party, became the party of corporate interests.  I had vaguely thought the shift might have happened with Taft.

The more I think about the origins of the party, though, the more I think the corporate interest was there from the beginning. And today it came to me:

The railroads won the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.

Robert Todd Lincoln, business leader and Republican power broker, was general counsel, and later president, of the Pullman Palace Car Company.