Closing the parenting gap

We’ll never narrow the achievement gap significantly unless we narrow the “good parenting gap” separating affluent and low-income families, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

(I think the gap is about parental education, not income.) But back to Petrilli.

Let’s admit it: The Broader/Bolder types are right when they say that a LOT of what influences student achievement happens outside of schools, and before kids ever set foot in Kindergarten. Where they are wrong, I believe, is in thinking that turbo-charged government programs can compensate for the real challenge: what’s happening (or not) inside the home..

Parents can increase their children’s chances of doing well in school by not having children till the papers have graduated from high school and married. (I once saw a study saying that 90 percent of children born to an unmarried, teen-age high school drop-out live in poverty compared to 9 percent of children born to married, high school graduates who waited till 20 to have their first child.) Petrilli adds: talking and singing to the baby, firm but loving discipline, limits on TV, trips to parks, museums and nature centers and “ready, baby, read.”

. . . out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates and divorce rates have reached catastrophic levels for the poor and the working class–but not for the most affluent and well-educated among us.

. . . You don’t have to be Richy Rich to nurse your baby, or sing to her, or learn how to be loving but firm. Sure, a few of these items are easier with money. (I imagine that low income families use TV as a babysitter more because they can’t afford alternative childcare.) But mostly these take commitment, discipline, and practice.

Petrilli doesn’t know how to promote marriage before babies, but he’d like to try.

Single parenting can be a rational choice in some neighborhoods, responds Dana Goldstein. She lives in New York City, where only one of every four young black men has a job.

. . .  as sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas demonstrate in one of my favorite booksPromises I Can Keep, low-income women often prefer to remain unmarried because the men in their lives–men facing chronic unemployment in the legitimate economy, or who may be addicted or engaged in criminal behaivior–simply do not make stable husbands or fathers.

If I worked for a foundation, I’d hire smart people to design a TV show to model good parenting — and marriage — to viewers who haven’t grown up with that. It would have to be entertaining, so people would watch it voluntarily.

About Joanne


  1. So a TV show that wouldn’t lecture, but would demonstrate through entertainment how educational achievement, work ethic, caring parenting and concern about education can help people live well? And this will transform the inner cities?

    I think we could call the show you have in mind “The Cosby Show”, but I’m not sure that it will have much impact on poverty.

  2. Mark Roulo says:

    “But mostly these take commitment, discipline, and practice.”

    This may be the key takeaway.

    My guess is that people who exhibit “commitment, discipline, and practice,” are less likely to be poor than those who do not. If so, then what we are seeing is that the same attributes that get people out of poverty (or keep them from entering it in the first place) are also good attributes to show when parenting.

    I’d love to think that a TV show could build these characteristics in a large percentage of the population that doesn’t have them right now. But I’m very skeptical 🙁

  3. I don’t think it’s about income OR education per se but rather about culture. I could name a bunch of examples of families I know where the parents have little in the way of formal education or financial resources but they hold good values. Their children by and large have been successful.

    I don’t know how we as a free society can break the cycle of dysfunctional families among certain demographic groups. It’s not like we can mandate the insertion of Norplant or IUD’s at puberty and remove them only if the woman has met certain criteria for age, education, marital status, family income, sobriety, etc. That might work but such a eugenics program would rightly abhor most of us. We have to figure out how to get teen girls and young women to actually WANT to delay having kids until they are in a stable situation.

    • The dysfunctional behavior is only possible (let alone attractive) because of taxpayer subsidies:  Section 8, SNAP, WIC and other programs pay for this lifestyle.

      Take it away and it’ll stop.

      • Soapbox0916 says:


        NO these programs do not pay for this lifestyle. Other than WIC, very few in generational poverty are even able to qualify for Section 8 or SNAP housing. Yet despite that most people in poverty are not eligible for these programs and therefore do not benefit from them, guess what, they are still in poverty. So absolutely no, poverty would not stop if these programs are taken away. These programs don’t work anything like what the average person thinks that they do.

        SNAP covers all the special needs populations including homeless and disabled, and I administer SNAP homeless funds locally. Also true to my STEM background, I am still very much a data geek and the local data lead person, and the real/actual numbers are very different from the myths that float around out there.

        Plus what is not seen are the success stories which is a shame.

        • There will always be poverty, and thus “generational poverty” no matter what policies are instituted. The basic reason is that we are constantly defining the definition of poverty upwards.

          The standard of living that that poor people in the United States enjoy today is better than 90% of the people who have ever lived on this planet. It is higher than the standard of living of the middle class in most of Europe as recently as 30 years ago.

          The damage done to families and communities by the “war on poverty” over the last 50 years has far outweighed the good it has done.

          • Soapbox0916 says:

            I should have made a distinction between SNAP as in HUD Special Needs Assistance Program and FNS SNAP as in Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Now that I think about it, you were probably referring to the nutritional program. What I do for living now (despite my STEM background) is housing and homeless assistance, so I administer Special Needs Assistance Program funds on my local level. They are totally different programs, but both help those in need. What I deal with is targeted more toward people with disabilities.

            I take issue when people say a problem will go away if assistance goes away, that was what I referring to in my earlier reply to @engineering-post.

            Yes, by comparison, someone will always be poor. I don’t disagree that they have been many failures on the war on poverty.

            There has been considerable reform in the last decade regarding how to address poverty (that seems to be largely unknown to the average person), and there are some major shifts currently going on how to address poverty. Similar to charter schools, I wish the average person saw more of the successful programs that work in bringing people out of poverty. It can be done.

        • NO these programs do not pay for this lifestyle. Other than WIC, very few in generational poverty are even able to qualify for Section 8 or SNAP housing.

          SNAP is Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, underwritten by the Department of Agriculture.  You don’t even know what it is, so stop pretending to be an administrator.

          Yet despite that most people in poverty are not eligible for these programs and therefore do not benefit from them, guess what, they are still in poverty.

          An unmarried girl who has a baby becomes a “head of household”.  If she has no income, she meets the income eligibility requirements for Section 8 housing subsidies.  This allows her to have her own place, on the taxpayer’s dime.

          If you believe that the lure of getting out from under the mother’s (almost never “parents”) roof isn’t an incentive to unwed teenage motherhood, think again.  If you think that reversing that incentive wouldn’t change behavior, you deny human nature.

          absolutely no, poverty would not stop if these programs are taken away.

          I didn’t say that it would.  I said that the behaviors are only attractive because of those programs.  If you jailed ghetto males for non-support of their illegitimate children, it would make their behaviors less attactive than they are.  (You can claim that this would require an unaffordable expansion of jail space, and you’re right.  That demonstrates just how out of control the welfare system has allowed underclass behavior to become.)

  4. I’m with Crimson Wife, this is about culture. Fifty years ago, if you had asked me or any of my classmates, “What do you think it will take to be successful in life?” we would have all answered, “A good education.” I’m not sure what answer you would get today, but it wouldn’t be that.

    It’s not just education, either, it’s across the culture. Cheating seems to be getting more and more common in schools, it was rare when I was a kid. I don’t think I heard a single “bad” word uttered out loud in class until I was in college. Now, it’s not just the students with foul language, but the teachers as well. How many kids these days have ever seen their parent read a book? How many kids have parents doing alcohol and drugs in front of them every day?

    Americans have become decadent and complacent. We have enormous debt, a poorly functioning educational system, serious corruption at the top of large corporations and a painfully inept political class to show for it.

    I wish I saw some way to fix it, but I don’t.

  5. If it were about culture, poor white kids of unmarried welfare moms wouldn’t outscore middle class and higher black kids with married parents. Yet they do.

    Except, of course, the above means it’s not about income, either.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    Reaching here. Poor white kids born to single welfare moms are not always, or even frequently, surrounded by same in all directions for miles, including every last instituion save, probably, for the cops.
    A single mom is, almost by definition, poor. Doesn’t mean her parents are poor or that she will not be going to a middle-class church and have graduated, or nearly, from a middle-class high school.
    Had a single welfare mom, white, in our area, in our church. Her kid ended up an Eagle Scout, a career path not common in the ‘hood.

  7. ” low-income women often prefer to remain unmarried because the men in their lives–men facing chronic unemployment in the legitimate economy, or who may be addicted or engaged in criminal behaivior–simply do not make stable husbands or fathers.”

    How about they never get into their lives in the first place? Zip up your pants, ladies.

  8. Galtonian says:

    We keep hearing that parenting is an important factor, we keep hearing that culture is a big factor. But how about considering the obvious fact that parenting also involves transmission of genes from parent to child, not only transmission of home environment and cultural values.

    In my opinion most of the empirical evidence indicates that the causative pathway is most likely related to the highly heritable trait of IQ-type intelligence.

    Parents with higher educational attainment are likely to have higher IQs (which of course enabled them to graduate with higher grades, to ace the SAT, to get into elite universities, and to earn degrees etc.). The higher educational attainment affords then provides them with access to higher incomes. Because IQ is highly heritable (about like height, variation in this trait of IQ-type intelligence is about 60 to 80% determined by genetic differences and about 20 to 40% determined by environmental differences).

    Also there a big factor is the process of assortative mating where higher IQ people tend to date each other (they meet in college, graduate school, professional school, medical residency program etc). It is much more common for smart people to marry each other than for a smart successful person to marry a low IQ person on welfare. Thus the children of upscale parents often get a double dose of high IQ genes. Conversely the low IQ welfare mom is likely to be impregnated by a local low IQ high school dropout so the children of the housing projects are unlikely to receive genes for high IQ.

    It all makes a lot of sense once you free your mind from the fetters of political correctness and accept the reality of human biodiversity (what we hereditarians refer to as “HBD” on the web).

    The simple but elegantly correct hereditarian explanation:
    High IQ parents give genes for high IQ to their biological children-
    Low IQ parents give genes for low IQ to their biological children-


  9. What I find so tedious about this debate is that it could all be short circuited if we just were willing to say out loud that *whatever the source of the achievement gap*, the bottom half of the curve needs a different education and therefore teaching methods than the top half. But that makes someone a bigot again. Instead, we must address fake root causes so everyone can receive the same mediocre education that ill serves all.

  10. There are all sorts of white poverty areas, huge ones, from the Appalachians to Boston. And in all those pockets, the culture is not particularly distinguishable from the black or Hispanic culture.

    And yet, these kids with terrible culture outscore not only poor blacks and Hispanics, but outscore wealthy blacks and tie wealthy Hispanics.

    The fact that poor whites outscore wealthy blacks is a big, big problem in everyone’s arguments, whether it be culture or poverty. Neither trumps the predictive power of race.

  11. “Petrilli adds: talking and singing to the baby, firm but loving discipline, limits on TV, trips to parks, museums and nature centers and “ready, baby, read.”

    I can definitely sympathize with this statement. Unfortunately for my mom, my parents were divorced when I was in 2nd grade. My mom loved me a lot, but she didn’t really place limits on the TV and videogames for me. I was very forceful in getting what I wanted. How unfortunate for me. Whether I was at home or at a friends place, I would watch hours of cartoons and play hours of videogames everyday. So, I was spending that much less time doing homework and learning what I was supposed to.

    Some of you might remember in elementary school that every so often you would receive a Scholastic newsletter to order books. I never really got any of those. Nor did I get books in general. I was strongly into watching TV and playing videogames, so I probably would’ve been averse to reading books.

    In my mom’s defense, she was a single parent since I was in 2nd grade. She was a full time hair dresser. She was always on her feet and usually in a single place. And, when she got home, she would often cook me dinner. So, I assume that she would’ve been too tired to fight with me on whether I should be watching hours of TV and playing hours of videogames. And, come to think of it, I don’t recall her intervening much to help me with my school work. That also would’ve been key to helping me do well in elementary school. At the same time though, English was and still is her second language. Perhaps, that would’ve made it difficult for her to assist me as well. Anyway, as I contemplate it now, the whole process of my elementary education and some of my middle school education sounds like it was really complicated.

    Anyway, in many ways, I can sympathize with the need for good parents. In my case, the significance would have consisted in limiting my TV/videogames, getting me to read more often, and helping me understand what I was learning in school.

  12. Richard Aubrey says:

    Cal. If the cultures are not particularly distinctive, we’d see the same, roughly, crime rate and the same, roughly, illegitimacy rate. Yet the black illegitimacy rate is higher, proportionally in the country. If the rates are the same in the white poverty areas, then the rates in the ‘hood must be astronomical, in order for black illegitimacy to remain the gold standard.

    Some years ago, Charles Murray wrote an article entitled “What’s So Bad About Being Poor?” After the caveat that not having enough of life’s necessities, he asked, more or less, whether you’d want to live in the dreadful housing projects of the South Bronx, where a household is supported by between $30k and $50k in cash, kind, and services on the condition nobody be caught committing honest employment, or a Thai peasant village. He may have done some field work there, I guess. Clearly, working your butt off in the padi fields and having $100 profit after eating and having a hut was the choice because it was a better place to live, socially speaking.
    I wrote to him and suggested he swap his Thai village–which only anthropologists and a few aging American soldiers have experienced–for the Ingalls family. Little House on The Prarie. In the Big Woods. On the Banks of Plum Creek. Long Cold Winter.
    If it never occurred to you that the Ingalls were poor, figure out why and then you’ll know something about poverty beyond comparative income (that we know about).

    As to assortative mating; with travel, it’s a lot more common. My daughter in law and her two sisters are tall, good looking, athletic at the all-state, full ride level when younger. They all married enormous, athletic, good looking, educated guys. They have seven kids between them, only one of whom was under nine pounds at birth. The nine-year old slaloms behind a ski boat, kicking off one ski and the slightly younger girls can smack a softball pretty well. In addition, they’re cute, and they go to Christian schools. The boys are enormous, mostly well-mannered, and into organized sports at five and six. Talked to the five-year old yesterday. He’s a quarterback and scored a touchdown.
    There is something to be said for assortative mating as a possibility. I heard, not too long ago, that in a hundred thousand years–probably take less–humans will be two species, the tall, good looking, intelligent folks in charge, and the short, dumpy, ugly, not-too-bright scut workers. Kind of depressing, but it’s hard to figure why it won’t happen.

  13. Obviously, Joanne needs to install some software to prevent duplicate posts.

    With regard to associate mating, please. The idea, while having a certain pseudo-scientific appeal presupposes that intelligence is as predictably coupled to genetics as hair color. Given the confounding factor of upbringing I’m skeptical at the casual assumption of validity. Then there’s the fact that the idea makes for grotesque public policy and inevitably crappy movies.

    Also, why hasn’t that speciation already occurred?

    Us human beings have been around for plenty long enough for “tall, good looking, intelligent folks” to have developed into home geequus so how come short, ugly dumb people seem capable of interbreeding with their betters?

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      There’s a name for that fallacy — the “If x is necessary w will have already happened”. I forget what it is.

      • I think your idea of an appropriate response is already neatly encapsulated in this – There’s a name for that fallacy — the “If x is necessary w will have already happened”. I forget what it is. – post.

        By the way, the question remains unaddressed as to why there’s been no evidence in support of Richard’s charmless hypothesis about the imminent divergence of the human race into two species. There’s an opportunity for an appropriate response Michael if you’re actually inclined to take a shot at it.

        • Michael E. Lopez says:

          I’m waiting for a clarification as to whether you intended to say that I was a lover of eugenics. (See below. You obviously read it or you wouldn’t know that I thought the above was a perfectly appropriate response.)

          The fact that you are hesitant to say that’s not what you meant to say is starting to suggest that this is EXACTLY what you meant.

          How you answer my question is going to color how I respond to your “unaddressed” question.

  14. Stacy in NJ says:

    I and my three brother and three sister grew up on welfare. Although we moved frequently, we usually lived in a trailer. Think of the worse case scenario – that was our experience.

    There is only one human quality that matters when we discuss “outcome” and self-discipline is it. Those that have some – we don’t even need a lot – are successful enough. Those that lack it fail. Getting people to do what they should do rather than what they want to do – that’s what parenting is about.

    Prior immigrant generations grew up and lived in poverty but clawed their way into the middle/upper middle class in a generation or two. They worked their backsides off, valued education, and demanded the same of their children.

    I am now a member of the 1% and my husband tells me that I’m sometimes unnecessarily hard on our boys. I’m demanding.

    Oh, and if it matters, I’m white.

  15. . The idea, while having a certain pseudo-scientific appeal presupposes that intelligence is as predictably coupled to genetics as hair color. Given the confounding factor of upbringing I’m skeptical at the casual assumption of validity. Then there’s the fact that the idea makes for grotesque public policy and inevitably crappy movies.

    I said nothing of genetics. Nor did I say it was “valid”, in the sense that causality is involved.

    That’s precisely the problem with all discussions of this sort. Here Petrilli is, along with the rest of you, yammering on about the causality of poverty/class/whatever on education results.

    Yet when I point out an indisputed fact–that all these purported causes are trumped by race–you say that I’m asserting a cause.

    I’m not asserting cause. I don’t know what causes blacks of all income levels to do worse than whites of all income levels, or why poor whites outscore poor Asians, but wealthy whites are slightly outscored by wealthy Asians.

    What I do know is that the data is a slam dunk, not disputable, and thus race–for whatever the reason–predicts outcomes better than the pet culprits of poverty and culture.

    Thus, those of YOU who assert cause are flatly wrong.

    But you all make noises as if I’m asserting something. I’m asserting nothing more than data.

    • Touchy, aren’t you? I was responding to Richard’s paean to eugenics.

      Micheal, maybe when your “snark” muscle fatigues from over-use you’ll remember the name of that fallacy. In the mean time, for lovers of eugenics and “Idiocracy”, what’s special about now as a time for that inevitable divergence between the Übermenschen, and the mud people, to occur?

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        I think the theory goes like this: rich, smart people marry beautiful and charming people. Their children tend to be smarter, prettier, and more charming than average. Because of this, they tend to be richer and then to marry people who are smart, pretty, and/or charming.

        The more time this process goes on, the more likely rich, smart, pretty, and charming will be correlated–as will poor, dumb, ugly, and unpleasant. The latter describes the typical guest on Jerry Springer.

        This process requires a fair amount of mobility and a fair amount of meritocracy. Smart/good-looking/charming kids can’t be stuck in the village working on the family farm. It is only in the last few hundred years that those conditions have been present in any significant part of the world. So one would not expect the process to have come close to creating Ubermenschen and mud people (I waive Godwin’s Rule).

        • Stacy in NJ says:

          I wonder if people who think this process is possible have any familiarity with the folks that run Wall Street. Here’s a picture of the most powerful man on Wall Street.

          Smart? Absolutely. Charming, good-looking, athletic? Uh, yeah, maybe not so much. But I’m sure his wife’s a beauty.

          the only qualities powerful men need are smarts and ruthlessness.

      • Michael E. Lopez says:

        In the mean time, for lovers of eugenics and “Idiocracy”, what’s special about now as a time for that inevitable divergence between the Übermenschen, and the mud people, to occur?

        Never saw Idiocracy (or read it? Is it a book or a movie?) and I’m not a lover of eugenics. So I’m going to go ahead and guess that you’re not talking to me, despite the fact that the paragraph starts out with my name.

        Or are are you perhaps trying to make some sort of grand, unsupported leap from the fact that I think your argument above is crappy to a hypothesis that I’m some sort of closet eugenicist?

        I’d like an answer so I can respond appropriately. Sooner, rather than later.

  16. Richard Aubrey says:

    Allen. The usual BS. Point something out and be accused of supporting it. Doesn’t it get old to be busted on that, over and over and over? No, I suppose not.
    As to why it hasn’t happened, see travel, change in, last hundred years.
    As the Stage Manager said, some of these boys haven’t been ten miles from home in their lives. IOW, their prospects were limited.
    Put a tall, attractive, intelligent jock female at a large state university and the number of tall, attractive, intelligent jock males is likely to be higher than if the woman in question had remained in her town with a population of eighty-two. I really don’t know why this is such a puzzle. Actually, it isn’t. It’s just inconvenient. So certain people, like Allen, pretend it’s something else. And get busted. Over and over.
    Read an article about a town in upstate NY prior to the Civil War. So many people had gone west when the frontier opened the fat farmland of the states beginning with vowels that the folks left were inbred. Every one of them, said a traveler, was either a giant or “mufflechopped” (cleft palate), which is kind of the reverse of assortative mating, or the downside.

    • Anecdote and hyperbole, in one blow.

    • Which anecdotes? Well, let’s see. There was “an article about a town in upstate NY prior to the Civil War”. Then there’s “My daughter in law and her two sisters are tall, good looking, athletic at the all-state, full ride level when younger.” Not fertile ground for the drawing forth of credible generalities but opinions may differ. My opinion is that your daughters and an anonymous town in New York prior to the Civil War don’t really constitute a compelling case for the imminent arrival of homo novus.

      Roger, I know what the theory is. I’m just unimpressed with the rationale much less the evidence which you’ll notice is nowhere in evidence.

      And, the theory should still have been applicable pretty much anywhere on the planet anywhere down through history. Contrary to the old saw about 90% or 99% of humanity living and dying within 10 miles of our birthplace, the evidence is that we’re a pretty peripatetic lot. Wherever trading arose, which was pretty much everywhere, you had sailors with a girl friend in every port. And, I assume, bouncing, baby inevitabilities.

      In fact, the rapid advances in genetic technology has revealed that the human genome is striking for its homogeneity. Any random pair of human beings are more similar to each other genetically then chimpanzee siblings. If anything, there are forces operating to maintain that homogeneity and a pretty good culprit is the just that mobility that Richard seems to think is responsible for his claimed evolution of a line of Victoria’s Secret women and GQ guys. After all, blond and blue-eyed may be pretty hot stuff in some areas but not so much in areas where everyone’s got blond hair and blue eyes.

      • Roger Sweeny says:


        You’re absolutely right that traders moved around, and some port city women had babies by peripatetic sailors. But this was not most people’s experience. As far as I know, it really is true that for most of human history, most people spent their lives pretty close to where they were born.

  17. Richard Aubrey says:

    Cranberry. Which is the anecdote? You got a reason to think inbreeding is either a good idea or at least not a bad idea?
    Speaking of anecdotes: My latest granddaughter was born yesterday morning. My wife and I are looking after her four-year-old sister in a more or less but not the top upscale ‘burb in Oakland County, MI. Took her to a church for her dance class. I was about the only guy there, being retired and all. There were a couple of dozen young mothers. I’d guess ninety percent of them were about twenty years away from having been homecoming court qualified.
    Now, whether assortative mating is a good idea or a bad idea, or an inconvenience for certain social assertions, the fact is that it is happening.
    Culture is passed on pretty predictably, and you could probably do some math and find it’s about as predictive–kids will have parents’ culture–as actual genetics. Mental capacity may or may not be heritable–depending on the venue of the discussion–but its use and focus and self-discipline are a function of upbringing, see culture.
    So, whether it is actually heritable or not is hardly relevant since it may as well be absent a kind of intervention that our society will not tolerate.
    So we will have to either live with it or figure out a way to overcome it and part of overcoming it means telling certain people that their and their parents’ culture is toxic. Or at least, making changes might help your career prospects. Bill Cosby has been trying that one. Haven’t seen how he’s doing.

  18. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    The “parenting gap” is essentially a VALUES GAP. It isn’t solely the amount of resources a family has– it’s what parents choose to spend time and money on. Parents of limited resources still make choices with their disposable income. Consider the following, based on my observations over 23 years years of teaching mostly low-income students. These are obviously rhetorical questions.

    Does the family use its limited disposable income to purchase books (from a monthly classroom book club), or the latest video game entertainment system and video games?

    Does the family spend more leisure time at a public library or museum…or does the family use that leisure time in places like amusement parks and Las Vegas? (Nothing wrong with amusement parks and Vegas…but they shouldn;t be visited in lieu of, or more often than, libraries and museums)

    Do the parents spend their time reading to and with their children, or watching TV/video games with them? Are the parents with their children at all, or are the children unsupervised at home?

    Do the parents actively converse with their children beyond “clean up your room, pick up your toys” ? Do the parents, no matter what their education level, actually impart wisdom to their child?

    Do the parents actually parent their child, or are they more like the child’s peers?

    Does the family value education, constant practice towards improvement, hard work, delayed gratification, and future goal-setting….or does the family value entertainment, instant gratification and material values in the here and now, without regard to planning for the future?

    What are the family’s expectations of the school/teachers–as babysitters and daycare centers….or as valuable and necessary places of learning and personal growth?

    There are different kinds of poverty…monetary poverty is but one. Spiritual and educational poverty are far more damaging to students and society. Discussing the “achievement gap” or the “parental gap” is laughable, unless the real issue is addressed–the values gap. More money, standardized tests and playing the racial/ethnicity cards will never solve this problem. Your values ultimately determine your behavior.

    • As you said, rhetorical questions; good parenting vs. poor or none. In response to a recent mention on the Core Knowledge blog (link at left), I recently read “A Hope in the Unseen”, about a young man’s last years at Ballou HS (class of 95) in Southeast DC and subsequent years at Brown. His mother was a strong supporter of education, and he worked fantastically hard at school, making himself a pariah and a target. He did independent study with a number of different teachers, but still arrived at Brown lacking the cultural knowledge his classmates possessed. He admits that he had never been in a museum, never heard of Winston Churchill and had never read a literary work by a white person. Given his mother’s support and his work ethic, I was amazed that none of his teachers had suggested that he visit the many free government and cultural sites in DC and learn from them. None had recommended library visits, suggested books to him nor taught him to do any academic writing; everything was personal narrative. I remembered reading about him in the WaPo, at the time. He is close to the age of my older kids, as were the sons of my DH’s secretary, who lived in Northeast DC. She always asked what classes our kids were taking, what books they were reading, what programs were on our computer and how to plan for college etc. She said that she and her husband didn’t know what the kids should be doing but felt their school was very weak (likely), so they tried to copy what professionals’ kids in good suburban schools had. They took the kids to libraries, museums and the government buildings, demanded that the kids work hard at school and expected they would go to college. She moved to a job closer to her home, so we lost touch, but the kids had won scholarships to one of the good private high schools and I’m betting they have done well for themselves.

  19. Soapbox0916 says:

    Wow, this topic is still going. I was going to avoid commenting on this one because I have such strong emotions tied to it. I cannot believe some of the comments on this thread. Wow! There really are strong class divides between poor and middle and rich with hidden rules and values that make sense for people of different incomes and cultures. They are rarely genetic, but they are so deeply ingrained, it almost seems genetic.

    There are programs that are successful at getting poor people out of generational poverty and moving them up into middle class such as for example Circles and Getting Ahead by Move the Mountain. It has to be done as a family as a whole, but it can be done. I am witnessing it first thing. I do miss being in STEM, but I am rewarded to be working with agencies that move people out of poverty.

    One thing is not to treat poor people like they have no values just because they were not raised middle class. People in generational poverty have different values, and poor people do have to adapt to middle class values if they want to ever move into middle class, but the values do make sense for someone raised in generational poverty.

    Formal education is less valued by people in poverty, but they do tend to value hands-on and more immediate training. It is a shame that true trade school education has been so devalued by the educational system. People who are raised in generational poverty live more day to day and value immediate results and results that they can see. Formal education currently is geared to a pay-off in an unknown future that seems so far off, it might as well be there.

    Work with the good values of people in generational poverty, and you will see better results.

  20. Cranberry says:

    Once a child is born, the genes can’t be changed. Due to reversion to the mean, though, a very smart couple is rather likely to have children who are of average intelligence. (Thus the eternal market for SAT tutors.) A couple whose intelligence scores lie below average are also rather likely to have children of average intelligence.

    There are interesting studies which indicate environment can influence one’s genes, turning on certain genes and turning off others.

    Among the arsenal of studies at Shenk’s disposal is one published last year in the Journal of Neuroscience, involving mice bred to possess genetically inherited memory problems. As small recompense for having been bred to be scatterbrained, they were kept in an environment full of stimulating mouse fun: plenty of toys, exercise and attention. Key aspects of their memory skills were shown to improve, and crucially so did those of their offspring, even though the offspring had never experienced the stimulating environment, even as foetuses.

    “If a geneticist had suggested as recently as the 1990s that a 12-year-old kid could improve the intellectual nimbleness of his or her future children by studying harder now,” writes Shenk, “that scientist would have been laughed right out of the hall.” Not so now.

    Annette Lareau’s _Unequal Childhoods_ documents different parenting styles. In order to achieve in school and careers, one needs to know how to use the system. Children from middle class families arrive at school with much more effective habits than children from working class families.

    100 to 150 years ago, internet posters (had there been any) would have been fulminating about the poor genetic material possessed by recent Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants. If you are a poor new immigrant, adapting the best habits to succeed in a new culture can be rough. It can take generations.

  21. Richard Aubrey says:

    Cranberry. Ref yr second to last graf, “effective habits”. Problem is telling the folks that their habits are less effective. Can’t have some being “more” effective without some being “less” effective. And so they have to change.
    It’s easier to sit on campus and run a scam Affirmative Action program than to work to change the habits of some subcultures. You get to preen, congratulate yourself, and the only people who complain are white racists, which is a bonus.
    No real work involved.

  22. There are many white families who practice less effective habits assiduously.

    • Schools used to teach effective habits and behaviors explicitly; essentially, the Protestant Work Ethic (diligence, punctuality, deferred gratification, importance of work, self-control etc.) It wasn’t usually called that, especially in schools with lots of recent Eastern and Southern European immigrants (usually Cathlic). My husband was taught the importance of the behaviors. in an urban Catholic school. The 60s brought rejection of those ideas, in favor of the “if it feels good, do it” and “let it all hang out” approach to life, which lead to the elevation of self-esteem over self-control.

  23. It is a shame that true trade school education has been so devalued by the educational system.

    It hasn’t been “devalued” by the education system, and comments like this make it clear that some of you have zero idea what happened, or why.

    If we let kids and families choose, they will make choices in ways that reflect the achievement gap. If we let that happen, our system will be accused of racism. So we take away the choice. It really is that simple.

    And to those of you yammering on about genetic determinism, that’s not the point. I didn’t see anyone here say that genes are destiny. Certainly I didn’t.

    The point is this: all your yammering on about good behavior and values and blah blah blah are utterly absurd, in the face of data that conclusively shows race as a “better” predictor than poverty or class or anything else. This does NOT mean that race is genetic, or that genes are destiny. What it means is that *your* assertions are utterly wrong. Yes, I know they sound wonderful, with all that preachy stuff about hard work. But they’re wrong. It doesn’t mean that race *causes* anything. All the data about race does is prove you wrong. It isn’t a cause in and of itself–or if it is, it hasn’t been established yet.

  24. Richard Aubrey says:

    momof4. I didn’t say anything about what color the families were who had bad habits. Problems: White families can be said to have less effective habits without public figures accusing those making the assertion of racism. White families with less effective habits are going to have kids who are marginally capable of, say, a college admit. But the white kids don’t get a bump on the admit process.
    A white family with less effective habits is less likely than a black family to live in an area featuring less effective habits as a general lifestyle.

    As regards regression to the mean; problem with that assertion is…what mean?
    For example, my granddaughter and her cousins and brand new baby sister have college educated jocks as far out as great grandparents, aunts, uncles and several great cousins or whatever they are. My father and his two brothers and my mom’s two brothers all played college ball. Bowdoin, Boston College, UConn, ND. I played lax and competed in judo. My wife was in synchronized swimming, was HS valedictorian and is a member of PBK.
    Regression to that mean is different from regression to the average mean. So with assortative mating, even regression to the mean doesn’t change the fact of change and separation of types, and further advantages of travel and residence in various locations offers more and more opportunities to find one’s type, presuming a college educated, good looking jock would prefer the same. I sort of think that’s the case. And that’s not the only type that is likely to look for like.

    • I said nothing about race; that was another’s post. However, you’re right about everyone running scared over the issue of “diversity”; if the achievement gap didn’t break down by racial group, there would be much less obsession over it. Ditto for the voc ed vs. college prep vs. general curriculum breakdowns and the insistence on college for all; however unable, unprepared and/or unwilling to do college-level work.