Making motherhood a career

Girls outperform boys in school; women are more likely to go to college and earn a degree. Men have been hit much harder by the recession and the changing economy. But a growing number of career women are choosing to make child-raising and home-making into a career, according to Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity,

Disillusioned workers are “opting into a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle,”  writes Ann Friedman in a New Republic review.

The woman who leaves the public workplace is “the Brooklyn hipster who quit her PR job to sell hand-knitted scarves at craft fairs,” Matchar writes. “She’s the dreadlocked ‘radical homemaker’ who raises her own chickens to reduce her carbon footprint. She’s the thirty-one-year-old new mom who starts an artisan cupcake company from her home kitchen rather than return to her law firm. He’s the hard-driven Ivy Leaguer fleeing corporate life for a Vermont farm.”

Thanks to technology, the new homemaker can sell her crafts online and chronicle her quilting, baking and homeschooling projects online.

 “This lifestyle wouldn’t work if women were raising their perfect, happy, locavore children in the middle of the woods with no internet connection,” one professor tells Matchar.

From my point of view, the new homemakers are making their jobs a lot harder than they need to be. They grow their own vegetables, raise chickens and goats  (and slaughter their own meat!), weave, knit, quilt and sew and practice attachment parenting. Letting babies go diaperless is the latest fad. “Elimination communication” requires a a hyper-alert caregiver.

It’s hard to balance child-raising with a career in the U.S. But, women work less, earn less and are less likely to hold managerial and professional jobs in countries with family-friendly policies, writes Christina Hoff Sommers.

Sweden offers 16 months of paid parental leave, special protections for part-time workers, and state-subsidized preschools. Gender equality is government policy.

In a 2012 report, the World Economic Forum found that when it comes to closing the gender gap in “economic participation and opportunity,” the United States is ahead of not only Sweden but also Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, and the United Kingdom. . . .  Though the United States has fewer women in the workforce (68 percent compared to Sweden’s 77 percent), American women who choose to be employed are far more likely to work full-time and to hold high-level jobs as managers or professionals. They also own more businesses, launch more start start-ups, and more often work in traditionally male fields. As for breaking the glass ceiling in business, American women are well in the lead . . .

Mothers are much more likely than fathers to take long parental leaves and work part-time, according to a study by Cornell economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn.

. . . most seem to enjoy the flex-time arrangement (once known as the “mommy track”) and never find their way back to full-time or high-level employment.

Employers prefer to hire man, knowing they are less likely to take a long leave and then work part-time, add Blau and Kahn.

Harris-Perry: Our kids aren’t just ours

Under attack for her MSNBC promo, which said “we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities,”  commentator Melissa Harris-Perry has issued a statement. She meant that “our children, all of our children, are part of more than our households, they are part of our communities and deserve to have the care, attention, resources, respect and opportunities of those communities.”

I get it. Children are our future.

When the promo hit the fan, she was grading papers and thought “since these children were not my responsibility, I could simply mail the students’ papers to their moms and dads to grade!”

But of course, that is a ridiculous notion. As a teacher, I have unique responsibilities to the students in my classroom at Tulane University, and I embrace those responsibilities.

It’s ridiculous because Harris-Perry, a political science professor, is paid by Tulane, an elite private university, to grade papers. Her students — surely very few are children — and their parents pay a great deal of money to have those papers graded. If she volunteered to tutor kids whose parents couldn’t help them with schoolwork, she could congratulate herself on her service to the collective.

Instead, she mentions various people in her life who’ve taught her about “our collective responsibility to children,” starting with her parents, who did volunteer to help others.

Then there’s this bizarro logic paragraph:

I’ll even admit that despite being an unwavering advocate for women’s reproductive rights, I have learned this lesson from some of my most sincere, ethically motivated, pro-life colleagues. Those people who truly believe that the potential life inherent in a fetus is equivalent to the actualized life of an infant have argued that the community has a distinct interest in children no matter what the mother’s and father’s interests or needs. So while we come down on different sides of the choice issue, we agree that kids are not the property of their parents. Their lives matter to all of us.

If Harris-Perry listened more carefully, she’d discover her pro-life colleagues believe a fetus, which they would call an unborn child, has individual rights as a human being. They don’t think the community’s interests are relevant any more than they think the parents’ interests are relevant. And few parents see their children — born or unborn — as “property.”

Harris-Perry concludes:

I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to the children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them. Of course, parents can and should raise their children with their own values. But they should be able to do so in a community that provides safe places to play, quality food to eat, terrific schools to attend, and economic opportunities to support them. No individual household can do that alone. We have to build that world together.

It takes a village to raise a child!

I was an op-ed columnist for many years. If I wrote a column and one or two people read it wrong, I blamed them. If lots of people read it in a way that I hadn’t intended, I figured it was my fault.

I’m sure Harris-Perry intended to say that we should spend more money on schools, parks, day care, health care and other social programs because children are our future, it takes a village to raise a child, as the twig is bent so grows the tree, etc. But she said “kids belong to whole communities” rather than to their parents or families. Nobody at MSNBC caught it. And she still doesn’t get that this one’s on her.

AllahPundit includes a tweet by Sarah Palin, which I thought was funny:  “Dear MSNBC, if our kids belong to you, do your kids belong to us too? If so, can we take them hunting after church in our big pickup truck?”

‘Restorative justice’ vs. suspension

Instead of suspending misbehaving students, schools are trying “restorative justice” programs, reports the New York Times. At Oakland’s Ralph Bunche High School, an alternative school for students who’ve been in trouble,  coordinator Eric Butler tries to teach students to defuse conflict, “come up with meaningful reparations for their wrongdoing” and develop empathy with others.

Even before her father’s arrest on a charge of shooting at a car, Mercedes was prone to anger. “When I get angry, I blank out,” she said. She listed some reasons on a white board — the names of friends and classmates who lost their lives to Oakland’s escalating violence. Among them was Kiante Campbell, a senior shot and killed during a downtown arts festival in February. His photocopied image was plastered around Mr. Butler’s room, along with white roses left from a restorative “grief circle.”

. . . “A lot of these young people don’t have adults to cry to,” said Be-Naiah Williams, an after-school coordinator at Bunche whose 21-year-old brother was gunned down two years ago in a nightclub. “So whatever emotion they feel, they go do.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office is investigating Oakland’s high suspension and expulsion rates. African-American boys make up 17 percent of the district’s enrollment but 42 percent of all suspensions. (It would be more useful to look at their percentage of male enrollment vs. male suspensions.) Many disciplinary actions were for “defiance,” such as cursing at a teacher, rather than violence, notes the Times.

Even advocates of restorative justice admit it doesn’t work for all students. Programs vary across the country. Some schools are reducing suspensions by putting students on “administrative leave,” reports the Times. ”
Restorative justice can mean formal mediation and reparation or more spontaneous discussions.

A recent circle at Bunche for Jeffrey, who was on the verge of expulsion for habitual vandalism, included an Oakland police officer, and the conversation turned to the probability that Jeffrey would wind up incarcerated or on the streets. The student had told Mr. Butler that he was being pressured to join a gang.

“Cat, you got five people right now invested in your well-being,” Mr. Butler told him. “This is a matter of life or death.” Jeffrey agreed to go to Mr. Butler’s classroom every day at third period to do his schoolwork.

Butler’s sister was murdered by her boyfriend, he told Bunche students. When the boyfriend’s mother knocked on his door to ask forgiveness, “The want for revenge in my stomach lifted.”

Sending disruptive, defiant and violent students to an alternative school that focuses on teaching them to get along with others and build self-control sounds like a good idea to me. I’m sure it helps their former teachers and classmates. I hope it helps them.

In New York City, schools are sending students to the emergency room for behavioral outbursts, charges public advocate Bill de Blasio, who’s suing the city for data on 911 calls.

Secrets of a Princeton marriage

Princeton women should look for a husband on campus, advised Susan Patton, a Princeton alum and mother (of two sons), in the student newspaper.

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

The advice aroused and annoyed pundits), writes Walter Russell Meade on The American Interest. “For both women and men—even the over-achievers among them—happiness is about more than professional fulfillment,” he writes.

Too many elite collegians are marrying each other, writes Mead, citing a New York Times column by Ross Douthat.

Of course, Ivy League schools double as dating services,” wrote Douthat. It’s just considered gauche to say it in public.

That this “assortative mating,” in which the best-educated Americans increasingly marry one another, also ends up perpetuating existing inequalities seems blindingly obvious, which is no doubt why it’s considered embarrassing and reactionary to talk about it too overtly. We all know what we’re supposed to do — our mothers don’t have to come out and say it!

We need a national baccalaureate to recognize students’ knowledge rather than their ability to impress an admissions officer at age 17, Meade argues.

Today’s blue meritocracy, the degenerate descendant of the upper middle class Progressives of the early 20th century, has a problem: it is formally committed to ideas like equality, social justice and an open society, but what it really wants to do is to protect its own power and privilege. The Ivy League system of elite colleges is a key element in the system of exclusion and privilege that helps perpetuate both the power of the American elite and its comforting delusion that because elite status is based on ‘merit’ it is therefore legitimate.

America “needs to become a more open society”  that can recognize the Princeton kid who’s “an empty polo shirt” and the hard-working Ohio State kid who’s “a serious person,” he concludes.

All your children belong to us

Is This the Creepiest Show Promo MSNBC Has Ever Run? asks Mike Riggs on Reason’s Hit & Run. Host Melissa Harris-Perry said:

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.

So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s we start making better investments.

Hillary Clinton “made this same point more digestible for the public by ladling on warm-fuzzy sauce about a “village” raising a child,” writes Riggs.

Here’s your counterpoint, from 2011, on whether the U.S. is “investing” enough in education. Another half-trillion or so ought to turn things around, I think. No wonder Ron Paul’s getting into home-schooling.

Harris-Perry, a political science professor at Tulane, has a daughter. Or, I guess you could say that a female child with some of Harris-Perry’s genes belongs to the New Orleans collective.

Superintendent suspended for poverty quotes

Oklahoma’s new A-F report card for schools closely tracks the poverty rate, reports the Daily Oklahoman. However, the one-school Ryal district — all low-income, mostly Native American, 40 percent in special ed — earned a B.

Now Superintendent Scott Trower, who turned around a school ranked in the bottom 5 percent in the state, has been suspended by the school board. He talked too vividly about Ryal families’ multi-generational poverty in an Oklahoman story on how Ryal is teaching very disadvantaged students.

“Sometimes students climb onto the school bus wearing socks but no shoes, even in the wintertime,” the story starts.

(Trower) drives down into the Ryal Bottoms, a floodplain of the North Canadian River where many students live.

A maze of dirt roads is lined by tangled barbed wire and gnarly scrub oaks.

“Meth and alcoholism rule down here,” Trower said.

Some students live in prefabricated sheds without electricity, plumbing or heat, said Trower, who was hired in May, 2011. Many parents don’t work. Some parents don’t see the need for their children to go to high school.

“They’re going to go home tonight and it’s going to be freezing cold,” Trower said. “They won’t eat until they come back to school the next day. And we expect them to score proficient or higher on state tests? It’s survival. It’s just basic survival.”

At the K-8 school, which serves about 70 students, each student has a personal learning plan. Students feel cared for, Trower told the newspaper.

Teachers pick students up in the mornings and take them home at night. They feed the kids, buy them clothes.

Trower got grants to buy iPads for each student, which has helped teachers personalize learning.

In the kindergarten class, students sat with headphones on, listening to phonics sounds and picking out letters and words on a screen.

Last year, the average student was two grade levels behind in reading. Now, most have caught up, reports the Oklahoman.  “Kids will rise to the expectations,” Trower said.

Locals say students have shoes and most live in homes with electricity, writes John Thompson on This Week in Education. The Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has called on Trower to resign.

Without books at home, few read well

Children raised in low-income families have few age-appropriate books in their homes, according to First Book, which gives books to disadvantaged children to encourage reading.  The infographic is based on research by Susan Neuman, co-author of Giving Our Children a Fighting Chance.

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Haves and the Have-Nots

Education reform starts with reading, writes Michael Mazenko in the Denver Post. He supports Common Core standards’ recommendation that 70 percent of all high school reading be non-fiction. Students can analyze literature in English class and think critically about informational text in social studies, science, math and arts classes, he writes. That will help the 44 percent of high school students who can’t truly comprehend what they read, according to NAEP.

The vast American lumpenproletariat

Taking social class into account, U.S. students are doing better than it seems on international tests, compared to students in France, Germany, Britain, Canada, Finland and Korea, according to a study by Martin Carnoy, and Richard Rothstein. “U.S. students’ scores are low in part because a disproportionately greater share of U.S. students come from disadvantaged social class groups,” they argue.

Stuff and nonsense, responds Paul Peterson in Education Next.  The Carnoy-Rothstein studied ignored family income, which is just as high in the U.S. as in the comparison countries. It uses one factor to determine social class:  The number of books 15-year old students estimate are in their home.

Only 18 percent of U. S. students say they have many books in their home; in the other countries this percentage varies between 20 percent and 31 percent. In the United States 38 percent say they have few books in their home. In the other countries, this percentage varies between 14 percent and 30 percent.

Students’ estimates of book in the home is a good predictor of student achievement, writes Peterson. But there’s a chicken-and-egg issue.

. . . reports of books in the home may be as much a consequence of good schools and innate student ability as an independent cause of student achievement. Students who find it easy to read are likely to report more books in their home, because they are more aware of them. Students attending an effective school are more likely to be good readers who are then aware of the resources at home. Countries that expect students to perform well on a national examination when they finish secondary school may induce higher rates of reading than countries that do not set clear standards for high school students.

Only 14 percent of Korean students come from few-book homes, compared to 38 percent of U.S. students, and 31 percent of Korean students come from homes with many books, while only 18 percent of American students do. It’s “bizarre” to assert that Korea’s upper class is nearly twice as large as in the U.S., and that our lower class is nearly triple the size of Korea’s, writes Peterson. The U.S. does not have a vanishing bourgeoisie and a vast proletariat.

The study encourages people to think that U.S. schools are just fine — except for inner-city schools, which face an impossible challenge because the kids’ homes are no good, Peterson writes. Good reading habits — which schools can do something about — “are much more important to achievement than family income and other measures of social class.”

Are teachers conservative by nature?

If Republicans showed respect for teachers, they’d discover people with “conservative values” who might enter the “big tent” writes Colleen Hyland, a New York teacher, in The Weekly Standard.  by nature.

Conservative values go hand in hand with teaching. Teachers see the evidence every day that stable families produce well-adjusted kids who succeed in the classroom. Many teachers are people of faith. Most of us are proud Americans who say the pledge every day with our students and mean it. We teach kids how to show respect and use proper manners by modeling them ourselves. We stress personal accountability.

Teachers are receptive to the idea of limited government and local control, Hyland writes. “Layer upon layer of government bureaucracy” forces teachers to  “spend too much of their day with redundant paperwork, wrestling with standards that are overly complex and often contradictory.”

Get the Department of Education off our backs. . . . Speak about deregulating our classrooms and we are all ears.

Of course Republicans would have to “talk about teachers as if you actually like them,” Hyland writes. Treat them with respect.

Whether it’s coming from administrators or politicians, teachers resent -top-down demands that belittle their expertise and ignore their experience. Give teachers credit for what we do as professionals. We are facing a collapsing American culture that is at odds with education in general. It is that same collapsing culture that unites conservatives in support of traditional -values. Despite voting consistently for liberal candidates who actively court their votes, most teachers I know lead fairly traditional lives that respect faith, family, country, and community.

While some teachers are “entrenched liberals,” others feel “the only respect they receive comes from the Democratic party,” Hyland writes. “They would welcome an invitation into the big tent of the GOP.”

Does she have a point?

 

Merry Christmas

I’m taking the day off to celebrate with family.  Well, not all the family. My mother, who made a near-miraculous recovery after her horrible fall last December, was supposed to join us for a week. She fell again last week  – it’s our Christmas tradition! — and had to stay home. My niece stayed with her and my sister drove down.  The rest of us are flying or driving down to see her tomorrow. (My nephew has to work, but that’s a near-miracle too.) I’ve decided to embrace the stress.

Anyhow, thank you for reading the blog, commenting and being part of the community of people who care about education and family issues. Happy holidays to all.