My Photo
Get new posts via email:
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Creative Commons

  • Creative Commons License
Blog powered by Typepad

« Is College Obsolete? | Main | Have better ideas using KWL charts »


"Every time we buy a cell phone, a flat screen TV, or anything produced in a factory, the damages are more than just the environmental contaminants and individual suffering."

Is that really your conclusion? Advocate not buying products built in factories because the "poor uneducated souls" who work there are not raising their children properly?

I personally find that children from professional families have a far higher tendency towards unreasonable self-entitlement, disregard for authority, and general selfishness. I'd be interested to see studies done on the negative aspects of growing up in a professional home (living in daycare, 2 working parents, raised by the TV, etc.) and their ramifications on early development.

So this means that parenting IS a rocket science ?


What I'm actually advocating is that employers treat their employees humanely. Basically, it's no longer acceptable to say that if someone agrees to work for $8 an hour it's ok to treat them any way you like, because their work environment has an effect on others who aren't able to consent.

Alex... I don't think you understand the conclusions of your statements here. While it seems you did a bit of research and used some big words, I think you lost the forest for the trees.

"Some countries seem capable of creating sensible policy through intellectually honest debate."


The calcium analogy is poor... read the label.

The issue is that children don't come with labels (wasn't there a PSA campaign with that slogan?). Are you really stating that parents don't know best? That they, dare say, use their own experiences to raise a child? That every child may be a product of their parent's wisdom or lack thereof? These poor parents are ignorant, should we not take their children for a 'proper' upbringing? Screw diversity, right? Everyone should be exposed to 40m words by age 4 dammit!

"Basically, it's no longer acceptable to say that if someone agrees to work for $8 an hour it's ok to treat them any way you like, because their work environment has an effect on others who aren't able to consent."

Bah... do you know what you really just stated there? That one should not have the freedom to consent to a workplace because it may screw up their child (then who makes that choice?). Or put another way, a business owner doesn't have the freedom to succeed or fail by setting his/her own workplace standards in the business that they created with their own wealth (again, who makes that choice?).

The ideal conclusion of what you advocate here is that we take children from parents and decide who should work where and how businesses should be formed all for the good of said children.

While your intentions seem good... your policy is shortsighted (or maybe your intentions are evil, then your policy isn't shortsighted).

If your main issue is how poor workplace standards have an effect on children, then you are correct, they probably do. Then one must ask, how are workplace standards raised?

The answer: increased competition for employees.

How do you increase competition for employees? More businesses naturally.

How might we increase the number of businesses? One sure fire way would be to abolish minimum wage laws.

So there we have it... abolish minimum wage laws... for the children!

Or... you could continue to blame Dr. Spock for poor workplace standards... wait what?

Here's what schools don't teach kids:

1. Anything about money.

2. How businesses work, so that they enter the game with no knowledge of how it's played.

3. Basic psychology, so that even if they understand the game, they can be effectively gamed. Obviously, psychology would be very useful in raising kids.

4. Parenting, other than what they learned by living (courtesy of parents, teachers, ministers, coaches, police ..) so they repeat all prior mistakes.

5. Collaboration and team effort.

Here's what they learn.

1. There is only one right answer to each question.

2. Your success is entirely based on your grades and obedience/attendance.

3. There are no new ideas. Everything you know is in books, according to a curriculum approved by committee.

4. Creativity, taking your time and questioning authority and status quo are punishable offenses.

5. Sharing information with others is punishable by expulsion.

6. Ethics are OK to talk about, but in real life, everything's fair; just don't get caught.

You can see the result. Roughly 10% of people are "successful" and innovation comes from roughly 1%. 90% of work is meant to make the boss happy, and 10% towards customers, teamwork is unheard of and requires expensive consultants to achieve at a minimal level, and you're paid almost entirely for your paper certificates and longevity.

Read the book "Children Learn What They Live" by Dorothy Law Nolte.

That person (I will refer to as "Responder") who started their reply with the following sentence "Alex... I don't think you understand the conclusions of your statements here." is a perfect example of what Alex is talking about. Responder, not because you can put together some sentences and paragraphs in what seem to you a logical argument refuting what Alex wrote does not make it the case. You missed by almost a mile most of the points Alex was making. You seem to product of the type of parenting discussed in Alex's posting. I know a of a great number of people who in place of developing actual skills and abilities, the learn how to be "chosen", in fact, it might just be part of the culture.

Steven Pinker criticizes studies of the kind that Hart and Risley did, where they measured language used with children and assumed that affected development. He says that causation is not established, and points to twin adoption studies that indicate that the causal factor is genetic. Can you address that?

"Some countries seem capable of creating sensible policy through intellectually honest debate."

Which countries would those be?

"The average child in in a welfare family, though, was accumulating 5 affirmatives and 11 prohibitions per hour, a ratio of 1 encouragement to 2 discouragements. "

But, in a welfare family, are the parents working? Or are they referring back to a distant point of reference when they or their forebears did work? Or are you assigning a collective class-based intuitive parenting style? Isn't there a danger in such discriminatory stereotyping? How does that type of casting reconcile with the creation of "sensible policy?"

Actually, I think underlying your overall premise is one that you didn't state - and that is, prior to the advent of the Industrial Revolution, people for the most part were more self-determined and entrepreneurial - artisans, guild members, traders, farmers, etc. The application of a military-style hierarchy to the workplace is a fairly recent phenomenon (within the last few hundred years).

However, further study of historical parenting styles, ranging from religious sacrificial infanticide to separation/isolation via indentured servitude or apprenticeship, might even further belie your premise. While Spock remains one of the best-selling authors on child care and parenting of all times, how many working and welfare families actually studied his evil book?

I think you should be congratulated on writing a provocative, controversial post, but, seriously, the conclusive aspects deserve further study.

Interesting thoughts on work affecting infant education. We have to advocate parenting responsibilities to the parents, without that we are left with a the void of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

Here's my take, our ideas no matter how good intentioned shouldn't impinge on the rights of others to make "wrong" decisions. We have to trust each other to learn and collaborate effectively.

The psychological and developmental affects of work life on children is a fascinating topic though, and I look forward to more of your writing on the subject. My personal passions lay in social optimization of our creativity/workforce. My main suggestion is to realign the majority of people with jobs they absolutely love, and to open up communication (social media/social design) about the really hard problems we can no longer wait to solve in walled gardens.

ps: Sounds like you guys had a heckuva an experience with Seth G's alternative MBA. I wrote up some thoughts on potentially broadening programs like the one Seth ran, and something like YCombinator as potential alternatives to higher education (and hopefully a much cheaper one), here's the link:

Michael brings up a good point, as the research of Hart & Ripley (you never cited any specific papers, btw) uses entirely correlational methods. Even they are careful to never claim that there is any causation demonstrated in their work, preferring to say things are "correlated" and "associated". So no, it is not clear, probably not even likely, that the amount of verbalization between parent and child is even a driving force at all when it comes to the cognitive development of children. They use intelligence as measured by IQ as an outcome measure, but intelligence could easily be the cause, and verbal interaction style the outcome, especially given the high heritability of intelligence. And there is almost certain to be a variety of other factors contributing to the effect, but I doubt that parental verbalization style is a big one. Unfortunately this would make most of your policy suggestions moot.


I'm not sure what you're talking about. Vocabulary size is the dependent variable, not IQ. In fact, IQ is one of the variables that is being controlled for. And as for not citing any papers, I linked to several. The entire Hart & Risley book is the story behind a scientific paper they wrote.

I understood that the implication was that vocabulary size was an indirect predictor of academic success; so too is intelligence, and my point is that it is likely the more relevant predictor (along with SES, which is always tied to intelligence). This mix-up arose because I wasn't sure which paper you were SPECIFICALLY referring to (I never accused you of not having citations); the one I'm referring to is this one: In any case, the point still stands that their correlational methods provide only a very rough sketch and falls short as a rigorous explanation.

And yet we are told that children are not just "little adults."

Thanks for the informative article!

This reminded me of some thinking I was doing recently about how sex is treated as a medical or biological (rather than emotional or social) process in sex education curricula.

I also find it striking how our standardized education is oriented towards creating a homogenous population that is somehow supposed to compete effectively in the economy. As we are told that the emphasis of our economy is shifting from industrial production to knowledge production (or service, perhaps), it seems increasingly relevant that there can be no competition without difference -- unless differences are assigned or imposed arbitrarily. The knowledge-base and cultural assumptions of individuals are made to be quite uniform; ethnic groups are pressured to "assimilate." Our social system provides many rewards and incentives that limit the relevance of individual differences to matters of task-oriented types of specialization.


Your theory is that the factory mentality has led to a production line of sub-standard childbots with "limited executive functioning" and stifled "chances of upward social mobility" and that we need to build a social factory that produces childbots with better specs.

Read Technopoly. You can't use the ideas of mass production to mass produce a better human.

What is a 'baby video'? The link you provide just links back to a mindmap on yoursite that expands but does not hotlink to anything.

My son watched videos of trucks when he was a baby -- he loved it and it seemed to encourage his interest in machinery years later....

Jason, I don't know Alex, or the baby videos that he speaks of personally, but the ones that immediately came to mind were those of the "Baby Einstein" persuasion. Even though there's been no conclusive positive result when it comes to sitting your kids in front of the television to watch colorful clips of children's toys set to classical music, parents are buying it up. And this is (I believe) his point.

We, as human beings, have never done this before. In fact, we're only just learning how to parent children, have successful marriages, make sure everyone has equal rights, etc. A hundred years ago, things were so drastically different, that your single example that your son watching movies about trucks encouraged his interest in machinery is not demonstrative of the whole. While it may have worked for your son, it's not a perfect model, and certainly any parent that advocates sitting their child in front of a plastic box to train them to be passive and submissive because Mommy's got a headache is doing it very, very wrong.

We live in a time of individuality, when parents (and really, all people in first world Western countries) are taught their beliefs are valid and that they can be strong competent parents. Do you really think the 16 year old single mother who lives in a shelter is a competent mother? Do you think the boy who grew up watching his father be henpecked by a domineering mother who doted on her favourite son is going to innately understand what it takes to be a father, much less a husband?

I think we have so much more work left to do when it comes to the job of parenting, and I don't think we'll ever get better if we keep under the assumption that we've got it down perfectly already.

Children can only learn so much from their parents. Life outside of home, exploration of the world around them, new experiences and self guided interactions are the most potent teachers.
During the younger years there is a heavy influence of how information is shared and problem solving is handled by parents. Even at 4-6 years our young are experiencing so much outside of their parent's information. There's a hierarchical top down approach to knowledge transfer but I think we can all agree this is an outdated and limited communication structure. The architecture of future education relies on the social mixing of ideas, opening our minds to new possibilities from valuable, genuine outside perspectives. As parents one of the most powerful things you can aid your children with is a powerful sense of curiosity, and self confidence tempered by experience and prediction.

I'm with Junior. Responder's brain has been killed (or at least rendered terminally naive) by the Kool-Aid from "Human Resources."

I have just a couple of comments….

1. All hierarchies are not them same and equating industrial organization to military organization is problematic. Prussian mass education was the first educational system to instill “military” style organization as a way of generating Nationalism. Contrary to the infusion of loyalty, market capitalism focuses on isolated exchanges which discourage loyalty (even though the market itself is a problematic concepts). You cannot equate military and economic forms of organization because they are geared towards disparate ends.
2. Your discussion of authority/subordinate relationships is accurate, but sociologists have not thought this is surmountable. Look at the work of Bourdieu or other who have studied cumulative disadvantage and it is clear that the durability of educational/occupational stratification is not something that sociologists think is easy to overcome
3. Your overall view assumes there are appropriate ways to parent and these are universal. This is false. Societies around the world vary in terms of kinships structures. Not all cultures share our nuclear family structure and non-industrial societies also have nuclear families. Now if we then differentiate by modes of production, while we’ll be tempted to conclude it’s industrial capitalism creating subordinate mentalities – we must recall that: (1) the division of labor has become greatly complicated as the many people occupy both authority/subordinate roles and (2) the rigid authority structures common to industrial modes of production have been exported to semi-periphery and periphery countries and therefor are less prevalent in the U.S.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)