Parenting and Dead Ideas

We’re all affected, perhaps infected (?) by dead ideas.

It’s almost eerie, really, when you stop to think just how little we think about how things could be different–really, radically different–instead of just slightly modified.

And when you realize how imperceptibly dead ideas infiltrate our way of seeing the world.

Because they’re in my parenting.

And they’re impacting my kids.

  • The idea that school funding should be local, which not only traps some kids in really ill-equipped and under-funded schools but also creates a climate in which my children grow up without a full understanding of how we all share responsibility for the education of the entire populace. The truth? That real autonomy–read: the power to educate our children as we must–only comes with the robust resources and collective commitment that would accompany a more centralized financing.
  • The illusion of upward mobility for future generations, and my realization of its falseness, and how that means that my husband and I are trying to prepare to shelter our kids from the unknown ravages of a future economy. It also affects how we live pretty modestly, so that our children do not become accustomed to goods that they don’t need and may not be able to secure. But it surrounds us, still; our local high school had new fewer than three screenings of Race to Nowhere last year, since so many parents are so eager to make sure that their children’s educations prepare them for ever greater career triumphs. And I find myself daydreaming, every once in a while, about what my kids might be when they grow up. And it’s something satisfying, which, because of how our economy is structured, means fairly prestigious.
  • The myth that the ‘company should take care of you’, and the disinvestment in any alternative retirement or health care systems, which means that, on a very practical level, I could not afford to do what I do–teach and consult and take on work that fascinates me–if not subsidized by my husband’s company, and privileged by the status our marriage gives me. It’s odd, then, to tell my kids about my work and know that they can’t see the ways in which it is subtly gendered, or know how precarious our lives could be without a corporate safety net that is increasingly tattered for so many people.

What does this mean?

How, then, do we resist the pull of dead ideas?

Some of it, as a parent, means encouraging my kids to ask ‘why’…a lot.

It means being helping them to question assumptions and the way things are, and being okay with messy answers.

But, beyond my private sphere, it means challenging myself, my friends, our institutions, and our policymakers. It means pointing out that a school finance approach that expects each to take care of her own only works if you have enough. And being upfront about the privilege that affords me the career opportunities I have. And not falling for the conceit of telling my kids that if they just work hard enough, they can have anything they want.

It means not running on autopilot, even when coming up with new ideas is harder.

Coasting never works well in parenting, anyway.

One response to “Parenting and Dead Ideas

  1. I agree, it’s interesting to see how dead ideas impact our children’s perspective of the world. Probably the one we have tried to counter is the idea of entitlement. The idea that just because we can afford something means we should provide it for them. Although we love providing the best for them when we can, some things are better appreciated if earned. For example: my son has been wanting an Apple computer to do his animation and movies on. We could have just bought him one for a holiday gift. Instead we asked him to provide half the amount. It has taken a year but now we’re ready for purchase and we hope it gives him ownership and appreciation for the computer. We did the same with the Wii and believe he takes better care of it because he paid for it.

    Regarding the issue of current school finance, I think this is difficult one. Since those who are in schools who are able to fill in the gaps and provide extra staff and programs, those do not notice the cut backs. Therefore hard to bring them into the discussion of challenging the policymakers. But with my children attending a school w/out deep pockets, they have seen programs disappear and fewer staff (and now possible closing). It would be interesting to have a discussion with young adults who attended the weathier schools and the less wealthy schools and see how their perceptions of school finance and other issues compare.

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