Category Archives: Respect

Are U.S. Kids Spoiled Rotten?

In an article in the July 2 edition of New Yorker magazine titled, “Spoiled Rotten: Why do kids rule the roost?”, anthropologist Elizabeth Kolbert takes a critical look at the “rules of engagement” between young people and their parents, based on studying everyday life for a group of middle class Los Angeles families. Kolbert’s conclusion is that the conventional approach to parenting among the studied families shows a permissive attitude that leads to young people being more dependent on their parents even well into young adulthood, a dependency she labels “adultesence”. Though this longer period of dependency could in theory be an indicator of a longer period of time needed to become functional in an increasingly complex society, Kolbert posits that…

Adultesence might be just the opposite: not evidence of progress but another sign of a generalized regression. Letting things slide is always the easiest thing to do, in parenting no less than in banking, public education, and environmental protection. A lack of discipline is apparent these days in just about every aspect of American society. Why this should be is a much larger question, one to ponder as we take out the garbage and tie our kids’ shoes.

Numerous examples are cited of kids in the study ignoring repeated directions from their parents to do various chores and demanding that parents do routine tasks for them like tying their shoes. Also examples of young adults returning to live with their families after college and exhibiting similar irresponsible behaviors, what Kolbert coins as “adultesence”.

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Stewardship vs Adultism in the Real World

Following up on several of my previous pieces (most recently “Adultism vs Legitimate Adult Stewardship of Youth”), I think it is important to call out some real-world examples of what I consider the exercise of legitimate adult stewardship of young people. That versus what I would consider inappropriate “adultism”. I believe sorting out this dichotomy is critical to adult interaction with young people in our society going forward, whether parents with their kids or teachers with their students.

My working definition of “adultism” is…

The disrespect and discrimination against young people (simply because they are not adults) that exists beyond the legitimate responsibility of adults – parents, teachers and others – to provide guidance and a developmentally appropriate environment for young people to mature to adulthood. The abuse of adult privilege beyond what is legitimate adult stewardship of youth.

The applicable definition of the word “stewardship” in Wiktionary is…

The act of caring for or improving with time.

And in Wikipedia…

Stewardship is an ethic that embodies responsible planning and management of resources. The concept of stewardship has been applied in diverse realms, including with respect to environment, economics, health, property, information, and religion, and is linked to the concept of sustainability. Historically, stewardship was the responsibility given to household servants to bring food and drinks to a castle dining hall. The term was then expanded to indicate a household employee’s responsibility for managing household or domestic affairs. Stewardship later became the responsibility for taking care of passengers’ domestic needs on a ship, train and airplane, or managing the service provided to diners in a restaurant. The term continues to be used in these specific ways, but it is also used in a more general way to refer to a responsibility to take care of something belonging to someone else.

My own current working definition, as I see the concept applied to adult interaction with young people, is…

Facilitating a person’s development by creating an enriched environment, including keeping them safe until they can adequately fend for themselves.

So what does this look like in the real world? My first reaction is that I know it when I see it. But I think it is a useful and interesting exercise to try to call out some examples. So here is a list of ten random examples that came to me, framed in terms of parenting (but broadly applicable to teachers and other adult-youth mentors as well). I’m going to first call out an instance of what I would consider legitimate adult stewardship of youth (particularly of younger youth) and then a related behavior that I would say crosses the line into adultism. Continue reading →

A Fledgling Teacher-Led School Trend

As a follow-up to Ken Bernstein’s Daily KOS diary, “Education – Moving Past Excuses: What Excellence & Equity Require”, republished on our Daily KOS “Education Alternatives” group, I wanted to explore further some perhaps more radical thoughts behind Ken’s statement which I (as a parent and not a professional educator like Ken) completely agree with…

Teachers are quite capable of serving in a number of productive capacities outside of their individual classrooms and their individual schools.

My mom, who was a very capable volunteer political activist (with a Bachelors in Sociology, but also not a professional educator), always used to say that, “Teachers should run the schools”. Where she came to that insight, I really don’t know, but as a kid I used to think, “Yeah mom, whatever”. Now as an adult, and parent to two now young-adult kids who struggled in their public schools, her insight keeps coming back to me as I watch the increasing standardization and top-down control of those public schools.

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My Plea to Citizen Trump

Not quite sure why Donald Trump is suddenly pushing all my buttons. I mean he’s always been ridiculously full of himself. Maybe its the whole “birther” thing, culminating in Obama revealing his long-form birth certificate and Trump saying he had never been more proud of himself for making that happen. Or maybe its the fact that he has waltzed his way into the 2012 Presidential nominating process and is sucking oxygen out of a needed political dialog about America’s path forward, particularly among the potential Republican candidates.

Just give me a ten second audience with the guy so I can convey my thought that he seems like the biggest asshole on the planet! He probably would take that as a compliment, or at least tell me so, because I don’t sense that he gives a flying fuck. Okay, sorry!… I’m done swearing, but it felt good!

Muammar Gaddafi would probably be considered by some as a contender for that title, but Gaddafi seems to at least truly believe he is the messiah of the Arab world. I’m hard pressed to identify what if any convictions Trump has, deluded or otherwise. Please let me know if I’m missing something!

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Why Teenagers Are Growing Up So Slowly Today

I was excited to see this piece titled “Why Teenagers Are Growing Up So Slowly Today”, not so much because it was new information for me, but because it was good to see this wake up call to parents and our public education establishment getting aired in the mainstream media (Newsweek magazine in this case). The article reviews a book, Escaping the Endless Adolescence, written by Dr. Claudia Worrell Allen and her partner Dr. Joe Allen, highlighting their research on human development particularly during the teenage years…

Allen has concluded that our urge to protect teenagers from real life – because we don’t think they’re ready yet – has tragically backfired. By insulating them from adult-like work, adult social relationships, and adult consequences, we have only delayed their development. We have made it harder for them to grow up. Maybe even made it impossible to grow up on time.

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Wrestling to Understand my Adversary

I am all about promoting what I see as our societal evolution from “patriarchy to partnership”, from an authoritarian power hierarchy of control towards a circle of true equals. To that end I occasionally clash with other progressives who are more supportive than I am of some “social engineering” like state-standardized mandatory public schooling. But more often than not it is key elements of the conservative world view that I find myself at odds with.

Unlike other progressive people I know who think that a “principled conservative” is an oxymoron, I was taught by my mom to “respect your adversary” and “pick your battles” in order to “be effective”. To that end I am always trying to engage the more conservative people I encounter respectfully, and exercising principles of nonviolent communication, try to understand their position and put myself in their shoes.

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Respecting your Adversary

In response to my piece yesterday attempting to call out the dysfunctional rhetoric of both sides in the current Congressional debates, the most incisive criticism I received on the Daily KOS version of my post was essentially that I was making a false equivalency between the critique of conservatism from progressive voices like MSNBC and the critique of progressives from conservatives like Fox News. The former being based on a mostly responsible analysis of the facts while the latter being unprincipled propaganda. In fact the commenter felt that the entire conservative movement over the past thirty years is at its base an unprincipled effort. Another commenter framed it that my frustration with both sides in the current legislative debate was…

Beating the dead horse of false equivalence between radical extremists on the far right and the center-right Democratic party, which constitutes the far-left of allowed US political discourse. Both sides are guilty of something, but not in the way the diarist thinks.

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Winner Take All Governance?

I read the title of the on-line CNN piece, “Democrats dismiss GOP health care repeal push”, and had to groan. Here we go again! A fresh new year, but the same old same old in terms of “us and them” thinking in our national governance. As a Unitarian-Universalist, a hardcore egalitarian and a “governance nerd”, it struck me that though I’m used to this kind of rhetoric from our Congressional reps, from the point of view of effective legislating, it is really quite dysfunctional and corrosive to the process.

Washington (CNN) — Top Democrats are dismissing Republicans’ plans to ram a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul through the House of Representatives in the opening days of the new Congress, portraying the move as little more than a hollow nod to the GOP’s conservative base.

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Celebrating the Birth of a Child… Every Child

It’s a rainy “winter” day (currently a bone-chilling 57f) here in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles as I sit cozily in my little Perks wi-fi cafe and look out the window at the gray sky and the drops of water making little splashes on the pavement of the strip-mall parking lot full of glistening wet cars. The owner Gayle has told her staff to regale their customers with a satellite radio channel that plays all Christmas songs all the time. Though I enjoy a lot of the songs (some bringing back fond memories of the holidays from my youth) it can wear on you after an hour or so when they start repeating “Jingle Bell Rock”.

One of the schmaltzier classics caught my ear this morning, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, sung by perhaps Bing Crosby. The specific lyric was…

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.”

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Living For Rewards or with a Real Stake?

I continue to ruminate on the whole concept of rewards and the world view surrounding them is such a rich topic to me in examining our society’s three steps forward two steps back transition from a hierarchical to a more egalitarian orientation. As I see it, you reward someone for doing something you want them to do (or think they should do) that you are not confident that they will do based on their own ethical compass and sense of self-direction. You create an incentive (or even a bribe) that you feel will trump their own inner guidance. I see it as part of a paradigm of power-over control rather than power-with partnership.

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