Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon” (2)

The second (of three, so far) memorable comment generated by the Lara Bazalon post here on the lawyer’s essay, I’ve Picked My Job Over My Kids : I love them beyond all reason. But sometimes my clients need me more,” came from Ryan Harkins.

Here is his Comment of the Day on “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon”:

My wife left her work as a process engineer at the refinery where I work when she became pregnant with our first child. (We actually agreed she could quit so that we had the chance of conceiving. Long story short, when we agreed she could quit, she tested pregnant mere days later!) Since then, she has received a great deal of scorn from friends, family, and acquaintances because she is not a working mother. She has devoted herself to raising our kids despite having a lucrative career ahead of her. Even worse in the eyes of those around us, we’ve chosen to homeschool our children, which means that burden falls mainly on her while I work most of the day.

What kind of epithets does she receive? That she’s lazy, that she’s spoiling our kids, that she’s wasting her life. When it comes to the homeschooling, she’s told endlessly that she’s ruining our kids’ chance of having a social life or any normal interaction in society. The animus directed toward mothers who stay at home is intense and unrelenting.

So maybe we’re a bit defensive about the topic. And maybe we’re just as judgmental, looking at what other people do with their kids. We’ve seen numerous speakers who demonstrate that, unless the mother is making a significant wage (like an engineer’s salary, to be fair), the cost of day care, and cost of continually taking time off of work to care for a sick child, and so on, eventually outweighs the monetary compensation of the second job. But even more, we witnessed friends who grew up with both parents working, and the anecdotal evidence at the very least suggests that those friends tended to get into trouble more and tended to have greater relational troubles. And the psychology says that those kids go out looking for affirmation (or at least attention) that they don’t get at home. We want our kids to know they are loved, they are worthwhile, that they have our dedication to them.

When it comes to schooling, the studies we’ve looked at time and again say the number one predictive factor of success is parental involvement. That is why, overall, homeschooled kids outperform their peers in practically all categories. But even if we weren’t homeschooling, we would want to be deeply involved in their education, because parental involvement is crucial. Both my wife and I feel that a great deal of problems we have in our society come from the abdication of parents from the role of parenting. We don’t want to be the same.

But there’s more to it even than that. In terms of finding what is important in life, the service to others ranks pretty high. In that regard, I could almost sympathize Ms. Bazelon. It is fulfilling to devote ourselves to the service of others. But, and perhaps this my Catholic worldview speaking, if your vocation is to providing legal services to clients to the exclusion of any other type of service, shouldn’t you be willing to forego other vocations (such as parenthood) so you can properly devote yourself to what you find important? And if you do decide to have children, how do you justify placing them second to your career?

Now let me qualify for a moment. I work from the paradigm of a married mother and father, with one of the two staying at home with the children, because someone has to earn a living. I don’t insist that it be the father who is the breadwinner. I did try to convince my wife that I could stay home with the kids while she kept working, but she refused to have anything to with that notion. So I’m not insisting that the wife remain at home in stereotypical fashion, even if our own arrangement is stereotypical. What I am insisting is that if a husband and wife determine a calling to parenthood, then one of the two should be willing to place career aspirations aside. If neither is willing to do that, then maybe parenthood isn’t their vocation. Situations outside this paradigm (a single mother or divorced parents comes readily to mind) require their own special analysis. If you have no choice but to work to just make sure your child has a roof overhead and food on the table, then that is what you have to do.

But within the paradigm of parents working so much that they have no role in their children’s upbringing, I can only defer to Harry Chapin’s “Cat in the Cradle”. The breakdown in parenting leads to breakdown in relationships, and while our kids may not listen to what we tell them, they will tend to emulate us.


14 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Professor Lara Bazelon” (2)

  1. Wonderfully said, Ryan. I am not a stay at home dad, but my job gives me enough flexibility that I can attend everything my children do. I think it has made my wife a little jealous. Stay at home moms are just as hard working (and greatly under appreciated) then society gives them credit.

  2. I have mixed feelings about this COTD have worked in the public school system for over 20 years: There is no denying that parent involvement in their child’s education is important: However, I’m not certain that home schooling is a panacea: First, it tends to remove socialization opportunities that are extremely important in a child’s development. In certain cases I’ve seen helicopter parents attempt to overprotect little Johnny on the playground from what they perceive is bullying and repeatedly second guessing good teachers.
    Probably the most important factor is the age of the child. Being a stay at home parent for a three or four year old makes sense: For a 12 year old it makes a lot less sense.

    • If the public (or private) schools were competent or trustworthy, I would agree. In our experience, they aren’t, especially to boys. We were betrayed by successive schools, private, religious, public. Our son managed to learn socialization skills through many venues. I was not happy with the home schooling either, but at least we had some control.

      • We homeschooled our son, and whenever some idiot asked “WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION??” I had a ready answer:

        Walk through the halls of any middle school in America. Now, tell me: Exactly what is our son missing out on?

        He got plenty of “socialization” from Cub Scouts and church activities. He traveled the world with his church choir, and learned the joys of doing charity work.

        By our eschewing public schools, I guess our son missed out on “drag queen storytelling.” Somehow, I suspect he will survive.

    • The socialization assertion it total crap.

      How is asserting blankly that at some age it makes less sense not as empty as an adhomenim. It’s not like homeschooling a 12 year old I locking them in a closet. If a parent can’t be a part of a vibrant social community(and there hardly a lack of those in the homeschooling realm) that benefits the child, the issue is with the parent and not homeschooling as a paradigm.

    • Not all socialization realized in schools is positive. Let’s start with the teachers who reward the little girls for being docile and malleable and assuming little boys will be problems.

      Teachers create a heirarchy of favorites. The ones that repeat their lessons word for word and never challenge the teacher are elevated to being the best students. The ones who lag behind are treated as lazy unless they can be exploited for more money; this is especially true for minorities, ESL students or mainstreamed kids. Kids that question the teacher are shut down and ridiculed. They learn to acquiese to the teacher or suffer the wrath of subjective grading.
      Among the student population the kids create their own hierarchies and sometimes the teacher/student hierarchies overlap giving select students the ability to lord power over those in the lower stratas.

      Developing socialization skills requires quality adult guidance and counsel. Otherwise some of the kids simply become the “Piggies” for the others to exploit.

      I heard the socialization argument and the concern that home schooling or charter schools will leave public schools bereft of good students and only the problem kids would remain. The source of those arguments was my parents who taught in public schools who were otherwise very bright but who failed in identifying the propoganda of the Baltimore Teachers Union

      • I think there is real data showing that homeschooled kids are better-adjusted socially. School is nothing like adult life, after all, unless you’re in jail, so I don’t think the school model is great preparation for adult life.

      • As a certificated non-teaching professional, I have seen teachers that play favorites and punish students who don’t fit their teaching style. That being said, I think it is the exception rather than the rule.
        Incidentally, I am in favor of more charter schools as they allow more flexibility in responding to the needs of students and more parental input. I guess that that puts me at odds with the NEA but I don’t give a damn.

  3. We have neighbors who homeschool, and the older ones have already transitioned to productive stable adults.

    However, it can be as problematic. One lousy parent who preferred shooting pool and not working over meeting her son after school tried to foist permanent babysitting on me and convince the neighbors to homeschool the boy. She wasn’t very discreet about not wanting him around and t was sad watching the boy get angrier, She demanded custody as single parenthood was her get out of jail card when over the limit or other dumbth.

    A more recent child is in special needs specifically to assist with her issues and a… troubled family dynamic. Not bad enough for C&Yservices to intercede, but the family has a solid history of not finishing high school. They are excited to homeschool her this year as they won’t have the hassle of getting her to school or dressing her appropriately for the season. This will be trouble as they barely value a GED. ‘Bout all we can do is encourage and buy winter clothing that somehow disappears within a fortnight.

    And the socialization is a fancy term for some kids who don’t get enough. A coworker in a business office had the technical math knowledge but did not know how to interact with people of different races, religions, or how to handle the normal frictions in a phone service paperwork position in a group office.

    I know I would have loved the academic freedom if the state online alternate existed, but other opportunities like chorus, the newspaper could not have been done. I think homechooling is good as a last-ditch alternative if the systems are that bad, but it seems more like pulling all the jacks because you don’t want to play with a few kids. Like abandoning the whole system, and the kids in it who don’t have the luxury of a parent who can stay home to homeschool them.

    Abandoning any problem does not make it go away. It would be far better for our children and grandchildren if the schools regressed to be just schools and few changes post say 1960 are kept if they have not had verifiably had better results than the old way in a vast majority. New math and new, new math would be the first defenestrated. I really detest the fads, unproven woo-woo put into place after little if any testing. Ignoring this is like ignoring high blood pressure, it won’t be your problem forever but still makes a mess. If not broken, schools are nearly sundered by being more a seedbed to force social change and provide social services the parents are not at least coordinating.

    That doesn’t leave much time for the three ‘Rs,’ let alone more useful skills like reasoning and learning how to learn. For the last fifty years too many social initiatives take an hour here a day there, until you have a required college class in how to write on a limited topic with only supplied refs from the biased teacher on how to research & write 5 pagers without being allowed to test out- even if your HS had you doing a 35pg thesis on scientific advance from NASA. Colleges are now assuming the HS grads are incompetent, too often. The rot keeps spreading.

    Sorry to ramble on, but homeschooling your kids is only a bandaid that helps your kids, but doesn’t address the real problems, The schools should be about education, not family services or social engineering. Teaching people the skills for a productive adult life is tricky enough in this changing world. We cannot ignore that, cannot think throwing money or more people will fix it. I would love a national level politician to take up that gauntles, because an improved education system, both child and adults, will make inroads on almost all the other issues that come up on this blog. But, I try to be an optimist.

    • If a COTD is allowed to spawn another COTD, I would like to make a recommendation. Marie says she “rambled” and maybe so, but she hit a lot of hot-buttons in doing so.

  4. I would love it if my wife or I had the luxury of staying home with the kids. I see homeschooling as vastly more efficient, no reason to push kids through subjects they have no interest in and won’t be useful to them. Schools seem more focused on indoctrination these days anyway, actual learning is incidental at best, harshly punished at worst. You have to teach them actual important life skills yourself, so why bother?

    The social environment of schools is so forced and artificial it has no resemblance to the real world. I wonder how useful it is to teach kids to sort themselves strictly by age and class? That will never matter again for the rest of their lives. School quickly becomes self-indulgent pageantry–you won a contest, good for you. You did a project. Great. Chuck it in the trash. Who cares? Oh there’s a dance. Stand around awkwardly and stress about your social status. The whatever team is playing against the rival team. Grr, we hate that team. Oh let’s do a pep rally. What’s pep? Who cares, we need to rally for it. Gotta have school spirit. Why? Because your parents live within 20 miles and have no choice but to send you there, that’s why.

    When Frederick Russel Burnham was 14, he rode across the country on horseback alone delivering mail. What happened since then? How have humans gone from being able to handle themselves as teenagers to being regarded as ‘children’ well into their 20’s?

    • That is a great mystery to me. I believe the problem is that kids are not being given responsibility and expected to live up to it, be it helping ‘prove’ the homestead or working to support the family like that courier. The responsibility has been removed to ‘let them experiment and be free and young’ without really letting them do much significant outside a few areas. Adolescence has crept younger, but spinning your wheels on ‘Applied Relevance’ classes don’t provide any benefit to the student or family. Useful classes like home ec or fun classes like music get removed in too many schools, Kids start school a year or more later so too many are already legal adults and stuck in the artificial hothouse of HS. I was horrified twenty years ago to learn my HS’ routine sounded more like a prison. Educators talk big about freedom to experiment and not be disrespected, but the kids are supposed to wear tracker like felons and mill around like the workers in ‘Metropolis.’ I pity them, told they have rights, and are still children past 21, but limited in the responsibilities that prove maturity. Being stuck in childhood when you want to prove yourself is very frustrating, but ‘they don’t really need a wage since they’re ‘incels.’ Is it any surprise some become parents for something that is real?

      The wardens haven’t got the sand to ban that.

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