Parents Do Matter

Jun 21, 2007

Over at the Freakonomics blog, the authors have again noted their stance on the subject of reading to your children. Notably, they say it doesn’t really help and they use a flashy headline to ask a question. Perhaps surprisingly, I agree with their points, even if I have some trouble with their wording.

Culture cramming may be a foundational belief of modern parenting but, according to the data, it doesn’t improve early childhood test scores.

Amen. The anecdotal evidence I’ve witnessed doesn’t support it. The aggregate test scores of our high schools don’t appear to show the improvements of this group of very intensely focused parents. Do the special schools and flash cards give your kids an important head start? I can’t say. My concern is that that the kid will learn something much worse than arithmetic. They’ll learn to hate learning, a problem that is incredibly difficult to teach away.

I want my kids to love to read. I’m not particularly concerned about the mechanics of reading at such an early age. I don’t have a spreadsheet to track their progress or a checklist where I record their accomplishments. I tend to keep the flash cards hidden within the case of that brightly colored alphabet work set.

I do, however, attempt to foster their interest in books, or magazines, or even the occasional map from an amusement park. I decode the writing below the occasional statue on the fields of Gettysburg just because they ask. I look forward to the days of comic books and secretly thank J.K. Rowling for a future where I can show my kids that reading is more than something that school forces you to do.

So, we’re on the same page, at least until their conclusion, which doesn’t need to be restated more than it needs to be reworded.

Parenting technique is highly overrated. When it comes to early test scores, it’s not so much what you do as a parent, it’s who you are.

Parenting is very much an attempt to pass on the good and acknowledge, and maybe contain, the bad. The most important lessons you teach your kids, you do as an example. In a sense, it’s very much about who I am. I want my kids to be like me — at least the good parts of me. But the X’s and O’s of reading, writing, and arithmetic come up when I play a different but related role, the role of a teacher. When we talk about who I am, and who I want them to be, it’s then that I’m being the parent.

If I’m reading things correctly, it sounds like I’m taking the right tact. I certainly dig propping the kids on my lap for a short story or two or three or four. More importantly, they seem to like it too.

by | Categories: economics, kids stuff, thoughts | 1 Comment

Hurricane Economics

Sep 28, 2005

A short while ago, I had threatened to send a friend a bunch of interesting articles on the economics of Hurricane Katrina.  The articles I spoke of took an interesting look at the disaster, focusing on relief and other things a bit closer to home for most
folks, like gas.

Much like any promised updates to update this space lately, I forgot to do so. Or didn’t get to it. Or pushed it into the black hole that occasionally forms near the middle of my priority list. Let’s see if I can hit two birds with one stone for once.

Steven E. Landsburg, an author I’ve mentioned before, asks a couple of intriguing questions in his Everyday Economics gig. How much should we help the victims of Katrina’s wrath and how would these folks really like to spend all that relief money heading their way?

On the gas front, Austan Goolsbee points out just how price insensitive we are when we visit the gas pump and that we need not worry too much about price gouging right now, at least.

It’s no coincidence that all of these articles come from the Slate, one of my long lived RSS feeds. Sometimes I have to refer my local paper (sorry, no direct link) for economic tidbits like fuel efficient cars do not lead decreased gas use but the Slate isn’t a bad source for this type of stuff at all. I highly recommend it.

by | Categories: economics | No Comments