Friday, December 18, 2015

Prior to 1964, all but three...

...of Great Britain's 48 prime ministers were educated at private secondary schools.

So the trick to becoming prime minister in the old days was to attend one of those so-called "public" schools, right? Surely that's causation.

Or is it correlation? Maybe, just maybe -- another way of looking at it is -- the trick was to be born into the upper class and attend whatever school your parents happened to send you.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking right about now: What on earth is he getting at today? 

In this morning's Times there's an article in the Upshot section titled, "Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise," by someone named

The class differences in child rearing are growing, researchers say — a symptom of widening inequality with far-reaching consequences. Different upbringings set children on different paths and can deepen socioeconomic divisions, especially because education is strongly linked to earnings. Children grow up learning the skills to succeed in their socioeconomic stratum, but not necessarily others.

“Early childhood experiences can be very consequential for children’s long-term social, emotional and cognitive development,” said Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University. “And because those influence educational success and later earnings, early childhood experiences cast a lifelong shadow.”

The cycle continues: Poorer parents have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children, which can leave children less prepared for school and work, which leads to lower earnings.


Ms. Miller goes on to list all of the "investments" more affluent parents tend to make that "prepare" their offspring for higher education and success in life. They include preschool, trips to museums and volunteer work. Also important for a ticket to the good life, apparently, are extracurricular activities such as organized sports and lessons in music, dance or art. Richer parents, it seems, tend to spank their children less than those with a high school degree or less. And, last but hardly least, that current panacea: Reading Aloud to the Little Dears, preferably as often as possible.

Almost hilariously, Ms. Miller also notes:

While bullying is parents’ greatest concern over all, nearly half of low-income parents worry their child will get shot, compared with one-fifth of high-income parents. They are more worried about their children being depressed or anxious. 

Do I sound just a tad cynical here? Maybe it's because the "investments" listed above are common to all upper-middle class families today.

For the record, my wife and I did pretty much all of those things when raising our own two boys. Why? Because we raised them in the 1990s. 

But as for our own childhoods, we both played organized sports and . . . that's about it. (Also for the record, we both went to college and have graduate degrees.) How did we make it so far in school? After all, we were both raised in the 1960s, when no one ever heard of all that stuff above. Think my parents ever read to me aloud? Think again. "Read it yourself!" Or better yet, "Go watch TV or somethin' -- can't you see I'm busy?"

Am I whining? Not at all. But the answer to why my wife and I went to college isn't some big state secret. In fact, it's hiding in plain sight in this very piece:

...the more affluent children end up in college and en route to the middle class, while working-class children tend to struggle.

In other words, the trick is to be born into a "class" in which pretty much all its members go to college. (Wanna be prime minister of England? Get yourself born into the upper class -- all the rest flows from there.) So don't grow up in the inner city or in some small town somewhere. Because very few of those people go to college. Why? I don't know; they just don't.

But that's really all there is to it: choose your parents carefully. The best predictor for success in college and in life is probably just growing up around other people who go to college and succeed in life.

This ain't rocket science, people.

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