Strong Children

I was at my church this past weekend and was struck by the large number of college-graduate children that are now back living at home with their parents, out of work. The impression I have is that many of these kids still have no idea what they want to do with their lives. I get the sense that most pursued college degrees in either the soft social sciences (sociology, psychology, political science, environmental science), liberal arts (English, history) or hobby-arts (music, physical training), without any idea of what they planned to do with those degrees.

I largely blame their parents for this.

Meanwhile, I was at a professional meeting last week (I work in a technology-intensive industry) and heard over and over again, “we just can’t find any qualified new hires”). There are companies all over my industry looking to hire young talent. I had an executive with a large French company recently lament to me that he couldn’t find qualified American scientists, they were all from “China or India”.

I also watched a young adult professional give a PowerPoint presentation replete with misspellings and disconnected thoughts.
Where have we gone wrong in parenting and education in our society?

What do we need to do to build strong individuals and productive citizens?

Be Sociable, Share!
  • CollegeCon

    I’m actually one of those history majors haha.  However, I would not be pursuing it if I did not have the ROTC scholarship sustaining me, as its actually my belief that the experience I will get in the military will far outweigh my degree.  I’m emphatically not a sciences person, and am glad that I have the opportunity to get a degree in something I feel confident in.

  • Danny Lemieux

    CollegeCon…I have a son in the reserves as well. He, too, is tying his education to his military program.
    I put any student with military credentials in the “strong” category. It’s the others I worry about.

  • Ymarsakar

    What do we need to do to build strong individuals and productive citizens?

    Bring passion and risk taking back to K-12 education. People should be pushed to do what they love, not what society deems ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’.

  • Mike Devx

    I was one of those who was raised without a focus on planning for the future.  I didn’t understand how beneficial it would be to sock away money in the market as early as possible.  I just didn’t pay attention to “that stuff”.  And I was more liberal in those days, too!  I bet in 1980 – my first election – I voted for John Anderson, though in 1984 I voted for Reagan.
    I don’t blame my parents, however.  They were only one source of information.  The problem is more widespread, it’s cultural.  As we became more affluent, we became very soft, and those 16-22 years old were, and are, just allowed to coast.
    If you don’t know what you want to do with your life by the time you’re 18 – or maybe 19 – then you’re coasting.  Soft.  Unprepared for the adult, mature life.

  • Charles Martel

    Two young women I know exemplify what you’re talking about, Danny. The first is the eldest daughter of an old, very liberal friend. She’s just finished studying at UC Berkeley and is now working for a non-profit organization that has something to do with socialjusticefoodforthestarvingBushdidit. This, apparently, is her career path.

    The other woman is the daughter of my across-the-street neighbor. She just finished four years at Stanford and began working for some company in San Francisco where she is miserable. She is looking for another job after only two months. What would make her happy? A job with a non-profit “doing something I believe in.”

    Multiply these two by hundreds of thousands, even millions, and you get a nauseating whiff of what higher “education” is bringing to our culture. We now have multitides of lovely, vivacious, credentialed leeches who will spend the next 40 years urging the enactment of useless laws, amassing ever greater heaps of cheap grace, and making the lives of normal people more and more miserable.

    The Stanford grad’s mom is trying for some damage control, but I think it’s too late. She has told her daughter that jumping to another job may make her happy for awhile, but that she will inevitably run into hassles and complications that will also lessen her happiness. The mom feels as though she is talking to a wall, and has resigned herself to letting life’s little bitch slaps deliver the news to her daughter. My fear is that the kid will perceive those slaps as direct insults delivered by an uncaring system, and rather than reflect on her own deficiencies direct her anger at the Man/Establishment/Capitalism/Sexism/Philistinism and plunge into a never-ending, self-feeding liberal delusion.

    On another note, I just finished eating some instant grits. Recently I’ve come to love the stuff: Mix boiling water with the contents of a packet you’ve poured into a bowl and you have corn mush within seconds. I eat them without sugar or milk. Must be a habit I picked up when I was a warlord in Dark Ages France.

  • Mike Devx

    Book: [I] heard over and over again, “we just can’t find any qualified new hires”). There are companies all over my industry looking to hire young talent. I had an executive with a large French company recently lament to me that he couldn’t find qualified American scientists, they were all from “China or India”.

    I’m in the software field (programmer/consultant) and this is good news for me.  I enjoy it so much that I don’t ever want to do anything else.  Normally as you age, opportunities diminish drastically.  Since the young are not applying themselves correctly, it appears I’ll be able to do this for ten, twenty more years, all the way to retirement.  I may have to allow my yearly earnings to stagnate or even decline slightly to remain employable – due to the reluctance to hire the “aged” – but I should be able to keep on keeping on with what I truly love to do.

    So I say, Thank you, to the Young, for coasting and not applying yourselves!  Selfish, I know, and in the long run this lack of professionalism among so many will be terrible for our country.

  • suek

    Heh.  About those schools:

    Nothing wrong with a History major in the sense that those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it, and if you’re going into active duty, your history background may well stand you in good stead, if you’re attending a college that isn’t severely Liberal contaminated.  In fact, chances are that the military will instruct in way _more_ history!
    I think the difference is that in earlier times (counting in decades, not necessarily centuries) the goal of the university was to teach you to _think_, and the particular major wasn’t as important as how you approached it, dissected it, applied it to modern life and derived solutions from it.  These days it seems as if the primary goal of the university is to indoctrinate – and that just means you learn facts and the party line.  No skill necessary.  When you go out looking for a job after your military career, I’d bet the military skills will be of greater use to you than your history major – but I readily admit I may be prejudiced.  The military teaches _leadership_ – no other institution does so, I think.  Some learn it on their own – but as with many things, it’s a lot easier to learn from someone who’s been there and done that.  Helps avoid mistakes that _are_ avoidable.

  • Ymarsakar

    Recently I’ve come to love the stuff: Mix boiling water with the contents of a packet you’ve poured into a bowl and you have corn mush within seconds. I eat them without sugar or milk. Must be a habit I picked up when I was a warlord in Dark Ages France.

    The Asians have what is called instant ramen. Dry pasta like material that reconstitutes with hot water and various seasonings for flavor. Which can also come in restaurant variety with eggs, vegetables, and plants mixed in one jumbo soup.

  • The Interface

    OK, you’ve probably heard of the Tiger Mom by now.  While she may sound extreme, it’s only because for too long we’ve swallowed hook, line, and sinker the “progressive” baloney that children should be allowed to enjoy themselves, should never work, should never hear a discouraging word, should never have their precious self-esteem damaged by being challenged, or by enduring failure of any kind…you get the picture.
    Sure, Johnny can’t read or write worth a hill of beans, but he sure feels good about himself!
    I could go on because this is a hot button with me.  It is one reason my wife and I homeschooled our two daughters, who incidentally still live at home even though they’ve both got their Master’s in music performance and have quite good careers here in the Chicagoland freelance musician community…and contribute financially to the house maintainence…and we are all quite happy about it….  (Yes, they have their privacy and their own lives.  They also have the dogs they grew up with and real home cooked food and….)
    As for how we got here, I would suggest looking into Neil Postman’s work, Amusing Ourselves to Death, or check out my series on said book that starts here and ends here, and has a much more extensive analysis of education et al.

  • Gringo

    Danny: what is your advice for a twenty-something who wants to learn SQL on his own? 1) Sources for learning, 2) once learned, suggestions for marketing his skills. Just a bunch of liberal arts courses for background.

  • Mrs Whatsit

    I’m going to stick up for the new generation, at least in part.  My children and their many friends from our small town do not fit this sad stereotype at all.  They are in their 20s,  none of them moved back home when they graduated, they are all employed in good jobs — or taking care of themselves in temp jobs while looking for something better — or they’re in the military.  Most of them majored in “hard” subjects (engineering/ROTC, science and business for my three).  Among their friends, the arty ones found practical ways to follow their dreams — for instance, the aspiring composer got certified to teach music and is now employed in her field in the daytime and composing on her own time; another one, an art school grad, is employed as a designer for a watchmaker.  I can’t think of one who’s lying around in his parents’ basement playing video games and waiting for a job as a captain of industry to land in his lap, like that Colgate grad who was profiled last year by the NYT.
    Now, maybe this is because my kids and their friends grew up in what used to be the classic American experience but is now more of an exception: a very small town in a very rural, economically depressed place — a farm-centered, child-centered, church-centered old-fashioned place where the school budgets nearly always pass and the youth soccer coaches quit pretending that they weren’t keeping score when the kids got old enough to know how to count.  I’m not claiming that every child or even most children who grow up here turn out to be productive, serious, capable citizens — I’m just noticing that pretty much every young person I got to know when my kids were in school DID turn out that way.  (And not one of them has a Tiger Mother, either!)
    Maybe the answer is to move out of the cities and suburbs and back to the small towns?

  • Charles

    Mike D:

    Small point; but this is Danny’s post, not Book’s.  I do find it amazing that I am getting so used to the different writing styles of the two!  Maybe I should have been a English Professor?  Naa, I’m not liberal enough to have gone that route and be surrounded by nut jobs all day at work.
    But, anyway, onto Danny’s point.  Yes, partly it is the parents to blame; but it is also the fault of the K-12 school’s advisors in pushing kids to “follow your heart.”  Sorry, but the world can only use so many English Professors, so many History Professors, etc.  

    There is nothing wrong with a degree in one of the liberal arts, the problem is that many are not taught how to translate those acquired skills into the work world.  Also, many hiring folks do not see the skills learned in college as applicable to their business.  In many cases this is true those skills are not applicable; however, in the past a college degree actually meant something, and those college-education skills were something that a company would value.

    Today, however, college is seen as just an extension of high school.  Especially when that degree comes from a community college.  Community colleges often have a student base that has to take remedial math and reading.  Stuff that they should have learned in high school; but didn’t!  Educators have so dumbed down education that it has made a degree worth less than in the past.

    In addition, there is also the indoctrination that working outside non-profit is somehow or other not “contributing” to society.  I have taken up that issue with others on some of the HR blogs that I read.  Just because someone works for a FOR-profit company doesn’t mean one is not contributing to society – Isn’t it true that for-profit farmers put food on your table, for-profit auto makers put a car in your garage and for-profit pharma companies put medicine in your cabinet?  This concept is lost on many in the education and non-profit fields. (I’m a teacher I change the world; Hurray for me! I work for a charity; Bully for me!)

    Danny: “I also watched a young adult professional give a PowerPoint presentation replete with misspellings and disconnected thoughts.”

    As a corporate trainer, Danny, I cannot even begin to count the times that I have helped those “beyond-help” with PowerPoint slideshows.  So many folks do NOT know how to give a presentation (with or without PowerPoint), I have often asked myself – just what DID they do in college? How did they express their thoughts in a comprehensible manner?

    As a corporate trainer I have also conducted “grammar” or “writing” workshops.  By no means am I the best writer; But, for goodness’s sake, some of these folks didn’t learn a thing in school!  And they are being expected to write business letters, resumes, etc.?

    One final note; I just picked up a book from my local library yesterday – Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  I’m only about 1/3 of the way into the book; but it is so funny I would suggest that everyone read it.

  • lordsomber

    Aside from the obvious dumbing down by the education establishment, I’ve had a theory about the generational differences that also contributes to this. People want to blame one generation or another, but one factor I think needs to be considered is not just what generation one is but your parents’ generation in respect to yours. As a GenXer, I see a big difference in: GenXers with Boomer parents vs. GenXers with Silent Gen parents. As one of the latter, I relate better with the Silent Gen cohort than with annoying Boomers. This post interestingly spells it out in a way:

  • kali

    I’m always suspicious when I hear about the dearth of American science or cs graduates–I translate that lament as “he couldn’t find qualified American scientists [at the price he was willing to pay] they were all from “China or India”.”

  • Oldflyer

    Danny, so many kids and parents were seduced by the notion that a Liberal Arts education would produce educated adults, who possessed a foundation in critical thinking, and the flexible skills to apply themselves in a variety of fields.
    I was one of those parents.  When it became apparent that my first daughter  was not going to make it into Vet school, and opted for an Anthropology major, I actually encouraged her.  After graduation, and a short stint cleaning dog kennels, she became a groom on a large horse farm.  She eventually had 12 grooms working for her, but that had nothing to do with her education.  After her divorce, we recycled her through nursing school; and she finally found her calling.  Delivering babies.
    The alternative story was second daughter.  She quietly decided that she wanted to be a Physical Therapist (we thought Lawyer or some other cerebral field) and applied herself at a fairly early age through volunteer work and preparatory education to realize that goal; and ultimately a career at the executive level of a Rehab hospital.  She knew her calling from the first and pursued the means to achieve it.
    I think part of the answer is for those who do not have a clear calling to delay college; or forget it all together. I suspect first daughter would have reached her ultimate destination sooner, and a lot cheaper without that Anthropology degree.  We know there is nothing like dirty hands and a sore back to focus a person on their future. For some there is  nothing wrong with dirty hands and a strong back as a means of livelihood; but we tend to stigmatize those who choose this path.

  • Libby

    I think it’s important for a kid to have a real job at some point before graduating college. Students today are focused on college application and resume enhancing activities – sports, feel-good charitable activities, cushy internships. Their whole existence is focused on enhancing themselves instead of being a productive member of society.
    I worked intermittently throughout my childhood – shared a paper route with my brother in grade school, babysitting in middle school, cashier at a hardware store in high school, and various non-office summer jobs in college. I learned to work hard, conform to someone else’s schedule, complete tasks I really didn’t want to, and to take orders from people I didn’t always like or respect. This is great motivation for figuring out what you’re good at and what you want to do career-wise to ensure you’re doing something that you like for people you enjoy working for.
    So, I think the kid who has been entirely focused on themselves until age 22 or so has no clue how to be an employee. The concept of them being there to enrich their employer, doing things that they may see as unworthy or uninteresting,  must be a totally foreign concept. Especially if they’ve majored in something that doesn’t directly correlate with a particular job (accounting major vs. women’s studies major) It’s no wonder they’re unemployed and still living at home with their parents.

  • Michael Adams

    My boy (Did I mention, this week,  that he was valedictorian?) finished college through an on-line program, which most of us brick and mortar-board types considered to be as rigorous as any other.  He has, appropriately enough,  a computer job, (software development, as far as I can tell)and supports his wife and two sons, is superintendent of a Sunday school department, plans to have his house paid off by the time he’s thirty, and will turn twenty six in a couple of weeks.
    And, he grew up in the People’s Democratic Republic of Austin, and in, to my shame, a very liberal church, which is getting more so. (It was he who pushed me out that door, as I hung there on the threshold.) Some of “The Kids Are All Right”.

  • David Foster

    I think a big part of the problem is that most kids have no sources of realistic information about various careers and what they involve/require. Television focuses on a few professions: cops, lawyers, criminals, doctors/nurses…and of course portrays their lives in mostly pretty unrealistic ways. High school guidance counselors are mostly clueless about the real world of work. Books on careers are mostly rehashes of BLS information which is of questionable value to start with. Professors, even with the best will in the world, will naturally try to attract talented students to their own fields. And so on.

  • Danny Lemieux

    So, what works….what are the key steps to nurturing strong kids?
    Libby, I agree with you. I told my daughter that her waitressing experience would be some of the best business training she would ever get. She agrees. She is graduating her business school magna cum laude and with a really good job waiting for her. We made both of our kids earn a good part (not all) of their college education, either through scholarships or jobs. That way, they owned their educations.
    If we were to rewrite the book on child rearing, what other steps would others recommend?

  • David Foster

    Charles…”there is also the indoctrination that working outside non-profit is somehow or other not “contributing” to society”….Indeed. The implication is that the Agriculture Department worker who writes regulations about food is more noble than the farmer who grows it or the railway executives and workers who bring it to market or the supermarket people who distribute it.
    Moreover, it is increasingly believed that *studying things* is better than *doing things*. Many ambitious college graduates would probably prefer a career which involved writing papers about “Patterns of transportation in 2050” than one which involved managing the Atlanta Tower for the FAA….or, in business, would prefer studying prospective acquisitions to actually running a small acquired company.

  • Earl

    @Mike, who said “If you don’t know what you want to do with your life by the time you’re 18 – or maybe 19 – then you’re coasting.”
    Often, maybe…but not always.  I graduated high school “undecided”, and took Biology in college because my grandfather (physician) shared his passion with me, but I KNEW I would never be a physician.  Hadn’t a clue what I would do when graduated, but married my high school sweetheart a week after we got our B.A.s and then we spent a year teaching in a tiny school in Bolivia, and I knew what I would NOT do – teach!  Returned for a Master’s and applied for PhD programs because I was scared to be an adult and knew I was really good at going to school.  Was accepted and fully funded (based on GRE and grades) by a program to develop college and university teachers!  I felt a little guilty…but in grad school I encountered teachers who inspired me – if THAT was how teaching could be done, then I was interested….and I spent over 30 years at it (in church institutions at relatively low pay) before retirement at 62.  We were careful with our money, and built a house with our own hands in Napa County, CA.
    My Dad (physician) paid for my schooling through undergraduate, but the rest was mine to work for…summers were always “school or a job”, and I did both.  After the B.A., I was on my own (my decision, as I’m sure he’d have helped me, as he did my younger siblings).
    @ Michael:  Congratulations on a job well done…you can be very proud, indeed.  And bless your boy for helping his Dad see the light!  :-)
    @ Charles: You’re right that schooling does some (many) young people very little good.  It’s not entirely their own fault, as teachers are drawn from the bottom quintiles and then protected from any accountability for their abysmal performance.  Parents (and teachers) are often too interested in being the kids’ “best friends” to do anything but facilitate their self-destructive behaviors.  The level of ignorance of the English language in the college students I had to deal with was appalling, and this was not in public institutions!  I can only imagine what the serious profs there must have to put up with.
    @Danny: Be sure the kids work – do this by providing a basic (not generous) allowance for clothing and other incidentals, and let them manage it.  The extras and frills they earn.  Be sure they pay for part of their education – in our case, it wasn’t an option, but both our kids graduated with no debt, as we had before them.  Insist that your kids pay for a substantial part of the increase in insurance costs when they begin to drive – and let them EARN their first car.  Find other ways for them to learn what real life is like, and let them suffer the reality results of their decisions – assuming these aren’t lethal in nature.

    Last, and perhaps most controversial – get rid of your TV, eat supper together every night, and then sit down together and read out loud for an hour in the evenings.  In our house, as the kids got older each of us chose a book and I did the reading – 15 minutes from each.  We did this until my son went to college and lived in the dormitory, and my daughter still gives us a hard time for letting that tradition lapse.  Gail and I picked it up again, keep it up to this day, and it’s a blessing!
    I want to emphasize that whatever you do, it’s not a guarantee that things will turn out precisely the way you wish because humans are unpredictable, and you won’t be the only influence on your children.  I confess that there are things about each of my kids that I DO NOT UNDERSTAND, would not have chosen for them, and wonder where on earth they got.  But neither has been addicted or in jail; both of them were “out of the house and off the payroll” from the day they graduated college (as we had told them they would be from the time they were in grade school); and they both know that in a dire emergency they could come back home, but if they show up and expect Mom and Dad to support a loafer, they’ve come to the wrong house.  They are terrific people that we enjoy spending time with, and I’m just terribly proud that they’re my kids!

  • Michael Adams

    I really think that the hard part was done by the time he was twelve or so, but, when our son was sixteen, we had a house fire. There was a complication with the insurance, a matter of a bit less than twenty thousand dollars, so there’d be no way to get a lawyer interested in suing the insurer, so we had to rebuild it ourselves. Sleeping on mattresses on the floors, smelling the soot for half a year, living in a construction zone for a whole year, meant that, just when he might have been working in a grocery store or otherwise pursuing his own interests, we were working together, really hard work.  I wrote a country song about loving someone being like “sheetrocking the ceilings of Hell.” Even the eight year old girl could float and tape walls, if I thinned the mud a little. I meet adults all the time who do not even know what “float and tape” means. We had a friend who coached him on rewiring the burnt out kitchen, and he did it. You should see it.  The Challenger would still be flying, if it had been put together as meticulously as our kitchen.
    Both kids had heard stories about their pioneer ancestors, e.g. my great grandfather who, at the age of twelve, brought three ox-drawn wagons from northern Georgia to Texas, oxen because there were not roads good enough for mules. (Yes, it’s true, Southerners weave a subtle plaid of Christianity and ancestor worship.)  When we had finished rebuilding,  and were eating our first meal in the dining room, I told them that I would not have torched the house in a character-building exercise, but I was sure that they’d made their pioneer ancestors very proud.
    I am certain  that, if I had any effect at all, the two things that I did, were, first, that they never had any reason to doubt that I loved them, totally and without reservation. I did not always approve of what they did, but they knew I loved them. Secondly, from very early, I insisted that, “We work before we play.” You might not guess it, to hear us laughing, but that has made for a couple of very serious people, who always have time to laugh, because they did their work first. Oh, and I prayed a lot, too!

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Bookworm Room » Strong Children --

  • Owen

    Where have we gone wrong in parenting and education in our society?

    What do we need to do to build strong individuals and productive citizens?

    Well, just to take a short stabe at this: get teachers who can actually teach the subject they are assigned. Recently I was at a Border Cafe — next to me was a woman flipping through stack of books she’s bught on how to study for the state profficiency tests and on the Top was “Algebra for Dummies.”

    Back in the Stone Age when I went High School, math wa taught by mathmeticians; my HS physics teacher was a physicisy; my chemistry teacher was a chemist. I suspect that would be shocking in today’s public schools.

    As for parenting, don’t coddle the little bugger but don’t descend to the level of the “tiger mom” (who was just acting like an immature bully on the oft-quoted occassion). If a parent does not know their kid well enough to know how to motivate them, their is something very wrong with that parent.

    I will also observe that parents get strict at the wrong time. They give kids all sorts of license when they are young and clamp down when they are teens. Teens need to be given responsiblity, not rules.

    When I was about 17 I asked my dad why, when I was about 14, he stopped enforcing — or even mentioning — any rules.  He told me that he and my mom had done their damndest to teach me right from wrong, and if they hadn’t succeeded by then, he figured there “wasn’t a hell of a lot more they could do.”

    Maybe it would not work today, but the implicit trust they gave me that I was a thinking being who would try my best to act responsibly had a great effect.

    Also, my dad was Army Corp of Engineers (discharge 1945) and my mom was a USMC quartermaster (discharge 1945) and maybe that had something to do with it too.

  • Ymarsakar

    The proof of success is already there. Get rid of the teacher’s unions and other education board obstructions so that schools have bottom up responsibility for once, and you will see success, as you have already seen in places that have such.

  • Ymarsakar

    They give kids all sorts of license when they are young and clamp down when they are teens. Teens need to be given responsiblity, not rules.

    Teens should be treated as junior members of an adult hierarchy. The problem is, parents often treat teens alternatively as full adults and alternatively as 4 year olds.

    Do everything for them like a 4 year old, how do you expect them to grow up? if the FNG was catered to and pampered and kept away from the “dangerous stuff”, when will he stop being the FNG?

    Then there’s the full responsibility deal, treating them like equals. But teenagers aren’t equals. They themselves know very well their own personal issues and their lack of power or skill. You don’t have to go too far to be able to crush them with too many problems they can’t solve, increasing their stress loads and breaking them down. This is similar to those stress tests they run on professionals, just to see if they can work professionally under a lot of stress factors and distractions. But try that with a teenager and you won’t get improved performance. You’ll get a meltdown. It’s like expecting the FNG to command the platoon he was inserted into, from day one. A week later, combat operations begin.

    That’s not going to end well. You’ll end up with a destroyed unit and a broken FNG.

  • Ymarsakar

    I also watched a young adult professional give a PowerPoint presentation replete with misspellings and disconnected thoughts.

    Those things are easily fixed. You just have to force them to write down their thoughts on the internet, which they are familiar with.

    Learning how to spell is a lot easier writing on a keyboard than writing with your hand.

  • David Foster

    PowerPoint and presentations in general….It’s appalling how many people whose jobs are heavily involved with speaking to groups *do not bother* to learn decent presentation skills. Many academics are particularly notorious for this–a person who gives lectures several times a week for years and never bothers to try to improve his skills at so doing must have an amazing lack of pride and respect for others. But there are plenty of awful presenters in business, too.
    “Rhetoric” was once considered a fundamental Liberal Art, to be taught as part of any meaningful college experience, and so it should be again.

  • suek

    Michael Adams…
    Re the rebuilding after the fire…
    What do you want to bet that you wouldn’t be allowed to do that at this stage of our “progression”… I’d be willing to bet that your house would be declared uninhabitable (red taped) and you wouldn’t be permitted to live there, and someone would certainly be calling Child Services because your were living in a house that didn’t even have a working kitchen.  What’s more, you weren’t having your work done by a licensed electrician, so they wouldn’t even bother to inspect, so it never _would_ be considered “habitable”…
    Your state in action taking care of you (because you’re unable, apparently).  Of course there are good things about it – I certainly appreciate the knowledgeable safety inspections – I know from nothing about electricity. but really I think it’s up to you to see that the job’s done right, to hire your own safety inspector who should provide proof of inspection to your insurance company etc.  We looked at some real estate in Texas, and were surprised to learn that outside the municipal districts, there were no regulations.  Build what you want – if it falls on your head..well…I guess you didn’t know what you were doing!  Get a professional next time!   Buying a house?  hire an inspector if you don’t feel qualified to judge the construction…
    Works for me.

  • Ymarsakar

    “Rhetoric” was once considered a fundamental Liberal Art, to be taught as part of any meaningful college experience, and so it should be again.

    They deliberately won’t do that because people who know rhetoric gets dangerously close to recognizing what is or isn’t propaganda. Also, what is or isn’t true, which is even more dangerous to the status quo mongers.

  • Earl

    @suek:  That reminds me of a friend from California who bought land in Missouri and went down to the county office and asked for a building permit.  The guy looked at him and said “D’ya own the land?”  My friend said “Yes, and I’d like a permit to build a house.”  The guy said “If ya own the land, go right ahead.”  It was a revelation.
    I don’t notice that people in Missouri are dying at a greater rate than Californians because they aren’t burdened with all the regulations and other nonsense imposed on Californians.

  • Ymarsakar

    Interesting story, Earl.
    It’s also particularly noteworthy that government can condition a person to behave similar to societal conditioning and physiological training.
    Much of the often touted desire for social engineering is when people see that effect of government power and they desire more of it.

  • Michael Adams

    Well, Sue, the fire was only ten years ago this November.  We dealt with the permitting process, ahem, as well as we could.  Our daughter’s teacher was the sort who would have turned us in to Child Protective Services, so we were discreet when we said anything to her about the severity of the fire.  She taught in a Montessori Elementary school, full of do-gooders, who collected blankets for some Indians on a reservation. We never said, “But Indians make blankets,” and never mentioned that we needed all of ours to keep warm that winter when the kitchen had no ceiling.  As I discuss this, it becomes apparent to me that, while we always taught the kids to obey lawful authority, they also picked up that there were busy bodies out there who need to be avoided. The flip side of that is self reliance, as you were describing. No, I surely did not see the fire as an answer to prayer, at the time, it does fit rather neatly into a Providential pattern, dudnit?

  • Earl

    Along with a lot of folks, I resist the idea that G-d burns a house (or causes other terrible things) in order to teach us lessons, however important.
    On the other hand, it’s easy for me to see that He will take terrible circumstances and “redeem” them to some degree by helping us learn useful things from the experience.  “When life gives you lemons, God can help you make lemonade” is my paraphrase of that old chestnut.

  • jj

    Mike D – your #4.  I don’t know.  Just a small anecdote.
    My father was a whole lot older, and got around the world pretty broadly, on all sides of enemy lines, went everywhere, and knew pretty much everybody.  I sat down with him one day for a serious discussion, as people who’ve made it through the first iteration of higher education sometimes do.  I was 23 at the time, which means he was 72.  We were sitting on the porch at the farm, both of us with a nice cigar going, watching the sun set, and I said to him: “you know, I have some choices here, and I’m not sure what I really want to do.  I have to figure out what I want to do.”  He listened seriously, nodded, took a contemplative puff, and said: “I understand perfectly, and I’m in complete sympathy.  In fact one of these days I’d like to figure out what the hell I want to do with my life, too.  Most of us really don’t get to do what we want to do – if we should happen to know what that is in the first place.  The answer is: you do what you can.”
    Now – he was speaking more in philosophical terms than real day-to-day ones (I think).  He worked outside the farm from the age of 12, after school every day.  What he wanted to do was be an engineer and was attending Cooper Union to do so when one of his professors looked at him one day and said: “why are you doing this?  Engineers are a dime a dozen (this was the late teens, early 1920s) and you’re making more than I am right now – why are you here?”  He thought that one over, cut his class time to where it took five more years to finished the degree, and decided to mostly not be there.  He did, however, put all three of his brothers through Columbia, Fordham, and NYU, respectively.  (The brother [one of my uncles] who went to Columbia was a bad-ass, and I have a wonderful collection of letters from various Columbia deans complaining to my father about the behavior of his “son.”  Who was, did they but know it, three years younger than he was.)  Not too many years later my father was sitting with Winston Churchill while he was on the phone with FDR on the evening of December 7th, commiserating over the perfidy of the Japanese – and already trying to inveigle Roosevelt into “Europe first.”
    I’m not quite 72, but I’m still open.  I’ve made several trips through grad school, and have some interesting acquaintances and friends myself, as BW knows.  I wonder if I yet know what it is I want to do. Probably not.  And because I recall myself at 18-19 – I could just about locate my ass with both hands at that age, which I realized when I got older, (though at the time I’m sure I thought I was brilliant), I have some room for 18-19 year olds who don’t know what they want to spend the next fifty years doing.  Neither did I.  And maybe even neither do I.  (And there’s that AARP commercial on right now with a bunch of older types talking about what they want to do when they grow up!)
    It might be a little harsh to refer to 18-19 year olds who don’t yet know exactly where they’re going as “coasting.”

  • Bookworm

    I’ve always thought it helped me a great deal that my parents were economically struggling.  It would have been better for them if life had been easier, but for me . . . well, it made me realize that, if I was going to make it, I was going to have to make it on my own.  I worked all through high school, all through college and all through law school.  I worked through two pregnancies, two babies, two toddlers and two elementary school kids.  Only in the last year, as the recession killed my work, have I limited myself to the one job of being a parenting homemaker.  (And yes, I’m enjoying holding just one job.)

    It’s hard for me to raise my kids to be as tough.  We live in a fairly affluent community, although we are nowhere near the high end of the scale.  Still, there’s money for clothes (Target’s my favorite spot), vacations (yes, those cruises), new cars (we only bought used when I was a kid), computer games, dinners out (never did that when I grew up), etc.  Life is bountiful.  My kids don’t experience economic fear, which I certainly did.

    I think CollegeCon is on the right track about the military.  I wouldn’t want a draft, but I certainly think the military helps kids grow up.  I’m a wuss, and I would have been a disaster in the military and the military would have hated me, but in principle it would have been a brilliant thing for me.  I certainly know young men who would benefit from it, and young men who did benefit from it.

    Also, as Charles Martel’s anecdotes show, liberal arts colleges tend to release onto the world useless politically correct people.

  • Ymarsakar

    Book, there are other things you can teach them that has the same risk taking adventure sense. Horse back riding. A good horseman has to develop character qualities, not simply expertise in experience. Because it is the human reactions that the horse reacts to, not just the trained commands. If a person is insecure all the time, the horse will feel it.
    There are also other fashions. Traditional Martial Arts is traditionally hard, thus often times rewarding for those who seek to dedicate themselves to it. Then there’s swordmanship, kendo or what not. While Japan has high school clubs centering around cooking, spear and bow learning (popular amongst girls since the spear and bow are normally seen as weapons uniquely suited to the female), and kendo (way of the sword, for mostly males).

  • Ymarsakar

    If you have the money, then you just need to visit the right place.
    Part of what peoples self-sufficient is a challenge. They need a goal they can accomplish and explore. Whether that means driving around the nation in their own car on a tour. Taking a risky overseas journey by themselves. Working as a doorman in clubs and other settings (Golden GLobe awards) that need security. Learning a traditional martial art. Doing skydiving and putting their own lives in their hands. Horseback riding and avoid being thrown off and conquer the fear of being thrown.

  • David Foster

    Ymar…horseback riding. It was once believed that being a good horseman was essential for anyone wishing to become a leader. I read somewhere that when Tom Watson Sr, the founder of IBM, was working as an executive at NCR, there were serious questions about his promotability because he was really bad on horseback.
    In my research on the women who worked for the British underground organization SOE during WWII, I noticed that many of them had experience with horses, even the rather unworldly Noor Inayat Khan.

  • Ymarsakar

    The Iranians had this saying (before Islam conquered them and wiped out Zoroastrianism and Persian philosophy on the Circle of Justice) that to be a true man, you had to teach the young boy child three things.
    Ride straight, shoot with a bow, and be contemptuous of lies.

    In the West, it would be ride a horse, shoow a handgun, and your word is your bond.
    In Sengoku era Japan, it would be pretty similar, although the bow would be replaced with the sword while lies would be replaced with dishonor. The Japanese are fans of the ambiguous dichotomy, which translates as white lies and illusion making. It’s partially due to the Japanese language being very indistinct and ambiguous given the construction, compared to English’s specific meaning, denotations, and connotations. There are many ways to write an English sentence, but few ways to do so in Japanese without playing on the words and kanji. You will also notice Japanese sentences are much shorter than english sentences. Even when they use English words. It’s because one short Japanese word contains many meanings, and there are no definitive articles like a or the.

  • Michael Adams

    Hoo boy, Earl, you’ve certainly opened a philosophical and theological can of worms with this one. No, I don’t believe that God burns a house for the educational value of the experience. (That’s  more a Muslim than a Christian belief.)Nor do I see Him as a mere opportunist Who seizes on “teachable moments.”  No man can explain the ways of God to man. I can, perhaps, approximate, very poorly,  by saying the He has been at work with us through that and many other times that, alone, I would have failed. A couple of my favorite hymn verses start :”Did we in our own strength confide,” A Mighty Fortress. And “When through fiery trials, thy pathway shall lie,” How Firm a Foundation.”
    When our son was about to graduate from high school, after a good many ups and downs, changing schools, a period of very serious depression when he was thirteen to fifteen, I told him that I was quite delighted that his education had followed the general plan I had originally envisioned, that he would be literate in science and history, competent in math, and able to write well. When I think about the tapestry of my life, “I feel His pleasure, ” and it gives me that same sort of happiness that I sensed in my son. It’s not at all that I am unaware of my sin, my desperate need for Grace. It is, rather, an awareness that it has been, to coin a phrase, a wonderful life, and that I did not make it, and it did not just happen.

  • Earl

    @BW – I agree about the risk-taking.  One of the things that did that for me, in addition to being the single thing that my Dad shared with me, was learning to fly a small airplane.  I soloed the Luscombe before I got a driver’s license, and I learned SO MUCH from the experience…on top of the joy, of course.  This was on top of the paper route the year I was 12 and 13, for which I kept books, dealt with the bank, the newspaper office, my customers and the “toughs” that occasionally lay in wait along the route.
    @Michael – Amen…nothing good “just happens”.  G-d weeps with us at the bad stuff – and when it comes to bad stuff for our kids, He knows what that is like.
    And I DO love both those hymns….and many more.  Why has the church in the 21st century abandoned such great music for summer camp songs and cheap pop?  Aaaaarrrrrrrgh!

  • Michael Adams

    Welcome to codgerdom, Earl.  I tell people, joyfully, enthusiastically, about my church, which sings nothing written less than a hundred and fifty years ago. How Firm a Foundation was written in the same year as the Constitution, and appeared, among other places, in The Sacred Harp, 1844, which used shape notes to teach a cappella harmony singing to pioneers as they made their way across what would become the fruited plain. They did indeed know fiery trials: they buried young wives and children as they moved west. Theirs was a very serious faith, which provided a great deal of the discipline that such a hard life required. BTW, BW has my e-mail and would probably give it to you, if you asked her nicely.

  • Earl

    We learned to sing Sacred Harp while living near Chattanooga,TN back in 2004.  Sang for five years — talk about starting in the Major Leagues!!  We got to sing with the Ivys and the Wootens!  What joy!
    We bought our books the first day we experienced that music, and the second time was down at Pine Grove Baptist Church on Lookout Mountain!  When you watch the DVD called Awake My Soul – trailer available on You-Tube, here:

    we sang with all those folks, and are SO privileged to have done so.
    To those of who have never experienced this, look up the group nearest you by going to  Give it a try and I think you’ll fall in love.  I have to admit that the potluck in Oregon can’t match those in Alabama and Georgia, but don’t let that discourage you!