‘Parents Who Pay to Be Watched’

Kim Brooks, writing at thecut.com:

I’d talked to mothers who’d given up their own careers and made a career out of getting their children into the “right” charter school. I’d been to parties where adult socializing screeched to a halt for a good 20 minutes to negotiate a disagreement between two 6-year-olds over a disputed toy. I’d spoken to parents who’d sold homes and cars to pay for violin lessons and high-end SAT tutoring, and to parents who spent much of their time tracking their teenage children’s whereabouts through a GPS app on their phone. I’d come to believe there was simply no way to escalate or intensify our communal quest for parental control without the development of exo-uterine technology and retrofitting mothers as marsupials. But Cognition Builders proved me wrong.

Its existence seemed to highlight how for families like Jason and Elizabeth’s, and for other families, too — families across the country in the affluent middle and upper-middle classes — parenthood is not what it used to be. Specifically, it is more than it used to be. More money, more time, more organization, more engagement, more supervision. Just … more. Of everything.

In Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, social scientist Robert D. Putnam describes how, beginning in the 1980s, “the dominant ideas and social norms about good parenting have shifted from Spock’s ‘permissive parenting’ to a new model of ‘intensive parenting.’ ” “Between 1983 and 2007,” he notes, “spending per child by families in the top tenth of the income distribution increased by 75 percent in real dollars.” Many of these dollars are devoted to the increasing costs of child care and education, but a significant portion is spent on enrichment and a wide array of educational and therapeutic interventions for children who struggle to meet parental expectations. Indeed, the cost of raising children in America, teaching them, and keeping them stimulated and safe has been privatized by design and default, as families take on burdens once shouldered by extended families, neighborhoods, and public schools. The leap from a Kaplan SAT course to Cognition Builders might not be as big as it seems.


(via news.yc)