December 30, 2013
Nanny staters find a new cause on the 'inequality' front
Here comes another excuse for the government to take over child-rearing responsibilities from parents. All in the name of the best of intentions. NPR (who else?) reports on the "word gap":
In the early 1990s, a team of researchers decided to follow about 40 volunteer families - some poor, some middle class, some rich - during the first three years of their new children's lives. Every month, the researchers recorded an hour of sound from the families' homes. Later in the lab, the team listened back and painstakingly tallied up the total number of words spoken in each household.
What they found came to be known as the "word gap."
It turned out, by the age of 3, children born into low-income families heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.
Now that's a real shocker. It turns out that "rich" people tend to be better parents than "low income" people. They are smarter, have better vocabularies, and take great care to enrich the environment in which their children grow up. That's why their kids do better in school, have a better work ethic, and in turn become "richer" than kids with negligent parents who park their kids in front of the boob tube while they party.
When I was getting my doctorate in Sociology, I first heard the field defined as "the painful and tedious explication of the obvious in impenetrable jargon." That certainly rings true in this case.
Let me add some caveats. The real gap is not between rich and poor, but between smart and caring, and stupid and indolent. The former qualities tend to produce wealth and the latter tend to produce poverty. Not always, in part because some people voluntarily choose satisfying but remunerative occupations, while others just get lucky and find themselves wealthy without much effort or talent. But there is enough of a correlation for the decriers of inequality to find a new cause to champion.
The obviuous lesson to be drawn here is to shame people who are negligent parents into changing their ways, and to discourage such people from having children in the first place. By not, for instance, subsidizing them. But that is not the lesson that will be drawn. Instead, you can count on these "findings" serving as an excuse for state intervention into child-rearing. Count on it.
And if you think bureaucrats will do a better job of enriching vocabularies than loving parents, you have a future in progressive politics.