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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 1, 2024

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"My mother or mother-in-law keeps telling me how to parent!"

This to me is crazy, maybe complaining about the mother-in-law is somewhat justifiable but if you believe you yourself turned out alright and had a decent childhood then your mother has a certified track record in raising children which means you should probably listen to what she has to say (same with mother in law, your chose your partner so you probably think they turned out alright, hence your mother in law has a certified track record as well). What makes you think that you, on your own, can do better than them? They are your elders, they have earned the right to give advice on raising children by successfully doing the same themselves. Lack of filial piety is another major issue I have with the western way of life.

And then these very same women who don't trust their elders will happily leave their offspring with daycares and nurseries for hours each day to be raised by randoms for whom you have minimal idea of their suitability to raise children beyond passing some government mandated training courses that teach god knows what.

I can understand this sentiment when you're raising your 5th child and have the fresh memory of dealing with 4 children while the knowledge from your elders is more dated, but doing this for your first child is madness (I assume most of these letters come from first time mothers or the like, mostly because there are a lot more of them than 5th time mothers and also because by child 5 your mother/in-laws probably won't still be offering advice as you've documented to them already that you can handle things).

When I end up having children my plans are to leave them for a while with either my or my wife's parents precisely for these reasons over throwing them into daycare, it's cheaper and very likely better, plus having a young child around the house again will light up the lives of its grandparents.

I agree with some of what you say, but that's very charitable to your in-group and very uncharitable to your out-group. I could just as easily cite "The Nurture Assumption", reference things like people having fucked up parents, and that people turned out all right in spite of their parents. Or maybe they turned out poorly even though their parents were decent people.

And then these very same women who don't trust their elders will happily leave their offspring with daycares and nurseries for hours each day to be raised by randoms for whom you have minimal idea of their suitability to raise children beyond passing some government mandated training courses that teach god knows what.

What's wrong with this? You frame it in a very negative way, but millions of kids in the US go to daycare. Is it really that bad? For the most part, I think people should figure out what's best for them and pursue it.

I worked at pretty mid-tier daycare in Canada. It was bad.

The studies that show daycare is good for child development use highly curated daycares, with like 1:4 adult-to-child ratios. These studies actually simulate a mom staying home with her kids. MY daycare was a charity daycare run by a church, so to help single mothers, they took everyone. I worked with the 3-year-olds, and the worst ratio was 1:21 (illegal). A normal day was 1:12. In either case, the kids were supervised, I guess, but the priorities were no fingers in power outlets, no vomit, no urine, etc. Learning to count or something was a complete impossibility.

-The kids could talk, but it was garbled and they couldn't tell you what they had done the night before. Conversation was difficult, so their language development was definitely stunted. A child psychologist once told me that language abilities develop most in early childhood- if that's true, daycare damaged these kids' brains. I would meet kids who stayed home with their moms and those kids would tell me what WOULD HAVE happened if something the night before had turned out differently.

-One kid in the one-year-old room cried LITERALLY all day, 8-5, for about her first month. The metabolic stress alone must have affected her, and the noise and tension affected the other kids.

-One kid didn't talk for the 5 months I worked with her. Not word to me or anyone else.

-The one-year-old room was a pen. The kids sat on the ground with toys pretty much all day. The ratio was better, but the workers were occupied with diapers and feeding most of the time, so interaction was limited.

-About 8 kids (out of around 50) were at the daycare from 7 am to 5 pm. A little kid sleeps about 12 hours, so that leaves either 2 hours with their parents or sleep deprivation. Both of those are bad for kids.

-Since the kid spends the majority of his waking life at the daycare, the workers are raising him. I thought I needed resume padding for teachers' college (incorrect), but the other workers were low-IQ, 5th-generation underclass hillbillies under the stress of just being in a room with so many feral kids, let alone trying to manage them. Since middle-aged women generally don't like the cold, and Canada is cold, the kids spent very little time outside.

I am now a highschool teacher, and while I am certain that intelligence is fixed and genetic, I am confident that IQ depends on nurture. Exposure to puzzles and vocabulary and general knowledge and grammar are extremely important. It takes years and years to acquire that stuff and you can't speedrun it when you realize that it's missing. My kid is 9 and just finished Algebra 1 on Khan Academy. I don't know how that compares to actual school algebra in the US, but in Canada that's pretty good (she can't rotate shapes to save her life though, so that's 1 point for the nature crowd). At this rate she's going to have math powers. She has extreme reading powers. It is possible, and some even say probable, that she will not be able/interested enough to spin that into some high-paying job, and she might turn out a bored housewife or HR-lady-that-none-of-the-other-HR-ladies-like-because-they-think-that-she-thinks-she's-better-than-they-are, and the Nurture Assumption crowd will say "See, Gog? Similar outcomes to other women with parents like you."

But quite apart from money, or propensity to addiction and crime, how do you think her model/experience of the world differs from that of one of the kids who went to that daycare, and which model/experience would you prefer your child to have? What sorts of questions will she wonder about, compared to the daycare kids? How will she experience movies and music and advertising? How many more topics of conversation will she be able to discuss? How much more will she bring to the romance table? None of that just develops because of genetics. Daycare is bad.

Two things

  • The de facto early childhood narrative around COVID is that we've ruined the educational and social development of 2 - 5 year olds (roughly) because of the lockdowns and lack of return to school. Genuinely curious (I have no horse in the race): does your daycare experience lead you to doubt that or not?

  • I have an overwhelming fascination with teachers' (at any level before university) perspectives on intelligence, personality, and social development. Please write your own top level post!

I think the problem with the COVID lockdowns is that parents were still working full-time from home while 'caring' for their kids. I have an Au Pair, so I avoided a lot of the problems, but I have coworkers who were blatantly ignoring their kids. Many meetings had a 2-3 year old crying in the background. The parents would yell at the kid, threaten to take away their tablet, etc. I think even a neglectful daycare with other kids would be a better environment than forcible tablet addiction and a parent ready to explode in anger at every noise.

For the first thing, I have no idea, but I suspect that COVID was not the problem. Kids learn almost nothing at school until grade 10, and the gains after that could be achieved much more efficiently. So educationally, staying home is probably better if your parents take any steps at all toward teaching you something. Socially, school/daycare does not offer great opportunities: If a kid needs development, it's hard to see how he will get it from his similarly undeveloped peers. Furthermore, the main social lesson of daycare and elementary school is that disagreement is forbidden and that you should weaponize the authority of 3rd parties to harm your enemies. Teachers always tell kids to "solve the disagreement with a discussion," as though 6-year-olds are going to convene a Special Council on Pokemon Cards or something. That doesn't happen and fighting is looked upon with horror (see TLP on how people don't fear someone getting hurt in a fight, they fear the existence of a fight itself)so you get preference falsification and a lot of tattling. This is a pretty good practice for our new era, but not something I want a kid steeped in. But it's better than watching unboxing videos all day.

For the second, if you can make the question more specific, I'll give it a go.

This is interesting, and might be worth its own thread.

My understanding of the research is that people were surprised by the results, because they're not intuitive, based on things like observing kids in daycare vs home and extrapolating, though I've mostly forgotten the details.

I am now a highschool teacher, and while I am certain that intelligence is fixed and genetic, I am confident that IQ depends on nurture.

Wait, what? Isn't IQ just the indicator of intelligence that we're able to measure?

Yes, IQ is the legible component of intelligence, and your vocabulary, ability to do logic problems, etc is what makes it legible to the test, to others, and to the world we live in. So you might have a really high innate intelligence but it would do you little good if you were never exposed to the sorts of challenges for which IQ score is the proxy.