The Corner

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Since Charles & Jonah have both sounded the Last Post on the parenting thing, I will too.

Just a point on Jonah’s last.  I don’t know that he could have played a WORSE card than religion.  Whether or not it takes a village to raise a child, it sure as heck takes a village–well, a community, a CHURCH–to keep a religion going.  If I, as a parent, wished to make sure my kids grew up, say, Methodists, I don’t know what worse move I could make than to go and live in a place where there are no Methodists.  (Unless with missionary intent, i.e. to START a community of Methodists in which my kids would grow up…) 

We are social animals, and this is hardly ever more the case than in religious practice.  “Are you religious?”  “Yes, I’m a Christian.”  “How often do you go to church?”  “Oh, I never go to church.  I’m a PRIVATE Christian.”  Uh-huh.

Wise parents who want their kids to cleave to a certain religion will try to ensure they raise them in a place where there is a community–at least a few dozen souls–practicing that religion.  Won’t they?   

And if you want to say:  “Well, this matter of where to live–that’s a parental decision, isn’t it?”  It sure is, and the *indirect* effects of parental decisions like this are critical to our life outcomes…  As I said in my very first post on this topic, and have had to re-say in every post since.  People don’t seem to hear it.  I just don’t include these indirect effects under the head “parenting.”  I suppose you could, but I don’t, and I don’t think the dev-psych academics do either.

I do wish you luck, Jonah, with maintaining this fantasy about hand-crafting your offspring to come out the way you want.  Here’s a personal anecdote on that.  A few posts ago, you sneered at my pushing my daughter through eight years of violin lessons.  Yep, we did that, and are still doing it, and shall continue to do it.  Nellie has now played at least one piece by every major classical composer.  She can read sheet music so complicated it gives me a headache just to look at it.  She has been taken to concerts and had classical music played to her.

Yet I note that at age 13, she NEVER voluntarily listens to classical music.  Her iPod is stuffed with bubblegum pop.  She shows no signs of being proud at being in Advanced Orchestra at her school.  I think she is actually a bit embarrassed about it.  It’s not cool, see?  My guess is that after leaving home at (presumably) age 18, she will never voluntarily pick up a violin again.  (An adult neighbor of ours reinforces this–she went through precisely this scenario with her parents.)

Does this make me sad?  You bet.  Does it vindicate your sneering?  I guess it does.  Still I feel I’m doing a right thing.  Heck, at least the kid can read music.

We do our best.  When the wind’s at our back, we occasionally win one.  “The culture” will win most of them, though.  That’s parenting.  You’ll find out.  

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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