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May 30, 2003
The Life! versus The Rails

I'm assembling education blogs to make that long-neglected link list, and found myself going from this, to this, the first this (try that and go to April 28) being archive-bloggered, and the second this being a piece by John Derbyshire describing the way that Kids These Days are prone to going Off The Rails and to prefer The Life! instead.

Like Derbyshire, I can see the point of both sides of this one. I see why people build The Rails. And I see why other people want to jump or slide off them. I mean, what sort of a life is it if all you ever do is live out almost but not quite the life your parents set up for you? And what sort of reward is it if you end up with a house almost but not quite as nice as the one you grew up in? Bad Behaviour – sex, drugs, rock, roll – are just the ways that some people have to use to get their parents off their backs. I'm old enough to realise how stupid and childish this sounds, but it is nevertheless a fact that one of the many things I like about blogging is that my mother, a most capable woman in lots of ways, has no idea what it is or how it works.

His teachers say he has great ability, but just won’t work. Visiting with the family, we did not see him, only heard the thudding of rock music from the basement room where he lives. Amy: “We’ve totally given up. Just can’t wait for him to leave home.”

Mission accomplished. Lucky is the child whose parents have given up.

I admire the "bourgeois way of life", but to really enjoy it some of us have to redesign it and muck about with it and make it truly our own. For that, The Rails may not be enough. You want to make your own rails.

I'm not sure about any of this. Derbyshire's is a good piece though, and none the worse for having been written a month ago. Some things don't change.

And by the way, for all those parents who reckon they aren't making any Rails for their children to jump off, here's the caption of one of my favourite cartoons – the sort of cartoon that doesn't really need the actual cartoon, just the caption: "We wanted him to be an anarchist but he wouldn't be told." (I suspect that if there is an answer to this, it is to be found in the phrase "giving up". But then they turn round and say you shouldn't have.)

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:45 AM
Category: Parents and children

Giving up, yes. Giving up on the control thing. Not giving up on loving them or communicating with them or helping them (when they want help). And not giving up on a parent's autonomy, as well.

It's a tricky dance.

Comment by: lars on June 1, 2003 10:23 PM
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