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March 05, 2013

The Hollow Middle

Via Tyler Cowen, an interesting observation:

Mid-wage occupations, paying between $13.83 and $21.13 per hour, made up about 60 percent of the job losses during the recession. But those mid-wage jobs have made up just 27 percent of the jobs gained during the recovery.

By contrast, low-wage occupations paying less than $13.83 per hour have utterly dominated the recovery, with 58 percent of the job gains since 2010.

job-losses-gains.png

The linked article continues:

This isn’t a new phenomenon: Over the past decade high-wage and low-wage jobs have been growing at a decent clip. But that middle rung continues to get hollowed out. Mid-wage jobs endured a major drop after the 2001 recession, largely stagnated during the 2000s, and have now declined even further in the most recent downturn.

OccupationalGrowthRates.jpeg

Are we experiencing a repeat of the industrial revolution?

If we turn to the industrial revolution, what do we see? Relatively high productivity from “restructuring,” (machinery replacing labor) but relatively low productivity from innovation or total factor productivity.

...During the early 19th century, there is much creative ferment, but much less in terms of products which translate into gains in living standards for the average person.

By the way, you also have theorists — Malthus, Lauderdale, Chalmers, Attwood, and others — who thought the main problem was simply lack of aggregate demand, which Malthus called effectual demand. They were absolutely right about part of the picture in the short run but missed most of the larger truths.

Eventually all of the creative ferment of the industrial revolution pays off in a big “whoosh,” but it takes many decades, depending on where you draw the starting line of course.

If middle-wage jobs are hollowing out while low and high wage jobs grow, how much sense does the current flirtation with "going Galt" make for young men (don't go to college, don't get married, don't "play their game")? That road seems to lead almost inevitably to relative poverty and a lifetime of dependence and economic insecurity. It's certainly not advice I'd give either of my sons.

In a labor market where "living wage" jobs have grown increasingly scarce, the economic benefits of partnership (aka, marriage) would seem to be maximized. On an earlier post, Texan 99 alluded to a conversation among conservatives who were waxing uber-outragey about "all those pesky women taking jobs that rightly belong to men". The Spousal Unit and I were discussing this over the weekend and were a little surprised to realize that, of our four grandmothers, 3 had college degrees and 3 had careers. Not one had neither a degree nor a job.

All of which got us thinking about skewed perceptions of history. The most interesting part of this chart is the percentage of women working during the 1940s and '50s. I was surprised to see that over one third of women worked:

Labor Force Participation Rate by Gender Over TIme.jpg

During our growing up years (the 60s to mid 70s), that percentage grows from 40-50%. Compare and contrast rising female labor force participation with fluctuations in male unemployment over time:

unemployment rate for men over time.jpg

If there's a clear and compelling argument for the existence of oppression or gender injustice in any of this, we're not seeing it. But lest it be averred that we're not all "equal opportunity" in our goring of gendered oxen, we found this observation on the much-ballyhoo'ed gender pay gap darkly amusing as well:

To what extent has legislation narrowed the gender gap? One piece of legislation is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring, promotion, and other conditions of employment. The other is affirmative action. There is only scant evidence that either law has had any effect on the gender gap in earnings or occupations, although not enough research on this has been done to justify strong conclusions one way or the other...

No doubt this phenomenon explains why, in the wake of The Most Significant Blow for Equal Pay Evah, WRA are now clamoring for yet another piece of landmark legislation that will finally (!) level that pesky playing field. Lily Ledbetter, we hardly knew ye!
*sigh*

Never attribute to other factors what can conveniently be attributed to discrimination. Data be damned, how we mortals love the simplistic/single cause theory of pretty much everything. Especially if it lets us blame our problems on the opposite sex.

Discuss amongst yourselves, oppressed knuckle draggers of both sexes.

Posted by Cassandra at March 5, 2013 06:01 AM

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Comments

I think there's more than a wage that makes considerations of 'going Galt' worth pondering. It's more a sense that there's more to overcome in life than just being short, fat, ugly, or bald – now you also have to overcome being white and male. Who would not be disposed to 'going Galt' if the first thing you learn at university is that you are insufficiently sensitive to the other gender(s) and races by dint of being, well... white and male. An awakening turns to full awareness as you learn about VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) and the interminable nuances and exceptions that emanate from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – contra the guarantees that no such a thing would ever happen.

Add to that the incremental inflation of what it is that makes the 'other' greater than the 'this' or 'that':
Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants Is Not Enough, They Deserve An Apology wrote Harry Binswager Forbes 0/04/2013

And why is it I get the notion that we are entering a hyper-inflationary period of expanding the 'other'? Think of all the 'crazy' out there that insists upon political identity based on genetic identity based on genetic irregularities.

There's much more at play here than economics and going local (tribal) and 'going galt' (self-sufficient) have much to recommend them.

Posted by: George Pal at March 5, 2013 09:56 AM

There's much more at play here than economics and going local (tribal) and 'going galt' (self-sufficient) have much to recommend them.

But "going Galt" isn't really about being financially independent or self-sufficient from what I can see.

Any time 50% of young men haven't even moved out of their parent's basements and have no interest in doing what's needed to earn a living wage or be competitive in the job market, I'm going to hazard a guess that "going Galt" has very little to do with self-sufficiency :p

Nice "work", if you can get it.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 10:25 AM

I should probably clarify here. I don't have a problem with young men deciding not to go to college IF they have a viable plan for getting - and KEEPING - a job that pays enough for them to live on.

If they don't, they're going to be mooching off others (their parents, taxpayers, whatever). I'm no more positively disposed to that model than I am to the President's Life of Julia. Many young men have simple needs - if they can make it on a low wage job, great.

But as a life strategy, I have to question how smart that is? When I went back to school as an adult, I wanted to get a law degree.

But since I live in the real world, I took a sober look at my employment and pay prospects and went for Computer Science, a topic that quite frankly holds little charm for me. If independence is really the goal, that implies some rational attempt to sync up your education/training with your talents and the job market.

I'm not seeing that happening with young men in the aggregate, though. How is this any different from the morons who get themselves into $100K of student loan debt studying Postmodern Art or Women's Studies?

Taking responsibility for your own life includes showing some sense - doing your homework. Otherwise, you end up as a perpetual victim of your own refusal to create a contingency plan.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 10:49 AM

"But "going Galt" isn't really about being financially independent or self-sufficient from what I can see."

You see correctly. Being 'Galt' takes a great deal more than going along and getting along and retreating to the basement. I expect (hope) it will play out as generational evolution born of an epiphany. We are at that stage where the meteor has just hit. To expect young men enervated over the first twenty years of their lives to spring dynamic sounds more like Nordic Saga than reality.

Posted by: George Pal at March 5, 2013 11:31 AM

Eh. Human society is always enervating for some segment or another. Segments like that either sink into multigenerational apathy and dependency, like Palestinian "refugees," or they get it together and make life better for themselves, like Asian boat people.

Not that I'm in favor of enervating anyone, but I lose interest in anyone who puts up with that treatment for long.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 5, 2013 11:43 AM

I am pretty sure that I am concerned about many of the same things you are, George. But I also see some of this very differently.

No class of people has ever had any guarantee of fairness under the law. Even the most fair laws can be - and often are - abused by self interested humans.

I am sympathetic to a lot of the complaints I'm seeing about unfairness to men. But I have to say that life has always been unfair. For centuries, the law was unfair to women in a way that it really has NOT ever been unfair to white males. By the same token, the draft is "unfair" to men and discriminatory. Biology is "unfair" to women, and now men are screaming to the heavens because for the first time in history they are being held accountable for the children they father. This is as it should be. The fact that in some sensationalistic cases, they are also being held accountable for children they did NOT father is something we should change, but overall the change is a change for the better.

Adults *should* be held responsible for their actions.

I disagree with radical feminists that the "solution" to unfairness is an eye for an eye (repaying injustice with injustice). But I have to say that I am really left cold by a lot of the complaints I'm hearing, too.

In my experience, boys and young men need a little pushing to develop into adult men, just as it requires pressure to make diamonds.

Men have always known this - all my life I've heard them refer to their carefree younger days... "and then Dad put a boot up my fanny", or "then I joined the Navy or the Marines and they straightened me right out", or "then I fell in love (or had a child) and became a man". When I was a girl, a frequent theme in movies was, "Why is Dad so hard on his sons?"

I really do think people are making much too much about the seriousness of all this injustice. There has always been injustice - if you don't like it, then fight back. Criminy - men have had the vote for MUCH longer than women. How do these folks think women got these laws passed anyway? Hint: it wasn't witchcraft.

I am really worried about the message we're sending to young men. They are not helpless victims, and if you start life thinking that the mere existence of "unfairness" means we don't have to try hard, pick ourselves up when we fall, etc, we are doomed as a nation. Children need to learn to adapt and overcome - to be persistent and overcome obstacles, not give up or withdraw.

/end of sermon :)

Sorry, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine. I love men and boys, love my sons and two grandsons and I'm really concerned about the messages they're getting from society.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 12:04 PM

I must be missing something because everywhere I see "going Galt" it isn't about 20 somethings not getting a job and mooching off Mom and Dad, but about the high productivity worker deciding the 50-60 hours/week isn't worth the incremental reward and just putting in his 40 hours or retiring early.

Not being the dutiful Ayn Rand worshipping minion I could be wrong, but I thought mooching off Mom and Dad was kind of antithetical to Going Galt.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 5, 2013 02:29 PM

That has always been my understanding too, Yu-Ain.

Here's an example of what I'm referring to:

Dr. Helen wonders "if men are going Galt, staying home and collecting unemployment or no longer need jobs because they don’t get married as often?"

The term 'going Galt' has been used more often lately as a defense against criticisms of what George Will referred to as the refusal to grow up.

As in, can you blame him? Life is so horribly difficult and unfair that he's just going Galt.

If they were actually going Galt, I'm not sure I'd have a problem :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 02:46 PM

"For centuries, the law was unfair to women in a way that it really has NOT ever been unfair to white males"

The law was indeed unfair to women but the law never made a pretense of being fair, only necessary. The CRA of '64 has turned out to be entirely a pretense. Reverse discrimination under the rubric of 'equal rights' is now the law of the land. That's on the one hand.

"In my experience, boys and young men need a little pushing to develop into adult men, just as it requires pressure to make diamonds."

On the other hand:

Despite having higher scores on standardized tests, boys get lower grades than girls. Why? Because teachers are basing grades at least partly on classroom behavior, and the standards are very much geared to female norms....

"Boys in all racial categories across all subject areas are not represented in grade distributions where their test scores would predict. Even those boys who perform equally as well as girls on reading, math and science tests are nevertheless graded less favorably by their teachers."

I could blame this on the teaching profession at the lower grades, the great bulk of whom (90% ?) are women but instead I'll blame malevolent feminism. I was also taught entirely by women in grammar school - by nuns. There was not a one of them that did not display a preference for the girls' conduct and academic diligence and not a one of them who graded on the slant. And not a one of them considered boys too male, or too inept or too untrustworthy. I can't recall the times I'd been volunteered for assignment with responsibilities, patrol boy, policing the area, tutoring the lower classes, etc. And not a one of them would have considered child abuse – doping up boys with Ritalin – a socially and medically acceptable abuse of boys it seems.

"How do these folks think women got these laws passed anyway? Hint: it wasn't witchcraft."

Granted. Some men, too many men, having noticed the ascendency of women in power and influence have taken to aligning themselves, so to speak, with them. An overwhelming number of women holding national public office are liberal to Leftist. They have floor, podium, and mike. It's women who haven't an interest in a sexual edge but an interest in society that will have to heard from. So far I'm not hearing it, at least not as being commensurate to the problem.

Posted by: George Pal at March 5, 2013 02:55 PM

Standardized test scores and grades are apples and oranges. Test scores have NEVER been a good predictor of grades, and that's not surprising - they measure two very different things. They're designed to.

This very subject is what I'm working on, but I have so much work in my day job that I don't have time to give it the treatment it deserves right now.

I could blame this on the teaching profession at the lower grades, the great bulk of whom (90% ?) are women but instead I'll blame malevolent feminism.

On what evidence? Or have we dispensed with evidence or facts? At what point in history were the vast majority of teachers ever NOT women? You're basing all of this on the extremely thin gruel of (to be kind) completely erroneous representation of what these studies actually said. Does that matter?

I think it ought to, unless we've decided we don't care about the facts. If that's the case, rational discussion is impossible.

I was also taught entirely by women in grammar school - by nuns. There was not a one of them that did not display a preference for the girls' conduct and academic diligence and not a one of them who graded on the slant.

None of these studies say that teachers grade on a slant. Let me repeat that:

None of these studies say that teachers grade on a slant.

And not a one of them considered boys too male, or too inept or too untrustworthy.

Interesting, but since none of the studies said that either, I'm not sure how it's relevant.

I can't recall the times I'd been volunteered for assignment with responsibilities, patrol boy, policing the area, tutoring the lower classes, etc. And not a one of them would have considered child abuse – doping up boys with Ritalin – a socially and medically acceptable abuse of boys it seems.

The vast majority of boys aren't on Ritalin, George. I've read the study that everyone's quoting (I have a copy of it on my desktop), plus a whole raft of other studies over the last few weeks. And I'm angry as hell at the dishonest coverage of these studies, and ashamed that so many conservatives are complicit in it. They don't even say what they're being represented as saying.

I've been working on this for several weeks now. Eventually, when I can fit it into my schedule, I will put the data out there.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 03:44 PM

Some men, too many men, having noticed the ascendency of women in power and influence have taken to aligning themselves, so to speak, with them. An overwhelming number of women holding national public office are liberal to Leftist. They have floor, podium, and mike. It's women who haven't an interest in a sexual edge but an interest in society that will have to heard from. So far I'm not hearing it, at least not as being commensurate to the problem.

What about men, George? Are we going to ask anything of men?

Women don't own the mike. It's not even close. They're in the minority in Congress: half of the population but not even one fifth of Congress, so the idea that women are running things is, well, simply not true:

2 of 9 House leadership positions are held by women.

10 of 42 Senate leadership positions are held by women.

We've never had a woman President or even a vice president and I doubt we ever will.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 03:52 PM

And by the way, I never knew the final stats on Congress - I only looked them up because it struck me as so utterly bizarre that anyone would say women are running things or own the mike.

Being allowed to participate at all isn't "running things". Good Lord, is this what we've come to? If some small number of women are allowed to participate in our own government, we taking over?

Tell me: how would you react if men were less than 20% of your government? Of course that has never happened, but I'd really like to know the answer to that.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 03:55 PM

"Test scores have NEVER been a good predictor of grades"

Are they not both an objective measure of academic knowledge; wouldn't one expect some correlation between the two records?

"On what evidence? Or have we dispensed with evidence or facts? You're basing all of this on a (to be kind) completely erroneous representation of what these studies actually said."

I'll take a back seat to most anyone who insists on statistics because I don't set much store in them – If something smells bad I'm willing to trust my senses and haven't a need for studies, tables and graphs. Just so you don't think I'm pulling this stuff from my troglodyte mind:

Here is where I got the 90% figure – it's actually 80%.
http://ncei.com/POT05PRESSREL3.htm

re teachers grading on the slant, Christina Hoff Sommers:
"No previous study, to my knowledge, has demonstrated that the well-known gender gap in school grades begins so early and is almost entirely attributable to differences in behavior. The researchers found that teachers rated boys as less proficient even when the boys did just as well as the girls on tests of reading, math and science. (The teachers did not know the test scores in advance.) If the teachers had not accounted for classroom behavior, the boys’ grades, like the girls’, would have matched their test scores."

I never used the terms 'vast' or 'majority' re Ritalin, only that most of the children given it were boys, where once drugging school children was well... unthinkable.

I await your post.

Posted by: George Pal at March 5, 2013 04:41 PM

"Women don't own the mike. It's not even close."

Oh come now. They may not statistically, but their voice echoes in the hall with their narrative, of which 'war on women' is a cry to the barricades. Let one of the numerically superior forces say one thing, let them say one thing of the evil, in principle, of VAWA and watch the Viragos (men and women) and Furies Angst and Hyperbole let loose upon the helots.

Posted by: George Pal at March 5, 2013 04:57 PM

OK, I see where you're coming from. Prior to this conversation I would have assumed that "men are going Galt, staying home and collecting unemployment or no longer need jobs because they don’t get married as often?" were 3 distinct and mutually exclusive categories. But I can see how reading it as laying out 2 methods for "going Galt" would be very reasonable.

Though under either reading I wonder how exactly (3) makes any sense at all. It is the presence of a 2nd income that makes not having a job at all possible. I'll grant you that a single person with no kids can enjoy a higher standard of living on *less* money than a married couple with kids. But that's *less* not *none*.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 5, 2013 05:00 PM

re: "No previous study, to my knowledge, has demonstrated that the well-known gender gap in school grades begins so early and is almost entirely attributable to differences in behavior.

This, by the way, is complete nonsense. It simply isn't true judging from the reams of studies I've read.

The researchers found that teachers rated boys as less proficient even when the boys did just as well as the girls on tests of reading, math and science. (The teachers did not know the test scores in advance.) If the teachers had not accounted for classroom behavior, the boys’ grades, like the girls’, would have matched their test scores."

This is unadulterated crap. The reasoning isn't even marginally sound. Test scores measure whether a student can pick the right answer from a multiple choice test.

Grades, OTOH, measure all that, *plus* whether a student completes projects and assignments at all, whether they are completed well, how students do on pop quizzes, whether they do homework, whether they are capable of following directions or working without constant supervision, etc.

My test scores (I am not saying this to brag, but to make a point) were generally in the 95th percentile or above in school.

My grades were nowhere near that until my senior year when I finally figured out that I needed to bring my grades up if I wanted to get into college. I received lower grades than my test scores would indicate because I routinely did not do homework, did not finish assignments on time (or at all), and blew off anything I didn't find interesting.

Standardized tests scores account for NONE of these factors. But you needn't take my word for it (even though my reasoning is sound). There are tons of studies on the correlation between test scores and grades (and on each as a predictor of future academic performance). Here's one:

... standardized test
scores are barely, if at all, correlated with GPA.
The low correlation fails to show that one can predict the other. ... This can (only!) mean that they measure academic success in different ways, or that one is inconsistent in its measurements. If the latter is true, then it is most likely that standardized test scores are the more inaccurate measurement source because the correlation between SAT and first year college GPA has a correlation coefficient of
.244501 and ACT and first year college GPA has a correlation coefficient of .213309, while high
school GPA and college GPA have a correlation coefficient of .46464.
While .46464 is still not a strong enough coefficient to say that high school GPAs can predict college GPAs, it is still
much better at predictions than standardized test scores.

I have tons of studies that look at elementary standardized tests as predictors of grades too. They way pretty much the same thing.

When "behavior" includes things like not getting arrested or completing assignments, it's relevant. I can't think of an employer who wants employees who have to be coaxed into doing their work or not being disruptive in the office. The idea that behavior is somehow not relevant to success in life or school is so delusional that I'm not even sure where to begin with it.

Sorry, but this really frosts me.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 05:20 PM

Oh come now. They may not statistically, but their voice echoes in the hall with their narrative, of which 'war on women' is a cry to the barricades. Let one of the numerically superior forces say one thing, let them say one thing of the evil, in principle, of VAWA and watch the Viragos (men and women) and Furies Angst and Hyperbole let loose upon the helots.

Seems to me that if it's such a bad argument, it ought to be easy to rebut. Unless, of course, it's basically an appeal to emotion (somewhat like the histrionics on the right about inferior women who, despite occupying less than 1/5th of government positions, are somehow secretly controlling the fate of an entire nation...when they're not busy preventing helpless young men from doing their homework or applying for college, that is). Where *do* they find the time?

Both remind me of the way the Left used to froth at the mouth over Gee Dumya - a man so inept that he could not even eat a pretzel, yet somehow managed to defeat vastly smarter men like John Foregainst Kerry and Al Gore. Not to mention tricking America into voting for him in 2004 after they already knew he was nothing but a smirking Chimperor in Chief.

Fiendishly stupid, he was :p Some arguments are just self-refuting.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 05:31 PM

Okay, now I'm frosted too - at Ms. Sommers.

Posted by: George Pal at March 5, 2013 05:33 PM

I hope you will read my post, George. I'm afraid it will be boring, but I was truly shocked at what I have learned so far.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 05:35 PM

Grades and scores can be absolutely awful predictors of success.

I knew a 4.0GPA pharmacist who asked my wife if you *really* had to take all your antibiotic.

*facepalm*

I've had so many applicants coming straight out of school with great technical abilities who, when asked asked about their final project, "So what was the purpose of studying the relationship between X & Y" responded with "to demonstrate my technical abilities to my professor".

*thud*

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 5, 2013 05:43 PM

Seems to me that if it's such a bad argument, it ought to be easy to rebut.

Well, strickly speaking, rebutting the notion may not be relevant.

If you have group A (25%) who want something stupid and Group B (75%) who know it to be stupid. But there is a subgroup B2 (30%) who even knowing it's stupid realize that 30%+25% = majority and thus power. Rebuting the stupid notion isn't important. The majority of those making the proposal know it is stupid.

They just don't care.

We see this in both parties. Education is *not* the key to success. Education and success are both results of a certain set of character traits.

But any politician who says that will quickly lose their job as being "anti-education".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 5, 2013 06:04 PM

"Seems to me that if it's such a bad argument, it ought to be easy to rebut."

There are plenty of things that can be easily rebutted - statistically, empirically, historically, and philosophically, but to attempt it is to put one's head on the political and cultural block. To undertake the political, philosophical rebuttal is to take on not an opposing political, philosophical viewpoint but a cultural attitude. Culture rules the roost – not the argument.

Posted by: George Pal at March 5, 2013 06:15 PM

UNCLE.... UNCLE!!!!! :)

You are both right in that such discussions require extraordinary care and tact and can still go wrong if you're misquoted.

What is making me so angry about this is that I'm seeing so many pundits on the right making arguments the Left has always used (and we mocked, before we saw how useful they can be): "Things aren't equal between Group X and Group Y! Therefore, injustice and oppression have occurred!"

"90 percent of X profession are male. This means women are being oppressed/repressed/depressed and possibly even concussed!"

Parents are still the most important influence in their children's lives, and parental expectations and goals play an enormous role in how kids turn out. WE - not schools - are the makers of morals, values, habits, and goals. I didn't accept it when one of my boys tried to pull the same stuff I tried to pull on my parents because it was our job - not his, not the school's - but ours, to set the expectations and standards we wanted him to live up to - and then do everything in our power to make sure our sons did what was needed to reach those goals.

Blaming the schools is a dangerous argument. It implies that school do - or SHOULD - have more impact than parenting, and this simply isn't true.

Teachers can't follow kids home and make sure they do their homework. They can't make sure Junior gets more than 8 hours of sleep at night, or get him off the couch and onto the baseball diamond, or make him read challenging books instead of wasting all his time sexting, surfing the Internet, or playing video games. Responsible parents set appropriate limits. We guide and lead by example.

Schools can't teach kids the basic values needed to succeed in life (and I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust them to do this even if they could!).

Finally, schools can't teach that most priceless of lessons - that people: girlfriends, bosses, co-workers, cops... will make snap judgments about them based on their attitude, and the accumulation of all those snap judgments can be life changing. Sure, kid - go ahead. Pierce your tongue and dye your hair purple, or and act sullen to anyone older than 16. Let me know how that works out for you when it comes time to get a job :p

Teaching boys that it is the job of adults to make constant allowances for them pretty much guarantees they will grow into perpetual victims with an inflated sense of entitlement. Should parents (within reason) advocate for their children? Sure. I made sure my sons' teachers knew I was paying CLOSE attention to their progress. I asked the schools to put them into challenging classes. But I never asked a teacher to change a grade. Nor did I ever pressure them to structure class content or assignments to appeal to my child's interests. Bosses aren't going to do that.

All this is a parent's job. Teachers don't have time to psychoanalyze every student in their classes. They don't have time to treat each one like the precious snowflakes their parents all think they are.

Resilient children get that way by figuring things out and solving problems - hopefully with the help of their parents, who need to step back as children grow and mature and let their kids learn to stand on their own two feet.

I get the sense these days that parents are too busy with their own lives to do their job, and too many blame schools for not taking up their slack.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 5, 2013 07:22 PM

Speaking of sullen 16-year-olds, I have a vivid memory of coming wide awake one day as a teen. Without thinking about it, I had drifted into nonstop sullenness toward adults. A friend's mother made a kind, polite inquiry about a sinus infection, and asked whether I suffered them often. I have no idea why, but I answered "all the time" in a sarcastic tone. I can still remember how her face closed and she turned away. My friends all gave me a look like, "Why are you being a jerk?" I realized, "I have no idea why I was being a jerk. She was being nice. Am I responding that way all the time?" And I was: I was in a constant state of touchy fury because grownups weren't perceiving and tending to my greatest needs, so I snapped at any who expressed interest in a minor one.

It's probably a good thing she didn't answer, "Oh, your poor dear. I'm sure you wouldn't have taken that tone if your sinuses weren't bothering you and you weren't being oppressed by society."

Sometimes I see teenagers copping an attitude and I want to say, "Oh, honey. You have no idea how this will make you flush with shame forty years from now -- to say nothing about your job prospects."

Posted by: Texan99 at March 6, 2013 09:47 AM

Sullenness is a pretty normal teen phase - I always thought of it as part of separating from adults and trying to stand on one's own two feet.

But it's still very rude, and I worked hard at getting my sons to understand that. For the most part, they were very polite even as teens. One used to go around with the earbuds from his Sony discman/walkman/whatever perpetually in his ears.

I was always walking up to him and saying, "Pull the earphones out of your ears when you're in the same room with another human being. People shouldn't have to wave their arms to get your attention so they can speak to you. You're being rude."

As I was saying it, I could vividly remember being that age myself and wishing I could shut out/ignore all those pesky grownup who didn't understand me :p

I guess that was the precursor to texting (that drives me insane, too). I'm so glad they didn't have cellphones when my sons were young. I fought enough battles over Nintendo Gameboy.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2013 09:56 AM

"Hint: it wasn't witchcraft."

Ahem, cough.

Sorcery might explain a lot of things, :)

Posted by: Allen at March 7, 2013 12:47 AM

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