Bringing Up Kids In Today’s World: Two Issues of Interest

Today’s news (seen while eating my lunch) brings two interesting articles about raising kids in today’s world:

The first, in the Los Angeles Daily News via the Associated Press, is about birthday parties. Specifically, it is about the tendancy today to overdo birthday parties. When I was growing up, I remember parties as a simple thing: you had a few friends over, you had a cake, you played “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”. Perhaps you went to a movie. There were no goodie bags (consolation prizes) for the non-birthday kids (the losers). Today, however, things have become more elaborate as parent (and kids) try to outdo other parents (and kids). For example: A birthday party for a 1-year-old featured a gift-opening that lasted two hours…and the child slept through most of it. At another party, seven-year-olds were picked up in stretch limos to attend the birthday party of a classmate. In still another case, a 6-year-old guest at a St. Paul birthday party didn’t like the contents of the gift bag and declared: “This is a rip-off.” To counter this, a new group has been formed called “Birthdays Without Pressure“. I think it is an interesting notion, and hope they succeed. Next they can attack B’nai Mitzvah Receptions (or would that be Recepiyot?).

The second, in the New York Times, is perhaps more interesting. It talks about a movement to do away with middle schools completely. There appear to be two ways of doing this: K-8 and 9-12 schools, and K-5 and 6-12 school. In other world, the middle schoolers either go with the younger or older set. Again, there is a genesis of an interesting idea in here: reducing the pressure that occurs in middle school. I’m not sure which approach is best. The K-8 approach would shelter the kids more from older peers, thus (hopefully) reducing the pressure to conform to more “adult” activities. On the other hand, it is a bad environment to stress academics and college prep, and could be bad for the honors students and high achievers. The grouping with the older kids has the opposite problems: it pushes the kids out of kid-hood sooner. Which is best? Should there be middle school at all? Was the Jr. High School (7-9) approach better? I guess we just have to stay tuned.

P.S.: Bravo! to the NYTimes for adding the “permalink” feature for articles. I wish other newspapers would do this.