Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Children and Politics

When it comes to the "Nature vs. Nurture" debate, my mother is decidedly on the side of nature. This is largely because she has raised one biological child (me) and two adopted children (my sisters). She's observed first hand that, just like the truth, the genes will out, no matter how hard you may try to bend those genes to your will.

My opinions are a bit more hazy on the subject. Feeling positive about my job, at least on one level, hinges on my belief that what I do matters. I have to believe that I can teach the children I work with, that I can influence their behavior and mold them a bit despite the fact that I did not contribute to their DNA. So, it should not surprise you to find that I am increasingly preoccupied by studies that attempt to show correlations between traits in children and adult predilections.

All of the above is to explain my fascination with an article my friend G. referenced on his blog. The (incredibly unscientific) study followed about 100 pre-school children for several decades and puts forth the position that
"whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity. The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests."

Now, as a former "whiny kid" and current "liberal thinker" I take umbridge with the study, but it did call to mind a position my father has argued fervently for many years. According to my dad, people who tend toward liberal ideals in politics and religion are often people who feel that we, as a society, are headed toward a more perfect state (in his words: a more perfect union with God). On the other hand, people who tend toward conservative values are those who feel that human beings once had that "perfect union" but are continually slipping farther from it.

Thinking about those two ideas at work on the pre-school playground, it is not a stretch at all to think that the confidant, self-reliant (and, one imagines, more optimistic) children become adults who think positively about the future and their role in the universe at large. Conversely, the whiny, frightened, fearful children are the obvious pick for those who'll grow into Bible-thumping, brimstone-preaching, anti-evolutionists. (Am I betraying my politics too much here?)

Ultimately the whole study is rather meaningless, as my mother would be first to tell you. Anyone who's ever dealt with a whinny kid knows that the kid is whinny, plain and simple. You can't change it. You might be able to get them to whine more politely or quietly or to music (if that's your prerogative) but you can't change the leopards spots, so to speak. The same pretty much goes for dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, and basically we've learned nothing. But you can bet that I'll be making a little mental list the next time I visit Drew's pre-K class. Can I really be blamed if I try to round up all the ones who are crying & encourage them to never move to Ohio?

(Just as a sidebar, I'd like to point out that I do in fact have friends other than G. He just happens to hold the position of my internet/computer/blogging guru and he's the one I argue with most frequently about all topics large and small, so he gets mentioned a lot. I promise to give shout outs by first initial to all my other friends--or at least all my other friends who don't roll their eyes when I start talking about the "kneebiters".)


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