Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My Life's Work

The young men and women of America's future elite work their laptops to the bone, rarely question authority, and happily accept their positions at the top of the heap as part of the natural order of life."
That was the first sentence of an article by David Brooks in The Atlantic Monthly in April of 2001. I am in no way exaggerating when I say that it changed the course of my life. At that point in time I was working as a live-in Nanny, having abandoned any desire of working in the field I had spent $100,000.00+ to train for. To say that I was in an extreme state of limbo is an understatement indeed. I was impressionable and I was looking for a path, and at that time the thing that I was immersed in on a daily basis was exclusively the lives of children. I can't blame David Brooks for the obsessive path he put me on, it was, in many ways, inevitable.

"The Organized Kid", the article I quoted above, details time Brooks spent with students at Princeton and other Ivy League schools interviewing "the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades." His characterization of those kids is frightening in many ways. Although he paints them as happy, industrious and incredibly driven there are eerie things about this new generation, especially when viewed in comparison with their parents.** In almost every way they bow unquestioningly to authority and the do not protest. These are kids who see themselves as "computers" designed to work & manipulate the information they're given--not question it. "They're not trying to buck the system; they're trying to climb it, and they are streamlined for ascent."

If you've spent anytime around children of the rich and middle class, it won't surprise you that this is the case. Kids today are constantly being monitored & mediated. They're shuffled from one class to the next and then taken to supervised "playdates" where every problem or minor onset of boredom is met with immediate intervention and adult attention. The authority figures in their lives are not oppressive shackles to be thrown off during college years, rather they're helping hands carefully paving the way into a planned and prepared adulthood.

The article is extremely open ended. It offers no predictions on the future of our country when this group who so closely adheres to authority becomes the authority. In my mind, however, it started the wheels spinning with regard to how dramatically a generation can change the way an entire country thinks simply by its parenting style. To my knowledge history has never been viewed this way (at least, that is, the history I can get my hands on in books). Did changes in the way German parents treated their children in the late nineteenth century lead the generation to have a particular susceptibility to Hitler's fascism? Was the fall of Rome precipitated by a shift in discipline tactics with toddlers? I have absolutely no answers to these questions . . . yet.

**It's a great article, and he's got some interesting things to say about the "moral ambiguity" of the "Organization Kid" that I simply don't have the space to go into in this forum. If you're interested in the text of this article just send me a note and I will gladly email it to you, it's simply too long to have included on this page.

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