Thursday, May 10, 2007

Folk wisdom

Last night I had dinner with a fellow PhD student in the program, JH. I've written about it elsewhere, so I won't post about it again here. What I wanted to write about was this, the passing on of practical knowledge from one generation to the next. JH's wife, CH, mentioned that she is pregnant with their second child. (Their first child, Benedict, is cute--blonde and blue eyes, chubby cheeks, and likes cars. He was well-behaved last night and cheery.) JH's mom was evidently a great source of help and inspiration to her. JH's parents raised 8 children, and were not overly anxious about their children. His mom helped CH to not fuss too much over Benedict, and to be able to let him take care of himself while taking care of other tasks.

For most American families, the accumulated wisdom of previous generations (and the assurance that comes with it) has been lost, replaced by books written by "experts." How much of their advice is based on their own experience with children (or the experience of others), and how much is based on presuppositions from psychology which are by no means established or proven?

If the experts disagree, then whom do we trust?

The Dr. Spock Company: Expert parenting and children's health ...
Parents' Press: Dr. Benjamin Spock Interview

Has a century of child-rearing advice taught us anything?, by Rachel Hartigan Shea

Richard Ferber's rise. - By Ann Hulbert - Slate Magazine
Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children, by Ann Hulbert
NPR : 'Raising America'

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