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The American Dream Is Alive in Finland - The Atlantic
"If the U.S. presidential campaign has made one thing clear, it’s this: The United States is not Finland. Nor is it Norway. This might seem self-evident. But America’s Americanness has had to be reaffirmed ever since Bernie Sanders suggested that Americans could learn something from Nordic countries about reducing income inequality, providing people with universal health care, and guaranteeing them paid family and medical leave.

“I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president … of Sweden,” Marco Rubio scoffed. “We don’t want to be Sweden. We want to be the United States of America.”

“We are not Denmark,” Hillary Clinton clarified. “We are the United States of America. … [W]hen I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.”

Opportunity. Freedom. Independence. These words are bound up with American identity and the American Dream. The problem is that they’re often repeated like an incantation, with little reflection on the extent to which they still ring true in America, and are still exceptionally American.

Anu Partanen’s new book, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, argues that the freedom and opportunity Americans cherish are currently thriving more in Nordic countries than in the United States. (The Nordic countries comprise Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland.) But she also pushes back—albeit gently—against the trendy notion that Nordic countries are paradises.

Partanen is an unusual messenger. After all, her personal story is a testament to the Land of Opportunity’s enduring magnetism and vibrancy; she recently became a U.S. citizen, after moving from her native Finland to the United States in part because she felt she was more likely to find work as a journalist in New York City than her American husband was as a writer in Helsinki. But her time in America has also convinced her that Finland and its neighbors are doing a better job of promoting a 21st-century version of the American Dream than her adoptive country.

Partanen’s principal question is the following: What’s the best way for a modern society to advance freedom and opportunity? She explains that Nordic governments do so by providing social services that the U.S. government doesn’t—things like free college education and heavily subsidized child care. Within that big question, Partanen poses more pointed questions about contemporary life in the United States: Is “freedom” remaining in a job you hate because you don’t want to lose the health insurance that comes with it? Is “independence” putting your career on hold, and relying on your partner’s income, so you can take care of a young child when your employer doesn’t offer paid parental leave or day care is too expensive? Is “opportunity” depending on the resources of your parents, or a bundle of loans, to get a university degree? Is realizing the American Dream supposed to be so stressful?

“What Finland and its neighbors do is actually walk the walk of opportunity that America now only talks,” Partanen writes. “It’s a fact: A citizen of Finland, Norway, or Denmark is today much more likely to rise above his or her parents’ socioeconomic status than is a citizen of the United States.” The United States is not Finland. And, in one sense, that’s bad news for America. Numerous studies have shown that there is far greater upward social mobility in Nordic countries than in the United States, partly because of the high level of income inequality in the U.S.

In another sense, though, it’s perfectly fine to not be Finland. As Nathan Heller observed in The New Yorker, the modern Nordic welfare state is meant to “minimize the causes of inequality” and be “more climbing web than safety net.” Yet the system, especially in Sweden, is currently being tested by increased immigration and rising income inequality. And it’s ultimately predicated on a different—and not necessarily superior—definition of freedom than that which prevails in America. “In Sweden,” Heller argued, “control comes through protection against risk. Americans think the opposite: control means taking personal responsibility for risk and, in some cases, social status.”

Last week, I spoke with Partanen about what she feels Nordic countries have gotten right, where they’ve gone wrong, and why, if Finland is really so great, she’s now living in America. An edited and condensed transcript of our conversation follows.

Uri Friedman: You make an argument in the book that if you think about the American Dream in a certain way—if you define it in terms of opportunity, independence, and freedom—it is actually flourishing in the Nordic region more than in the United States. Why?

Anu Partanen: For a long time now, we’ve all, both in the United States and in Europe, thought that the United States is the land of freedom. For a long time, it was certainly true: American democracy was leading the way, the American middle class was the wealthiest. America was really the place where you could make your own life and you could decide who you wanted to be and pursue the dream.

When I moved to the United States in 2008, that was the idea I had. [But] when I came here, I was actually surprised [to learn that] people were very anxious. They were in many ways very dependent on their circumstances, the opposite of being a self-made woman or man. And a lot of this is related to family: if, [when] you were a child, your parents could provide opportunities, if they could offer you a life in a good neighborhood, offer you a life in a good school.

…"
culture  economics  europe  finland  us  policy  norway  denmark  sweden  iceland  freedom  independence  opportunity  denamrk  anupartanen  urifriedman  democracy  socialism  inequality  middleclass  income  incomeinequality  immigration  taxes  daycare  healthcare  health  qualityoflife  government  society  nathanheller  politics 
july 2016 by robertogreco
14 Surprising Things About Parenting in Sweden | A Cup of Jo
"On the Law of Jante: There’s an interesting cultural principal here and in a few other Scandinavian countries called the Law of Jante. It essentially means that one individual is not more special than any other, and you’re not to behave as if you are. When I was teaching ballet in Stockholm years ago, I noticed that my students were, indeed, reluctant to stand out. For example, they were quite timid when I asked them to demonstrate steps or propose new ideas to the class."



"On food: One of the funniest food customs I’ve observed here is the national tradition of having split pea soup and pancakes for lunch on Thursdays. The first time a Swede told me that, I thought he was joking, but the opera house where I work serves that meal every Thursday. I think all Swedish schools do it, too, and you’ll see it in restaurants. When Americans think of split pea soup it’s green, but here it’s more yellow, with white and yellow beans, and the meat is a pork sausage that’s sliced into the soup."



"On candy: Swedes eat more candy than anybody else in the world, something like 35 pounds of candy per person per year! Huge candy shops with impressive sections are everywhere. What intrigues me most about the Swedish sweet tooth is lördagsgodis or “Saturday candy.” Every Saturday, kids and often their parents fill bags with their favorite candy. Gummies and licorice are big favorites. Before I became a parent, I thought this was a great idea, but now I’ve seen what sugar does to my daughter!



On coziness: The Swedish word mysig is hard to translate, but technically means “to smile with comfort,” or be cozy. It’s an important concept here, where the winters are long and cold. You see candles everywhere, year round. When I first moved here, it struck me as a major fire hazard! But they’re everywhere and so beautiful. Sometimes we go to IKEA on weekends (“It’s cold and rainy, so let’s go to IKEA!”), and everyone buys their candles there! Everyone has candles in their carts at checkout.

Swedes even have a special word to describe curling up indoors on a Friday night: fredagsmys. You light candles, cuddle under a blanket on the sofa, eat candy and watch a movie. I love that there’s a verb for it."
sweden  coziness  parenting  families  children  astridlindgren  candy  food  pippilongstocking  alfonsaberg  alfieatkins  mysig  napping  fredagsmys  play  cold  climate  outdoors  motherhood  childcare  daycare  parentalleave  lawofjante  collectivism  community  summer  winter  scandinavia  via:jenlowe 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Why Wikipedia Works Really Well in Practice, Just Not in Theory, with Jonathan Zittrain - YouTube
"Harvard University's Jonathan Zittrain explores the amazing success of Wikipedia, a concept that "works really well in practice, just not in theory." Not only is it a remarkable and unique model of a self-regulating entity, its governors and stakeholders are both members of the public at large. Zittrain examines whether Wikipedia is something that can be sustained long term, whether it will need to adapt or grow in the future, and whether such adaptations and growth could potentially scuttle the entire operation. Finally, Zittrain offers up a suggestion for how to apply Wikipedia in an academic setting: Why not turn Wikipedia articles into long-term research projects?"

[See also page with transcript: http://bigthink.com/videos/the-model-for-wikipedia-is-truly-unique

"Jonathan Zittrain: There's a great saying that Wikipedia works really well in practice, just not in theory. And that is true. Wikipedia's success is so singular, so spectacular that figuring out whether it's a model for anything other than Wikipedia is a puzzle that even the folks behind Wikipedia have faced as they've tried to do Wikisearch, Wikinews, and Wiktionary at different times. But the idea of having a scheme where the day-to-day governance, the day-to-day edits, whether done for substance to improve the truth level of an article in the view of the editor or done for process, oh that edit shouldn't have been made; it breaks the following rule; I'm going to revert it. To have the people doing that be members of the public at large is an extraordinary devolution of responsibility out to people who are in one way or another, implicitly or explicitly sort of taking an oath to subscribe to the principles behind Wikipedia of neutrality, of fairness, of learning — kind of the values of the enlightenment. And can that survive itself over the long haul? I don't know. As you get more and more importance attached to Wikipedia, more and more places that draw from Wikipedia as a source of data, whether it's something like the Wolfram Alpha Knowledge engine or Google to assemble basic facts for results in a search. There may be more and more reason for entities to want to game the results.

If you can just put yourself in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest beard or something and you don't actually have to grow anything, it's like well why not? I'll vote myself rich. These are problems that Wikipedia has had to deal with so far relatively successfully. And there's a level of humility that I think it has to maintain in order to recognize new problems, to recognize where there might the structural forms of bias or discrimination going on. And to be able to endure the more targeted intentional attempts to basically poison the well of truth that Wikipedia at least aspires to be. What would I propose as a longer-term way of shoring it up? I think we should solve a problem with a problem. We haven't really figured out in the early 21st century what to do with kids who are in school for hours at a time every day sort of warehoused in daycare; I think it would be wonderful to make as part of the curriculum from, say, sixth grade onward part of your task and what you'll be graded on is to edit and make the case for your edits to an article on a service like Wikipedia and then we'll have new ranks of people being supervised by teachers who are working on the articles and on the product and that maybe even will apprentice to the norms by which you have an argument over what is true and what isn't. And maybe some of them will choose to continue on as Wikipedians even after the assignment is over. So to me if I think of an advanced civics class, it's great to learn that there are three branches of government and X vote overrides a veto, but having the civics of a collective hallucination like Wikipedia also be part of the curriculum I think would be valuable." ]
wikipedia  2015  jonathanzittrain  theory  practice  governance  praxis  neutrality  fairness  humility  bias  discrimination  education  daycare  curriculum  classideas 
april 2015 by robertogreco
My First Post on Family and Tribe | Best of Rob's Old Radio Posts
"Friday, March 28, 2003
I have been working on a research proposal to study the family and had this aha at least an aha for me today. Does the family exist anymore? So here are my musings

——————————————————————————————————————-

If we really look at the data for North America (WASPS) the family as we think of it is already dead! What I mean by the “family” is a two parent unit with at least one grandparent so that there are three generations involved all providing value to each other as a social unit in a rough world. We think that this is the family and I suspect that we think that we should hold this up as a model. Little knowing of course that for more than 4 million years we raised our children and did our work in a small 30-5 person unit that combined work and society called a tribe. Little knowing that all primates except us still use this arrangement. My aha was maybe that .our search for June Cleaver is getting in the way of the fact that June is dead and was never a good model anyway I wonder if looking for June obscures a possible return to the tribe and the deinstitutionalization at last of our western society?

What are the remnants of June today? What is the reality today? Most WASP families ( Most immigrant families still adhere to the larger extended model – by the way look at how much better their kids are doing at school) have only one parent – female (why are boys in trouble?) Very few have a grandparent in the mix and most grandparents are often not even in the same city. Elderly parents are also increasingly institutionalized. I fear that our society is becoming a society of one who interacts only with institutions and not with real people.

Children our greatest asset have become for most of us a huge economic drain. In their younger years they go to expensive daycare, they demand fashion and toys and have a closer connection to TV than to any other influence. As teens they need even more economic support: on PEI every teen has to have a car. If they go onto university the drain is even greater. Then after a few years on their own they often return home – sometime as single parents – and seek to be looked after all over again!!!! When do our children grow into adults? No wonder our wasp birthrate is below replacement. That itself is a sign of a powerful set of forces.

Tell that I am exaggerating. What do the stats tell us?

So long as we assume that the June Cleaver Family is alive, we think that we can and should go back to it. We feel guilt but we know that we cannot go back. So long as I feel that I should be somehow living my grandparent’s life, I am stuck. Here is the aspiration aspect - We want to strive for a better social unit. We can see a new model in business – the Wal-Mart response model. Can we see the new family emerging????? It must be but so long as we think that the old family is it, we won’t be able to see the new one.

Be assured that a new unit is emerging and will emerge. If we can describe it, it will become real for many people very quickly – they will aspirationally jump to a model that works. The prize is a big one for us as people, for business and for our nation.

This may then end the idea that we are only a disconnected individual whose only relationships are at work, whose children are in daycare and whose parents are in a home and whose protector is the state. For I sense that it is our growing dependence on institutions that has played a major role in why the 1950’s family has collapsed – it may also be worth studying these trends as well. It is surely important to know why we have come to this.

Putnam blames work and TV. He sees TV as a relationship blocker and as a community influence that drives a world of things over relationships and a world of passivity over exploration. I include for blame our school system where we teach the institutional Cartesian model as the main curriculum and where we deny all that we know about primate learning process. Kids who don’t fit are drugged. (30%?) I blame Daycare where we rely on a few strangers to park our small children at the most important learning period of their lives. Most of all we need to ask ourselves about the pull of the workplace out of the home where work has replaced most other relationships and has broken the bond of parent child and in many cases between spouses. Why have we put away all other relationships for those at work?

I bet that we are going to find that the tribe (a combined social and economic unit) is emerging again. You see this is the idea of Free Agent Nation where up to 50 million North Americans have left the traditional workplace and work for themselves mainly at home and who have set up networks of support for both work and social issues such as their kids and parents. I feel this among many of blogging out there who have built working relationships out of personal relationships. I have been touched at the help that I have received from many of you and I feel good that I can reach out in a way that is not possible in the traditional work place. I sense that blogging will itself create little tribes of co workers who also really care for each other. The more we work at home, the more we interact in a tribal way with our kids. I work with my son – it is my greatest joy. mainly he teaches me.

Daniel Pink I think provides us with a model for finding the new family. Pink himself went around America and discovered this group, saw its common elements and gave it a label. All of us who live like this suddenly understood what we were doing and how to do this better. We have a model and with a model we have power.

His book is having a profound impact as it enables individuals who thought that they were alone to see that theory make up a pattern. I suspect that the new family is located in this group who have healed the breach between work and life and who aspire to a living and not a paycheck. These people reject all institutions as do most of our kids. I wonder if we looked with fresh eyes that we might see that for many of us – a new family based on the tribe is emerging and that it is something that if we talk about more, will become more clear and more helpful"
robertpaterson  2003  families  economics  junecleaver  aging  elderly  children  institutions  society  relationships  interdependence  individualism  daycare  care  emotionallabor  tribes  danielpink 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Rise of Extreme Daycare - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society
"The main room at Dee’s Tots looks like a supersized slumber party, but the truth is this is an ordinary day. Dee’s is only one of a number of 24-hour child care centers around the country. Just on this single block in New Rochelle, New York, there’s another facility, Little Blessings, that offers overnights as well. Little Blessings and Dee’s are in a nearly comic decoration-off, competing for kids with colored lights, giant Doras, and Spider-Men. Some round-the-clock centers play more toward parents, with aspirational names like Success Kidz 24 Hour Enrichment Center.

The growth of this industry makes sense: We now have an expanded workweek, often composed of unpredictable hours. Nearly 40 percent of Americans have non-standard work lives. (The average American adult also now works one and a quarter jobs.) Working people who live below the poverty line are particularly afraid to say no to these unusual schedules. They may have no one to say no to, anyway—those schedules might have been created by computers, rather than human managers, in the hopes of saving a corporation money. Many companies now use data and algorithms to schedule employees so fewer hours will be spent sitting around. The software doesn’t care if a shift falls in the middle of the night, or that it might tear a big hole in an employee’s family life.

WELL-PAID PROFESSIONALS WHO work evenings may be able to afford one or two nannies, or they may have partners who stay at home. But parents like the ones who rely on Dee’s can’t afford such luxuries. Diana and Ivette’s mother, Marisol, for instance, is raising the girls on her own, working at a supermarket from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. and at Home Depot from 6 to 10 p.m., six days a week. The girls are at the Hogans’ for both of her shifts, and she’s with them between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. each day. “I worked one job 29 hours a week, so I got a second job, as I can’t afford to take care of my kids—I need more money to be surviving,” says Marisol, a slim young woman with glasses and pulled-back hair who came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was four. Marisol works 29 hours at each of her jobs. This is common. If an employee works more hours, her employer is required to provide health insurance. “With car payments coming up, I applied for Home Depot,” she says. “The Hogans are very open about my schedule and were willing to work with me.”



"So what is a parent who needs to drop off her kid at 3:30 a.m. supposed to do? “It was all about 9-to-5 daycare 10 years ago,” says Deloris. “But now that the stores are open till 12 at night or even 24 hours a day, we are needed. We have to do this.” Soon somebody, if not Deloris, will open a business to accommodate the 3:30 a.m. drop-offs.

Ours is a forever clock.

TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR DAYCARE can seem shocking to people who have no need for it. When I mentioned extreme daycare to some middle-class parents—some of them parents much like me—a number recoiled at the thought. These same parents have their own children full time at tonier daycare centers or with a nanny. They also often work far into the night themselves, laptops aglow, making their dimly lit homes look like aquariums. Yet many found it strange to have a child at a facility overnight. A number were surprised that such places even exist.

Of course, bathing or wrapping a blanket around a child is intimate and can seem like the most important moment in the day. Yet many Americans now can’t necessarily choose when to work and when to parent."
daycare  children  us  work  labor  parenting  2014  childhood 
november 2014 by robertogreco
A Thing Worth Doing [Gilbert Chersterson]
"Chesterton consistly defended the amateur against the professional, or the “generalist” against the specialist, especially when it came to “the things worth doing.” There are things like playing the organ or discovering the North Pole, or being Astronomer Royal, which we do not want a person to do at all unless he does them well. But those are not the most important things in life. When it comes to writing one’s own love letters and blowing one’s own nose, “these things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly.” This, argues Chesterton (in Orthodoxy) is “the democratic faith: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves – the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state.”

As for “the rearing of the young,” which is the education of the very young, this is a job not for the specialist or the professional, but for the “generalist” and the amateur. In other words, for the mother, who Chesterton argues is “broad” where men are “narrow.” In What’s Wrong with the World, Chesterton forsaw the dilemma of daycare and the working mother, that children would end up being raised by “professionals” rather than by “amateurs.” And here we must understand “amateur” in its truest and most literal meaning. An amateur is someone who does something out of love, not for money. She does what she does not because she is going to be paid for her services and not because she is the most highly skilled, but because she wants to do it. And she does “the things worth doing,” which are the things closest and most sacred to all of humanity – nurturing a baby, teaching a child the first things, and, in fact, all things.

The line, “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” is not an excuse for poor efforts. It is perhaps an excuse for poor results. But our society is plagued by wanting good results with no efforts (or rather, with someone else’s efforts). We hire someone else to work for us, to play for us (that is, to entertain us), to think for us, and to raise our children for us. We have left “the things worth doing” to others, on the poor excuse that others might be able to do them better.

Finally, and less heavily, we should also point out that the phrase is a defense of hobbies. This was confirmed by Chesterton himself."
gilbertchesterson  via:sebastienmarion  teaching  expertise  generalists  specialists  life  living  children  parenting  hobbies  amateurs  professionals  cv  daycare  love  money 
july 2013 by robertogreco
The Garden School» A Montessori Toddler Community in Portland, Oregon
"The Garden School opened in September 2008 in Northeast Portland, Oregon. Nestled inside a home, the school provides a warm, welcoming setting for children. Our intention is to create a natural and peaceful environment that allows the toddler to follow his inherent wisdom with gentle guidance. ... Beautiful outdoor areas - including a space for gardening and plenty of room for exploration - encourage children to interact with nature. In addition, the children participate in the preparation of an organic, communal meal each day."
schools  gardens  urbangardening  urbanfarming  montessori  portland  oregon  preschool  daycare  tcsnmy  csl 
september 2009 by robertogreco
Study: Kids of Privileged Working Moms Fare Worse | Newsweek Family | Newsweek.com [do read the entire article which also discusses the holes in the study]
"study showing kids from high-socioeconomic-status families take a long-term hit when their moms work outside the home—at ages 10 & 11, they perform more poorly on cognitive tests and are also more likely to be overweight than those whose high-status mothers leave the workforce. Children from low-status families, on the other hand, don't seem to suffer as much when their moms work. In fact, many of them do better on the same tests, and they're more fit, than similarly disadvantaged kids with stay-at-home moms ... Most likely, says Ruhm, the low-status kids get more intellectual stimulation in day care or with other caretakers, such as grandparents, than they do at home. Meanwhile, the high-status kids may find day care less enriching than being with their highly educated mothers. When these moms go back to work, “you’re pulling the [high-status] kids out of these really good home environments,” says Ruhm, “and a lot of the alternatives just aren’t as good.”
children  parenting  class  daycare  work  childcare 
september 2008 by robertogreco
Day-care centers breed misbehavior at Joanne Jacobs
"The more time a child spends in a day-care center the more likely the child will misbehave in class, according to a long-term study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development."
children  schools  daycare  preschool  behavior  research  studies  parenting  vocabulary  education 
march 2007 by robertogreco
The Price of Day Care Can Be High - New York Times
"Young children in Quebec are more anxious and aggressive than they were a decade ago, even though children elsewhere in Canada did not show big changes. Quebec children also learn to use a toilet, climb stairs and count to three at later ages, on average
children  parenting  daycare  politics  economics  education  learning  homeschool 
june 2006 by robertogreco

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