The Daily Bulletin followed up on the Claremont Indian-Pilgrim Wars with a story about the backlash Michelle Rajeha faced after she and 15-20 other parents sent an email to a Condit teacher expressing their concerns about the annual Thanksgiving feast this past Tuesday. Traditionally Condit and Mountain View kindergartners had in the past dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians.
In case you've been out of the media stream this past week (lucky you!), the whole event devolved from Thanksgiving feast to media feast, and Rajeha claims she had to contact the police because of a some of the more hateful phone calls and emails she has received.
Yesterday's Bulletin article said:
At the Tuesday feast, Raheja said her 5-year-old daughter was harassed. A parent dressed up as an American Indian, Raheja said, "did a war dance around my daughter." The parent then told her daughter and others to "go to hell," she said.
Raheja, a UC Riverside instructor, said she has contacted the Claremont Police Department and the UC Riverside police because of the hateful phone calls and e-mails.
On Wednesday, she said she had received more than 250 "hateful and intimidating" e-mails.
"They go from being anxious about political correctness to calling me (an epithet). They don't know my daughter's name, but they've said hateful and disgusting things about my daughter."
There have been as many positive e-mails from people in Claremont and worldwide, too, Raheja said.
The Bulletin also had an editorial yesterday that concluded that maybe the adults have forgotten something or someone in this whole exercise:
The main point here is that debate at a school board meeting is entirely appropriate, but a protest ought not involve kindergartners. Innocence is lost soon enough; 5-year-olds should not be used to promote an agenda.
We don't hold ourselves out to be experts on any of this parenting or educational stuff, but it sure seems as if whenever we hear the magic words, "It's about the kids," it's really about the parents.
Joan Acocella in the November 17th issue of the New Yorker magazine had a book review titled "The Child Trap" that examined several recent works touching on the increase in overparenting by so-called "helicopter parents." Acocella noted the paradox of overprotective parents who are also overly demanding of their children:
This used to be known as “spoiling.” Now it is called “overparenting”—or “helicopter parenting” or “hothouse parenting” or “death-grip parenting.” The term has changed because the pattern has changed. It still includes spoiling—no rules, many toys—but two other, complicating factors have been added. One is anxiety. Will the child be permanently affected by the fate of the hamster? Did he touch the corpse, and get a germ? The other new element—at odds, it seems, with such solicitude—is achievement pressure. The heck with the child’s feelings. He has a nursery-school interview tomorrow. Will he be accepted? If not, how will he ever get into a good college? Overparenting is the subject of a number of recent books, and they all deplore it in the strongest possible terms.
....Overparented children typically face not just a heavy academic schedule but also a strenuous program of extracurricular activities—tennis lessons, Mandarin classes, ballet. After-school activities are thought to impress college admissions officers. At the same time, they keep kids off the street. (In the words of one book, “You can’t smoke pot or lose your virginity at lacrosse practice.”) When summer comes, the child is often sent to a special-skills camp. Extracurricular activities and camps are areas where competition between parents, thought to be a major culprit in this whole business, is likely to surface. How do you explain to the other mother that while her child spent the summer examining mollusks at marine-biology camp, yours was at a regular old camp, stringing beads and eating s’mores?
In her review, Acocella also mentioned the work of Hara Estroff Marano, the author of “A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting":
Marano assembles her own arsenal of neurological research, guaranteed to scare the pants off any hovering parent. As children explore their environment by themselves—making decisions, taking chances, coping with any attendant anxiety or frustration—their neurological equipment becomes increasingly sophisticated, Marano says. “Dendrites sprout. Synapses form.” If, on the other hand, children are protected from such trial-and-error learning, their nervous systems “literally shrink.”
Such atrophy, Marano claims, may be undetectable in the early years, when overattentive parents are doing for the child what he should be doing on his own, but once he goes off to college the damage becomes obvious. Marano sees an epidemic of psychological breakdown on college campuses: “The middle of the night may find a SWAT team of counselors calming down a dorm wing after having crisis-managed an acute manic episode or yet another incident of self-mutilation.” Overparented students who avoid or survive college meltdowns are still impaired, Marano argues. Having been taught that the world is full of dangers, they are risk-averse and pessimistic. (“It may be that robbing children of a positive sense of the future is the worst form of violence that parents can do to them,” she writes.) Schooled in obedience to authority, they will be poor custodians of democracy. Finally—and, again, she stresses this—their robotic behavior will threaten “American leadership in the global marketplace.” That was the factor that frightened parents into hovering. And by their hovering they prevented their children from developing the very traits—courage, nimbleness, outside-the-box thinking—that are required by the new economic order.
All this overparenting and the atrophied psyches Acocella speaks of certainly sounds a lot like the apotheosis of the Claremont Unified School District's philosophy of education and child development. This may explain the lack of intellectual flexibility we've seen expressed over the years both with CUSD boards and the Claremont city government.
Perhaps that "robotic behavior" that Marano fears is really what CUSD and our other local leaders want. Let's hope they don't get what they wish for.