Tilted Windmills: Food for thought on childrearing
by Mike McLellan / For the Tracy Press
May 23, 2013 | 2412 views | 11 11 comments | 83 83 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Raising children is a good deal like raising potatoes. In both cases, the product is unseen until the harvest.

Our society takes the education of its children as much for granted as it takes raising some common food crops. It is only when something goes wrong that we think about the process.

In the case of children, we may wait until incarceration to think about the Head Start programs or low-cost preschools.

In raising potatoes, when the crop fails, it is too late to think about pest and weed control. If the soil is not good for growing, you take care of it first or regret it later.

As children gradually mature to adulthood, their growth is a continual process that takes an investment of time, energy and resources. Just as in farming, you cannot plant a seed and forget it.

One ancient habit was to eat the big potatoes and save the little ones for seed. Thus, year after year, the crop got smaller and smaller. Just as with children, you need to invest the best to reap the biggest harvest.

Potatoes are said to have originated in Peru and traveled to Europe with explorers. The Irish, who have long been connected with this nightshade plant, took them for granted until blight came along, and reliance on the crop caused a great famine beginning in 1845.

We cannot take our children for granted, either.

Free public education has been a hallmark in America and has made us one of the strongest nations in the world. Yet, we now rank down the list in the world on our ongoing investment in children’s education.

Our governor said that education would be his No. 1 priority. We now spend more in California for prisons than on our schools. This is like buying a huge harvester-sorter without investing in a good planter.

California consistently falls at the bottom of per-pupil spending and highest in prisons.

While the part of the potato plant we value matures hidden underground, the plant itself flowers and bears fruit. This fruit contains large amounts of the toxic alkaloid solanine. You do not eat what shows.

When it comes to our children, it is not what they wear or what kind of car they arrive at school in, but how much they are growing. It is not the rhetoric about how important they are. It is what we are willing to do to raise them.

Raising good children is not small potatoes.

Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4201 or emailing him at drmikem@sbcglobal.net.

Comments
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Sputty
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June 05, 2013
dd... Time was if an adult parent saw the kid(s) of another adult parent doing something wrong they would scold the kid. Worst case, you would tell the parent about their kid's offense and they would deal with it promptly. Now, however, if you criticize little Johnny or Susie to their parents you are most likely to get a blast of sh**. It's great to be protective of your kids but at the same time you need to accept that not all kids are angels. Quite the contrary. To answer your question of "if the parents don't do it, should we step in?". Forty years ago the answer would have been yes. Now you would probably be sued! Until the pendulum starts swinging the other way with regard to child rearing and parental control, I fear nothing will change. Children DO NOT grow up well without tending and therein lies a big part of the problem, the parents (who are directly constrained by society's rules). Lot of truth to the old saying "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Society itself may be full of weeds but parents are supposed to be the gardeners. It starts at home.
dd95376
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June 05, 2013
Yes, times have changed. My question really was if the parents do not help their kids -say by learning math - do we make sure the schools take the lead? Are we willing to pay for it? Should we step up our education system because parents are not taking time with their kids, or do we pay for it later by having more welfare or more uneducated citizens? We agree about the tending, but if it is not being done, do we just let it go undone? Or, is that compounding the problem?
dd95376
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June 04, 2013
Sputty: You seem to get the point. Let's think about it. The coffee group that discusses these things thinks the society itself is the soil full of weeds. Many think that kids do not grow up well without tending. If the parents do not do it, should we step in? Some say that we must. Should we or ought we just let them go because they belong to someone else?
Sputty
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June 04, 2013
Your analogy is interesting and to continue with it, you don't let the weeds take over the potatoe patch. There are several problems with raising kids today, not the least of which is the liberal nanny state, Ca. being one. Years ago when I raised my two kids, the threat of "flunking" was always over their heads (as it was with me and everyone I grew up with). Now, the attitude is "don't flunk Johnny,he'll get a complex. Or his friends will laugh at him. Or...etc... Yes, and maybe they should! Obviously the parental threat of taking away privileges or "time outs" has proven totally ineffective over the last 40 years since that quack Dr. Spock expounded his drivel. So, what happens? Your quality, superb potatoes suddenly are surrounded by lower quality veggies and weeds. And because the gardener is prohibited by nanny state regulations, the weeds become self propagating. Part, and ONLY part, of the solution is to fall back to tried and true methods of raising kids. A quick swat across the ass never hurt any kid but it set the limit of proper behavior and got their attention! I don't advocate child abuse but I think the pendulum has swung way to far the other way.
Sputty
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June 04, 2013
Unless you have the resources to higher a gardener to watch over your potatoes (like the wealthier parts of the state like Marin) the weeds are eventually going to take over. Witness our current crop of students (in general, not all). We now graduate kids that can't spell or write correctly. Math? Forget it unless they can use a computer or calculator (most don't have a clue on how to do long division!) Need an example? Next time at the store,see if the clerk can make change without looking at the register. I wouldn't give my kids up for anything. But don't know if I'd try to raise them in this day and age. Too many weeds.

Sputty
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June 04, 2013
And yes, I know I used the wrong form of "hire". Just wanted to see how many of you actually caught it! LOL

victor_jm
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May 27, 2013
Stop the propagation.

Head Start isn't the answer.

This article fails to present "food for thought."

It is rhetoric.

appleaday
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May 27, 2013
I have to agree.

The analogy is entertaining, but not very constructive.
Malia
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May 26, 2013
The California education funding system has been complicated by legislation mistakes over and over again... for years. They were efforts to make every school district more equally funded by imposing more of the state tax burden, not just the community tax systems. The wealthier communities, such as Marin County, with their higher parcel/property taxes funded their schools nicely... while the less economically secure areas saw their schools crumble.

As a result, those who have had to pay the higher share of costs for all state schools have opted instead to build private schools. When we moved to Tracy in 1989 we signed on to Mello-Roos. The existing community felt that newcomers should pay for the growth needed. We paid a bundle to help in building the newer schools. Never mind that the older residents also benefited from our deep pockets, thats just the way it was. You can't blame our educators for the failures of our school system. You only need to look at the mess that the state made over and over again in trying to be creative in funding.
dd95376
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May 24, 2013
This needs to be forwarded to every person in public office. Thumbs up.
MrSycamore
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May 23, 2013
Nice Article!!!


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