This is just an utterly heartbreaking book. I think anyone who believes that economic status, race, and/or social location don't play a significant roThis is just an utterly heartbreaking book. I think anyone who believes that economic status, race, and/or social location don't play a significant role in long-term success needs to read this book. There are situations and choices out there that some of us literally cannot comprehend without a book like this to shine a light in the dark places of our culture. We've never been there, we've never seen it, we've never even dreamed it. Too often, our culture chosen conscious ignorance over action. This book shows what happens when we selfishly prioritize our own wealth, our own families, our own needs over the wealth and families and needs of society as a whole. This shows us the true inhumanity of the myth of meritocracy....more
Holy run-on-sentence, this book was impossible to read. There were some really great ideas in there, but they are not conveyed clearly or concisely.
OnHoly run-on-sentence, this book was impossible to read. There were some really great ideas in there, but they are not conveyed clearly or concisely.
One of my professors said the problem with academic literature is that they sort of out-compete one another to write the most dense, obscure treatises on their topics. Such books are less about educating and more about trumpeting their own academic credentials to a very select in-group.
This same professor also pointed out that it is very easy indeed to couch simple ideas in very complex language to make yourself sound more intelligent, but it's a lot more difficult to couch complex ideas in concise, readable language to convey the ideas to a broad range of readers. The true measure of intelligence, in her estimation, was the second ability. Unfortunately, higher education teaches the first ability, and perpetuates it in publishing.
This book is a prime example of a dense academic text. I would not recommend it to the casual reader, and I would certainly not recommend it to a professor looking for classroom readings. ...more
Maybe it was when I read it (near the end of the quarter, slipping from exhaustion and strain), or maybe it was the writing style. I don't know. I fouMaybe it was when I read it (near the end of the quarter, slipping from exhaustion and strain), or maybe it was the writing style. I don't know. I found the text interesting and informative, but I also found myself having a difficult time reading it. I had to keep going back and re-reading the same paragraph, outlining and highlighting areas to parse it. Often it seemed to be written in gibberish. I want to say people should definitely read it, but I think maybe only pick it up when you have lots of leisure time and mental energy. This is a dense read, and each sentence is packed with information....more
It was all at one disappointing, reassuring, and depressing. Basically, presidents all look alike because the position is basically a figurehead one.It was all at one disappointing, reassuring, and depressing. Basically, presidents all look alike because the position is basically a figurehead one. Also, congress is pretty useless....more
I was interested in law school, but conflicted. My father is a lawyer, and while I was in undergrad, several of my professors recommended that I pursuI was interested in law school, but conflicted. My father is a lawyer, and while I was in undergrad, several of my professors recommended that I pursue a law career. I have discovered in myself an enthusiastic interest in Constitutional law, labor law, and civil rights law.
Through my professors, I arranged several informational interviews with both lawyers and paralegals. I was able to speak to people who worked both in private and public law. Eventually I decided to become a lawyer and aim to enter the field through government work, so as to get my student loans dismissed. Sure, I was a little concerned about the much-published and discussed cost of law school, and I was really concerned about my lack of enthusiasm -- rather than, "This is my dream career," my approach was more like, "Well, it's not the worst career, and it certainly seems challenging."
But then I realized that several of my FB friends were wrapping up their law school careers, or had recently done so. So I contacted them to see what law school (and the job market) is like right now. Several of my friends had graduated at the top of their classes, been published in law journals, and had participated in internships and clerkships. These were all things my professors and the lawyers who met with me for informational interviews cited as key to their long-term career success.
If my friends are any example, these are no longer guarantees of career success. Some chose, after looking fruitlessly for work in a glutted field, to return to school for yet another degree (and to put off their debt a little longer). Some ended up taking a job unrelated to their degree. And some are still unemployed, still looking.
This book explained why. It explained the hierarchy of law schools and the pros and cons. It broke down the cost and the so-called financial aid structures. It clearly outlined the current state of the legal field (in a word, saturated). It explained why lawyers are becoming less necessary (the internet). And it pointed out some things I hadn't considered -- for instance, becoming a paralegal is a perfectly good career that pays pretty well, but if you have a JD, no lawyer will hire you as a paralegal. It also pointed out that since a law degree still has a high cultural cache attached to it, regardless of the employment reality, then you end up looking overqualified for a lot of positions and the potential employers are left trying to figure out what's so wrong with you that you can't find work as a lawyer.
All in all, this book addressed the doubts and concerns I had about the current state of the field in a way that lawyers who got their degrees in the 80s, 90s, and early 00s couldn't or wouldn't address. It was a breath of fresh air in the face of the manic denial I seemed to encounter when I spoke with lawyers established in the field, frantic to justify the cost....more
This is a really great book that touches on a range of topics impacting the American Family through the 20th century. It specifically looks at such thThis is a really great book that touches on a range of topics impacting the American Family through the 20th century. It specifically looks at such things as policy decisions, social norms, race, class, and gender dynamics. Each essay is an introduction/ overview of a topic the author in question has significant background and scholarship in. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history, present, and future of families in the United States....more
Oh, I so wanted to like this. I think I could like it, if I could just stay awake while reading it. It was so dry and dull. It's not often I literallyOh, I so wanted to like this. I think I could like it, if I could just stay awake while reading it. It was so dry and dull. It's not often I literally fall asleep while reading a book, but this book is now my go-to sleep aid. I seriously read like half-a-page even on my most insomniac nights, and I am out like a light. The topic is one that's riveting to me, too, but the authors voice is so dry and boring ... it was like reading a text version of that teacher's voice from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I was really disappointed....more
Okay, so, I admit it. Despite trying very hard to be open-minded and compassionate toward everyone; despite always trying to give others the benefit oOkay, so, I admit it. Despite trying very hard to be open-minded and compassionate toward everyone; despite always trying to give others the benefit of the doubt, I have sometimes harbored some very judgey thoughts about poor women who keep having kids.
Like, one or two kids, I can kind of understand, because youth and inexperience and thinking they're in love and whatnot. It's like, okay, not the best thing to happen to you, but it happens. Whatever. I don't know why you chose to keep it, but you did, okay. So life goes on.
But then you see those women who just keep getting pregnant even though they can barely afford to raise the kid and they don't have a steady income or home or partner to help them, and you're just thinking, "Why? Why? Why? Are you stupid? What is going on here? Didn't you figure out this was a bad idea the first time around?"
And I felt so, so bad for having those judgey thoughts, because I just knew there was something I was missing, some key part of this dynamic I wasn't seeing. I mean, I knew the "welfare mom" thing was a myth, because I'd gotten pregnant pretty youngish myself -- true, I was married and my husband was employed, and we were as young as we were because we were LDS -- but still. I had been 21 and pregnant; I'd had to rely on state-funded healthcare and WIC for my pregnancy care, childbirth, and to supplement our grocery budget. By the time our son was two, my husband had advanced enough at work that we no longer needed to rely on state aid, and we went off it. However, that brief interaction with state aid had pretty clearly highlighted to us that it is not a well-funded program. That's like, starvation-level funds. The "cash benefit" is pretty b.s., too. These programs can't even really support an unemployed family, honestly -- they fall short in every respect, from groceries to rental assistance to cash benefits. All they can really do is supplement a minimum wage income, and they barely do that.
In other words, anyone having kids to "milk the system" is clearly Doing It Wrong, because kids are way, way, waaaaaaaay more expensive then these benefits will ever pay out. And kids are for like, 18 years minimum -- most of these benefits, since the reforms in the late 90s, have strict time limits. So, yeah. The welfare mom thing is a total myth.
So ... what about collecting child care payments? The book addresses this one. Apparently a lot of single moms don't collect child care benefits for any one or a combination of the following reasons:
1. They don't want the dad to find them/ have visitation with the kids. 2. The father is in prison and can't pay benefits. 3. The father only does under the table work and does not report his income, so no benefits can be collected. 4. The mother did not name the father on the birth certificate so as to prevent him from easily making a legal claim to parental rights.
Even when the moms do collect child care payments, generally the dads in this income bracket are underemployed or unemployed, so the payments are minimal for the mom.
Anyway, so the conclusion (skipping over a ton of research and really insightful writing) is basically that poor women have children before they marry because they have the same values and expectations of marriage and relationships that middle-and-upper income women do: Namely, they want a partner who supports them emotionally, contributes to the household financially, and is responsible. Because of the high rates of underemployment, unemployment, and incarceration, a lot of low-income men in their late teens and through their twenties are unable to provide this sort of equal partnership. So the low income women, who are holding down jobs and rental payments and paying the bills, often feel unable to commit to a guy.
But these women aren't swearing off relationships, and they fall in love. They meet a guy and they think maybe he's different, and they support him and have fun with him and live together. And they use birth control, but they're maybe sporadic or careless about it -- the guys almost always express a desire to "put a baby" in her, and various other language intended to signal long-term commitment. So they end up getting "accidentally" pregnant and decide it was meant to be, and they have the kid.
Overwhelmingly, the research shows that when this pair becomes parents, the woman kicks into responsibility/ adult/ provider mode. She wants to make sure there's food on the table, clothes on her kids' back, and the rent and bills are paid. The dad, meanwhile, wants all that -- but he has trouble finding a job, or deals drugs for money and gets arrested, or falls back in with a crowd of friends who party and go out instead of doing parent-stuff at home. And eventually, the mom feels like she's raising two kids instead of one, and she kicks the guy to the curb.
Because in the end, she can afford to take care of herself and the baby, but not herself and the baby and the dad.
Also, apparently low-income and middle/upper income families (as covered in Lareau's text, Unequal Childhoods) have different standards in childrearing. Apparently low income families are less likely to verbally engage with their kids, more likely to have the t.v. on at all hours, less likely to engage/ indulge in playtime with their kids, and less likely to actively be involved in their child's education and after school activities. For low-income parents, the fact that they "were there" is enough to qualify them for being "good" parents, regardless of the long-term success or failure of the child.
Middle/upper income parents, on the other hand, tend to engage in verbal wordplay with their kids, explicitly teach them how to interact in white-class arenas, encourage them to question authority figures, and to actively engage in the child's education, sports, and clubs. Colloquially its known as "helicopter parenting," in its more extreme forms, but Lareau calls it "concerted cultivation".
Anyway, the upshot of the two parenting styles is that for low-income families, raising a child is somewhat less expensive/ extensive both financially and time-wise than for middle/ upper income families.
Really fascinating read. It shed a lot of light and answers on questions I didn't realize I had....more
I had to read this for college. My teacher was a huge fan of it. I was less enthused and pretty appalled by the blatant classism. Instead of an all-ouI had to read this for college. My teacher was a huge fan of it. I was less enthused and pretty appalled by the blatant classism. Instead of an all-out review, I'm just posting the reading response I did for class -- I took the easy way out and responded to some of the study questions at the end of the book.
1. TOMs is unusual in that it's a for-profit model that actively incorporates giving into its business model. Can you think of other examples of giving-based businesses? How are these companies similar to and different from TOMs? (Chapter 1: The TOMs Story)
The first thing that comes to mind, for me, is the curiously corporate nature of most non-profits. Perhaps uncharitably, I tend to view many nonprofit organizations askance, with more than a hint of distrust for their altruistic claims. However fair or unfair my stance, it doesn't actually answer the question. I'm actually not really aware of many corporate-styled businesses which also engage in giving. I think I've heard of one that gives a blanket for every blanket sold, and one that gives a toothbrush for every toothbrush sold. I am much more familiar with organizations like Heifer International or Worldbuilders, which are both non-profit organizations that encourage consumers to engage in ethical consumerism through their "gift store."
In my personal attempts to practice ethical consumerism, I tend to look into workers rights and the presence of a union, employee co-op, worker's alliance, or other evidence that the concerns and needs of the employees are being met. Our own history in America shows us that many humanitarian, environmental, and animal abuse violations which have occurred have historically gone hand-in-hand with lack of union presence and poorly regulated workplaces. I figure if an employer doesn't care enough about their own employees to guarantee a living wage and safe working conditions, then any corporate responsibility they pretend to just hollow marketing patter.
Myscoskie's praise of and admiration for Sam Walton of Walmart, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Steve Jobs of Apple actually undermined his message of corporate responsibility and ethical consumerism for me. The fact that Mycoskie not only admires and emulates these men, but apparently views them as examples of corporate responsibility just makes this entire book seem like a self-congratulatory marketing spin. These are men who founded and built their fortunes on companies that have outsourced American production to rely on unregulated third-world labor; have resisted unionization; and have consistently mistreated and underpaid their workers. In the case of Walmart, the argument can be made that Walton's children ruined his legacy, and he himself was a good man -- but Bezos and Jobs have no such defense. They were acting CEOs who implemented the outsourcing efforts, anti-union actions, and refused to pay a living wage.
2. What are some strategies for dealing with fear while you are experiencing it? In what way is fear a good thing? (Chapter 3: Face Your Fears)
When I first started riding motorcycle in 2008, traffic scared the crap out of me. The Washington driver is a curious mix of permissive and aggressive -- people will wave you to go when it's not your right of way, or they'll slow down and illegally impede traffic in the far-left passing lane because they think you might be going too fast. I don't know what mix of population, terrain, and street design have created this mess, but it's a terrifying mix. The only thing more terrifying is rush hour traffic in Honolulu, Hawai'i. As it happens, I visited Honolulu in 2007, and while I was there, we rented a moped. Hawai'i, unlike Washington, does not have a helmet law. Because we were tourists enjoying a vacation in Hawai'i, we did not have safety gear. For an entire terrifying and exhilirating afternoon, I whipped around the unfamiliar streets of Honolulu, Hawai'i in rush hour traffic. No helmet, no armored leathers, no gloves, no boots -- I was protected by nothing but my own insane self-assurance.
Later, whenever I was scared while learning to ride, I would call up those memories whenever I started feeling overwhelmed by the unpredictable and apparent murderous nature of the car drivers who share the road with me. We pay the same taxes and licensing fees for fuel and road maintenance, but somehow I'm the insane outlaw who "deserves it" for choosing to ride a "murdercycle" if some inattentive cager violates my right of way. So when fear threatened to freeze my fingers into immobility and slow my motorcycle to a useless crawl, I would remind myself that I had survived the insane rush hour traffic of Honolulu, Hawai'i on a moped and without any safety gear whatsoever. Then I would exhale and consciously let my fears go so I could focus instead on the meditative perfection that is riding my motorcycle on a sunny day.
Fear is good, because it keeps me cautious. I used to take conpiscuity for granted. I assumed car drivers saw me because I saw them. After a few close calls and one hit-and-run, I have learned to fear the car driver. When riding, I often ask myself, "What is the dumbest possible thing this cager could do to kill me?" -- and then I plan how I would evade their potential act of idiotic murderous carelessness. I use my fear to keep me an active and engaged rider who is aware of the road, traffic, and my own skill level on any given day.
I felt this chapter was weak and poorly written. Most of the examples seemed sad instead of scary, and their privilege prevented them from seeing the actual worst case scenarios of, say, losing all your money. It's one thing to lose "all" your money when you have rich parents and friends who have the kind of contacts that get you fashion editorials in the Los Angeles Times and Vogue (clearly he was not friends with the building janitor or the mail room guy). Losing "all" your money in that case just means being grateful for the learning experience, scraping up some more capital, and moving on to the next big idea. That's actually a pretty rare situation, and you're probably in a pretty privileged situation when you can look at the idea of failure as "just" losing some money.
3. How can having limited resources actually work to your advantage? What products or services are must-haves when starting a business? (Chapter 4: Resourceful Without Resources)
Well, first off I object to Mycoskie's assertion that he had limited resources. I mean, for his social stature and class privilege, I guess he did -- but from another perspective, he had an abundance of resources both tangible and non-tangible. He had an apartment that was large enough to start a business in, and his roommates were both legally and gainfully employed during the day, which left him ample hours of privacy. In the book, Mycoskie tells the reader that a garage, spare room, or basement can serve the same purpose -- but what about the hopeful entrepreneur who is living in a homeless shelter, or who is sharing a small and overcrowded living space with friends and family who are unemployed, or only working part time, or whose minimum wage is barely enough to help make rent?
He advises the reader to have an "office supply party," which at first blush sounds frugal and reasonable ... but this, too, presumes a certain class status. Depending on who your friends and family are, your party to collect office supply donations could end with a collection of computers, printers, tablets, file cabinets, and computer desks -- or it could end with a handful of pens and pencils and some old three ring binders and peechee folders. He tells the reader to access their contacts in order to "grow" their business, but I can't help thinking that the contacts he's had access to and the contacts I have access to are two very different demographics of people.
That's not to say I can't be successful; I'm just saying that it's a world of difference when your friends know the fashion editor at Vogue. Mycoskie tells the reader to "take inspiration from their everyday environment," which (again) is an idea that sounds awesome on the surface ... but then you stop and think about the fact that Steve Jobs was inspired by his travels in India, and Blake Mycoskie was inspired while traveling through Argentina, and Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook as a student at Harvard -- and you realize these guys are moving through a world that most people just live vicariously through in the movies.
Mycoskie can try and tell me he's just an ordinary Joe with a good idea and a go-get-'em attitude all he likes, but the reality is that his bucket of "start-up" tools and my bucket of "start-up" tools are about as similar as an electric screwdriver with multiple magnetic attachments of different sizes and a basic Phillips. Sure, they'll both get the job done -- but we all know that the electric screwdriver will get it done faster and more efficiently than that old rusty Phillips.
That said, I guess if I was starting a business, the resources I would want to have would be a computer and an internet connection. The only business I'm interested in starting is a business of one -- becoming a writer. I don't need much. In the absence of a computer and an internet connection, I could do with a notebook, a pen or pencil, and access to a public library. Oh, and limited resources can work to your advantage by honing your focus and removing distractions.
4. Plenty of companies have broken the bond of trust with customers and, as a result, suffered losses in revenue or even gone out of business. What are some examples from the past few years? In each case, what assumption about the bond between company and customer was undermined?
Sears was a go-to home store. It sold tools, clothing, and household appliances, all in a familiar setting and with friendly and knowledgeable salespeople. It had history and was a nationwide chain, but it was also your familiar neighborhood store. Sears was never trendy or cool, but like your childhood stuffed animal, it was reliable and comfortable. Then it suffered the one-two punch -- first, the rise of internet shopping, then the Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998. Brick and mortar stores were slow and clumsy to respond to internet shopping, and Sears was no exception.
Maybe they could have recovered if they'd adjusted their catalog model to the internet, or hired better CEOs, or refocused on the hometown service ideals the Sears named invoked ... but they didn't do any of that. Instead, the hired new leadership to revamp and rebrand. They implemented new employee policies that insured miscommunication between departments, backbiting, and undermining. They encouraged competition between sales floors, thinking it would increase overall sales -- but instead it resulted in salesmen actively sabotaging co-workers from other areas. They cut pay, cut benefits, and cut employees.
They also cut the quality -- a Sears Craftsman guarantee used to mean the tools were so well constructed, and of such high quality material, that Sears was willing to stand behind their Craftsman Lifetime Warranty and replace any tool that was broken or damaged. The message was that these tools were of such high quality that such replacements were relatively rare, and worth the customer trust. Then Sears discontinued its Craftsman Professional line, and outsourced the production of many of their previously American-made tools. Once upon a time, a Sears Craftsman torque wrench was a quality tool that could be passed on from parent to child after a lifetime of use, and it was all backed by a guarantee as iron-solid and reliable as the tool itself. These days, the guarantee means that when your Sears torque wrench shears in half while you're trying to work an overtightened bolt off your tire, you have to get in the car mid-project to drive to Sears and get your broken tool replaced.
5. Blake writes, "Someone once told me the key to staying healthy was tying his shoes." Why is this good advice for someone starting a business venture? What are some examples of "tying your shoes" in business?
It's not good advice. It's terrible, useless advice masquerading as deep thoughts. ...more
It was ... good. I mean, it pretty much just focuses on middle/ upper income families and transgenerational wealth, with very little discussion aboutIt was ... good. I mean, it pretty much just focuses on middle/ upper income families and transgenerational wealth, with very little discussion about lower income families. But for the limited scope of examination, it was good. It had some really provocative ideas. ...more
I really enjoyed this. It was engaging, well-written and well-performed research. I liked that Lareau also acknowledges potential biases and the limitI really enjoyed this. It was engaging, well-written and well-performed research. I liked that Lareau also acknowledges potential biases and the limitations of the study. I am impressed by the methodology and her findings that economic class has more of an impact on on upbringing than race, also (clearly) the disparate impact of race in our country does mean that people of color are disproportionately affected by the impacts of class discrimination and bias in addition to the reality of racially motivated discrimination.
While I thought her thesis, research, and conclusions were presented in a clear, even, and neutral tone, I did notice in the class discussion about the text that several of my classmates appeared to take personal issue with her research and conclusions -- a running theme was that she was "wrong" about this or that objective observation because it hadn't been like that in the students (name income type) family. Lareau's findings are examples of generalized information that largely hold true in broad populations -- however, they are generalized, and there are always exceptions to the rule. So if you read this book and think, "Oh, it's all bunk, my childhood wasn't like that!" -- that does not negate the validity of her research and findings.
Beyond the longitudinal research and follow-up interviews, Lareau also draws from a wealth of statistical and economic data to support her findings. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn more about the long-term role of economic status on childrearing, adult income, and the reproduction of class systems in the United States. ...more
I really enjoyed this book, personally. I'm not normally a fan of memoirs, so I picked it up with some trepidation, but it was totally worth it. Her vI really enjoyed this book, personally. I'm not normally a fan of memoirs, so I picked it up with some trepidation, but it was totally worth it. Her voice is very evocative and descriptive (I kind of want to try scuba diving now!), and I really sympathized with her experience.
Perhaps I had some help with this, as I am also a creative-type who was raised LDS in the PNW region. Unlike Hardy, however, I was married by the time I was 21 and a mother by the time I was 22. I also left the LDS church by the time I was 25 and shortly after began identifying as an atheist. Also, I wasn't a great mormon. I tried, but I really was not good at it. I spent a lot of time repenting. Also, despite my parents wishes, I did not attend BYU (their alma mater and the alma mater of 3 of my 4 siblings).
This is not Hardy's experience. She appears to have been a much more devout and faithful mormon than I was. From her account, she did not appear to struggle with a lot of the temptations that attracted teenage-me until she was in her mid-to-late 20's. From a young age, she valued the apparent stability and safety of monogamous, romantic love (a lesson I took longer to learn).
When she recounts leaving the LDS church, she doesn't go into depth about doctrinal or historical concerns with their teachings. Instead, she primarily explores how her emotional health and LDS identity conflicted. I suspect this would make it easier for mormons to read -- although there is some salty language in there, so just fyi.
What I liked the most about this book is that during about the first 3/4, it really helped me relate to some single women I know in the church and their struggles and heartaches. Then, in the last 1/4, it really highlighted how it feels to be someone who chooses to leave the religion, which I could definitely relate to. I mean, the loving supportive family, the invisible wedge, the ways their supportiveness can come across more like undermining and minimizing my autonomy ... it was incredible. It was as though she melded the experiences of my single TBM (true believing mormon) sisters and my own experience with leaving the church. For the first time, I felt like maybe the unbreachable silence between my LDS sisters and myself could be bridged. ...more