Re: Don't Help Your Kids With Their Homework

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Expensive private school made the Flip-Pater and the Flip-Uncle very unhappy, if that helps. (The Flip-Aunt loved it, but the Flip-Aunt is ... not very fun to be around.)


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 5:52 PM
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Isn't there research out there showing zero better outcomes for privately schooled kids, and negative outcomes for having been schooled in less diverse situations?


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 5:59 PM
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2: That would not be surprising, considering that private schools include everything from segregation academies to Sidwell. Kind of like public schools that way, except with tuition rather than property tax.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:08 PM
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I probably will be a problem parent. if they try to drown my rising first grader (at our neighborhood public) in homework next year im going to have to put on all the hauteur I can muster and go in waving my phd around.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:15 PM
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I'm wondering how successful teaching my kids to say "My dad said 'Fuck homework'" is going to be.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:18 PM
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5 That'll make for one cute video. Be sure to post it to the blog!


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:20 PM
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Anecdote:

this year none of the girls from the expensive Catholic middle school were accepted into the expensive Catholic high school for girls. All of the girls from the local parish school were accepted to the same expensive Catholic girls high school. I think that one group of nuns is sending a message to the other group of nuns.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:23 PM
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4: avoid contact with the school, another "best practice" endorsed in the linked article. I'm basically batting 1000 on the recommended practices!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:23 PM
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Methinks this is yet another example of privileged Unfogged parents resting on their particular privilege. Most likely, YOUR kid doesn't need to be hassled to do his or her homework, or even to have homework at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:23 PM
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9: yes, hence my boosterism for putting that whatever it is energy into forming long term, meaningful relationships with not-so-privileged kids. Bigger effect for everyone.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:26 PM
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The committee I'm on just had the meeting where we prioritize which jobs can be cut for next year to meet the budget. Keep the behavioral specialist (in-school suspension) if that means losing music and art? I am so depressed now.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:29 PM
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9: Eh, we spent a lot of time trying to help less-privileged nephews get their shit together academically after their mom died. Didn't help a bit. Just wore everybody down.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:29 PM
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7: I am going to imagine that they're cloistered and that's the only way they can communicate. It's... very slow Morse code!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:30 PM
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Frankly I don't think most of them need to do most of the shit they do now.

But I could just take the Ogged route. If the kid is hassled about not doing his homework I'll maybe tell him to ask for a brief word and have him explain in relative private that Daddy doesn't give a flying fuck about homework.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:30 PM
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Meh, I'm dubious of the argument. If we're just talking basically doing the kids homework for them I'll buy it. However, parents who can and do actually teach the kids something are very helpful. My mom was essential for me learning calculus.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:31 PM
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Yeah, it wasn't clear from the linked piece what "review" and "help" mean. I can imagine things described that way that are obviously unhelpful, and things that seem likely to help.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:38 PM
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9: You've said this a few times in similar conversations -- what are you thinking of as a less privileged child? Poorer, or just somehow less spontaneously academically inclined?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:38 PM
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15, 16: I would bet that you're right -- actually teaching your kids the subject matter can be useful. What I'd bet is useless is being controlling about the homework process.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:46 PM
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I've spent years of my life hassling a kid to do homework. To very modest success (in getting homework actually done -- in most instances, the subject matter was already mastered).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:47 PM
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18: Provided they're receptive to learning it. Otherwise you're back into controlling.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:48 PM
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I wish I'd learned to take homework more selectively seriously before high school, when it started to matter more for college. I don't have any regrets about the homework I did as a matter of routine, but I remember really stressing out about some assignments in elementary school when someone could have just told me that no one gives a fuck whether you whittled a fish hook out of wood after reading My Side of the Mountain.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:51 PM
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20 The parents also have to be willing and able to actually teach. My dad was useless for this. He took it as some sort of personal affront that I wasn't a natural at math, so he would either be 'this is trivial, figure it out on your own' or go through it so quickly that I either ended up more confused or just had a completed set of problems without learning anything. But yes, for a lot of math/physics related stuff I wasn't really interested in learning, calc somehow grabbed me, so having a skilled personal tutor was extremely helpful.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:56 PM
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17 -- the latter. Eh who cares they'll figure it out has a strong underlying assumption that they'll figure it out.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 6:58 PM
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no one gives a fuck whether you whittled a fish hook out of wood after reading My Side of the Mountain.

What? Goddammit anyway.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:03 PM
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23: But "who cares they'll figure it out" isn't what's being argued.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:03 PM
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Trying to help my son with homework makes us both hate humanity.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:04 PM
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If you can't rely on the genetic inheritance of mental whateverness, what can you rely on?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:04 PM
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Not humanity. That's for sure.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:05 PM
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What has humanity ever done for us but give us homework and take the last parking spot?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:07 PM
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If you're going to ignore cannibalism, nothing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:10 PM
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If you can't rely on the genetic inheritance of mental whateverness, what can you rely on?

Apparently not Ogged's grasp of genetics.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:10 PM
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Blame my parents.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:11 PM
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Great. Now I'm hungry for meat but it's Friday in Lent.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:14 PM
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Otherwise, cannibalism.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:16 PM
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32: of course; they were supposed to teach you.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:35 PM
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The article does say

Once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down, an effect Robinson says could be caused by the fact that many parents may have forgotten, or never truly understood, the material their children learn in school.

If that's the explanation, I would guess it's less applicable to commenters here, being a generally well-informed bunch.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:37 PM
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36.last: Given the general informedness of the American people, if that's the explanation I'd be shocked that scores aren't much lower.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:43 PM
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My dad said 'Fuck homework'" is going to be.
That'll make for one cute video

And then I pooped on the homework!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:55 PM
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I would feel more vindicated if they included a paragraph about how expensive private schools hurt your child, because that's the conversation I have way more often with those whom I harbor competitive feelings.

Sure they help your kids. Help them be the supremo assholes of the motherfucking world. Smart, well-educated evil is the worst evil in the world. Brains and money, we all swoon over it, when it's pretty much the heart of fucking darkness.

Not that I'm bitter.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 7:58 PM
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Oops, 39 maybe should have been from OPINIONATED POL POT.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 8:03 PM
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Or OPINIONATED SELF-CONTRADICTORY POL POT, but apparently he did not do that well in his studies.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 8:04 PM
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42

The best part of homeschooling is never having to do homework. 9-3 should be plenty of time.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 8:35 PM
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... to drive from Eugene to southern CA via the coast route.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 8:44 PM
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Oh, I could rant at length on this topic, but I'll try and keep it brief.

Anecdote:

My son has been in both public school and Catholic school (not fancy, expensive Catholic school, just the local parochial school), and the public schools assign a lot more homework. And I mean, a lot more homework. At least twice as much, I'd say. Both the public and the parochial schools here follow roughly the same state curriculum, but the Catholic schools seem better at/more confident about teaching and covering the material in class.

The public schools have a far more challenging task, of course: a much more diverse student population, and an "achievement gap" that they (the schools and the teachers) get blamed for, though the gap is obviously a function of much broader economic and racial stratification, and it seems crazy to me to blame the teachers and schools. But the current response by the schools seems to be to assign more homework as a way of bridging that gap, and this, too, seems crazy to me.

(My son is now back in the public school system, and is overall quite happy, but his homework load is quite ridiculous, and the source of ongoing strife in our otherwise happy household).


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 8:49 PM
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I don't know what homework is like in our current district but I do wonder how much the parents can say, no, my kid isn't doing all that at home, because you and your benighted institution suck, mr. teacher, you loser weasel.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:07 PM
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but I do wonder how much the parents can say, no, my kid isn't doing all that at home

Perhaps not as much as you'd like to think. In part because, while some (sane and balanced and reasonable) parents are attempting to push back against the new homework regime, other parents are demanding even more homework (because more is better, of course, and because: Tiger Mom).

What's the matter with you, Ogged? Don't you care about your children? Don't you want them to "succeed"?


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:27 PM
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At the public school my kid went to last year they made up for the achievement gap by shoveling on the homework and not having recess. Now that he goes to a private school with the children of petroleum engineers, the homework load is much lighter and he gets two, sometimes three recesses a day. Plus, art class, which the public school had dumped.

Basically, fuck the school reform movement.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:33 PM
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Yeah, I just looked up the high school's homework policy, and it's a pretty clear case of "balance" lip service, and piles of homework. This is a pretty good example of letting the kids become acculturated to a world I think is bullshit, because odds are that they'll "do better" if they're in a good school instead of having us take them to the woods and homeschool them.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:35 PM
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How much is a lot? An article I just read in the high school paper had a student saying 2-3 hours a night. Sounds like a lot to me!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:40 PM
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My brother's family has dealt with ridiculous elementary school homework expectations in their (pretty good, considering) neighborhood public school. A couple miles down the road at the Horrible Temple of Privilege, things were much more reasonable for my son. IME his classmates sort about like any other group of human beings. A lot of neat, inquisitive kids, a strong chapter of the Future Assholes of America, and a lot who could go either way. Admittedly that school plays a different social role than a place like Exeter does.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:42 PM
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What could you possibly be learning in high school that's so important its worth burning 2 or 3 hours of your free time every night?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:42 PM
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I guess it would be cheap to say "the proper use of apostrophes." So I won't.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:51 PM
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I seem to remember a fair number of late nights my junior year with calculus and US history especially, or English the night before a paper was due. I retain a far amount of the history and basically none of the calculus. My kid, with a much stronger "fuck that" boundary, may not have quite as many college options as I did, but he'll come out just fine, and he'll be a hell of a lot more useful in his 20s than I was.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:53 PM
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A couple miles down the road at the Horrible Temple of Privilege, things were much more reasonable for my son.

The Horrible Temples of Privilege, and also the Terrifying Chapels of Catholic Provincialism (i.e., the local, RC parochial schools), do not hand out homework the way the public schools do. Fact.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:54 PM
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But seriously, as far as I'm concerned, nothing. I suppose there's some reading that just can't happen during class, but the amount clearly isn't capped reasonably. Homework is just wrong in principle: no, you shouldn't "take work home." You work at work and then you go home to live your life. I hate the socialization of your time belonging to some institution that will then judge you based on how you used it. Fucking loser weasels.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:54 PM
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What if your public school is a horrible temple of privilege? What then, Jane?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:56 PM
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Three hours of homework generally meant four hours of stressing out and procrastinating and an hour and a half of panickily doing it. Even if it was something I enjoyed and was good at. Taught good work habits I was not.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:58 PM
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What if your public school is a horrible temple of privilege?

You've moved to Park Slope? Why didn't you tell me?!


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 9:59 PM
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I'm in Park Slope Midwest. I can't remember if we did the property tax thread. $20-$25k/yr is normal here (not for condos, thank god). It's private school tuition; the only way to make it a deal is to have five kids.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:03 PM
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There is also a huge opportunity cost to homework. Seems like so many kids end up being forced to drop extra-curricular activities because they aren't able to keep up in school, where "keep up in school" really means, "get all the goddamn homework done."


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:04 PM
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Let me not exaggerate: for some houses (the formula is opaque to me) it's as "low" as $16k/yr, but higher is common.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:05 PM
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Homework is just wrong in principle: no, you shouldn't "take work home."

Why not? The job equivalent of school would be one where you have twenty hour week in the office and you get to do the rest of your work whenever and wherever you want. Or at least that was the case back when I was a kid. Public elementary school in the US was 9-3 with a recess and a lunch break and you got a total of about fourteen weeks of vacation. That came with maybe one or two hours of homework a day during the school year. Have things changed that much?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:07 PM
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I seem to recall a rather controversial NatLamp piece where a dad makes his kid go with him on a weekend hunting/camping trip during which the kid spends the whole time worrying about some school project that he is way behind on (and due on Monday, I think). Things are clearly not alright with the father who IIRC ends up sodomizing the kid and then blowing his own brains out with the gun. Through all of which Johnny's interior monologue continues to be dominated with stewing about his school project.

Boy, I hope I didn't just imagine all that on my own like I maybe did with Edith Bolling Wilson and "uncunting."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:07 PM
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Park Slope Midwest

A swimming power Park Slope Midwest (or at least one in the past)?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:09 PM
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Have things changed that much?

I believe so.

A swimming power Park Slope Midwest

You know the one.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:10 PM
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I can't remember if we did the property tax thread.

Hey, I live in one of the highest property tax regions in the country. Liberal-utopia railroad-suburb, in New Jersey. $20-$25/yr is totally normal here, and $18k/yr is getting off lightly.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:12 PM
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Liberal-utopia railroad-suburb

So "Lurs." What are you implying here?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:18 PM
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So we just saw this band perform live, and the whole time, when I wasn't thinking 'wtf?', I was thinking, 'I wonder what McManus would make of this?'
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Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:30 PM
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I've mentioned before that in MoCo, they have a rule, no more than 10% of the grade can be based on homework. I suppose this is to keep from penalizing kids with difficult home environments. But the teachers totally subvert the thing by giving assignments, that have to be done at home, but which are called something other than homework. Summative assessment, or some bullshit.

I could rant at length as well, but am past having to care about this.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:31 PM
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Oh, and I.F. reminded me to say that we walked by Mich/ael st|pe on the way back to the hotel. So far the town seems nice!
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Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 10:38 PM
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Prop tax here for a 2700 Sq ft house in the suburbs is under 2k. Fuck property tax on your residence, just do a proper income tax already.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-21-14 11:36 PM
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Fuck property tax on your residence, just do a proper income tax already.

The tax upon land values is, therefore, the most just and equal of all taxes. It falls only upon those who receive from society a peculiar and valuable benefit, and upon them in proportion to the benefit they receive. It is the taking by the community, for the use of the community, of that value which is the creation of the community. It is the application of the common property to common uses. When all rent is taken by taxation for the needs of the community, then will the equality ordained by Nature be attained. No citizen will have an advantage over any other citizen save as is given by his industry, skill, and intelligence; and each will obtain what he fairly earns. Then, but not till then, will labor get its full reward, and capital its natural return.


Posted by: Henry George | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:43 AM
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Timely! Next week is our first interaction with the standardized testing system, a relationship that will last at least the next 16 years. The kids don't get homework all next week and they're given free gum if they want it, to "relieve stress."
My kids are obsessive about their homework, they start the whole week's packet on the bus ride home Monday and won't do anything else when they get home until they finish it. I'm guessing that won't work when they're older and have significant amounts of work that's assigned nightly instead of weekly. They also ask for extra math work, conveniently wife is a math teacher.
Live in a city with an actual commercial tax base (and/or universities willing to pay a PILOT) if you want low property taxes/high public services. We don't even pay for trash pickup.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:23 AM
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I wonder why New Jersyites are willing to pay astronomical property taxes, but paying just a wee little be more gasoline tax is an anathema.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:50 AM
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They already have to pay somebody to pump it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:56 AM
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Every piece of land in NJ has the potential to be a refinery so property owners don't want to risk future profits.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:58 AM
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I'm not generally one for turning entire categories of working class people out of their jobs, but the gas pumpers in New Jersey need to go. You could plow the savings into building rail tunnels or something, and buy your gas quicker to boot.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 6:35 AM
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I wonder why New Jersyites are willing to pay astronomical property taxes, but paying just a wee little be more gasoline tax is an anathema.

Yeah, I wonder too. They haven't raised the gas tax in about 30 years. But we can't afford to build a tunnel.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 6:37 AM
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I think the real reason New Jersey won't build a tunnel is something Freudian.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 6:46 AM
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73.1: A truly demented feature of the educational system in my experience.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 6:55 AM
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I suspect the sentiment in 80 will be quite comitaceous. (Although I guess the level of insanity--which increased over the period when my kids were in school in our school district--might vary significantly by district and/or school.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 7:10 AM
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There you go with the SAT words again.
It's funny in third grade because the results don't effect the kids just the school and teachers so they have to somehow convince the kids that it is important to do well without lying to them or over stressing them.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 7:18 AM
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I intend to be able to say, at some point, "And if the homework brings you down then we'll throw it on the fire and take the car downtown."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 7:20 AM
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(Zowie Bowie seems to have turned out pretty well.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 7:20 AM
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Completely agree with 42, and glad my kids didn't have to deal with homework before age 11/13. Homework for younger kids is really annoying - it clearly gets more useful between 11 and 18, and trying to train them up for it from 5 is just a terrible idea.

#1 and #3 in selective schools got/get more homework than #2 in a non-selective, which is also where #4 is going in September. #3 gets about three lots a day (he only has 4 lessons a day), which is 1-1.5 hours I guess, depending on subject. Some take longer. He tends to do maybe 2 lots a day and then clear the pile at the weekend. #1 doesn't get the busywork kind any more, it's more like 3 essays a week (plus maths but that doesn't take long) which she seems to do exclusively between midnight and 2am.

I don't get involved, unless asked, which is infrequent. At the moment, I *do* have to listen to endless rants about how fucking incompetent #1's theatre studies teacher is. (Really quite fucking incompetent.)


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 8:29 AM
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I really don't have anything to say about this that's any use -- I just asked Sally, and she said that a typical night is maybe an hour, it could get up to three on an unusual night if she's been putting things off. And the school is pretty solid, academically. So, I don't know what all you people are complaining about? < / annoying privileged person>.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 8:45 AM
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And like asilon, I keep out of it unless they ask for help or want to show something off.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 8:46 AM
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Our elementary school is really big into worksheets, I'm told, but kids in the after school program can finish them there. Which ours will be in.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 9:15 AM
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One of my friends' kids gets to go on a civil rights history bus trip through the South with her hippy school. Lucky bargees.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 9:17 AM
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I think our property tax is around 3-4k.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 9:18 AM
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Nominally $4750 but because it's owner occupied we pay $2943.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 9:24 AM
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90: But no state income tax IIRC. UT has a 5 percent state income tax.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 9:28 AM
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Yeah, no state income tax. Which is absurd.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 9:34 AM
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Three hours of homework generally meant four hours of stressing out and procrastinating and an hour and a half of panickily doing it

That was my experience of High School as well.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 10:10 AM
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My experience of life.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 10:15 AM
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My experience of all existence and non-existence.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 10:21 AM
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Cry, cry, procrastinate, cry.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 10:32 AM
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Cry, cry, procrastinate, cry.
But I repeat myself.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 10:35 AM
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Wow, tantric.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 10:38 AM
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Wow, Ta-Nehisi Coates is really mad

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Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 11:55 AM
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100: Hear! Hear!

Sigh. So many thoughts and feelings about this.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 12:56 PM
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101: I know. There's been a lot of pushback against Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, understandably so. Coates is not alone.

I have much respect for Jon Chait, but the piece Coates takes issue with sounds like so much whitesplaining. Perhaps I haven't considered it carefully enough.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 1:18 PM
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For a good primer on the question, see Jelani Cobb at the New Yorker, of all places, on so-called "responsibility politics."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 1:30 PM
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Seeking advice. My partner and I are graduate students considering procreating. This is the best time in our programs/early academic careers to do so, but having kids while financially unstable with no future stability in sight is scary. We currently both earn stipends in the low 20s, although mine will run out after next year. After that I could easily make 15K a year through teaching a minimal amount, but I would have to pay about 3K of that in health insurance. I will apply for write up grants and fellowships, which are reasonably plentiful but not guaranteed, and range (I think) from about 15K-30K per year. My partner has 2 more years of guaranteed funding of about 24K a year, and a very good chance of getting another 1-2. Neither of us has onerous debt, and I have savings/investments in the low 6 figures. I know I am lucky and this makes me better off than most Americans, but it's mainly money I'm saving for a future down payment & retirement and not something I'd like to spend on living expenses if I can help it. There are potentially enthusiastic grandparents, but that might involve moving. Also, the baby could be born in Europe, which would likely save on birth costs.

However, I've heard that kids are insanely expensive. I'm prepared to avoid much extraneous material requirements of bourgeois parenting, and I'm hoping those baby calculators which imply a baby costs an extra 30K a year are geared towards UMC requirements. On the one hand, a family of 2 making 40K+ a year should be able to handle a baby. On the other, introducing a baby to a financially precarious situation seems, well, precarious. If we had guaranteed incomes, that's one thing, but there's a very real chance of struggling after the stipends run out. On the third hand we want kids and this is the best time to do it, career wise and biological wise. (We're in our very early 30s).

My questions are:
Is having kids a crazy idea? Has anyone else had kids while both partners were in grad school? Ideally we'd want 2. Is that doable with academia? Do kids usually require one person sacrificing an academic career?


Posted by: Alice Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 1:59 PM
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Whoever had a guaranteed income?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:09 PM
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Alice, I'm not coming at it from the perspective you are, but have a balance between UMC values and ones that, well, aren't. (And I'm writing this to keep myself from arguing with people on the neighborhood listserv yet again about whether anyone would actually WANT to send kids to the city public school.)

The "Europe" part might make this off-target, but since you say "partner" rather than "spouse," depending on legality, only the mother might count toward WIC funding and that can cover formula, if that's on the table. I know that gets pricey, as can diapers. Dealing with childcare can also get financially insane and is something you should look into ahead of time. But the costs of an actual baby don't necessarily have to be awful and there's more to the decision than just that, of course.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:11 PM
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Whoever had a guaranteed income?

People with jobs? Yes, anyone can get fired or laid off, but most people's jobs don't explicitly state they'll stop paying a salary after 5 years.


Posted by: Alice Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:35 PM
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Have kids now. I mean, assuming you want kids, grad school is a great time to have them. The money stuff will sort itself out -- within reason -- but you'll never have more time and energy than you do now. (The above is all colored by my sense that we blew it by having kids so late.)


Posted by: Denny Crumb | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:36 PM
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I'm not totally sure from your description, but do you live in the US? (The "could be born in Europe" thing has me thrown off.)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:37 PM
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Or don't. Whatever. But don't let finances constrain you if you want to, because grad school is otherwise an excellent time to procreate.


Posted by: Denny Crumb | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:38 PM
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Mostly, if you want a kid, do it. You're both college graduates, if you need to switch career tracks to something with a paycheck, you'll figure it out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:39 PM
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104: Depends on child care costs and if your child is healthy. No big conditions and child care provided in part by family? $30k is high.

I defended my diss a couple days before my first's 1 yr bday. I wasn't the only one around my institution with kids, either.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:49 PM
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And babies really don't necessarily cost much at all. Day care's expensive, but two grad students, maybe there's subsidized university day care, the two of you probably have flexible enough schedules not to need much day care time... I don't see a problem here.

The fact that you do, given that there's not much of a problem, makes me think that you might want to do some thinking about whether you actually want kids right now. Is there a chance you're exaggerating the financial worries because it's not something that you're looking forward immediately?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 2:51 PM
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The real costs don't hit until you send them to an exclusive, private elementary school.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 3:17 PM
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Seconding all the advice above. It's a great time to have kids. By far the biggest expense for kids is child care, which you'll need less of in grad school than at other times because you have (relative to any other adult job in the world) considerable schedule flexibility, plus it's likely that there's some kind of subsidized university day or child care. Clothes, diapers, a crib, additional food, etc. are not free but can be gotten very cheaply, again likely particularly easy in a grad school/university community.

The only downside is that you may find yourselves with less time and energy to single minded-ly obsessively focus on work, but that is true whenever you have kids, and you're starting from a baseline of more energy now. The current US trend of waiting to have kids until late (I'm a participant in the trend, but whatevs) is dumb.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 3:26 PM
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Seconding all the advice above. It's a great time to have kids. By far the biggest expense for kids is child care, which you'll need less of in grad school than at other times because you have (relative to any other adult job in the world) considerable schedule flexibility, plus it's likely that there's some kind of subsidized university day or child care. Clothes, diapers, a crib, additional food, etc. are not free but can be gotten very cheaply, again likely particularly easy in a grad school/university community.

The only downside is that you may find yourselves with less time and energy to single minded-ly obsessively focus on work, but that is true whenever you have kids, and you're starting from a baseline of more energy now. The current US trend of waiting to have kids until late (I'm a participant in the trend, but whatevs) is dumb.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 3:26 PM
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I'm not sure you understand what "seconding" means.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 3:32 PM
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104: I don't have firsthand experience, but I've known quite a few academics who've had kids in grad school and everything worked out okay. Also, kids don't have to be crazy expensive -- my working class single mom friends mostly do okay, despite earning significantly less than your income/projected income, and usually having little or no support from their former partners.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 3:51 PM
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Also, kids don't have to be crazy expensive...

Just be sure to not buy the undercoating and make the OB throw in the floor mats for free.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 3:55 PM
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And the extended warranty is a total ripoff.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 3:59 PM
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Joking aside, floor mats aren't a bad idea if you have wood floors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:02 PM
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Or carpet that doesn't let go of poop easily.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:03 PM
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Or those metal-mesh floors, like used in industrial catwalks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:05 PM
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Or a floor tiled in a swastika pattern.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:35 PM
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Yeah, having a kid while in grad school (my daughter went from 2 to 5 while I was in law school) doesn't seem awful. You're right, though, to think about what happens when you're not in grad school any more, which is supposed to happen sometime, right? Then you're in the position of having kids on what you can make, without the schedule flexibility and subsidies (such as they are) and with some loon of a boss who wants you to show up even when the kid needs you to be doing something else.

I don't know what the 30k is supposed to cover. If you're adding expenses that come with having a larger living space, and being in a place where, when the kid is between 5 and 18, she can walk to a school you want her to attend, and then maybe some sort of higher education, well that's a lot. And having a kid on your car insurance for 2 or 3 years. (And you get to decide how much of that is UMC frills; as to which, I say that talk can be cheap when it comes time to actually make decisions that impact the kid.*) It's backloaded, so having a baby in grad school is going to be the cheapest you'll ever see.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:38 PM
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|| OT Bleg: I can't left click. I want to select text from a website. Is there some easy key combo -- eg control-something -- that will let me copy and paste without a left clicker? |>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:40 PM
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Window? Cntl-C to copy and Cntl-V to paste.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:42 PM
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125 -- should have deleted the asterisk along with the footnote, which was going to point to a rant. Keying off my homework bit above, directed to all the "helpful" tough love advice you get from parents not dealing with tough issues or from non-parents. Eg, why not let the kid who doesn't want to do homework fail, be held back a grade, and repeat the classes where he mastered the material but thought the busywork was bullshit. What could possibly go wrong?

It's easy to call someone else's expenditure a frill. We're not all going to be capable of walking 9 miles every day through the blinding snow, with cardboard for shoes, and still do fine.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:45 PM
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Thanks, Moby, but my problem isn't with the right clicker -- I can copy what I could select -- but the left clicker: I can't select.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:49 PM
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Ctrl-A will select everything in whatever document you're looking at. That may or may not be helpful. Why can't you left-click?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:50 PM
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Oh. Maybe go into the set up and set your mouse for left handed so the important button works?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:51 PM
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120 -- With my son, we have learned to buy every warranty they offer. His 3d laptop from a purchase 2 years ago is being shipped to him now.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:51 PM
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Or go buy a new mouse.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:52 PM
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If you're in a text editing program where there's a cursor, hold down shift and left or right arrow to highlight text from the cursor position (or ctrl-shift-left or ctrl-shift-right to select entire words.)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 4:59 PM
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Do kids usually require one person sacrificing an academic career?

I think this depends on how well things are working out for you in grad school, and what kinds of jobs you are aiming for afterwards. I know one high-powered academic couple who had two kids in grad school, and then managed to snag two excellent faculty jobs in the same location... and, sadly, they seem to be the exception that proves the rule.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:23 PM
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I think the two body problem is what causes on person to sacrifice their career - not whether or not there are kids.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:25 PM
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But having kids reduces your flexibility in dealing with the two-body problem (e.g., by having a long-distance relationship for a year or two). Also, kids require a lot of work that is difficult for the two partners to share equally.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:28 PM
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Yeah, I see what you're saying.

From Florida to Houston. Should be home in 2 more hours. What a long day.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:57 PM
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I know quite a few people who had kids as grad students. I'm skeptical of "subsidized university day or child care", though; at multiple universities I've heard people talk about how even if they signed up for that basically the instant the child was conceived there would be a multi-year waitlist before they could get access to it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 5:58 PM
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I got pregnant with Rory during law/grad school. I had no job lined up post-graduation and UNG had a shit job. Everything worked out just fine. As much as people always talk about babies being expensive, I found having a baby pretty cheap. Teenagers cost an arm and a leg. But babies are pretty cheap.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 6:03 PM
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even if they signed up for that basically the instant the child was conceived there would be a multi-year waitlist before they could get access to it.

Yeah. Basically if we'd signed up when we decided that Bonsaisue was going to go off bc, we might have had a few months. She wouldn't have sent the kid, I think, but we'd have had a short period where the waitlist finally liquidated.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 6:11 PM
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Thanks for all the advice. I do think part of it is that kids are a big decision. We both want them, but making the plunge is anxiety producing, since there's no exit clause in parenting and it's a total lifestyle change. Maybe I am focusing on the financial difficulties as a way of channeling generalized anxiety to something concrete. Then again, the idea of having to support a kid on yearly grants is already stressing me out. So far we've had reasonably charmed lives as grad students, so I'd like to think we'll be lucky and get decent postdocs & job offers, but there's absolutely no guarantee of that. But yeah, I think you all are right that this is a good time to do it and the perks of grad school can outweigh the low income and uncertainty.

I'm in the States, but there is a 90% chance I'll be living in Europe in about a year and a half, which might be a good time to have a kid.


Posted by: Alice Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 03-22-14 6:50 PM
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OT:People you admire being wrong on the internets Kathy G edition She is approvingly quoting some guy on de Blasio and housing policy as saying:

In a recent housing deal, the de Blasio administration gained concessions for "affordable housing." But the developer also won the right for a zoning change that will lead to higher density, which ultimately, says Paul, will lead to more luxury developments that will end up pushing "the vast majority of wage earners" to "the outskirts of New York." De Blasio's close ties to the real estate developers have always been, writes Paul, "a weak point in de Blasio's liberal credentials."

Yes, if only we build less new housing for the upper middle class and wealthy those people will surely end up either in the suburbs or out on the streets. Or maybe the prospective customers of that new housing will just go poof. They would certainly never ever just take over existing housing and displace middle and low income Nyers through gentrification. WTF is it with some liberals and housing?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 3:53 PM
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We completely lucked into a spot in university daycare, but it sure as shit is not subsidized. I (both of us) would be fucked if we didn't have it. Maybe you have schedule flexibility (kinda? I am not sure I really do), but you also need time to work.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 4:24 PM
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Day care around here easily matches private school tuition, as far as I know. Especially for infants.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 4:26 PM
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But how much homework do they give the babies?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 4:30 PM
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144: bonsaisue did graveyard sjift for a while early on and neither of us really slept.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 4:31 PM
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About an hour a night but it only involves pooping.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 4:32 PM
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I know couples who had babies in grad school and didn't use daycare - they mostly covered it themselves, and shared a nanny on occasion. It sounded hard to me at the time, but now that I understand better how babies work, it doesn't sound so crazy.

There definitely is some sort of subsidy you can get for daycare costs, though, because at both of the ones we've been at, you can swipe an EBT card at one side of the desk. Or I guess it's probably a Texas program? But such things exist.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 4:43 PM
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WTF is it with some liberals and housing?

No matter what Yglesias keeps hammering, higher density alone does not open up space in the market. Building booms go to luxury housing because that's the sweet spot in the financing and it has been for a very long time.

The fact is, even if you remove the permitting costs from the process, it's not profitable to build anything but luxury housing. So no capitalist in their right mind would start building any if they weren't lured by subsidies, probably in the form of cheap city land or favorable lending rates. The reason no one was building housing during 2009 is because, as you might remember, the entire real estate market collapsed. In fact, the second residential tower on Rincon Hill which is now being finished was already approved years ago but the developer didn't feel like bothering until market conditions improved (for the developer, not for tenants).
So to review, when it's profitable to build, San Francisco's city government has been more than happy help, and right now developers are doing everything in their power to relax building restrictions they themselves supported when the were trying to protect the value of their earlier investments. We can not build our way out of this problem.

I highly recommend my friend Nato's housing podcast episode. Funny in the front, detailed historical discussion in the back. There's also a fascinating discussion of fisting, but that's a different episode.

A policy called inclusionary zoning ties liberalized height limits to strict numbers of affordable housing units, whether or not subsidies are involved. At worst, that creates a barbell housing market, adding subsidized units (often for renters already earning more than the area median income, so fucked is the market). But density alone, despite the Econ 101 intuitions, does not lead to a more affordable market rate for housing. You can follow the links from that same article to see even more explanations.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 5:37 PM
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||

My Crossfit Bro posted:
"Who wants to go to Hangout Fest! May 16-18
-Private flight
-Beach house
-3 day wrist band"

to FB. I have no idea what it is, but I'm so deadly tempted to try to invite myself along and see how exactly they'd struggle to disinvite me.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 5:48 PM
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Oh, it appears to be a music festival. I was hoping for something raunchier. I'd still like to announce that I'm in, though, and watch them squirm.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 5:49 PM
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Oh man, Outkast is going to be there. I'm in.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 5:50 PM
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Ok, fine. It looks like a super fun line-up, and I'm sure they'll have a blast. Everything's stupid.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 5:51 PM
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I was already looking forward to the liveblogging.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 5:52 PM
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I'll also put in a plug for the idea that there are decent daycares aimed at poor people. Mara went to one on the campus of the community college where Lee taught at the time, which was fantastic because the people who were training for associate's degrees for preschool/daycare did their projects there and it was diverse and they got decent food from the cafeteria. Selah goes to a place around the corner from us that mostly serves working poor families and costs It think about $25/day, comparable to Mara's place, and that includes two hot meals and a snack because enough kids qualify for the USDA food program. We looked at the swankiest preschool and not only would we have been spending Selah's entire stipend from the state to cover the difference between what the state will pay while she's in foster care (so we pay nothing where she is now) and the rate they charge, but I'd have to pack multiple healthy meals a day and send them in. Oh, and she'd be the only black kid, obvs.

And while I don't mind at all feeding her when she's home and am probably confessing a great sin in having sold my kids out to Big Free Food, I love that they all get breakfast and lunch at their schools and don't regret taking advantage of it because it makes my life enough better that I can then improve other things for them.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 5:54 PM
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The only thing that link makes an argument for is that building more won't solve the problem of housing affordability on its own. Which, well, sure, but I'm not Yglesias. Hell, even Yglesias isn't completely Yglesias anymore, in that he occasionally acknowledges that. I've said before that I think you also need to change the regulatory and tax regime to discourage super-high end housing development, plus public housing plus transit investment and the creation of new high density areas close to existing ones. But regardless of the massive oversimplifications of 'Econ 101' type thought, markets do exist, and supply and demand matter.

The Jacobin article you link to is worse. Its argument seems to be that building market rate housing won't lead to a socialist utopia and that it will create more housing for the wealthy and something, something character of the city, something. Which, yes. It will create more luxury high rise condo dominated neighbourhoods rather than luxury converted tenement and brownstone dominated neighbourhoods, with a net reduction in the conversion of existing middle and lower income housing into high income housing. It spends some time on explaining that not building the Atlantic Yards housing hasn't helped my neighbourhood, which apparently shows that building market rate housing leads to gentrification. I remember conversations way back when at the beginning of the AY debate. People were telling me, one gentrifier to another, that if AY gets built it will lead to the gentrification of Fort Greene and much higher housing prices. That die was cast, already ten years ago it was clear that Fort Greene would continue on its course of gentrification. However, if we'd built it that would have been thousands of existing apartments remaining in the hands of 'normal wage earners'. But hey, I guess we preserved the 'character' of the area, and made Crown Heights safe for trendy restaurants and cocktail bars, so it all worked out great, except for the people who used to live there.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 6:13 PM
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Alice, I was hesitating saying this, but then Sifu emboldened me. I think the key mistake that grad students make when having babies is failing to get adequate day care. They tell themselves that they'll write when the baby is napping or after the baby goes to bed, and then they berate themselves for failing to do that, and then one or both drop out of academia in the end. Taking care of a baby is a full-time job and so is finishing a dissertation, and only the preternaturally disciplined and energetic can do both at the same time. I know that it can seem crazy to spend money on daycare when the job market is already so uncertain, but I think you need at least part-time something. (Full time, as Sifu points out, if you're in the sciences). One model I've seen work is parent A from, say, 6 to 10, nanny from 10 to 2, and parent B from 2 to 6.

But otherwise, procreate away! If you do have part-time daycare, this is the best possible time! You're still young, and your schedule is still pretty free.


Posted by: Mme. Merle | Link to this comment | 03-23-14 6:36 PM
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The article has the causation backwards. Struggling students cause parental involvement. Parental involvement does not cause struggling students.

These are not helicopter parents. Helping your kids with their homework is negatively correlated with SES. What happens is that kids who are struggling with doing their homework for reasons of motivation/aptitude need help with their homework or it doesn't get done. Low SES kids struggle more with this so their parents help them more. It is brutal because it can mean an unpleasant hour+ interaction every day.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 03-24-14 7:14 AM
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