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Child home life as a source of disparities in individual life results

Posted by John T. Reed on

Another interesting stat in the Discrimination and Disparities book by Thomas Sowell is the following combinations of parent occupation and number of different words spoken in the house per hour on average.

• professionals—2,100 words
• working class—1,200 words
• on welfare—600 words

I read about another study where social workers were embedded with poor and rich families for a time. The parent example and communication with the children was starkly different. For example, the poor people had nothing to say to the child in preparation for a doctor’s appointment. The rich people, explained what a doctor’s visit is for, why the doctor does what he does and says what he says and asks what he asks and encouraged the child to think of questions to ask the doctor.

The poor parents saw themselves as floating driftwood in the doctor’s sea and imbued their kid with the same view. The rich people saw the doctor as a partner and imbued the kids with the same view.

My own parents were the first high school grads in their families. They saw college for themselves during the Great Depression as akin to planning to visit Mars. They hardly knew any peers who went to college. 

My mom worked with engineers during WW II and figured out “I want my sons to be like them” like the scene in the biographical movie Gifted Hands where Ben Carson’s illiterate mom was a cleaning woman in a rich doctor’s house. The walls were covered with thousands of books. She asked the doctor if he had read them all. “Most them,” he answered.

She then made her sons read a book a week and report on it to her. Ben became a renowned pediatric brain surgeon. His brother is an aeronautical engineer.

My mom always discussed college as an absolute must for me. And she helped me apply to West Point, from which I graduated at age 21.

But my impression was my mom thought ultimately that she had thus created a “monster.” 

Being a college grad made me look down on non-college grads (true but why was that a surprise) and marry a good-looking career woman (Harvard MBA). My mom did not see herself as good-looking, although she married a man so handsome strangers on the street told him to go to Hollywood to be a movie star. She was also a housewife before my dad became an alcoholic and assumed I would marry a girl just like the girl who married dear old dad. 

Finally, going to West Point exposed me to a whole other world and mindset than my mom’s world. I see myself as a citizen of the nation and a nationally known person and even a little as a citizen of the world. I was listed in Who’s Who in the World for a while. Accordingly, my wife and I drove around the U.S. and chose the San Francisco area as the best place to live on earth. My mom thought you were supposed to live within 20 miles of your mom your whole life, as she did.

My three sons were raised in a way unrecognizable to the house I was raised in. My dad was unable to help my athletic career. I helped my oldest son enormously. My youngest son was smaller and less athletic, but he also benefited from being involved with major college football at U of AZ. They all graduated from college as if it was mandatory like high school.

Who your parents are, their character, and their knowledge and experience about the world make an enormous difference in how your life starts and their situations when they get to their thirties where my kids are now. That is probably the main source of the lousy black employment and achievement rates—no father at home. Not discrimination.

Succeeding 3rd edition book

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