Monday, September 25, 2006

Baby Einstein vs. Barbie

"Overscheduled kids. Overprotective parents. They're hot-button media issues, but are they really the problems faced by most American families?"

In an article on Time.com, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman argue that they are not. Rather, the media is increasingly ignoring the typical American family, and instead putting the dramas of affluent families on Page One. "It would be okay if they delivered these portraits with a sardonic wink, so that we might laugh at the foibles of the well-off. But there is no wink. Instead, we are asked to sympathize with people's self-made problems, and these affluent-family issues are held up as representative of us all."

The authors discuss these issues further on their blog, in any entry labeled How Media Elitism Misrepresents the Problems of the Typical American Family, the title of which is essentially self-explanatory. Now, I'm not sure I agree with the characterization that these are "self-made problems." True, I have opted to live in this city, and to send Dear Daughter to Elite Private School. I certainly could have chosen a different lifestyle -- and as a late-70s-era, feminist graduate of a crunchy-granola liberal arts college, it's still a surprise to me sometimes that I didn't. But given where and how we live, these are real problems, experienced by real people.

Still, the authors' observations serve as a sobering reminder that these are the problems of the privileged few. And in launching my own blog, my purpose has essentially been to think aloud as I attempt to help DD recognize that there are more than 10 good colleges in America, that her life won't be ruined if she doesn't get into Harvard, and that life is about more than designer bags and designer schools. Luckily, she's got more sense than that already, and has indicated that she's more likely to opt for a school like Reed than a school like Harvard. Still, she's living in a madly competitive environment, and some of the stress can't help but rub off on her.

So thanks, Po and Ashley, for inserting some sanity into all of this madness.
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