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« Tennis Hotties | Main | Q&A With Gregory Cochran, Part One »

September 09, 2007

Bringing Children to Work

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

It happens every spring. Yes, it's not even Fall, but it can't be too early to begin pondering the matter.

What I'm referring to is Bring Your Child to Work Day. Originally, this was a Feminist thing and the word "Daughter" was used instead of "Child." Perhaps "Daughter" is still the operative word in some settings. But in the government agency where I used to work, it became "Child," probably because some leaders were afraid "Daughter" was too discriminatory.

Whatever word is used, I think the concept is not a good one, on balance. In the first place, children are removed from school for a day. In the second place, it's a distraction for the organization hosting the event. In the third place, a whole day -- or even half a day -- is too much for the attention spans of the grade-schoolers who tend to show up at these things. Net result: a lot of effort for little result.

The people who planned the event for my agency (the state budget office, an adjunct to the governor's office) were reduced to scheduling an ice cream party as one of the activities to keep the kids occupied. That was probably because what we did was mostly either (1) work at computers or (2) sit in on meetings. As I write this, I can almost visualize the kiddies' eyes glazing when confronting such excitement.

Non-office jobs would be more interesting for children to see, but not necessarily interesting for long. That's because many kinds of work are basically repetitive with only small variations in detail from repetition to repetition. (Think waitress. Think delivery truck driver. Think assembly line worker.)

I hope someday folks will wise up and get rid of this idealistic, but mostly ineffectual, event.

Later,

Donald

posted by Donald at September 9, 2007




Comments

There are two kinds of occupations in the modern world: the kind that can be easily explained to a child under 10, and the kind that cannot. The jobs of Doctor or Fireman belong to the former category. Assistant market analyst or public relations coordinator belong to the latter. I guess that kind of parallels to your office and non-office jobs.

I don't think that bringing one's young child to work is that great idea, the boredom element you note being one of the reasons.

The other reason is one I'd call "maintaining the mystery about what dad does." For a child to see, for example, dad staring into Excel spreadsheets, or catching a microscoping whiff of deference in his communication with the boss (you mean Dad isn't the biggest and strongest?) would serve no useful purpose.

Posted by: PA on September 9, 2007 10:15 AM



In "How To Lose Friends and Alienate People" Brit author Toby Young told of how his internship at Vanity Fair turned into a disaster.
It all began when he booked a surprise Strippagram for a colleagues birthday and this co-incided with BYDTWD. The little mites eyes were out on stalks apparently at this impromptu sex education lesson.

Posted by: Barry Wood on September 9, 2007 12:46 PM



One of the things that has troubled me most about what might be called the PC way to raise children is that child raising is evaluated solely by the adult person it's supposed to turn out. But children aren't just incipient adults...they're people, fascinating, infuriating, endearing, and even cute, but still people. Complete in and of themselves.

The BYCIW Day people want to show kids the world of work so that (especially the girls) they grow up with the right attitude to the place of [women] in the workforce. But they fail utterly to consider what Donald has realized, namely that kids would be bored beyond endurance by the world of work. If the children learn any lesson from BYCIW Day, it would be that work is utterly mysterious, doesn't produce anything, and is NO FUN. (Hmmmm....)

But it never seems to occur to the earnest, uplifting PC types to actually pay attention to the actual experience of actual children. The sole significance of children is as soft waxy potentials to be molded into the right PC-shaped adult form.

Sigh. Poor kids.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 9, 2007 12:55 PM



If you think what a doctor does is not boring and repetitive, that must be because you're not a doctor. Even a famous brain surgeon is standing there meticulously dissecting a tumor without damaging the adjacent neural tissue, hour after hour, day after day. Gratifying, yes. Renumerative, definitely. Something that would interest an 8 year old for more than 5 minutes? I doubt it.

/not a brain surgeon

Posted by: Tiglath Pilsener IV on September 9, 2007 3:13 PM



For a web site filled with self-styled pre-modernists this is an intriguing thread. For most families throughout most of human history children were themselves working, or apprenticed, or spent a significant amount of their time in the company of parents as they worked. It is only in our modern, hyper-specialized, age that children are routinely segregated from the world of adults and work. And so, somewhere along the way, the idea of BYCTSD occurred to someone, why we're crediting/blaming a PC feminist is a bit fuzzy to me, but ...

There was a spell when the Daughter Unit was a pre-school tyke where she had to spend a fair amount of time accompanying me to work. In those days I was at a museum. I particularly remember an exhibition change when she was on the floor with my installation crew. One of the gallery technicians was amused by the D.U.'s "I'll help you." attitude until the tech rolled out some poly to wrap a painting and turned to find the D.U. with scissors in her hand to pass to the tech, ditto the staple gun a few minutes later. She'd been at work with me in the museum enough by then to know what the work entailed and anticipate the next step. I always thought it was a significant part of her education to see us (and others) at work.

Posted by: Chris White on September 9, 2007 4:13 PM



Bad for all involved.
I speak as one being on three sides of this unfortunate situation: as a kid, as a mother, and as professional who had to endure distractions at the workplace.

Posted by: Tat on September 9, 2007 4:38 PM



Um, bringing your kid to SOMEBODY ELSE'S business, where you are an employee, is what's new. Kids in the old days were EMPLOYED in the FAMILY business. Now they come by to spectate. Big difference. And its pretty annoying. Its not the kids fault, its the parents fault. And, yes, it all started with the PC bring-your-daughter-to-work nonsense.

What most adults do for a living can hardly be described as interesting to young kids. It would be better if they gave the adults a day off to take their kids to the park for a picnic and game of frisbee. But then again, the PC brigade has never been much interested in traditional family time.

Posted by: BTM on September 9, 2007 5:12 PM



In "How To Lose Friends and Alienate People" Brit author Toby Young told of how his internship at Vanity Fair turned into a disaster.
It all began when he booked a surprise Strippagram for a colleagues birthday and this co-incided with BYDTWD. The little mites eyes were out on stalks apparently at this impromptu sex education lesson.

The very idea of a Strippergram at most workplaces is practically unthinkable, no, on second thought, drop the "practically."

There are two kinds of occupations in the modern world: the kind that can be easily explained to a child under 10, and the kind that cannot. The jobs of Doctor or Fireman belong to the former category. Assistant market analyst or public relations coordinator belong to the latter.

Children under 10? A job like assistant market analyst or public relations coordinator is hard enough to explain to adults.

Posted by: Peter on September 9, 2007 8:18 PM



True story: one of these bright-eyed little critters showed up to observe my medical checkup at a neighborhood clinic. We never got past the intake info sheet. The nurse was shocked that I would object.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on September 10, 2007 12:23 AM



I'm ever-so-slightly torn about this, because while I think it's awful that kids don't have more exposure to the work world than many of them do, the reality of Take Our Kids to Work Day is a pain in the ass. Kids running through hallways, parents not getting anything done, everyone pretending that this is a great thing ... Dumb dumb dumb. And hard to imagine the kids getting anything out of either. All that said, I have some very fond memories of a few days when my dad (a traveling salesman) took me along on his daily rounds. Very eye-opening, made a big impression on me ("So this is how dad spends his day!" etc). Dad didn't, though, actually take me in to many meetings or negotiating sessions, so it wasn't like I got a chance to interfere in many adults' work day.

BTW, a small factual note: Take Your Children (intially Girls) to Work Day was founded by the Ms. Foundation.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 10, 2007 12:25 AM



One of the things that has troubled me most about what might be called the PC way to raise children is that child raising is evaluated solely by the adult person it's supposed to turn out. But children aren't just incipient adults...they're people, fascinating, infuriating, endearing, and even cute, but still people. Complete in and of themselves.

The "PC" stuff has really descended into self-parody here. The idea that children are merely incipient adults is the traditional one. That they are people is closer to a "PC" idea. I'm beginning to think that you all use "PC" as a shorthand for literally anything with which you disagree.

Posted by: BP on September 10, 2007 10:47 AM



One of the things that has troubled me most about what might be called the PC way to raise children is that child raising is evaluated solely by the adult person it's supposed to turn out. But children aren't just incipient adults...they're people, fascinating, infuriating, endearing, and even cute, but still people. Complete in and of themselves.

I've got to agree with BP here, much as it pains me to agree with anyone: what does it mean that PC child raising is "evaluated solely by the adult person it's supposed to turn out"?

Ah, but now I can disagree with this:

… children aren't just incipient adults...they're people, fascinating, infuriating, endearing, and even cute, but still people. Complete in and of themselves.

Rubbish, a symptom of the insane sentimentalization of childhood which is promoted by PC. Children are barbarians who must be civilized at all costs, if any kind of life worth living is to be possible; raising children to be quiet, respectful, seen and not heard is a struggle against the odds, in which taking them to work with you for a day is of no use.

Posted by: Rick Darby on September 10, 2007 1:31 PM



That they are people is closer to a "PC" idea. I'm beginning to think that you all use "PC" as a shorthand for literally anything with which you disagree.

To the extent there was a move toward "PC" in education, it peaked in the early 90s -- the term today is almost a relevant as "McCarthyism" or any other political swear word.

As for Take Your Daughter to work day being an invention of Ms. Magazine, this fact seems to be of limited use. The Pledge of Allegiance was created by a self-described "Christian Socialist," which doesn't help you unless you're debating the Pledge's origins. The current application matter more than it's beginnings at this point.

DU

Posted by: The Mechanical Eye on September 10, 2007 2:30 PM



Sorry, BP. The notion that children are blank slates on which we write is at the heart of PC pedagogy. As for the traditional way viewing children as incipient adults, I'm not sure I disagree with you here, but it certainly didn't involve the hypervigilant parenting styles of today, themselves another product of blank slate thinking.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 10, 2007 7:37 PM



Children are barbarians who must be civilized at all costs, if any kind of life worth living is to be possible; raising children to be quiet, respectful, seen and not heard is a struggle against the odds, in which taking them to work with you for a day is of no use.

Yes, but they're barbaric people, not blank slates on which we write our own hopes and fears. The Bring-Your-Child people seem never to have considered the fact that children as they are, not as we want them to be, would be bored *-less by adult work day reality. I am simply arguing against the hapless PC point that well-intentioned , earnest educational efforts will have any effect on our little barbarians. And for that I say good for the barbarians!

I'm not sure we're really disagreeing here.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 11, 2007 11:27 AM






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