Monthly Archives: June 2012

Romney Wants Mothers to Have the Dignity of Work, But Why Don’t Fathers Have Family-Supporting Jobs in the First Place?

In January, Mitt Romney told the audience at a Manchester, New Hampshire, town hall meeting that as governor of Massachusetts, he wanted women to have the “dignity of work.” “[E]ven if you have a child two years of age, you need to work,” he said of mothers receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

Countering protests at the time, he said, “I am willing to spend more giving daycare to those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.”

What he really meant is that he would rather provide businesses and corporations with cheap labor by forcing untrained moms into service industry jobs paying paltry wages than pay them to stay home and raise their kids – the most important work on earth.

Countries far poorer than the United States put such value on child-rearing that they pay mothers to stay home for the first year.

Imagine the feather in Romney’s cap, lowering the unemployment rate. We’d have more undereducated women in the lowest-paying jobs: cleaning motel rooms, cashiering at Wal-Mart or flipping burgers at McDonalds; end of the line positions with no future.

And we’d have more tots in germ-ridden daycare centers, subjected to illness at a far greater rate away from their homes and their mothers’ care, where extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting become a vitual impossibility.

There’s a name for the type of government Romney is suggesting: corporatocracy.  How very self-serving of him.

But the real problem began in 1994, when Clinton signed into law the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which had been “fast-tracked” into law by special interest groups.

NAFTA and GATT removed trade restrictions that had previously made it unprofitable for U.S. businesses to manufacture goods in foreign countries and import them to the U.S. without prohibitive tariffs; tariffs that protected American workers from competing with cheap goods made by foreign labor.

With trade laws in their favor, U.S. companies started packing up. Now they could avoid paying federal taxes, worker’s compensation, retirement and health benefits. They no longer had to deal with the nasty unions.

But unless Romney or Obama, whoever becomes the next president, is willing to fight to reverse NAFTA and GATT, fathers who once brought home a family-supporting paycheck in the manufacturing sector will continue to scramble for employment and mothers will be forced out of the home and into the workplace, putting increasing numbers of children at risk for problems that already cost this country far too much to repair.

It was bound to happen, because industry cannot be expected to regulate itself.  The reason we have government is to protect the interests of citizens, protect against exploitation.

At about the same time that NAFTA and GATT were passed, I sat on the New Mexico Home Economics Advisory Board.  During my two-year term I was shocked to learn that “homemaking” skills had been replaced by “vocationalization.” In fact, state standards for education now required children as young as kindergarten-age to learn skills deemed necessary for becoming part of the workforce. At one of our meetings, a United States map had been spread on the table, the country divided into labor-regions in which schools would channel students into career paths offered by local industries, such as Intel. The idea that teachers should actually teach children what they know and enrich their lives had drifted off in a rising tide of stratgic planning.

“School-to-Work” and high school “academies” went into full force, replicating an Eastern European model that prepares youngsters for specific careers, determining which kids will be a worker-bees and which ones will go to college by the time they’re in middle school.

Remember William Spady’s Outcome Based Education movement? Aka OBE, the massive reform agenda of the 1990s changed traditional teacher-centered education in a sleight of hand that hoodwinked parents faster than you can say Horace Mann. Add educational change-agents like Ted Sizer and his Coalition of Essential Schools, and suddenly we had social studies teachers who taught kids  map-making skills for an entire school year—without informing parents that was the plan. But then, “less is more” according to one of Sizer’s nine principles.

These reform models took the emphasis off individual excellence and achievement and put it on “group” think. My new teacher packet that year read like the Communist Manifesto! Kids capable of completing an entire report independently were suddenly put on “committees” with under-achievers which whom they shared a collective grade, regardless of the amount of work done by any one person.

How crazy-making is that? You work hard, you’re supposed to receive a commensurate reward, right?

Not under the new paradigm. The new paradigm said parents were only one of many “stakeholders,” mere cogs in the wheel of their children’s education – equal to government and business.

It’s the business part that frightens me.

I boxed up my educaton reform research years ago, thinking perhaps one day I might need it again. I think that time has arrived. Buried in one crate is congressional testimony claiming that in the future (in other words, now) knowing how to read would not be as important as getting along with people of different ethnicities.

Shouldn’t children of all ethnicities learn how to read and read well?

My chest tightens every time I think about it. The education gurus knew what was coming down the pike: the fall-out from NAFTA and GATT.  And they had to prepare the next generation for it. They knew high-paying jobs were going, going gone. Why encourage academic excellence in average students when after graduation they won’t have a job?

And that’s exactly what happened, too. After NAFTA and GATT, fathers scrambled to find work. In industrial areas, families felt as though the door to the American Dream had been slammed in their faces. People who believed in honest, hard work and company loyalty were left not only jobless but betrayed.

No wonder reading was predicted to be unimportant in the future. There would be little time for it.  Ever tried reading after working two shifts for minimum wage?

Romney thinks kids of poor mothers will be a lot better off in government-funded daycare. I hardly think so. He’s talking about kids who are barely potty trained and cry when left with a sitter. Studies on low-income mothers and children’s language aquisition  prove his assumption to be incorrect (but more on that in another post).

Somehow I had come to believe that government-supported daycare was not a conservative value.  I guess I was wrong. “Conservative” is now synonymous with profit at any cost and the pathetic leanings of a bought-and-paid-for Congress that allows industry to run roughshod over the people.

The price this country has paid for the greed of private corporatons is the horrendous condition of the economy. And that is not any child’s fault.

When mothers are forced into the workplace it only creates more neglected children who grow up at-risk of academic failure, childhood obesity (oh, yes), drug and alcohol abuse, gang activity and teen pregnancy.

If we want to stop the insanity, we have to bring the jobs back home. Americans need to be willing to pay more for what they buy, and maybe buy a bit less. Our clothing used to be made in the USA by union workers. Would you be willing to pay $60 for a skirt made in the USA instead of $16 at Ross for one made in China? Osh Kosh kids’ clothes used to be made in Osh Kosh, WI. I spent a lot more on them when my kids were babies than I do now for my grandchildren. Think about it.

Yes, we need to be willing to pay more for goods if we are going to solve the problem, but that’s not all.

Romney was wrong: corporations are not people.  We need the Supreme Court to change that decision, and in order to do that, we need candidates that won’t sell us out to the highest bidder and allow corporations to decide the country’s future.

If capital gains were taxed at the same rate as regular income, perhaps stockholders’ earnings would not come before American jobs.

It’s not what this country is all about – forgetting the dignity of workers who built it in the first place.  And forgetting the dignity of mothers whose first priority should be raising their children. FFG

©2012 FamilyFieldGuide

Tofu in America: A Quick History Complete With Dessert

Thirty years ago, tofu was as foreign to most American families as cell phones and quinoa, those tiny seed-relatives of the spinach family, now back from ancient Peru by popular demand.

Years before Whole Foods Market or even Trader Joes opened their doors, I bought tofu at a mom-and-pop health food store. Every week I’d fish a mushy chalk-white chunk from a bin that reminded me of my diaper pail. Then I’d finagle the crumbling mass into a Continue reading

Early Nurturing – The Key to Kids’ Listening Skills?

My older daughter is a big David Sedaris fan. During a family road trip she read Sedaris’ essay, “Six to Eight Black Men,” from the back seat. We just roared. This is a seriously funny story.

How had we come to be a family that listens to essays at 75 miles an hour?

All right. This post was motivated by some interesting news I heard this week: Children’s publishers are now interested in picture books of only 500-700 words. How can this be right? I wondered. The woman leading our chapter meeting of SCBWI (Society for Continue reading

Ten Things You Should NEVER Tell Your Kids

Sarah practiced her audition piece upstairs in her bedroom, a song from a Broadway musical. A friend had encouraged her to try out for the school play, and now, excited and nervous, she hoped to quell the butterflies long enough to pull it off.

Suddenly her mother shouted from the kitchen, “You think you can sing? Well, you can’t!”

Sarah stopped cold. Her mother’s words felt like a slap in the face. She never did go to the auditions.

I thought long and hard about this list, because what we say to our children matters – for a very long time. Our words influence the people our kids become. Do you remember being encouraged as a kid? Or did someone deride your efforts, saying you were destined to be a loser?  The important thing to know is that parents can always change their game; do things differently to create the kind of communication that nurtures instead of defeats.

Here’s my top ten list of things parents should never tell their kids:

1. Just shut up. There are many variations on this theme. Be quiet, shut your pie-hole, Continue reading

Mom Who Left Baby on Car Roof Got Caught. Most Messed-Up Parents Don’t.

Some years ago I took the baby with me on business in downtown Denver. When I’d completed it, I crossed the street to my car, pushing the baby in the stroller. After putting the little guy in his car seat, I drove off. Minus the stroller.

I didn’t even think about the stroller until I’d arrived home. Too bad. It wasn’t there when I got back.

But good God, at least I didn’t leave the baby in it!  Nineteen-year-old Catalina Clauser, the Arizona mom who reportely drove off recently with her one-month-old strapped in his Continue reading