[The following article by Katha Pollitt, "It Takes a Village, Not a Tiger," appeared in the February 28, 2011 edition of The Nation.]
Your kids have a good chance of turning out reasonably well. Not because you are a parenting genius who has hit on the perfect method but because you have the time and energy and cultural capital to give your child what he needs to be successful in today’s world no matter what child-raising method you choose.
You are probably not, for example, poor, homeless, functionally illiterate, socially isolated, an addict, in prison, living in substandard housing, working three low-paid jobs—or unemployed for life.
You have books in your house, and probably a computer too.
You know enough to help your child with homework—and if not, you have the money or networks to find a tutor.
You feel comfortable volunteering at your child’s school, being in the PTA, calling the principal, going to parent-teacher conferences.
You can afford to take your child to the doctor and the dentist for regular care.
If your child should happen to get arrested, as quite a few do—if he’s caught with pot, say, or spray-paints graffiti, or jumps a turnstile—there’s a good chance that the charges can be made to go away, or at least not become part of his permanent record.
Your ex may have run off with your best friend, your apartment may be too small, you may hate your job—but you are still a white-collar, college-educated, middle-class person. And that makes all the difference for your children.
The biggest barrier to educational achievement today is not any of the things the media talk endlessly about: poorly prepared teachers, badly run schools, too many tests, low standards.
It’s child poverty—which, like poverty in general, has just dropped out of the discourse.
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