A deliberately controversial post: The sins of the parents

should be visited on the kids.

This is a sentiment we often see on the internets.

Schools in poor neighborhoods are often terrible.  If the parents cared, they’d homeschool or move. (Because that’s totally an option for single moms on EITC working minimum wage jobs as best they can.)

We shouldn’t improve the quality of school lunches.  If parents cared, they’d be feeding their kids organic meals full of veggies made from scratch every night so one meal a day wouldn’t hurt them.

Personally we suspect a lot of this sentiment is disguised racism.  Who cares about black kids or Hispanic kids.  It’s their fault for being born something other than anglo-saxon.  But maybe not– the internet seems to think just as poorly of rural white parents from West Virginia.

We also suspect it’s a way that middle class folks feel superior.  We’re not like THOSE people.  Our kids will do just fine because we’re so wonderful.  Our schools are great not because everyone else in our neighborhood is able to pay higher property taxes, but because we made the decision to be (white and) middle class.

It’s parents’ fault is the repeated refrain.  That’s why schools are crumbling.  That’s why kids are fat.  That’s why kids are in bad schools.  Or don’t get enough to eat.  Or get kidnapped or shot.

We at Grumpy Rumblings say:  WHO CARES?

Whether it’s parents fault or not, Won’t somebody think of the children?

Kids could have crappy parents and still get a great education if all kids had access to great schools.  Sure, some kids may be too damaged to benefit from even the best interventions, but what about the bulk of kids who could benefit?  Who through no fault of their own are stuck in poverty with little way out?  Imagine if they had great preschools, safe neighborhoods, healthy food, high quality K-12… the chance to take a calculus class.  Maybe they’d have a chance to live the American Dream.

Even if their parents suck.

My favorite animes

Princess Tutu … one of the best animes ever made.  And that is despite its silly title.  Or the fact that a brief description would be:  a duck turns into a girl turns into a magic girl ballet princess.  This is simply one of the most beautiful and beautifully crafted works of art in anime. (It also has funny bits.)  The most wonderful thing is that the first half has a storybook ending, but the second half has an ending that is much more satisfying, even if there’s a bit of pain (but “without a hurt, the heart is hollow,” right?).  There’s also a mindflip for watchers.  What is really going on?

My favorite animes are generally ones centered around people changing each other for the better, often healing each other, but sometimes just spurring each other on to greater heights.  That’s a theme in Japanese anime that I really like– we can help each other be who we want to be.  [We will ignore my guilty pleasure of harem animes for the nonce-- the following do not fit into that category... for the most part.]

Kenshin :  A story of redemption… a killer samurai in the Meiji era decides never to kill again.  So he becomes a wanderer.  But there’s a problem when you’re really good at killing– people want you to do it more… and sometimes bad guys want to do bad things and you have to prevent them without becoming bad yourself.

Fruits Basket :  A story based on the zodiac… a family with a secret.  An orphan girl who finds them.  Healing.

HimeChan’s Ribbon :  A great children’s anime.  Hime-chan becomes a magic girl with the help of accessories from her doppelganger from the magic kingdom.  She’s so genki!

Ouran High School Host Club :  A smart but poor student gets a full scholarship to a rich kid’s academy.  Breaks a vase.  Has to pay it off by working at an after school club called the Host Club.  And people grow up and change and find their families.

Natsume Yujincho :  A boy is able to see spirits trapped against their wills and sets about freeing them.

Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge :  a somewhat creepy goth chick ends up sharing a house with attractive young gentlemen.  Her aunt is giving them free rent if they turn her into a lady.  She resists, and changes them instead.

Kodocha :  A super feisty girl actress… her life, her mom, her school, her drama… Frenetic anime.

Slayers  How could you not love Lina Inverse?  She’s small and eats a lot and kicks ass.  Skip the dub on this one– one of the characters’ English dub drives me batty.

Noir :  This one is a drama and not really about redemption… but wow, beautiful music, mind-flipping story, and man, can these female assassins make killing look beautiful.  The popcorn episode…

Currently watching:  Sgt. Frog (via Netflix– so there are a lot more episodes!).  The US dub on this one is hiLARious.  I’m sure they’ve taken a lot of liberties and they have fun with that.  I’m curious what the original Japanese is like.

[Note it says "My" instead of "Our" because um, #2 feels the same way about anime that she does about mushrooms, only maybe even more contemptuous.]

Anyone else an anime fan?  (*crickets chirping*)  What do you like to watch?  Also:  sub or dub?  (I promise I won’t judge if you say dub… dubs are getting better…)

Haig-Simons Taxes: Is the tax system unfair to paid labor?

Sometimes economics blows your mind.

There’s an idea in economics of what fair taxes should look at.  There are several concepts of fairness, including vertical and horozontal equity.  We’ve talked about why there are progressive marginal tax rates before.

Back to the concept that messes with your mind.

“Ideal” taxes are termed Haig-Simons taxes (technically it’s taxes under the Haig Simons Income Definition… but that’s a mouthful).  These suggest that if unpaid work is equivalent to paid work, it should be taxed equivalently. The idea being that by its nature, the tax code discourages work that produces income (generally for elastic secondary earners) even though it should be treating it neutrally.   So there shouldn’t be a tax advantage to cleaning your own floors–or rather, there shouldn’t be a tax penalty to paying someone else to do so.

Would SAHP be willing to be taxed at 150K or whatever the going rate on salary.com is that year? Probably not. Not what we call politically feasible.

So what we do instead is dependent daycare credits or tax exemptions for childcare, but they only cover a fraction of daycare most places and they have their own problems with changing people’s behavior. And that’s only daycare.  What about the tax advantage to building your own deck rather than paying someone else to do it?

Of course, the tax system is also used to change behavior on purpose– to decrease negative externalities (ex. second hand smoke) and increase positive externalities (ex. giving to charity), and sometimes bleeding heart liberals add a little paternalism in there to keep people from harming themselves (libertarians say let them harm themselves!)  So those uses of the tax system are not included in Haig-Simons.

What do you all think?  Given that we tax labor market production (you know, to fund defense and other public goods), is it unfair to tax labor market production but not home production?

Link love

Funny about money had more adventure this week than we ever want to have.

Mike and Molly talk about being culturally middle class.

It’s work and not truly passive income (and not something we’d ever do), but I love that people buy run-down houses and fix them up to rent or resell.  Afford anything talks about rental house #3.

Academic cog talks about being Shroedinger’s job candidate.  Also check out her previous post– especially you personal finance readers.  She needs some money-making suggestions!

Today was full of dire warnings of what we’re in for in the future.  Proflikesubstance reminded me of this (scroll to the picture… that’s all you need to see).  Grasping for objectivity with this post about sibling interactions.  And an IRL reminder about the age 0-3 tag-team dining out experience.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Ask the grumpies: Preschool play vs academics

Mom2boy asks:

Why can’t I find a montessori school that has a lot of playground time during the day? In the alternative, will spending the summer at the preschool with a lot of playground time but no counting chains (or any counting really) stunt my addition obsessed child’s development?

Perhaps it’s what the parents demand in your area– they want their preschool time to be academic… that’s pretty common with preschools with part-time options. The playing part is extra on top of the academic, before or after regular preschool hours. Our Montessori was only full-time, so had playground and nap-time built in, but the other two in town are more geared towards SAHM and part-time moms who want the academic prep before K, so the playtime is before part-time dropoff and after part-time pick-up.  Presumably those moms don’t want to pay for something they provide themselves.

In terms of academics, unless your child is coming from a deprived background, which seems unlikely, no, not only will a non-academic preschool not stunt your child’s development, but no preschool work at all would not stunt development.  There’s still a lot of stuff to be learned across many spectrums ages 0-5 even without standard academics.  And your child may pick up academics (colors, numbers, letters, etc.) without any formal learning just from being around.

However, your child may be happier (and in our case, better behaved) with some academics.  A lot of mommy forums have people who say that teaching academics (before, say, age 7) is horrible and will destroy your Rousseau dream-child.  That’s not true either.  Academics won’t do any harm and they’re FUN for almost all kids until around 5th grade, give or take.  (And some no-pressure exposure before they’re needed may help with stress later on for many kids.)  By all means, indulge that love of numbers– love of math is worth encouraging!  It may be a matter of if you’d rather do the academics at home or go to the playground at home, if there aren’t schools that offer both.

Btw, what can you do with preschool math?  We loved playing with manipulables.  The ones we had initially were stackable generic game pieces that DH picked up at a craft store when one of his hobbies was creating board games.  Later we replaced them with pixel blocks.  These are great because you can just explore putting groups of numbers together, to get a real feel for how counting and addition are related.  You can do either guided exploration or just let DC play.  (3 red pieces + 2 blue pieces = 5 pieces.)  Fingers are great when you’re out and about, but prepare for nasty looks from other folks who think you’re pushing or showing off (not realizing they’d be giving nasty looks of a different kind if you weren’t keeping your child occupied).

Grumpy Nation, any explanations or suggestions for Mom2boy?

Things we love

  • Larabars!  Seriously, company, if you want to bribe me in kind I will totally write an effusive lengthy review.  Oh happiness.
  • Pilot G2 pens.
  • Bravado bras.
  • Stock market appreciation.  (Related:  Dividends!)
  • Tax advantaged college savings.  (A gain of 7K in 5 years– that’s insane!)
  • Sleep.
  • Homemade ice cream.  (Chocolate vanilla cinnamon with cherries and walnuts.  If I wasn’t already having DH’s baby, I would totally want to have DH’s baby.)  Also:  ice cream.
  • Chocolate.
  • Reading a good novel for the first time.  Also:  rereading great novels.
  • Libraries.
  • Maternity jumpers.
  • Cheese!

What do you love?  What brings you happiness these days?

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Must Dos with the next generation

DH recently had an interesting conversation with his relatives.

He says, and I paraphrase:

Hey, I was just wondering what you thought about “must-play” games…meaning games I really have to play with DC, or really anything I “have to” help DC experience?

I’m planning on playing role-playing games with hir…probably starting when ze’s ~7.  The Descent boardgame seems pretty obvious.  DW has nixed Magic: the Gathering.  I’m sure we’ll play some miniatures game like Warmachine or Hordes.

I can’t think of any other game ze “needs” to play except maybe Magic Realm and Star Fleet Battles.  See, except for really old games, I think things are just getting better.  This goes for video games too…I’ll probably try to break out some Wizardry (Werdna) sometime, and maybe Nethack…but there’s no reason to go back and play Super Mario Bros I don’t think.

I’m sure I’ll show hir the Firefly tv show when ze’s old enough.  We’ve already started watching Dr Who together.

I don’t have any must-read books until ze’s probably 10+…even then I prefer just reading a lot to anything specific.

What do you guys think?

Is there anything you think kids today should experience that you liked as a kid/teenager…or that you wished you’d done when you had time back then?

(Disclaimer:  Yes, I married a nerd… but if you looked at my “must do with kid” list you would realize he is actually the less nerdy of the two of us!  I’m all about the math and the books.)

How to wash dishes: Beyond frugality

So one of us grew up in a strictly frugal home with Environmentalist Leanings.

Every drop of water was precious.  Every electron to be saved from use.

We didn’t have a dishwasher.  (Or a dryer, or a microwave… and so on.)

We did have a double sink.

If you have a double sink, there’s a frugal way to wash dishes and an inefficient non-frugal way to wash dishes.  My mother did the latter, my father trained us in the former.  Interestingly, my father’s method appeared in Cheaper by the Dozen , by the children of the Galbraith efficiency experts.  I assume my father discovered it independently.

Step 1:

Empty out the left sink.  Make sure it is clean.  Stack all the plates in the right sink.  Run a little water.  Turn it off.

With a soapy scrubber thingy, scrub a dish, move it to the left sink once scrubbed.  Use water as needed to remove junk (over the right sink), but turn off when not using.  When removing water from the top plate, make sure it lands on the plate underneath (unless the water is super disgusting, then try to get it in the side of the right sink).  Continue until all of the dishes are scrubbed and stacked in the left sink.  Rinse out your scrubber thingy.

Step 2:

Rinse all of the dishes in the left sink.  Again, be careful to conserve the clean soapy water by dumping on the plate underneath rather than in the sink.  Rinse a dish, then place said dish in the drying rack to drain.  (No need for hand drying– drip dry!)

Step 3:

Cups and silverware.  Place all cups in the right sink (but not fancy breakable glasses!  Only sturdy stuff.).  Put silverware in the cups in the right sink.  Fill the cups with water (or just fill some of the cups with water, and pour the leftover water in the unfilled cups as you go along.  Your choice, unless my father is micromanaging, in which case you do it the save water method.)

Scrub one cup.  Stick it in the left sink.  Scrub silverware one at a time and place in the cup in the left sink.  Fill cup with water.  Continue with remaining cups and silverware as dirty cups are emptied of their dirty silverware and scrubbed cups fill up with scrubbed silverware.  Continue until all cups and silverware are scrubbed.  Rinse out scrubby thing.

Step 4:

Rinse all the silverware and glasses, pouring out clean water into scrubbed cups as you go along.  Put in drying rack as you go along.

Step 5:

Pots and pans.  Hopefully these have been soaking a bit in a soapy water solution as you’ve been doing step 1-4.

I hated pots and pans.  But basically the idea is the same as for plates, only with pots, pans, and a lot more grease and scrubbing.  You may need to rinse out your scrubby thing and resoap multiple times.

Step 6:

Fine glassware.  Put a little water in the bottom of each to soak any dried beverages out.  Do these separately after all the other dishes have dried and been put away.  These you do one at a time and inefficiently.  Wash then rinse then dry.  Wash then rinse then dry.  This is because clumsy little hands tend to break them when they’re put in the sink together.

So there you have it.  The efficient way of washing dishes without a dishwasher.  And why I will hopefully always have a dishwasher now that I’m a grown-up.  (Especially now that supposedly dishwashers conserve water better than sink washing!)

How do you wash dishes when you’re sans dishwasher?

Link Love

OMG, this xkcd had me cracking up!  DH didn’t get it, but DH doesn’t have to fend off the influence of the evil Koch brothers at his place of work.

Stephen King is awesome.  Awesome article on taxes.

Scalzi was on Oprah in the 1990s being adorbs.

Laura Vanderkam granted my wish and made a blog post about the lump of labor policy.  It’s still not a sound-bite worthy of Neil Degrasse Tyson, but it’s something I can point reporters to if they start calling me again.  (It’s been a few months!)

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Ask the grumpies: Educational Children’s TV

Leah asks:

How do you feel about educational kids TV programming?

Hm… well, according to NurtureShock, educational kids TV programming causes more poor behavior than non-educational kids TV programming.  That may have changed since that research came out though, I dunno.

In terms of our own experiences, we LOVED the early leapfrog videos.  DC, who devoured anything froggish at the time, had the phonics rules memorized in song long before hir brain was ready to process reading.  They’re catchy tunes too.

We totally use Netflix as a babysitter, starting from when DC was willing to sit down for it (which was kind of late).  Technically ze would sit down for mommy nursing time with the Colbert Report, but other than that, not very interested in tv programming for a year or two (early childhood is kind of a blur for me). Ze got zero tv from preschool and didn’t have much down time, so we didn’t feel too guilty about it.

The problem with *too much* tv is that the kid will stop wanting to watch tv, so when you *really* need that time you can’t have it.  So we had to limit tv so that we could get adult-time when necessary.  Or to keep DC still while say, picking nits out of hir hair on the back porch.  (Ah, childhood experiences.)

Currently we’re enjoying NiHao Kai Lan, Jane and the Dragon (but not as much), Dinosaur Train… and DC has graduated to some documentaries on prehistoric life such as Walking with Dinosaurs which are technically educational but not targeted at children.  Ze will also watch Mythbusters with us.  And Sgt Frog with me or Avatar with DH, neither of which are particularly educational.

Grumpeteers, how do YOU feel about educational children’s programming?

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