Early history of me, part 4

Filed under: Ego, Historia, Paidagogia, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 17:31

Continued from part 3

There was none of that IV drip of brain sugar known as television in the household. My parents were quite concerned with the developmental effects of screen time, especially of that aimless and passive sort; movies and video games were fairly restricted as well. As intended, this directed my entertainment desires to books. My father's reading to me became a cherished evening tradition, and I eagerly took up reading myself as I became able, with interests tending toward fantasy adventure and a bit of science fiction.

While I loved the family time, a sore spot for me is the amount of time spent being not-raised by not-them. Like many - I'd venture to say most - American kids of this era I was "institutionalized", with daycare from an early age (around one year, if I recall) feeding right into preschool, kindergarten, then school proper. I'm not too clear on how this compares to global or historical norms, but my understanding is that the crowded environment makes individual attention difficult and the constant change in caregivers disrupts bonding. "Because I said so" and "life's not fair" are the typical explanations I remember from the preschool authorities. While the unfairness point is perfectly true, I see its usage more as code for "I feel overworked and underpaid and can't be bothered to help you think through your kiddie problems." Not that solving one's own problems isn't important either, but I don't know... how much reflection or social finesse can you really expect from four-year-olds, especially if it hasn't been well modeled? The typical justification for this outsourcing is Money; the only difference in my case is that it was the Mission.

I don't well recall if or how I expressed myself about the preschool environment at the time, but as time went on the deficiencies of the cookie-cutter approach of the school system became evident. One story (handed down as I didn't recall it myself) was the third grade teacher asking, "What solid has the same shape on every side?" An eager me: "Actually, there are five:", proceeding to rattle off the 'hedrons with correct pronunciation that my eighth grade geometry teacher later wouldn't manage. Teacher: "Yes Jacob; but the third grade answer is the cube." Peer: "That's right Jacob, this is third grade!!11" Me: "That's right. Third grade, not kindergarten." Then in the sixth grade, there was that "science" teacher who earnestly believed the moon orbited the earth every 28 hours and criticized me as "argumentative" (something my parents were delighted to hear).

To be continued


  1. Ahahah, I love that third grade you.

    Fwiw, I give the "life's not fair, get used to it" treatment each and every time someone comes to me with the purely idiotic "but it's not fair!!!waaaa!!!". Even better, I'll heap some more unfairness on the idiot too, since they are asking for it.

    Comment by Diana Coman — 2019-11-25 @ 21:39

  2. [...] Continued from part 4 [...]

    Pingback by Early history of me, part 5 « Fixpoint — 2019-11-26 @ 17:13

  3. He's still in here, somewhere!

    I was going to say the "not fair!!" seems to mean "I want things I see others have, without having to do what they or their predecessors did to get them." But the non-fairness runs deeper than that of course; what's the poor bacterium to do, evolve harder?

    Comment by Jacob Welsh — 2019-11-26 @ 18:14

  4. > While the unfairness point is perfectly true

    I honestly don't know how true it is. Maybe my experience's outlying, but it does seem that life's quite eminently fair, if generally uninclined to cater to peculiar notions of "fairness", chiefly constructed as they are out of the cripple self-protecting against perceived pain (which is how it manages to come into conflict with preteen's expectations -- and in the process get itself a bad name forever).

    > Teacher: "Yes Jacob; but the third grade answer is the cube."

    See, the fact that they don't... I dunno, say give the school keys to that kid is probably the worst problem with institutional education. I'd just have sent you over to the principal's office to have his desk for the remainder of the period, why the hell not.

    The problem with systematic approaches is that they lose out on the long tail, whereas that long tail was their only excuse to exist in the first place.

    That said, I sympathize with the teacher, at least in the sense that I deem her answer just as remarkable as yours. Indeed she's right, she had asked for one. It's good that you know there's more, and it can't really be held against a 3rd grader that he'd indulge the vanity. But what she asked was...

    Context, you see ? The third grade answer is "the cube" in exactly the same way "ten word me" is 10 words long. I get it, there's more to it, or at least... there could be ; but not right now. Is this a bad thing ? Should all contexts be forever superlatively expansive ? We will never get anything done!

    Comment by Mircea Popescu — 2019-12-09 @ 09:28

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