Gift Guide 2011 #9: More Random Picks

Steve took the day off from work to help me shop for his parents and the boys. It's always nice when he knows what is wrapped up under the tree. This morning, we hit Barnes and Noble, Sports Authority, Macy's, Chico's, Pandora, Payless, and the Gap. And now I hate all of humanity. 

Here are some things that I touched while out this morning: HEXBUG, Mad Libs, Puzzle Balls, e-Readers, wrist heart monitor (for Steve's dad), water bottles (Jonah leaves them on the side of soccer fields all the time. Arg.), running shirts for me, Hacky Sacks, hoodies, Ski gloves, art work, National Geographic maps, and Monopoly: Electric Banking Edition.

I need to purge myself of all this hedonism at the gym. Ta-ta.

Money Changes Everything. Or Maybe It Doesn’t. Or Maybe it Does.

All the interesting posts in my blog reader have to do with class this afternoon. I'll sum them up. Maybe by the time I get to the bottom of this post, I'll know how to tie everything together neatly. 

In response to the Ladd and Fiske editorial, I wrote that schools can't improve unless a community is employed. In the comment section, I explained further:

While I don't know a lot of people in the gov't definition of poverty, I do know many people who skirt just above that line. The Near-Poverty income group. There was an article in the TImes, I believe, about this demographic a few weeks ago.

There are a lot of families out there, with 2 parents, who mean well, don't have drug addictions, own a home, have a high school education. This group got hit really, really hard in this recession. I've seen quite a number of families where the guy can't find work as a contractor, electrician, carpenter. The wife has to run out and get a secretarial job, and then come home and make dinner. The dad, even though he's home is too depressed to do supervise the kids or do the laundry. (Also, traditional conceptions of women's work.) The stress over paying bills in those situations is horrendous. It has a huge impact on the kids' education. The depression is contagious and brings down a whole town.

If I was looking for an academic publication (not), I think it would be interesting to look at test scores over time in towns that were hit especially hard by the recession.

Megan McArdle responses. She says that job progams or any government program is unlikely to change the outcomes in poor neighborhoods, because of the culture of poverty. While her points may be applicable to those in severe poverty, I don't think she accurately describes the working poor or the Just Above the Poverty Line people. 

On the exact opposite end of the income spectrum, we have a couple of posts from Dooce. She wrote a post last week that described her suicidal thoughts. She received some flack from readers who said that she was rich and, therefore, wasn't allowed to feel sad. She responded that even though she was wealthy, she was allowed to feel sad. And her readers were also allowed to have problems, even though they were richer than most of the population in the world. 

Maybe the point of this post is that class doesn't matter. The working poor operate pretty much the same way as we do. Same family structure, same values. But because of our education and the resulting careers and greater resources for our children's education, the middle class has greater opportunities. Also, rich people are allowed to complain about life, too, because there is always someone poorer than you. 

How Poverty Affects Schools

In yesterday's New York Times, Helen F. Ladd and Edward B. Fiske write that NCLB's efforts to improve schools for low income students were noble, but misguided. It is impossible to improve education for those kids without dealing with the larger problems outside the school building. They say those kids need access to good nutrion, summer experiences, mentoring and tutoring. 

Harry B at Crooked Timber has a great graph showing the increasing correlation between education and educational incomes. (I think that there's more than just growing income inequality behind that particular graph, but that's slightly off topic.) 

While I totally support the programs that Ladd and Fiske suggest, I sincerely doubt whether a mentoring program would really put a dent in the depressing school/income correlation.

The people in low income community need jobs. If you have a job, then you're not depressed and can interact with your kids, follow up with teachers, and vote at school board elections. You will vote to approve the school budget, because you can afford to pay the extra $50 in taxes. If you have a job, you can afford to move to the next town where they have better schools. Maybe jobs are the silver bullet. 

Gift Guide 2011 #8: Random Picks

I'm too burnt out to make nice looking, organized gift guides this year. I'm just going to post links to some of the best things that I found (some bought, some not) while shopping. 

LEGO Alarm Clock Radio – BlueLEGO Coin BankLEGO The Calendar, Xbox 360 Kinect bundle (Target gives you a $80 gift card with purchase this week), 3DSSkyrim, Angry Birds Plush Toy (When did we stop calling them "stuffed animals?"), hoodies (apparently, coats are NOT cool), a coat (I don't care what middle school kids think is cool.), Postcards From Penguin (Drop dead gorgeous cards of old Penguin covers, like Catcher in the Rye and a Room of One's Own. I'm going to glue some of my favorites onto a board and then frame them. If they are sold out on Amazon, Pottery Barn has them, too.) 

But now I'm feeling guilty about sending you to Amazon