13 April 2007

Teach Your Children Well

Today, I was walking past the JFSB on my way home from campus and ended up behind a professor and his son, who was probably about 9 years old. The father was holding his son's hand and as they walked, they had the following conversation:

Professor (didactically): So they're called the bourgeoisie.
Son: Burr-jwa-zee?
Professor: Bourgeoisie. That's like us. And then there are the proletariat.
Son (mumbling to self): Proletariat.
Professor: Yes, proletariat. So Sam and John are part of the proletariat.
Son (swinging his dad's hand back and forth): Proletariat, proletariat, proletariat.
I have no idea who Sam and John are, but it took all my effort to keep from laughing. My first reaction was to wonder if Marx's Communist Manifesto makes a good bedtime story. Then I wondered why this professor was teaching Marxism to his son at age nine, when he's clearly not going to encounter it in school for a while. I was reminded also of Hugh Nibley who, according to his biography, taught his kids all sorts of crazy stuff at Family Home Evening. Apparently, they used to play games where you would recite a line from Shakespeare and the next person would have to give the line that followed.

Which made me think about what things I've learned from my parent's degrees. My parents are both overly educated types, though neither of them went into academia. My mom has two bachelor's, one in computer science, one in English, and a master's in English, and Dad has degrees in political science and business. (I can never remember which is undergrad and which is grad, though.) At first glance, I don't feel like I learned a lot from their degrees. It's not like we had political theory discussions at dinner.

But then again . . . .

Though Mom never explicitly taught us literary analysis as kids (no marking the scansion on poetry for FHE or anything), I'm pretty sure I've picked up a lot of how I think from her training in literature. Last winter, my parents came to watch me give a talk in my singles' ward. Afterwards, my mom pointed out how much I speak and teach exactly like her--that way she has of dealing with things in a literary way. And the more I think about it, the more it's absolutely true. I have her inflections and intonations, her penchant for looking up definitions and analyzing words, her way of looking at everyday things with new eyes, of searching for patterns. If I pay attention when I teach, it's like listening to her.

My dad is harder--obviously the business sense completely passed me by. I barely passed the IB Business test (which is supposed to be a piece of cake). But I think I developed my idealism from him. Dad has an aptitude for coming up with huge plans--for trips, for businesses, for life--which I see so much in myself. I like to build schemes for almost everything. Systems are my thing. He also trained into me a hunger for current events knowledge, a philosophical passion for rightness, and a loud mouth about it. We both love a good political debate, though my views are often moderated by my literary need to see from all sides (Mom again). I like to have my views heard, and for some reason I think confrontation is a normal mode of conversation. Some people fail to understand this--I'm not arguing, per say, I just want to know the truth.

I've always been on the nature side of the nature/nurture debate, but now I wonder if I should be so sure.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

That is an awesome story. Claudia Harris told my class how she read Animal Farm to her kids when they were like 6 and 4 and her 6 year-old was like "mom, that's not just about animals, is it?" So she explained the Bolshevik revolution (did I spell that right?) to them. It totally inspired me.

Also, I am totally split between nature and nurture. I think I learned all my mannerisms from my mom. But I inherited all my social awkwardness from my dad-- including my tendency to ramble. But I also think I learned my analytical, literary side from my mom. So, I really think it's equal measures of both.