California child-carin’

Needless to say, the college student parents have the sweetest deal in terms of total child care, but there’s several family and friend arrangements among the profiles that add up to a fair amount of childcare as well.  And the one working couple with a f/t nanny, paying the full cost of childcare is pretty noticeably different than the other families.


When sociologists destroyed the middle class.

I have a stack of sociology and demographics books I have just barely started in on, but one notable feature is that they use “upper middle” and “lower middle” to split the middle class into two halves.  It’s a deliberate use of terminology to eliminate the conceptual notion of a broad middle class when doing social analysis.

The upshot is, of course, that college and university credentials are pretty much always “upper” regardless of pay level, while exam-based credentials and trade licenses are always lower.  It’s the darnedest thing.  The dental hygienist by the sociological split is lower-middle because it’s usually a certificate program, but the claims processor for the dental office is upper-middle because you need a college degree for her job.  Both pay pretty similarly, but that isn’t the point.  Public school teachers are upper middle as well by this professional sociological view, but daycare employees are lower middle.

And yes, the average IT worker is lower middle because not only can you still get a job without a four year degree, there is a system of hiring “outside the box” evolving to codify the process. But the project manager making half to a third of the money is upper middle because there is no way to get that job without a degree.

Class anxiety is a thing, and one way to mask it is to carefully define big chunks of STEM as lower middle in a formal taxonomy, or simply only talk of “upper middle” in terms of doctors, lawyers and other pre-internet professions.  The blue/white collar melding that the T and E in STEM tend to represent doesn’t lend itself perfectly to the university-based degree march, so it’s easier for (usually) lower-earning class-anxious college graduates with three degrees to pretend they don’t exist and that the ones who do are just lower middle and overpaid anyway.

It’s also easier to codify the whole process to make it look scientific and “evidence-based”.

So the people who study middle classness don’t, for the most part follow the popular three-tier split into upper middle, middle middle and lower middle.  It’s A or B for them.

Conservative fully tenured professors don’t exist.

That’s a statement of statistical fact, though not technical fact.  Technically there’s a few.  But given that there’s not even 300k tenured academics out of nearly 2 million “post-secondary teachers”, and given that conservative ones are not much above 5% nationwide (tenured or not), in a very real sense they don’t exist.   A few thousand professors is negligible.  At a very generous 10% of tenured academics, conservatives would represent perhaps 1/50 academics total, and the numbers are worse than that, increasingly close to 1/100 academics total.

But just like with liberals, they wield massive influence on conservative thought despite being almost, in a way, imaginary and fictional.


Are half of all college-educated American women infertile?

A third of U.S. adults say they have used fertility treatments or know someone who has

The numbers are, of course, higher still for the college-educated and 75k+.

“About four-in-ten (43%) of those with a bachelor’s degree have had some exposure to fertility treatment – either through their own experience or that of someone they know – and the share rises to 56% among those with a postgraduate degree. About half (48%) of people with family incomes of $75,000 or more also have been exposed to fertility treatment.”

This is kind of scary because it suggests that almost all fertility boost that isn’t from immigrants moving and having an initial baby boom is from artificial hormone cocktails.  Or, alternatively, that vast numbers of women are subfertile or infertile.  The link only covers IVF specifically, but it does note that the actual survey didn’t specify, and there’s a long list of non-IVF hormone cocktails out there.

Teaching to the Test kinda works, Calculus edition

So one of the things I’ve been looking into for kid-education-related reasons is the prevalence of calculus at the high school level and whether it’s working out in terms of college prep. What I found was an interesting and rather dispiriting scenario in which teaching to the AP Calculus tests has become a standard and as a result calculus at the high school level’s relationship to mathematics preparation at the college level changed from the 1990s to the 2000s.

Power series are big in Japan.

In the 1990s, much of high school calculus was neither tailored to the AP curriculum nor necessarily the AP curriculum. Understandably, this meant that high school calculus varied wildly in quality across the nation in both public and private schools. The upshot was that through the 1990s, geometry, trigonometry and algebra grades in high school were more predictive of passing college calculus than high school calculus because it was more likely across schools that a well-prepared student had gotten a basic and relatively rigorous standard of pre-calculus preparation.

These aren’t just for dummies, they’re pretty important if you want to get anywhere useful in the wide green land of calculus.

Of course, the natural response of the new waves of college educated striver parents was to simply make sure that their kids not only took calculus in high school, but that they took the exact exam-based calculus that was used to grant course credit at the college level. Now high school calculus grades are plenty predictive of being able to do all right in college math classes, but the exam scores are far more so. That is, teaching to the test becoming the widely adopted standard for calculus at the high school level now means that doing well at spitting out exam answers demonstrates a strong ability to do so in similarly-structured college classes, and they frequently are.


I’m relaxed about this particular form of grade grubbing and memorization-as-mathematics because you can’t reason with people who will just keep doubling down in a rather pointless arms race. And college-graduate parents have done just that. The new college-ready ratchet is teaching calculus in middle school. You’re so surprised it’s happening in DC area schools. No, really, you are. It’s less than 1% of all students taking calculus pre-college now, but it’s quite plausible the number grows to somewhere around one in ten students over the next five or six years. There’s no reason to stop, since calculus has in many respects been stripped down to exam-friendly format even at the college level and if a 15 year old can memorize enough problem structures and formulas, it’s not hard to see parents making a 13 year old do the same for that extra edge, what with it already happening.

Coming to a SuperZip near you any day now.

“You’re just saying that because your kids can’t do it.”  Nope, my kids are pretty likely  on the end of the bell curve that has a fifth grader being able to do the necessary trigonometry to understand calculus intuitively.  The difference between me and married parents with five degrees between them whose kids can actually understand advanced math pre-pubescently is that I don’t think standardizing the system so that it’s considered reasonable for the generic student to start memorizing algebra problem forms at age 8 so they can plug and play calculus by age 11 is worthwhile or a good use of resources.

There is no good end game here, just an eventual reset towards sanity, but probably only after nervous breakdowns of elementary schoolers have unfortunately become standardized.

Sending fiction to the back burner (writing update)

As I’ve posted, I hoped to get a little bit of fiction published this year and start working under a pen name more regularly.  But alternatives exclude and to get some nonfiction done that I think is ultimately more important to do over the next five years, I’m just setting the idea of submitting stories aside.

I’d like to make (more) money writing fiction and see how high the tally can go, but I don’t have 72 hours a day and something nonessential has to be put aside, very hopefully temporarily.

So, on to nonfiction, which is harder, takes longer and which I can’t really post online sooner than next year unless things go super awesome for me this year.  Here’s hoping.

More feminine mystique: Betty Friedan likes to complain (Chapters 8 and 9)

Chapter 8 is about admitting that women like being at home and explaining how encouraging it was evil. She fires up a big old and very fascinating list of statistics showing that the teenage marriage “pop” of the global baby boom of the 1950s was a strictly American phenomenon. It came with an interesting side effect, though: educated women were not ending up spinsters, but were instead having children and plenty of them.

Friedan has no explanation except her own bafflement for why educated women worked so hard to scrub their own floors and change alllll the diapers themselves. She dismisses the lack of domestics by stating that women simply rejected spending the money. Oddly for a Marxist, she never considers the possibility that the educated women decided they’d rather do the work themselves rather than treat domestic staff decently, which was much more reflective of the situation on the ground.

She does acknowledge that the drive in both culture and among college women themselves to return to home and DIY was a private retreat to a comforting bolthole one had real control over in the wake of yet another World War. In this way the college moms scrubbing their own floors in the 1950s were the forerunners of the subsequent wave of counterculture Back to the Land types just twenty years later.

Of course what Friedan doesn’t care about in this respect is that a culture of proto-DIY is anti-social, atomized and uncivic. It leads people towards technological solutions to social problems and leads to delusions that technology can replace the support of a healthy community. It is practically a straight line to Facebook groups and Amazon Prime instead of borrowing something from a neighbor and casual bridge afternoons or evenings. The retreat to, specifically, a nuclear home, was the straw that broke the back of an already atomized and individualistic by founding and nature core society. Mom-ness is also blamed for men skipping out on the draft due to clingy mothers.

Fascinatingly, Friedan complains that very few married mothers work outside the home full time and year round. She didn’t foresee that those women’s granddaughters would end up reverting towards that pattern, as in 2019, sixty years later than the 1950s, only about 25% of married mothers do so (in Friedan’s time this number was perhaps half that, 11-12%) and the 2019 number is an ongoing decline from the peaks of the older Boomer women who raced to work outside the home in the 1970s and 1980s.

Chapter 8 closes out with the curious circumstance of me agreeing with some of Friedan’s criticisms of college moms clinging to their parenting texts and professionalizing motherhood and then ending up with fretful, neurotic children, teenagers and young adults after all their careful hothouse parenting. But of course she’s obsessed with the solution being for women to have white collar jobs while their children are young. The question of who will provide the childcare and housework services for those women as a class is continually unanswered and is a dark colored, immigrant shaped elephant in the room (immigrant white women and black American women made up the bulk of domestic servants until the 1950s, with a substantial minority being lower-class ethnic white native-born women).

Chapter 9 is curiously titled, as Friedan claims that there’s a “sexual sell” being pitched to housewives, but she doesn’t really discuss sex, except to lament that advertising to housewives presents a glossy, desexualized set of personas rather than the earthy frank portrayals Friedan deems properly feminine sexuality. The chapter is interesting for its discussions of how advertisers broke housewives up into groups to determine how best to pitch to them.

A survey of 4500 such housewives during the 1940s led to them being categorized in three groups. The first was the True Housewives, with a Veblenian view of hard work and a resistance to the very labor-saving devices the new postwar economy was trying to get her to buy (but she bought a lot of them, she just needed a lot of handholding to get to the purchasing stages).  The second was the Career Woman, who was what we might term a psychological feminist.  She was very much a fan of all those other women out there working good jobs and having interesting careers, but she very very likely had never worked outside the home.  She was considered too critical and nitpicky and a frustration to tailor advertising to.

The third group, the Balanced Homemaker, just wanted to have a pleasant clean home and didn’t find inner joy in scrubbing a floor with a small brush, so she formed the perfect pitch-wife.  She embraced the labor-saving aspects of the new waves of housecleaning products, but also embraced the subtler attempt to professionalize consumption, in this case the consumption of tools for homemaking.  Many of the tools didn’t save much labor once women were buying sufficient quantities of them.

Advertisers didn’t care, though, they loved the rise of the Balanced Homemaker in the form of teenaged brides who could be trained to embrace this professionalized consumption and early expert-culture.  This is the core of what Friedan was upset about.  She viewed this professionalization of mere consumption as nefarious.  Defining a woman’s entire creative worth in her housecleaning, but only allowing her creativity to be expressed in learning new forms of consumption was the heart of the problem.

Friedan, who was already cross at the proto-mombloggers like Shirley Jackson, did not foresee the rise of fellow housewives being the ones to develop the advertising and pseudo-expert environment for housewives to be “Domestic Engineers” in.  Instagram Wife Life was unimaginable even to a bright critic like Friedan, yet with the lens of hindsight, it seems inevitable that something like it had to arise if sufficient mass communication technology beyond television also did.

Not being psychic, she instead spends much of Chapter 9 discussing how awful teen marriage is because the young girls are compliant and willing to accept the idea that they can purchase expert status via consumer behavior. But she doesn’t think through the implications of the pressure to be educated and clever even as she discusses the contradictions of that pressure.

The implication was that once just buying things could make you appear to be expert, the stage was set for modern momblog and instagram-influencer culture, in which college educated women, and the vanishingly small group of high-school graduate women pursue a shining and just as desexualized as in the 1950s image of a glossy, happy housewife who uses just the right products and wears the right clothes and is slim, approachable and with happy, attractive children.  But Friedan was unlikely to have come from the class tiers where the early MLMs were getting fired up in the 1950s doing just this sort of presenting housewife-to-housewife.

I had something quite different written about Chapter 9 but it got lost in a cut and paste disaster, so this very different take will have to substitute.