Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Still on pins and needles about the impending Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care. Already 3.1 million young adults have benefited from ACA’s provision to remain on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26, according to the Boston Globe.

The Atlantic has decided to publish a story to stoke the faux mommy wars. Joanne “PunditMom” Bamberger took it on gracefully for a column at Babble.

Check out this fascinating op-ed in the New York Times on the lack of philosophical debate surrounding having a child. Up to now, the onus has been on childless couples to explain why they don’t have children as opposed to the other way around. I promise this isn’t an anti-child or birthing screed and actually raises good points. I read it from top to bottom.

Last, but certainly not least, the University of New Hampshire in Durham published a fascinating study on the math achievement gap in this country. Hint: it’s much more nuanced than we think. Here are some key findings:

• Rural and urban kindergarten students have slightly lower average mathematics achievement levels than their suburban peers.
• The average increase in mathematics achievement from kindergarten to eighth grade for rural and urban children is smaller than the increase for suburban children, resulting in a widening achievement gap over time.
• Average differences in mathematics achievement favoring suburban children exist in the Northeast, South, and Midwest, but not in the West.
• Average achievement differences between rural, urban, and suburban students are larger for Asian and Native American students than for white, African-American, and Hispanic students.
• Family socioeconomic status explains much, but not all, of the observed differences in average mathematics achievement levels of rural, urban, and suburban children.

I was struck by the differences between suburban and urban or rural children, although it doesn’t seem to hold true in the west. Interesting. What do our scientific moms think of these findings?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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About Elisa

I am a journalist and online organizer who is the co-publisher of this blog. When I am not online, I am shuttling around my two kids, an 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.

50 thoughts on “Wednesday Morning Open Thread

  1. I had just had the “I don’t think I want kids” convo with DD. She’s young (21 in two weeks) and not making any permanent decisions, but I was impressed at how thoughtful she was about this. It was an interesting coincidence to see this blog post, and she felt validated that other people are thinking this way.

    Also heard a promo on the radio about how NYC has the highest number of “never married women” and “women who have made non-traditional” choices. Of course, NY is a great place to be living alone, but also it seems interesting to hear/read these two stories back-to-back.

  2. My college roommate (who coincidentally is visiting tomorrow–yay!) posted the same article yesterday. I read it, and I found it interesting, but I kept coming back to one point: I don’t think there *are* any good reasons that someone *should* have children beyond “I want children.” That’s not necessarily a sufficient reason to have them, but it’s the only good one I can think of—I think it should be the foundation of any decision about whether or not to have children. (There are tons of *bad* reasons to have them, of course.)

    I think we’re in the ideal position to have kids—strong marriage with no major issues and few minor ones, good stable jobs, preexisting agreement on things like child care and religious upbringing, enough experience with kids to have some idea of what the reality is (and enough sense to know that it’s still going to be hard as all get-out and filled with completely unexpected challenges), solid life coping skills, etc. (Part of the conversation we were having about luck a couple weeks ago—we are *so* lucky.) I know it will be a challenge and I know it will test us in ways we can’t imagine, but I also know we’re in the strongest possible starting position.

    But fundamentally, the decision to start a family started with “OMG I want one of those NOW” and *then* went through consideration of the above factors. So I guess what I’m saying is, I can agree with the article insofar as I do think there’s an ethical obligation to answer the question of “why did I *decide* to have/not to have kids?” [to have a clear motivation for action] but I disagree that there’s a better answer to “why do I *want*/not want kids?” other than “I just do/I just don’t.” Not only do I think “just because” is sufficient reason for the feeling [not necessarily sufficient reason to have them, but certainly to want them], but I really think it’s the *only* good reason.

  3. Interesting education news out of California that more kids are taking AP and more kids are scoring 3 or better. California ranks second in the success of Hispanic kids taking AP.

    Probably those differences for suburban children is related to parental enrichment activities, going to museums, just doing stuff together. Rural kids tend to be more isolated from travel and those kinds of culture experiences, as do inner city kids. Probably suburban parents are more likely to have paid time off and actually take vacations, too.

    • And also, I would assume the peer group plays a big role in suburban v urban/rural achievement. When everyone you know is planning to go to college and trying hard in school is just the norm, it raises the bar. I also assume that kindergarten achievement has to do with preparation, either through parents or preschool. I wonder if the availability of enrichment programs is higher in some suburbs?

      • I think it’s likely that suburban kids have the highest paid teachers. It matters. Also most likely to have college educated parents. Those schools often perform very well because they know that the community will demand it of them. Better educated parents have far more leverage in any community.

        • Suburbs also are made for people with kids. You can expect that there’s a demographic trend that people who spend the most time one-on-one in kid-centric activities and have the most opportunity to do so are suburban.

          You don’t usually hear people say, now that we’re pregnant, we’re moving to San Francisco or NYC.

          • Yes. And it feeds on itself. Communities designed around families with children are going to have good schools. They’re smaller, and more easily manageable than their larger urban neighbor districts, and they tend to be more affluent than rural districts.

          • Ironically, one reason we want to stay OUT of the burbs of our small city is because the city feels more family friendly to us. There are neighborhood parks everywhere, and several larger parks. The suburbs don’t have nearly as many public parks or swimming pools, etc. All the cultural attractions are downtown or close–we can decide to go to the childrens museum or the zoo and be there in under 15 minutes. For my friends in the suburbs, it’s at least an extra 30 minutes tacked on to anything. That said, there certainly are many people here who move to the suburbs when they have kids. You can get a lot more space in your house and yard for the money, which I understand. And people claim the schools are better, but I don’t think that’s uniformly true here. Not worth it to us to find out!

            • Same for us. We were talking about that today. There are good schools in the city, and good schools in the suburbs. There are crappy schools in the city, but there are also some crappy ones in the suburbs as well. There are also many, many people in the suburbs who send their kids to private or charter schools because they don’t like their districted school or it simply isn’t a great fit for their family.

              I live in the city because, honestly, I would find the suburbs very dull. Little diversity, and even less diversity of thought. Just not my thing.

  4. I have never understood why people are so obnoxious toward childless people…their choice, I say. My girls aren’t that into babies and kids. One has expressed since very young childhood that she is never having any children, so I won’t be too shocked if they don’t become parents.

    Thanks for the study link. I can’t wait to read it! My gut instinct tells me that the economic condition of the school, rather than the parents, is a more important factor in success. When parents enroll their kids, through whatever means, in schools with high socioeconomic status, they’re looking at the resources available, not the individual kids in attendance (kwim?)

    So,one of my young relatives is gifted, but throwing it all away (in the 7-8th grade) because he’s convinced he will be a famous rocker (bright enough that a public school transported him elsewhere on their own-he purposely flunked out after a couple years of loving it…ugh, these years can be so tough on a kid). Needless to say, with such potential, I hate to see him blow off a decent back up plan. I was hoping to send him some books/bios of rockers who valued education and were not ashamed to be high achievers. I found this awesome list of rockers with impressive science backgrounds:
    Any of you with great music/metal knowledge…can you think of any musicians (particularly rockers/metal folks) who were super achievers in school? Have you read any great, inspiring bios?

    • I haven’t, but this resonates with me. Harry told me that he’s so excited for middle school because he’s sure the math and science will be much more challenging and interesting. I don’t know how to tell him that the principal said it doesn’t matter that he’s already done the 6th grade curriculum this year (in 5th grade), he has to do it with his peer group next year. I’ve also been told that the science curriculum is totally text book driven because there was an accident during a lab so the district shut down all middle school experiments.


      • Sigh. I wish he could come to my school. I would NOT have told you that and would’ve encouraged him to sign up for our awesome Future City team and our awesome Science Olympiad team.

        • I wish he could too. I told him last night that he should consider next year a bit of a vacation academically since he’ll know most of the content- but that he’ll still be expected to do the assignments. I’m going to encourage him to think about the social piece next year and do a bit of anthropological research and observation. :-)

      • Oh dear. Something like this happened to me in 7th. My response was to refuse (on principle) to turn in any math homework for an entire year. My seat was the last in my row and every day when the teacher asked us to pass the homework forward John C would turn around and grin. I was miserable, but I wouldn’t budge. My mom never found out – I was the very first student home on the early bus, so when the math teacher called at 2:05 the person he left the message with was me (he was deceived by my phone voice, mimicked from my secretary mom). I never spoke to anyone about this, and no one really asked me. It was a very bad year for me. I think things could have been quite different if I’d felt there was anyone in my corner, but I had no ability to advocate for myself. I’m sure you can make a difference for Harry.

        • Lyn, that is both terrible and amazing. Terrible for the year you spent, but you are amazing. I would like to think my own kids would be able to recognize what was happening and make a strong statement of protest. I’m sorry you felt so helpless, but it sounds like you did a good job of advocating (to the extent a child can in that situation)

          • I’m not sure that was a strong statement of protest – more like butt-headedness. It’s only a statement of protest if you actually make some attempt to get your message across. I was dysfunctional, paralyzed, and powerless in the face of authority, but still very, very stubborn.

          • I love that. When I was in 5th grade, my class protested the decision to eliminate our recess by refusing the participate in math (classwork or homework) until it was reinstated. There were only a handful of us, so it worked. Can’t imagine that would fly today.

      • Ugh, I hate that.
        I’m convinced that busy work does nothing but damage. As a matter of fact, I almost certain our local HS honors science is harder, but requires less busy work (perhaps harder work, but less of it, and no busy work), so I signed my girls up to take it. They’re right on the edge of qualifying for it.

    • I went to college with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Ben had a couple of other bands before DCFC, so the music thing was a big part of his life. When DCFC started taking off locally (our junior year IIRC), he didn’t drop out. He was high-achieving engineering major and even worked in the industry (at an energy company I think) before transitioning to DCFC as his only job.

      I would say to him that talent is only part of the job of being a professional musician. Will he be able to read contracts and understand them so he can keep as much money as possible (maybe refer him to the many musicians who are famous, yet broke)? Will he have longevity? There are plenty of flashes in the pan out there with talent. If music is his passion, he still should commit to it 100% — learn every guitar style from classical to blues. Study literature to have a wealth of knowledge for writing songs full of allegories. Commit to the art of it AND commit to the business of it.

    • Well, out of seven children, I only have one who’s had children. Of course, my kids are only in their 20’s, but they don’t seem to be in any rush. One daughter, at nearly 28, tells me that if she doesn’t meet someone soon and marry while still in her early 30’s, that she won’t be having children. My youngest daughter has always been ambivalent about the whole thing. When she was little, she always stated that she would never have children. Only in the past couple of years has she conceded that she “might” have one some day, but she still has a lot of reservations. She loves her nephews, and that’s what got her to change her mind at all, but at the same time, every time she spends any time with them, she adds qualifiers.

    • What about Rivers Cuomo of Weezer? He is a Harvard graduate. I think his academic background may have contributed to his songwriting. He writes some pretty creative lyrics.

      Vampire Weekend met at Columbia U. but I know that isn’t very metal :)

      • Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand has a BA from the U of Strathclyde … there are a lot of British musicians who went to art colleges as well.

        What about R.E.M.? I think they were UGa students.

        Looking up some successful musicians I could think of, I have to say it’s notable how many didn’t go to college.

        • Yeah, I noticed that about the British…serious art schools and programs. I wondered if they are more accepting of using high intelligence in the arts?
          DS is a UGA guy and has been very lucky as it relates to hometown bands. Athens is known for the vibrant music scene…ironically, he toddled around to the B-52s as a baby:) The manager for REM just spoke at the graduation for the certificate program this spring.
          There are some really great, new bands coming up right now, too! It really is lots of fun…but hard, hard work. This isn’t an industry for those who think it’s about easy money or fame.

      • Rivers Cuomo graduated from the high school that my DSD-14 will be going to next year (and the middle school that she graduated from on Monday night). I don’t know how well he did there, though. He didn’t actually graduate from Harvard, either–he dropped out, and Weezer had already come out with their first album before he even got in, so I don’t know how much his academic background influenced his songwriting. (This page is interesting:

    • When I was participating in a science enrichment program for talented urban 8th grade girls I had one student who insisted she was only there because her parents made her; she was going to be a poet like Maya Angelou. After suitable admiration I asked, “So how are you planning to make money while writing the poems? Poetry doesn’t pay well at first, and it can take a few years to get famous enough to sell a lot of books. Of course with two strong talents, writing and science, if you put those together that would be valuable . . . ” She caught fire with the idea, and within minutes was excitedly describing a fantasy life of dashing off articles for Scientific American between poems. And she remained enthusiastic about becoming a scientist – only to support the poetry, of course, but she did decide that she had to study to be a good scientist if she wanted to make the big bucks.

      That was probably the one and only time I ever felt that I genuinely nudged a student in a positive direction.

    • There’s a list online of famous members of the National Honor Society–the two rock musicians included on that list are Sheryl Crow and Ed Kowalczyk from Live.

    • Wow- thanks you guys! I just knew you would be just the group to ask.
      I think I’m going to copy the article I found and get more info on the artists you all suggested. Wow-y’all are acquainted with (and aware of) some amazing people! Cornflake Girl-DS been a big Death Cab fan since his very young years. He’d talk about them and I’d think,”how the hell does he know this stuff?”
      We’re going to see my nephew in a couple of weeks. My thought is to compile some things, maybe find some books, and have my son (who is interning w/a label) give it to him. I’d like to be both supportive of the music and encourage a more mainstream fall-back plan. I think DS might be a good one to speak with him about marrying your passion with life’s realities. DS has taken that approach. He’ll finish college with a workable major & a minor in music biz. He has a great mind for the humanities, so we’re trying to convince him to go to law school (as you say, contracts…). He is super interested in intellectual property/copyright, but is worried about recent press regarding unemployed lawyers w/law school debt.
      I think DN will listen if it comes from DS, rather than his mother (SIL), who is justifiably anxious about his education.

      • Side note — another thought is that s/he who controls the producing controls a lot of the money. DCFC was smart in that they insisted Chris Walla retain a lot of the producing duties as they got bigger and bigger. And being a songwriter just adds to it.

  5. This makes me think of my BFF from childhood. When we were teenagers, she was dead set against having children. We did a spiritual gifts self-assessment during Youth Group one Sunday and her top spiritual gift was “celibacy.” Then, in college, she met THE boy (now her husband of twenty years). He was and is a devout, traditional Catholic and she converted when they married. They’ve been true to their commitment to be fruitful and multiply — she gave birth to their eighth child this year.

  6. Ugh. Sitting here trying to kill time until 1:00 PM. For a week, I’ve been trying to get my meds refilled. Started last Wednesday. Called the PA I see at our family practice group. Just saw him back in March, and I told him then that I didn’t need any prescription renewals just yet but would call when I did. Anyway, long and short of it is that I didn’t hear back until late Friday afternoon, and he wouldn’t do it until I had blood work done. I did the blood work stuff back in March…but, I guess now I’m back to doing it every damn three months??? And no, there was nothing that specifically changed in my work up in March. Have started no new meds or anything since then. This is fasting blood work, which is very difficult for me, and also, I don’t drive. So, it’s somehow better for me to run out of meds that I really need just to try to get me in? Pisses me off. Big time. Told them that they could give me enough for just a couple of weeks, but apparently, a no-go on that, too. So, yesterday, called cardiologist’s office. Made the appointment to come in and see them and then went through their whole long involved process to get refills. Haven’t heard back from them yet, so will call them again at !:00 pm since that meets their 24 hour requirement.

    And, I’m out of lasix. Completely. Started worrying about running out over the weekend and cut my daily dose in half. Took the last one I had Monday night. And I’m really feeling it. I can slap on ten pounds of fluid weight in a day, people, and it’s over 90 degrees here. Until I get my damn refills, I can’t do anything at all much more than just laying in bed. Shouldn’t even be sitting here on the computer.

    And, of course, kids are being annoying. Let me tell you, I think sibling rivalry is worse when they’re grown up than when it was when they were all little.

  7. Our surgeon suggested that we get a second opinion at a cancer center in Buffalo. They are out-of-network and according to the customer service rep I spoke with the process is to use their services, be denied, and then file a grievance and then maybe we will be covered. I don’t know how I am going to explain this to my husband or MIL. He’s already concerned about transferring to another local dr. They also cannot answer questions about whether the oncologist who came to his room at the hospital is considered his first opinion on that front. The answer for that is it all depends on how his office bills it. So frustrated.

    • I hate this. So, I’m assuming they they suggest you come in, have the consultation and then battling it out with the insurance company? I think I’d do it. Can the surgeon write it out as a referral? Sometimes, that helps.

      I hate all the “how the office bills it” stuff. We’ve had our share of go-arounds over that, too.

    • Ugh! So you are totally on your own in terms of figuring out whether it will be covered? What a pain. Would the surgeon who suggested it be of any help in this? Good luck.

    • Could I put you in touch with Joe for some guidance on this? He deals with this stuff all day long at Mass General and is a pro… I can connect you via email or FB… send me your email at kcollins at ccanh dot com

    • This just makes me furious. How on earth can these companies add stress to people going through illnesses? How can this country think that this is an acceptable way to do things?

      My anger doesn’t help you at all but man…evil doesn’t even begin to cover what they are.

  8. So….the “chill” kid and his high-achieving Mom came head-to-head last night……sigh. I had hoped my kiddo was getting better at self-motivation, so I had backed off a bit. Last night I got home at 8:15 and at 8:30 he told me he was done with homework for the night. Hmmm, I wondered aloud, what about that BIG English project the other parents were complaining about? Seems he didn’t have time to finish it, and seemed very unconcerned.

    Ugh. Where is that self-motivating drive?

    To make a long story short, I made it clear that he had had time to do a lot of nothing on Sunday and Monday…..and I expected more from him. Guess I need to be less laid back, and raise the bar so he is less “chill”. This morning he agreed with me, to an extent.

  9. Off to get my mammogram…….fun times.

    DS got his braces off yesterday — and looks 5 years older already. Same thing happened when DD got hers off….sigh. My little kids are grown up.

    • I just finished my round of mammo, sonogram, aspiration, and repeat mammo. Fortunately,mother end of all that was “you’re good. See you in six months”

      Aspiration involved a needle, and digging around to find the cyst. My poor right breast is very sore today. (and I hear ds13 in my head moaning “MOM, did you have to share so much?”)

      Good luck today!

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