(WSJ) Parents Outsource the Basics

Some New York City children take after-school classes in dance, pottery or softball. Once a week, Gillian and Hunter Randall add an unusual activity to the list: lessons on how to shake hands.

It’s a class taught by SocialSklz:-), a company founded in 2009 to address deteriorating social skills in the age of iPhones, Twitter and Facebook friends.

“It’s hard to have a real conversation anymore. And you know what? I’m guilty of it too,” said the Randalls’ mother, Lisa LaBarbera, noting that her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son both have iPod touches and handheld videogame devices. “You get carpal tunnel, but you’re not building those communication skills.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Education, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

3 comments on “(WSJ) Parents Outsource the Basics

  1. TACit says:

    It occurs to me that actually, this might be a bit like putting lipstick on a pig (or piglets). These manners schools are nothing but a throwback to or the next development from those etiquette consultants roaming the Silicon Valley in the early 1980s, attempting to put lipstick on the high-tech pigs at the start-ups who were amassing wealth while living in grotty conditions, slaving 18-hour days in cubicles and neglecting personal hygiene (never mind remembering to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’). The thought was they needed a veneer of respectability when they did travel, spend their money at high-end restaurants and the like, so they would not be perceived/resented as – well, as exactly what they were, grotty American youth from mostly uncultivated backgrounds, living like pigs while expending their brains to gain wealth.

    It is wonderfully edifying to hear Temple Grandin, autistic person extraordinaire who is in her mid-60s now and preceded the Silicon Valley scene, speak frankly about the incomprehensibility of social graces to someone with the type of brains these people typically have, and how her mother’s insistence on the basics of civility along with her 1950s New England Christian upbringing enlightened her enough to have avoided these kids’ pitfalls.

  2. David Hein says:

    I may be the only professor in the United States with the temerity in this political climate to do so, but I’m using William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues as an assigned text this semester. It’s the main text in my Vice and Virtue class, a 200-level course aimed at teaching literature/writing/ethics. We’re also reading several great novels (or long stories), like Lord of the Flies and The Death of Ivan Ilych and The Plague. And we’re working hard on basic grammar and style.

    My point: in private conferences, students have told me how grateful they are. They’re finally being taken seriously as writers (most parents would be shocked at how little grammar is taught in schools) and moral actors (before this class, most students could not name a single virtue). This is great literature, and students really do seem to enjoy thinking and writing and talking about these topics.

    Btw, all electronic gizmos are banned from my classroom, despite my college’s trendy effort to give all freshmen iPads. In my class, the emphasis is on reading, thinking, writing, and speaking–over and over. And, if I may use the passive voice just this once: Progress is being made.

  3. David Hein says:

    In addition: Parents could read these stories in The Book of Virtues with their children. The stories are natural discussion starters, and Bennett does an excellent job of introducing them.