The Boston Globe has a story this morning about MIT students who have trouble graduating due to the University’s insistance on a swim test as part of their graduating requirements. Meanwhile this weekend I chatted with a woman who taught art history at MIT and reported that it was a regular occurance in her classes that not one of the students had ever set foot in a mueseum.

It makes me wonder how many people appreciate what a forced march of achievement some parents put their offspring thru? How many of the students at top teir universities are at the end of these gauntlets? It’s very odd, and I see it as deeply disfunctional.

I sometimes joke when people say I have good children that it’s easy if you know the trick. The trick is to have a diverse portfolio. Have a lot of kids. Discard the lousy ones. As s an added bonus the culling has the positive of side effect of incentivizing the survivors.

While that’s a horrible joke it used be common practice. In traditional scarcity based economies parents would pass all their estate onto only one of their children. In a society where power arises from capital, and the returns are disproportionately skewed so that those with more capital are significantly more powerful than those with less a tradition of primogenitor, is totally rational.

While the universities bear some of the responsiblity for encouraing the forced march child rearing so common these days (as does the fetish for high stakes test based assesment) is the unbelievable network effects that rebound on those at the top of the pile is the central problem. Regresive taxation, increasing concentration of wealth, the privitization of all club goods, makes the loveless behavior of these parents totally rational.

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