Part 2: Random Granddaughter’s Checkered Pre-School Career

April 6, 2008



When Mommy (Out of Law Partner) moved from being a Montessori pre-school teacher to a fully certificated elementary school teacher, her first full time job (after a year of public school substitute teaching) was at the very same School for Very Bright Children (which I will call SVBC)

As an infant, RG was enrolled in the school’s crèche. They did not require intelligence testing for infants. It was convenient in that Mommy could visit and nurse RG during her own lunch break.

As RG progressed from infancy to toddling, Mommy and Mama (Random Daughter) became dissatisfied with SVBC’s crèche/preschool and transferred her to pre-school #2. After a while, they became dissatisfied with pre-school #2 and transferred her to pre-school #3, conveniently only a few blocks away from Mommy and Mama’s house.

However, the Mommies became dissatisfied with pre-school #3. One of their criticisms was that discipline had become negative and sexist. Little boys tend to be a little more rambunctious than girls; Mommy had observed the school a few times and seen several boys were frequently put on “time outs” instead of being encouraged to play more constructively. The expectation seemed to be that boys would be “bad” and this prejudice became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The mommies began to consider sending RG back to SVBC again with the goal of putting her in a school where boys and girls each get to be…well boys and girls. RG may have two mommies, but they realize she may grow up to marry a guy (these things happen), and they hope that if that happens, she will give him a fair start in the battle/race we call wedlock.

Though with all the tenrec influence in our family I’m not sure that is really possible.


Part 1: Prequel to RG Is Rejected by Harvard

April 5, 2008

About the time our daughter was attending first grade, it became apparent to her parents that she was a very bright little girl. We lived about a mile or two away from a private school for highly intelligent children. It was sort of the Harvard (or Yale or Princeton or Stamford, if you prefer) of private grade schools.

We considered sending our daughter to this school and began by having them test her to see if she was bright enough to be accepted.

The director of the school happily told us that Random Daughter qualified. “Your daughter is a very bright child” she said. We complacently basked in the glory of being the parents of such a prodigy.

However, we never enrolled her in this school for two reasons:

  • It would have been expensive to send our child to this school (almost as expensive as sending her to one of those “Ivy League” colleges) and we were very poor at the time. Even with the financial aid they offered, it would have been very difficult for us.
  • About that time we moved, first closer to the high school where I taught, and then to Oregon. It would not have been convenient or even practical to send RD to that school, especially with a daily commute from another state.

As a consequence, RD attended public schools for her entire grade school and high school career, though eventually she attended Oberlin, a moderately exclusive (though perhaps very dangerous, not to mention very expensive) private college. Among other consequences of attending Oberlin:

  • She roomed with and fell in love with another Oberlin student, who to this day is her Out of Law partner. (I guess that was the dangerous part. Would you want your daughter to marry “one of them?” Even more dangerous, after a week for the idea to settle in, Mrs. Random and I said, “Whatever.” I guess it RD picked dangerous parents as well as choosing to attend a dangerous college. Some children have little sense.)
  • We borrowed a lot of money to pay for sending her there. To help out, RD also borrowed a lot of money to help pay cover the cost of attending Oberlin. As a result, everybody involved was poor and deeply in debt for many years. This is why everyone involved in these stories drives ancient rattle-trap cars instead of modern Lex-i or Infiniti-I or even Camr-i. Read the rest of this entry »

Blood Brothers. And Sisters. And Pets.

April 4, 2008

In modern times, a common blood brother ceremony includes having each person make a small cut, usually on a finger or the forearm, and then the two cuts are pressed together and bound, the idea being that each person’s blood now flows in the other participant’s veins. In the early days of the World Wide Web, it was considered amazing to see pictures on the Internet.

Then people said, “This is not really multimedia; we don’t have music.” So began Napster and illegal file sharing of music. Until you can smell something on the Internet, it’s not really multimedia. They’re working on it.

Pretty soon you will have to remember to apply deodorant before you log on.

I am moving a step ahead. Everybody who reads my new secret blog has to take an oath of silence. We have to become blood brothers. And blood sisters. And if your pets are reading this over your shoulder–Little Liu! Cut that out!–you have to become a pet brother and sister as well.

We will have to exchange blood over the Internet so we can become blood kin, forever sworn to silence.

Prepare to share blood over the Internet.

I like the family tress.

The Terrible Tenrec

April 2, 2008

When I was attending graduate school at the University of Washington around 1967, I received an invitation in the mail to subscribe to the charter issue of a new magazine. I usually throw such advertisements away, but this publisher evidently had a mailing list of People Who Suspect They Are Crazy. As I fit that description to a T (or maybe a Q), I immediately subscribed to Psychology Today, beginning with the first issue. (However, after I didn’t notice myself becoming any saner, and the magazine ceased publication for a few years, I didn’t continue subscribing or even reading the magazine.)At that period in my life, I was much taken with the work of the experimental psychologist B. F. Skinner and his work with operant conditioning. Skinner argued that positive reinforcement was a much more effective way to promote learning and positive behavior than punishment (negative reinforcement). “Behavior modification,” as he and his followers labeled his approach, interested me quite a bit. As a young parent with negative memories to how I had been raised, I seized on Skinnerian ideas as perhaps a better idea for how to approach my daughter’s upbringing and tried to use positive reinforcement as a general approach to parenting.

At the time, I thought I was a brilliant parent. Now I think (1) my bad tendencies and my wife’s bad tendencies tended to cancel each other out and (2) our daughter was a very bright and good-tempered child who figured out (a) she would not live very long with two parents who are not especially fond of children unless she was very good and (b) in regard to adults in general (such as teachers and adopted aunts), if she spoke politely and intelligently to them, and did whatever she was supposed to do (such as school work) before it was due, adults would usually let her do whatever she wanted to do.

An early issue of Psychology Today featured an article titled The Terrible Tenrec. I long ago lost my copy of the issue and I haven’t been able to find a copy of the article, though I suspect if I spend some time and money on that as a goal I can track it down. At the moment, I will depend on very uncertain memory from about 40 years ago (supplemented by a little googling).

The article and my recent googling told me that tenrecs are (a) small omnivorous mammals that mostly eat insects; (b) live mostly on the African island of Madagascar; (c) are related to almost no other known mammals but in their isolated habitat evolved to fit various ecological niches so that various tenrecs species have been compared to hedgehogs, shrews, opossums, moles, and otters; d) tend to be bad tempered and uncooperative.

In terms of their temperament, the article indicated tenrecs (1) do not make good pets and (2) are not good subjects for psychological experimentation. Apparently experimental psychologists had tried to do experiments on tenrecs (similar to the ones that Skinner used to do on pigeons and rats) and found they were completely uncooperative and almost completely resistant to operant conditioning. (As I had already begun to have doubts about my enthusiasm of Skinner’s “Behavior Modification” approach to psychology, I suspected that the tenrecs were trying to tell me something.)

I am not sure why it ever occurred to experimental psychologists to consider trying to train tenrecs (given how many pigeons and rats are in easy reach), but I suspect experimental psychologists are the very archetype of mad scientists.

Both my wife and I are very uncooperative and probably highly resistant to behavior modification. My wife is very conscientious about doing things that need to be done-in fact, I suspect she probably has one of the largest superegos you’re likely to encounter in everyday life.  She almost always does what she is supposed to do…as long as she regards it as her own idea. However, she detests anyone else (such as her spouse) telling her what to do. (I, on the other hand, am just plain uncooperative. I not only don’t cooperate with my wife, I don’t cooperate with myself).

My wife is also short-tempered. When she becomes irritated with me (generally about every other day), she lets me know about it in a very sharp way. In fact, I often feel like I have sharp barbs in my skin. I have two nicknames for my wife. One is chickadee (as in the W. C. Fields/Mae West movie, My Little Chickadee). After I read the article in PT, I also began to call her my Terrible Tenrec.

Thinking about it, probably I am just as much of a tenrec as my wife. I have a bad temper and have been known to snap at people. I have had about eleven full time jobs during my life as well as about 20 more part-time and supplementary jobs and I have found myself in conflict and controversy in most of them. Most of my former bosses would consider they were letting me off easy if they only described me as a tenrec.

Of the various species of tenrecs, two are apparently well known as particularly unsuited to be pets. A web page about problems with importing tenrecs described these difficult and troublesome varieties

The streaked tenrec, although cute, carries “barbed quills that are detachable like a porcupine quill. As a defense, these animals can drive their quills into a person or animal.”

The common or tailless tenrec is the “largest of the tenrecs at 2.5 kilograms. It can inflict serious damage with a powerful bite.”

It’s OK to look at them on a blog, but don’t try to keep one as a pet. For that matter, with such difficult creatures as parents, I am not sure how my daughter survived to grow up, much less turn into a fairly nice person, at least most of the time.

Hello world!

March 24, 2008

I haven’t moved in yet. If you just arrived, you are welcome, but there is nothing to amuse or titillate you yet. I will let you know (by email and on my regular blog) as soon as I have started decorating, or at least posting.