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Sociological Images

Inspiring sociological imaginations everywhere.
Jul 23 '14
Conspicuous pollution: Rural, white men rollin’ coal.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
Conspicuous consumption refers to the practice of ostentatiously displaying of high status objects.  Think very expensive purses and watches.  In the last few decades, as concern for the environment has become increasingly en vogue, it has become a marker of status to care for the earth.  Accordingly, people now engage in conspicuous conservation, the ostentatious display of objects that mark a person as eco-friendly.
Driving a Prius and putting solar panels on visible roof lines, even if they aren’t the sunniest, are two well-documented examples.  Those “litter removal sponsored by” signs on freeways are an example we’ve featured, as are these shoes that make it appear that the wearer helped clean up the oil spill in the gulf, even though they didn’t.
Well, welcome to the opposite: conspicuous pollution.
Elizabeth Kulze, writing at Vocativ, explains:

In small towns across America, manly men are customizing their jacked-up diesel trucks to intentionally emit giant plumes of toxic smoke every time they rev their engines. They call it “rollin’ coal”…

It’s a thing. Google it!

This is not just a handful of guys.  Kulze links to “an entire subculture” on Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram. “It’s just fun,” one coal roller says. “Just driving and blowing smoke and having a good time.”

It isn’t just fun, though. It’s a way for these men — mostly white, working class, rural men — to send an intrusive and nasty message to people they don’t like. According to this video, that includes Prius drivers, cops, women, tailgaters, and people in vulnerable positions. “City boys” and “liberals” are also targeted.
Kulze reports that it costs anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 to modify a pickup to do this, which is why the phenomenon resonates with conspicuous consumption and conservation.  It’s an expensive and public way to claim an identity that the owner wants to project.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Conspicuous pollution: Rural, white men rollin’ coal.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Conspicuous consumption refers to the practice of ostentatiously displaying of high status objects.  Think very expensive purses and watches.  In the last few decades, as concern for the environment has become increasingly en vogue, it has become a marker of status to care for the earth.  Accordingly, people now engage in conspicuous conservation, the ostentatious display of objects that mark a person as eco-friendly.

Driving a Prius and putting solar panels on visible roof lines, even if they aren’t the sunniest, are two well-documented examples.  Those “litter removal sponsored by” signs on freeways are an example we’ve featured, as are these shoes that make it appear that the wearer helped clean up the oil spill in the gulf, even though they didn’t.

Well, welcome to the opposite: conspicuous pollution.

Elizabeth Kulze, writing at Vocativ, explains:

In small towns across America, manly men are customizing their jacked-up diesel trucks to intentionally emit giant plumes of toxic smoke every time they rev their engines. They call it “rollin’ coal”…

It’s a thing. Google it!

1a

This is not just a handful of guys.  Kulze links to “an entire subculture” on FacebookTumblr, and Instagram“It’s just fun,” one coal roller says. “Just driving and blowing smoke and having a good time.”

It isn’t just fun, though. It’s a way for these men — mostly white, working class, rural men — to send an intrusive and nasty message to people they don’t like. According to this video, that includes Prius drivers, cops, women, tailgaters, and people in vulnerable positions. “City boys” and “liberals” are also targeted.

Kulze reports that it costs anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 to modify a pickup to do this, which is why the phenomenon resonates with conspicuous consumption and conservation.  It’s an expensive and public way to claim an identity that the owner wants to project.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jul 22 '14
The unaccompanied child refugee crisis has hardened Americans against undocumented immigrants.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
This year tens of thousands of Central American children, fleeing violence and poverty, have been arriving in the U.S. seeking refuge.  It’s a stunning story that has been covered widely in the media and Americans’ opinions about immigration have taken a hit.
The Pew Research Center collected data regarding American leniency toward undocumented immigrants in February and July, before and after media coverage of this crisis began.  The results show that members of all political parties, on average, are less inclined to allow “immigrants living in U.S. who meet certain requirements” to stay legally (see far right column).
The strongest opponents are Republicans and members of the Tea Party.  These groups were more opposed to enabling undocumented immigrants to stay legally to begin with and they showed the greatest change in response to this new crisis.
Republicans and Independents are also more likely than Democrats to think that we should speed up the deportation process, even if it means deporting children who are eligible for asylum.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The unaccompanied child refugee crisis has hardened Americans against undocumented immigrants.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

This year tens of thousands of Central American children, fleeing violence and poverty, have been arriving in the U.S. seeking refuge.  It’s a stunning story that has been covered widely in the media and Americans’ opinions about immigration have taken a hit.

The Pew Research Center collected data regarding American leniency toward undocumented immigrants in February and July, before and after media coverage of this crisis began.  The results show that members of all political parties, on average, are less inclined to allow “immigrants living in U.S. who meet certain requirements” to stay legally (see far right column).

The strongest opponents are Republicans and members of the Tea Party.  These groups were more opposed to enabling undocumented immigrants to stay legally to begin with and they showed the greatest change in response to this new crisis.

Republicans and Independents are also more likely than Democrats to think that we should speed up the deportation process, even if it means deporting children who are eligible for asylum.

2

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jul 21 '14
Border fences make unequal neighbors.
By Philip Cohen, PhD
There is one similarity between the Israel/Gaza crisis and the U.S. unaccompanied child immigrant crisis: National borders enforcing social inequality. When unequal populations are separated, the disparity creates social pressure at the border. The stronger the pressure, the greater the military force needed to maintain the separation.
To get a conservative estimate of the pressure at the Israel/Gaza border, I compared some numbers for Israel versus Gaza and the West Bank combined, from the World Bank (here’s a recent rundown of living conditions in Gaza specifically). I call that conservative because things are worse in Gaza than in the West Bank.
Then, just as demographic wishful thinking, I calculated what the single-state solution would look like on the day you opened the borders between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. I added country percentiles showing how each state ranks on the world scale (click to enlarge).

Israel’s per capita income is 6.2-times greater, its life expectancy is 6 years longer, its fertility rate is a quarter lower, and its age structure is reversed. Together, the Palestinian territories have a little more than half the Israeli population (living on less than 30% of the land). That means that combining them all into one country would move both populations’ averages a lot. For example, the new country would be substantially poorer (29% poorer) and younger than Israel, while increasing the national income of Palestinians by 444%. Israelis would fall from the 17th percentile worldwide in income, and the Palestinians would rise from the 69th, to meet at the 25th percentile.
Clearly, the separation keeps poor people away from rich people. Whether it increases or decreases conflict is a matter of debate.
Meanwhile
Meanwhile, the USA has its own enforced exclusion of poor people.  The current crisis at the southern border of the USA mostly involves children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They don’t actually share a border with the USA, of course, but their region does, and crossing into Mexico seems pretty easy, so it’s the same idea.
To make a parallel comparison to Israel and the West Bank/Gaza, I just used Guatemala, which is larger by population than Honduras and El Salvador combined, and also closest to the USA. The economic gap between the USA and Guatemala is even larger than the Israeli/Palestinian gap. However, because the USA is 21-times larger than Guatemala by population, we could easily absorb the entire Guatemalan population without much damaging our national averages. Per capita income in the USA, for example, would fall only 4%, while rising more than 7-times for Guatemala (click to enlarge):

This simplistic analysis yields a straightforward hypothesis: violence and military force at national borders rises as the income disparity across the border increases. Maybe someone has already tested that.
The demographic solution is obvious: open the borders, release the pressure, and devote resources to improving quality of life and social harmony instead of enforcing inequality. You’re welcome!
Cross-posted at Family Inequality. Photo of US/Tijuana border by Kordian from Flickr Creative Commons.
Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and writes the blog Family Inequality. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Border fences make unequal neighbors.

By Philip Cohen, PhD

There is one similarity between the Israel/Gaza crisis and the U.S. unaccompanied child immigrant crisis: National borders enforcing social inequality. When unequal populations are separated, the disparity creates social pressure at the border. The stronger the pressure, the greater the military force needed to maintain the separation.

To get a conservative estimate of the pressure at the Israel/Gaza border, I compared some numbers for Israel versus Gaza and the West Bank combined, from the World Bank (here’s a recent rundown of living conditions in Gaza specifically). I call that conservative because things are worse in Gaza than in the West Bank.

Then, just as demographic wishful thinking, I calculated what the single-state solution would look like on the day you opened the borders between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. I added country percentiles showing how each state ranks on the world scale (click to enlarge).

1

Israel’s per capita income is 6.2-times greater, its life expectancy is 6 years longer, its fertility rate is a quarter lower, and its age structure is reversed. Together, the Palestinian territories have a little more than half the Israeli population (living on less than 30% of the land). That means that combining them all into one country would move both populations’ averages a lot. For example, the new country would be substantially poorer (29% poorer) and younger than Israel, while increasing the national income of Palestinians by 444%. Israelis would fall from the 17th percentile worldwide in income, and the Palestinians would rise from the 69th, to meet at the 25th percentile.

Clearly, the separation keeps poor people away from rich people. Whether it increases or decreases conflict is a matter of debate.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile, the USA has its own enforced exclusion of poor people.  The current crisis at the southern border of the USA mostly involves children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They don’t actually share a border with the USA, of course, but their region does, and crossing into Mexico seems pretty easy, so it’s the same idea.

To make a parallel comparison to Israel and the West Bank/Gaza, I just used Guatemala, which is larger by population than Honduras and El Salvador combined, and also closest to the USA. The economic gap between the USA and Guatemala is even larger than the Israeli/Palestinian gap. However, because the USA is 21-times larger than Guatemala by population, we could easily absorb the entire Guatemalan population without much damaging our national averages. Per capita income in the USA, for example, would fall only 4%, while rising more than 7-times for Guatemala (click to enlarge):

4

This simplistic analysis yields a straightforward hypothesis: violence and military force at national borders rises as the income disparity across the border increases. Maybe someone has already tested that.

The demographic solution is obvious: open the borders, release the pressure, and devote resources to improving quality of life and social harmony instead of enforcing inequality. You’re welcome!

Cross-posted at Family Inequality. Photo of US/Tijuana border by Kordian from Flickr Creative Commons.

Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and writes the blog Family Inequality. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Jul 20 '14

Sunday fun: The Flintstones take a smoke break.

blast from the past before regulations that banned tobacco companies from advertising with cartoons.  Fred and Barney let their wives do all the work, pull out a pack of Winston’s.

Jul 19 '14
Wait, who dislikes atheists?
By Lisa Wade, PhD
Last month I posted data showing that, of all the things that might disqualify someone for public office, being an atheist is tops.  I wrote: “Prejudice against those who say there’s no god is stronger than ageism, homophobia, and sexism.” On average, Americans would rather vote for someone who admitted to smoking pot or had an extramarital affair.
We just don’t like atheists.
But who is “we”?
A survey by the Pew Research Center asked Americans of varying religious affiliations how they felt about each other.  atheists were most disliked by Protestants, especially White evangelicals and Black Protestants (somewhat less so White Mainline Protestants).  Atheists quite liked themselves, and agnostics thought were they were okay. Among other religiously affiliated groups, Jews gave atheists the highest rating.
For what it’s worth, atheists feel warmish toward Jews in return, preferring them to everyone except Buddhists, and they dislike Evangelical Christians almost as much as the Christians dislike them.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Wait, who dislikes atheists?

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Last month I posted data showing that, of all the things that might disqualify someone for public office, being an atheist is tops.  I wrote: “Prejudice against those who say there’s no god is stronger than ageism, homophobia, and sexism.” On average, Americans would rather vote for someone who admitted to smoking pot or had an extramarital affair.

We just don’t like atheists.

But who is “we”?

A survey by the Pew Research Center asked Americans of varying religious affiliations how they felt about each other.  atheists were most disliked by Protestants, especially White evangelicals and Black Protestants (somewhat less so White Mainline Protestants).  Atheists quite liked themselves, and agnostics thought were they were okay. Among other religiously affiliated groups, Jews gave atheists the highest rating.

For what it’s worth, atheists feel warmish toward Jews in return, preferring them to everyone except Buddhists, and they dislike Evangelical Christians almost as much as the Christians dislike them.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jul 18 '14
The military camels of the north American west.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
Dr. Grumpy re-tells the fascinating story of the importation of camels to North America for use as beasts of burden.  He begins:

Following the Mexican-American war, the United States found itself in control of a large desert… The U.S. Army needed to establish bases and supply lines in the area, both for the border with Mexico and the continuing wars with Indian tribes.
The railroad system was in it’s infancy, and there were no tracks through the area… The only way across was to use horses. But horses, like humans, are heavily dependent on water. This made the area difficult to cross, and vulnerable to attacking Apaches.
And so in 1855 Jefferson Davis… put into action an idea proposed by several officers: buy camels to serve in the desert. 

The next year they imported somewhere between 62 and 73 camels and, with them, 8 camel drivers all led by a man named Hadji Ali. Enter the U.S. Army Camel Corps.
Camels at an Army Fort (source):

Illustration of camels in camp (source):

Camels on the go (1850s) (source):

Says Dr. Grumpy:

They led supply trains all over, from Texas to California…
But there were problems. The Americans had envisioned combined forces of camels and horses, each making up for the deficiencies of the other. But horses and donkeys are frightened of camels, making joint convoys difficult and requiring separate corrals. The army was also unprepared for their intrinsically difficult personalities- camels bite, spit, kick, and are short-tempered. Horses are comparatively easy to handle.

Then came the start of the American Civil War, which focused military attention to the east. With troops pulled out of the American desert, and horses better suited to the eastern terrain, the camels were abandoned.  Though Weird CA suggests that they were used in the war, Dr. Grumpy reports that most simply escaped into the desert.  For a time, there was a wild camel population in the U.S.
Meanwhile, a former-solider and Canadian gold prospector, Frank Laumeister, figured that camels would be great pack animals for his new line of work. He bought a herd in 1862, but they didn’t work out so well in the rockier terrain. Plus:

The Canadians, like the Americans, discovered they weren’t easy to handle. The same problems of difficult disposition and spooking horses came up. In addition, they found camels would eat anything they found. Hats. Shoes. Clothes that were out drying. Even soap. And so, after a few years, the Canadians gave up on the experiment, too.

Our original head camel driver, Hadji Ali, eventually got out of the camel business, but he never left America. He became a citizen in 1880, married a woman named Gertrudis Serna and had two children. He died in Arizona in 1902, having spent 51 years of his life in the U.S. You’ll find his tombstone in Quartzsite, Arizona labeled with the name “Hi Jolly,” the Americanized pronunciation of his full name (source).

The last sighting of a wild camel in North America was in 1941 near Douglas, Texas (source).
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The military camels of the north American west.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Dr. Grumpy re-tells the fascinating story of the importation of camels to North America for use as beasts of burden.  He begins:

Following the Mexican-American war, the United States found itself in control of a large desert… The U.S. Army needed to establish bases and supply lines in the area, both for the border with Mexico and the continuing wars with Indian tribes.

The railroad system was in it’s infancy, and there were no tracks through the area… The only way across was to use horses. But horses, like humans, are heavily dependent on water. This made the area difficult to cross, and vulnerable to attacking Apaches.

And so in 1855 Jefferson Davis… put into action an idea proposed by several officers: buy camels to serve in the desert. 

The next year they imported somewhere between 62 and 73 camels and, with them, 8 camel drivers all led by a man named Hadji Ali. Enter the U.S. Army Camel Corps.

Camels at an Army Fort (source):

Illustration of camels in camp (source):

Camels on the go (1850s) (source):

Says Dr. Grumpy:

They led supply trains all over, from Texas to California…

But there were problems. The Americans had envisioned combined forces of camels and horses, each making up for the deficiencies of the other. But horses and donkeys are frightened of camels, making joint convoys difficult and requiring separate corrals. The army was also unprepared for their intrinsically difficult personalities- camels bite, spit, kick, and are short-tempered. Horses are comparatively easy to handle.

Then came the start of the American Civil War, which focused military attention to the east. With troops pulled out of the American desert, and horses better suited to the eastern terrain, the camels were abandoned.  Though Weird CA suggests that they were used in the war, Dr. Grumpy reports that most simply escaped into the desert.  For a time, there was a wild camel population in the U.S.

Meanwhile, a former-solider and Canadian gold prospector, Frank Laumeister, figured that camels would be great pack animals for his new line of work. He bought a herd in 1862, but they didn’t work out so well in the rockier terrain. Plus:

The Canadians, like the Americans, discovered they weren’t easy to handle. The same problems of difficult disposition and spooking horses came up. In addition, they found camels would eat anything they found. Hats. Shoes. Clothes that were out drying. Even soap. And so, after a few years, the Canadians gave up on the experiment, too.

Our original head camel driver, Hadji Ali, eventually got out of the camel business, but he never left America. He became a citizen in 1880, married a woman named Gertrudis Serna and had two children. He died in Arizona in 1902, having spent 51 years of his life in the U.S. You’ll find his tombstone in Quartzsite, Arizona labeled with the name “Hi Jolly,” the Americanized pronunciation of his full name (source).

The last sighting of a wild camel in North America was in 1941 near Douglas, Texas (source).

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jul 17 '14
Racialized space: Whites, Blacks and kidney failure.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
White people should worry about racism.  They should worry about racism because it’s wrong.  But if that’s not enough of a motivation, they should worry about it for their own damn good.  Philip Cohen of Family Inequality shows us how so with a discussion of a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
The Figure above illustrates the percentage of black (grey bar) and white (white bar) residents who went into end-stage renal disease (kidney failure; ESRD) before ever seeing a doctor specializing in kidneys (a nephrologist).  As we move from left to right, the zip codes in which patients live becomes increasingly populated by black people.
What we see is that, in any given neighborhood, black people are always less likely to get access to a kidney specialist before their kidneys fail; but also that white people living in a neighborhood with a higher percentage of blacks are less likely than whites in a more white neighborhood to see a specialist.  So much so that whites living in neighborhoods that are more than 50% black are less likely to see a specialist than blacks living in neighborhoods that are less than 25% black.
Cohen specifies that…

…the relationship still holds even when individual socioeconomic status, and local-area socioeconomic status, are controlled. So it’s not just a poverty effect.

Somehow places that are “blacker”, even when they are not poor, are serviced with inferior health care compared to places that are “whiter.”  And everyone suffers for it (though not necessarily equally).
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Racialized space: Whites, Blacks and kidney failure.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

White people should worry about racism.  They should worry about racism because it’s wrong.  But if that’s not enough of a motivation, they should worry about it for their own damn good.  Philip Cohen of Family Inequality shows us how so with a discussion of a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The Figure above illustrates the percentage of black (grey bar) and white (white bar) residents who went into end-stage renal disease (kidney failure; ESRD) before ever seeing a doctor specializing in kidneys (a nephrologist).  As we move from left to right, the zip codes in which patients live becomes increasingly populated by black people.

What we see is that, in any given neighborhood, black people are always less likely to get access to a kidney specialist before their kidneys fail; but also that white people living in a neighborhood with a higher percentage of blacks are less likely than whites in a more white neighborhood to see a specialist.  So much so that whites living in neighborhoods that are more than 50% black are less likely to see a specialist than blacks living in neighborhoods that are less than 25% black.

Cohen specifies that…

…the relationship still holds even when individual socioeconomic status, and local-area socioeconomic status, are controlled. So it’s not just a poverty effect.

Somehow places that are “blacker”, even when they are not poor, are serviced with inferior health care compared to places that are “whiter.”  And everyone suffers for it (though not necessarily equally).

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jul 16 '14
Collegiate “practice babies”: Changing ideas of parenting.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
Nils G. drew my attention to a fascinating now-abandoned America educational practice that nicely illustrates how ideas about ideal parenting shift over time.  Between 1919 and 1969, the Home Economics departments of about 50 colleges and universities served as foster homes for orphans. Writes Emily Anthes at Wonderland:

During this time, homemaking… was considered to be something that could be conquered by science. Running a home based on instinct was considered to be woefully old-fashioned; the idea that raising a child and maintaining a home could be optimized by following a set of scientific rules was gaining currency.

Accordingly, getting a degree in Home Economics included a labratory set up exactly like a home: “practice apartments.”  And what better to fill these homes with than “practice babies!”  Students would practice applying the latest science-endorsed parenting techniques on orphans.  An article published in the Journal of Home Economics in 1920, by Elizabeth Vermilye, explained the rotation of care:

Each girl, in rotation, carried the work of “baby manager” for one week… The “baby manager” assumed the entire responsibility for the care of the child during her period. She herself did the actual work of caring for him between the hours of 6.00 to 8.00 a.m. and from 4.30 to 6.00 p.m. During the day the child was in the care of three or four other students during the time they were not in class, the manager making the program for this care, giving instructions regarding food and other matters needing attention. The baby manager did the baby’s laundry work.


Far from being exploited, it was believed that these babies would get not just excellent, attentive care, but the best, most scientifically-valid care.  Vermilye claims that the examining physician was highly impressed with the children’s development during their stay with the students.  She quotes him saying, “The improvement in the condition of these children speaks highly for your cooperative motherhood.”
These pictures of orphan and practice baby Bobby Domecon (surnamed after his role in the Domestic Economics department) reveal his chubbification.
A skinny 6 pounds at 2 months old:

Perking up at age 10 months:

Nice and chubby 5 months later:

Because these children were believed to be benefiting from the latest science of parenting, they were highly adoptable; many couples were eager to get their hands on a child that had such a good start in life (source).
Eventually, however, ideas about mothering began to change.  In particular, scholars began to talk about Attachment Disorder and argue that a child’s development required that it strongly bond to one unique person.  In 1954, a short Time magazine article on the subject included experts suggesting that the program was harmful.  Starting with the Superintendent of the Illinois State Child Welfare Division, the author writes:

“It is not a normal family setting,” said he. “There are just too many persons involved in the handling of that child.”  Heaven only knows, added the superintendent, how many neuroses little David might develop. Other officials seemed to agree. “Imagine.” cried Mrs. Babette Penner, director of the Women’s Services Division of United Charities, “what anxieties there are in a child who is given a bottle in twelve or more pairs of arms.”

The scientific consensus eventually changed and, as a result, by 1969, then, “practice babies” were a thing of the past.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Collegiate “practice babies”: Changing ideas of parenting.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Nils G. drew my attention to a fascinating now-abandoned America educational practice that nicely illustrates how ideas about ideal parenting shift over time.  Between 1919 and 1969, the Home Economics departments of about 50 colleges and universities served as foster homes for orphans. Writes Emily Anthes at Wonderland:

During this time, homemaking… was considered to be something that could be conquered by science. Running a home based on instinct was considered to be woefully old-fashioned; the idea that raising a child and maintaining a home could be optimized by following a set of scientific rules was gaining currency.

Accordingly, getting a degree in Home Economics included a labratory set up exactly like a home: “practice apartments.”  And what better to fill these homes with than “practice babies!”  Students would practice applying the latest science-endorsed parenting techniques on orphans.  An article published in the Journal of Home Economics in 1920, by Elizabeth Vermilye, explained the rotation of care:

Each girl, in rotation, carried the work of “baby manager” for one week… The “baby manager” assumed the entire responsibility for the care of the child during her period. She herself did the actual work of caring for him between the hours of 6.00 to 8.00 a.m. and from 4.30 to 6.00 p.m. During the day the child was in the care of three or four other students during the time they were not in class, the manager making the program for this care, giving instructions regarding food and other matters needing attention. The baby manager did the baby’s laundry work.

Far from being exploited, it was believed that these babies would get not just excellent, attentive care, but the best, most scientifically-valid care.  Vermilye claims that the examining physician was highly impressed with the children’s development during their stay with the students.  She quotes him saying, “The improvement in the condition of these children speaks highly for your cooperative motherhood.”

These pictures of orphan and practice baby Bobby Domecon (surnamed after his role in the Domestic Economics department) reveal his chubbification.

A skinny 6 pounds at 2 months old:

Perking up at age 10 months:

Nice and chubby 5 months later:

Because these children were believed to be benefiting from the latest science of parenting, they were highly adoptable; many couples were eager to get their hands on a child that had such a good start in life (source).

Eventually, however, ideas about mothering began to change.  In particular, scholars began to talk about Attachment Disorder and argue that a child’s development required that it strongly bond to one unique person.  In 1954, a short Time magazine article on the subject included experts suggesting that the program was harmful.  Starting with the Superintendent of the Illinois State Child Welfare Division, the author writes:

“It is not a normal family setting,” said he. “There are just too many persons involved in the handling of that child.”  Heaven only knows, added the superintendent, how many neuroses little David might develop. Other officials seemed to agree. “Imagine.” cried Mrs. Babette Penner, director of the Women’s Services Division of United Charities, “what anxieties there are in a child who is given a bottle in twelve or more pairs of arms.”

The scientific consensus eventually changed and, as a result, by 1969, then, “practice babies” were a thing of the past.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jul 15 '14
Test prep for kindergarten: Kids and class privilege.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
A New York Times article covered the stiff competition for entrance to public and private kindergartens in Manhattan for especially smart kids.  Whereas at one time teachers recommended students to these programs, today entrance to both public and private schools for gifted children is dependent entirely on test scores.
Accordingly, a whole industry revolving around gaming the tests has emerged.  The New York Times profiles Bright Kids NYC. The owner of Bright Kids confesses that “the parents of the 120 children her staff tutored [this year] spent an average of $1,000 on test prep for their 4-year-olds.”  This, of course, makes admission to schools for the gifted a matter of class privilege as well as intelligence.
The article also tells the story of a woman without the resources to get her child, Chase, professional tutoring:

Ms. Stewart, a single mom working two jobs, didn’t think the process was fair. She had heard widespread reports of wealthy families preparing their children for the kindergarten gifted test with $90 workbooks, $145-an-hour tutoring and weekend “boot camps.”
…
Ms. Stewart used a booklet the city provided and reviewed the 16 sample questions with Chase. “I was online trying to find sample tests,” she said. “But everything was $50 or more. I couldn’t afford that.”

Ms. Stewart can’t afford tutoring for Chase; other parents can.  It’s unfair that entrance into kindergarten level programs is being gamed by people with resources, disadvantaging the most disadvantaged kids from the get go.  I think it’s egregious.  Many people will agree that this isn’t fair.
But the more insidious value, the one that almost no one would identify as problematic, is the idea that all parents should do everything they can to give their child advantages.  Even Ms. Stewart thinks so.  “They want to help their kids,” she said. “If I could buy it, I would, too.”
Somehow, in the attachment to the idea that we should all help our kids get every advantage, the fact that advantaging your child disadvantages other people’s children gets lost.  If it advantages your child, it must be advantaging him over someone else; otherwise it’s not an advantage, you see?
I felt like this belief (that you should give your child every advantage) and it’s invisible partner (that doing so is hurting other people’s children) was rife in the FAQs on the Bright Kids NYC website.
<start sarcasm>

Isn’t my child too young to be tutored?
These programs are very competitive, the answers say, and you need to make sure your kid kicks all those other kids’ asses out of the way.  It’s never too soon to gain an advantage.
My child is already bright, why does he or she need to be prepared?
Because being bright isn’t enough.  If you get your kid tutoring, she’ll be able to show she’s bright in exactly the right way. All those other bright kids that can’t get tutoring won’t get in because, after all, being bright isn’t enough.  Fuck ‘em.

Is it fair to ‘prep’ for the standardized testing?
Of course it’s fair!  It’s not only fair, it’s “rational”!  What parent wouldn’t give their child an advantage!  (Notice how they avoid actually answering the question by making kids who don’t get tutoring invisible and then suggesting that you’d be crazy not to enroll your child in the program.)
My friend says that her child got a very high ERB [score] without prepping.  My kid should be able to do the same.
Don’t be foolish.  This isn’t about being bright, remember.  Besides, your friend is lying.  They’re spending $700,000 dollars on their kid’s schooling (aren’t we all!?) and we can’t disclose our clients but, trust us, they either forked over a grand to Bright Kids NYC or test administrators.
</end sarcasm>
Test prep for kindergartners seems like a pretty blatant example of class privilege. But, of course, the argument that advantaging your own kid necessarily involves disadvantaging someone else’s applies to all sorts of things, from tutoring, to a leisurely summer with which to study for the SAT, to financial support during their unpaid internships, to helping them buy a house and, thus, keeping home prices high. I think it’s worth re-evaluating. Is giving your kid every advantage the moral thing to do?
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Test prep for kindergarten: Kids and class privilege.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

A New York Times article covered the stiff competition for entrance to public and private kindergartens in Manhattan for especially smart kids.  Whereas at one time teachers recommended students to these programs, today entrance to both public and private schools for gifted children is dependent entirely on test scores.

Accordingly, a whole industry revolving around gaming the tests has emerged.  The New York Times profiles Bright Kids NYC. The owner of Bright Kids confesses that “the parents of the 120 children her staff tutored [this year] spent an average of $1,000 on test prep for their 4-year-olds.”  This, of course, makes admission to schools for the gifted a matter of class privilege as well as intelligence.

The article also tells the story of a woman without the resources to get her child, Chase, professional tutoring:

Ms. Stewart, a single mom working two jobs, didn’t think the process was fair. She had heard widespread reports of wealthy families preparing their children for the kindergarten gifted test with $90 workbooks, $145-an-hour tutoring and weekend “boot camps.”

Ms. Stewart used a booklet the city provided and reviewed the 16 sample questions with Chase. “I was online trying to find sample tests,” she said. “But everything was $50 or more. I couldn’t afford that.”

Ms. Stewart can’t afford tutoring for Chase; other parents can.  It’s unfair that entrance into kindergarten level programs is being gamed by people with resources, disadvantaging the most disadvantaged kids from the get go.  I think it’s egregious.  Many people will agree that this isn’t fair.

But the more insidious value, the one that almost no one would identify as problematic, is the idea that all parents should do everything they can to give their child advantages.  Even Ms. Stewart thinks so.  “They want to help their kids,” she said. “If I could buy it, I would, too.”

Somehow, in the attachment to the idea that we should all help our kids get every advantage, the fact that advantaging your child disadvantages other people’s children gets lost.  If it advantages your child, it must be advantaging him over someone else; otherwise it’s not an advantage, you see?

I felt like this belief (that you should give your child every advantage) and it’s invisible partner (that doing so is hurting other people’s children) was rife in the FAQs on the Bright Kids NYC website.

<start sarcasm>

Isn’t my child too young to be tutored?

These programs are very competitive, the answers say, and you need to make sure your kid kicks all those other kids’ asses out of the way.  It’s never too soon to gain an advantage.

My child is already bright, why does he or she need to be prepared?

Because being bright isn’t enough.  If you get your kid tutoring, she’ll be able to show she’s bright in exactly the right way. All those other bright kids that can’t get tutoring won’t get in because, after all, being bright isn’t enough.  Fuck ‘em.

Is it fair to ‘prep’ for the standardized testing?

Of course it’s fair!  It’s not only fair, it’s “rational”!  What parent wouldn’t give their child an advantage!  (Notice how they avoid actually answering the question by making kids who don’t get tutoring invisible and then suggesting that you’d be crazy not to enroll your child in the program.)

My friend says that her child got a very high ERB [score] without prepping.  My kid should be able to do the same.

Don’t be foolish.  This isn’t about being bright, remember.  Besides, your friend is lying.  They’re spending $700,000 dollars on their kid’s schooling (aren’t we all!?) and we can’t disclose our clients but, trust us, they either forked over a grand to Bright Kids NYC or test administrators.

</end sarcasm>

Test prep for kindergartners seems like a pretty blatant example of class privilege. But, of course, the argument that advantaging your own kid necessarily involves disadvantaging someone else’s applies to all sorts of things, from tutoring, to a leisurely summer with which to study for the SAT, to financial support during their unpaid internships, to helping them buy a house and, thus, keeping home prices high. I think it’s worth re-evaluating. Is giving your kid every advantage the moral thing to do?

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jul 14 '14
Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white?
By Julian Abagond
Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white? You see that especially in manga and anime.
As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why?  Because to them white is the Default Human Being.

If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.
The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.
Americans apply this thinking to Japanese drawings. But to the Japanese the Default Human Being is Japanese! So they feel no need to make their characters “look Asian.” They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.
You see the same thing in America: After all, why do people think Marge Simpson is white? Look at her skin: it is yellow. Look at her hair: it is a blue Afro. But the Default Human Being thing is so strong that lacking other clear, stereotyped signs of being either black or Asian she defaults to white.

When you think about it there is nothing particularly white about how anime characters look:
huge round eyes – no one looks like that, not even white people (even though that style of drawing eyes does go back to Betty Boop).
yellow hair – but they also have blue hair and green hair and all the rest. Therefore hair colour is not about being true to life.
small noses – compared to the rest of the world whites have long noses that stick out.
white skin – but many Japanese have skin just as pale and white as most White Americans.
Besides, that is not how the Japanese draw white or even Chinese people. The otherness of foreigners is clearly marked by physical stereotypes – just as Americans do with people of colour. In anime White Americans are stereotyped as having yellow hair, blue eyes and a long or big nose:

Gone are the big round eyes and the strange hair colours. Because those things have nothing to do with whiteness.
Note that the Japanese drop the markings of otherness if the action is set in a foreign land, like China or America. In that case the characters are drawn in the regular anime style. Because for that story the Default Human Being is understood.
Some Americans, even some scholars, will argue against this view of anime. They want to think the Japanese worship America or worship whiteness and use anime to prove it.  But they seem to be driven more by their own racism and nationalism than anything else.
All images are from Google images; Abagond retains no rights.
Julian Abagond is a middle-class, West Indian, New Yorker; he is also a computer programmer who enjoys ancient Greek.  He writes whatever he wants at his blog.

Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white?

By Julian Abagond

Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white? You see that especially in manga and anime.

As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why?  Because to them white is the Default Human Being.

If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.

The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.

Americans apply this thinking to Japanese drawings. But to the Japanese the Default Human Being is Japanese! So they feel no need to make their characters “look Asian.” They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.

You see the same thing in America: After all, why do people think Marge Simpson is white? Look at her skin: it is yellow. Look at her hair: it is a blue Afro. But the Default Human Being thing is so strong that lacking other clear, stereotyped signs of being either black or Asian she defaults to white.

When you think about it there is nothing particularly white about how anime characters look:

  • huge round eyes – no one looks like that, not even white people (even though that style of drawing eyes does go back to Betty Boop).
  • yellow hair – but they also have blue hair and green hair and all the rest. Therefore hair colour is not about being true to life.
  • small noses – compared to the rest of the world whites have long noses that stick out.
  • white skin – but many Japanese have skin just as pale and white as most White Americans.

Besides, that is not how the Japanese draw white or even Chinese people. The otherness of foreigners is clearly marked by physical stereotypes – just as Americans do with people of colour. In anime White Americans are stereotyped as having yellow hair, blue eyes and a long or big nose:

Gone are the big round eyes and the strange hair colours. Because those things have nothing to do with whiteness.

Note that the Japanese drop the markings of otherness if the action is set in a foreign land, like China or America. In that case the characters are drawn in the regular anime style. Because for that story the Default Human Being is understood.

Some Americans, even some scholars, will argue against this view of anime. They want to think the Japanese worship America or worship whiteness and use anime to prove it.  But they seem to be driven more by their own racism and nationalism than anything else.

All images are from Google images; Abagond retains no rights.

Julian Abagond is a middle-class, West Indian, New Yorker; he is also a computer programmer who enjoys ancient Greek.  He writes whatever he wants at his blog.