April 6, 2014

Books? "I already have one"

From the New York Times:
Books, and Compassion, From Birth

By GINIA BELLAFANTE 
Last year, when I was visiting a public school in Sunset Park in Brooklyn for teenagers with boundless difficulties, my host, a poet who teaches at various city schools, mentioned a student who had become pregnant. Hoping to start a library for the child soon to arrive, the poet told the young woman embarking on motherhood that she would like to give her some books — books of the kind her own grandchildren growing up in a very different Brooklyn had by the dozens. 
The offer was met skeptically. “I already have one,” the girl said.

That punchline sounds a little too good to be true, but I can't find evidence online that it's lifted from an old joke, so maybe it's for real.
The successful fight for universal prekindergarten in New York City, a feat the White House called remarkable last week, will allow the city to add 21,440 classroom seats for 4-year-olds this fall and 20,000 more in the fall of 2015, according to the Education Department. As ambitious and important as this initiative is, it cannot, by design, solve the problem of the high school student who thinks one book is enough, and does not yet understand the extent to which parents are obliged to serve as instructors and educators, expanding vocabularies through talking and reading — through exposition and illumination — long before the advent of formal schooling.
... we should concentrate our energies on helping the most vulnerable parents and children beginning at, or before, birth. 

How about 9 months and 1 day before birth, as in: Don't Get Pregnant!
Programs for 4-year-olds and even 3-year-olds, as Mr. Whitehurst put it, “come too late.” 

Indeed.
This is hardly a revelation, and yet there has been a squeamishness on the left to create sweeping policy out of the kind of intimate intervention implied, a fear of the judgment and condescension ferried in exporting the habits of West End Avenue to Central Brooklyn or the South Bronx. No one wants to live in a world in which social workers are marching through apartments mandating the use of colorful, laminated place mats emblazoned with pictures of tiny kangaroos and the periodic table. 

No, it's much better if the Central Brooklyn teenage mom drops her child off at Mayor De Blasio's pre-K and then heads home for a nap so she'll have the energy to hit the clubs again tonight to make another baby.
   

60 comments:

Grey Enlightenment said...

A generation of parents deluded into thinking universal pre-k will give their otherwise average kid an advantage. Sorry, it won't. All of this is a waste of time, tax payer money, and parent's money.

LemmusLemmus said...

2That punchline sounds a little too good to be true, but I can't find evidence online that it's lifted from an old joke, so maybe it's for real."

It may be lifted from a joke after all. Here in Germany we have kind of a comedy routine that will start by Person A mentioning to Person B that s/he doesn't know what to give Person C for their birthday. Then, roughly the following:

B: What about a book?

A: I'm told he already has one.

B: Well, the trend is towards second books.

Google tells me there are about 117,000 results for "der trend geht ja zum zweitbuch" OR "der trend geht zum zweitbuch" ("Well, the trend is towards second books.").

doombuggy said...

The obvious is taboo.

So we go with accepted procedures in hopes that the minders will not screw things up too badly.

The evidence is to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

Yet another case of leftists thinking that, if you throw enough money at the dregs, you can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. I'm sure that if they transfer enough wealth and take away enough freedom eventually they'll succeed in recreating the functional society of the pre-1965, predominately white, predominately middle class USA.

BB753 said...

The Great Society experiment has been successful in breeding generation after generation of morons. No amount of pre-schooling is going to improve the IQ of a population selected for apathy, violence and short-time orientation. Good luck making them read that one book!

leftist conservative said...

sailer wrote:
"No, it's much better if the Central Brooklyn teenage mom drops her child off at Mayor De Blasio's pre-K and then heads home for a nap so she'll have the energy to hit the clubs again tonight to make another baby."



another worker/consumer for the USA livestock operation, don't ya know?

Growth Uber Alles!


Dutch reader said...

Programs for 3-year olds 'come too late'? My mother, now 82 years old, grew up in abusive home in a poor working class neighborhood of Amsterdam in the 1930s and was kept from going to school for almost 5 years during the WW II German Occupation. When things normalized after the war, she was put in a children's home by the child protection agency and re-entered primary school at age 14. By the time she was 18 she had finished high schoo─║, acquired an active command of three foreign language, and learned to play the piano. This early intervention talk is just a bunch of excuses.

Luke Lea said...

Off topic, but from today's Al Jazeera coverage of the immigration protests across America, one protester is quoted as saying: "You don't see Canadians being deported in numbers. Why is the Latino community being persecuted?"

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/5/protesters-rallyacrossusforimmigrationreform.html

Anonymous said...

It's an old line Steve. I read recently that John Ford made the same comment when he heard that someone gave John Wayne a book as a gift.

Anonymous said...

My parents attended Catholic schools in Brooklyn in the 30's and 40's. Signs in the classrooms said "Self Control" and they were told repeatedly that the immoral will be damned. Maybe white liberals could give that approach a shot.

Luke Lea said...

Quote: "does not yet understand the extent to which parents are obliged to serve as instructors and educators, expanding vocabularies through talking and reading"

Personally I would be happy if parents could communicate to their children, through precept and example, such simple things as manners, politeness, honest, responsibility, respect for others, non-violence, and some of the other fundamental values that undergird a liberal, democracti society.

I doubt that any books or a very large vocabulary are necessary to do this. It wasn't in the 18th and 19th centuries, when most Americans were still illiterate.

As for STEM, forget it. Those who can, will, if given an opportunity later. Keep in mind that Franklin only had one year of formal education. Or was it two?

Anonymous said...

My Mom told me a joke about someone saying they'd read a book, which dates it 20 or 30 years ago.

And apparently the joke was used in the 1980s by The Man From Uncle:
http://www.cataroo.com/012904.html

Chicago said...

Head Start was supposed to have delivered us to the promised land. What happened with that? These missionaries have degrees and are able to write and speak well enough, yet somehow seem incapable of learning from anything that occurred more than two years ago. Repeating the same thing over and over again but expecting different results has been termed insanity. We've got people with a form of insanity attempting to manage the stupidity of others as their pet project. The insane taking care of the dumb. Our job is to just dig deeper for mo' money.

Shouting Thomas said...

And, my daughter is grateful that I babysit my granddaughter several days a week, precisely so that she can work as a school teacher without dumping the baby into institutional care.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with average? In the 70's average people were able to fill out a 1040 form, assemble a new bike for their kids, and read the operators manual for the family auto. If average now was the same as average then, Barack Obama would not be president.

theo the kraut said...

OT: <a href="http://tech.slashdot.org/story/14/04/05/140215/was-eich-a-threat-to-mozillas-1b-google-trust-fund>slashdot.org: was-eich-a-threat-to-mozillas-1b-google-trust-fund?</a>

theo the kraut said...

OT - more about the Brendan Eich issue:

antiwar.com:
I don’t need any more reasons to be against gay marriage apart from the looming prospect of gay divorce. If I’m going to break up with my boyfriend, I don’t want to have to pay a price higher than a few broken vases and a call to 911. As far as I’m concerned, if ever there was an argument for the existence of “homophobia,” then this is it: “gay marriage” is the revenge of the heterosexuals, who resent and hate us for our gay fun-filled lives and advanced powers of color-coordination. It’s a nefarious plot to make us all as boring and unbearable as Andrew Sullivan, and I, for one, will have none of it.
Justin Raimondo, gay libertarian activist

comments at slashdot:
Remember that Obama was also opposed to gay marriage when Eich was. Doesn't seem to have bothered too many people.

The hypocrisy of two of OkCupid’s co-founders, Sam Yagan and Christian Rudder. We searched the federal campaign-contribution database and found that Yagan gave to two candidates who opposed same-sex marriage: $500 to then-Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah, a Republican, in 2004; and $500 to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign who also opposed gay marriage at the time.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that they ever believed it would give their kids a leg up, rather a way to stop paying for child care that much earlier. Allows them to spend more money on themselves and never really have to grow up.

Anonymous said...

All of this is a waste of time, tax payer money, and parent's money.

Unless it is all really designed to serve some other entirely different purpose.

In which case it's succeeding beyond its designers' wildest dreams.

kaganovitch said...

It may be a take off of Jack Kemp's line re Bob Dole "In a recent fire Bob Dole's library burned down. Both books were lost."

Anonymous said...

A generation of parents deluded into thinking universal pre-k will give their otherwise average kid an advantage. Sorry, it won't. All of this is a waste of time, tax payer money, and parent's money.

I live in NY state, and I am not opposed to this in principle if they don't raise taxes to do it (to state the obvious, the state has enough money already of course, and could make cuts 9 ways to Sunday to pay for it). Of course this will not likely happen, though Cuomo is relatively fiscally conservative.

I think your general premise is a bit off. I agree that this will not be particularly effective, and it will certainly not close The Gap. But I somewhat get the reasoning behind it - I have a four year old, and I pay good money to send him to preschool, because my alternative is to have him stay with his grandmother and watch TV and eat junk food all day. It's money well spent.

Pre-k may not give an average kid an advantage, but it will likely help keep some kids from falling further behind/reduce exposure to lousy environments. It's certainly not going to be the most useless money spent on education in NYC or NY state.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to point out all the new jobs. Apparently at first they will not be UFT union jobs, but there will be constant demands to unionize.

Anonymous said...

"teenage mom drops her child off at Mayor De Blasio's pre-K and then heads home for a nap so she'll have the energy to hit the clubs again tonight to make another baby."

More likely it will allow low income new immigrants to work more hours. In NYC medicare, the poverty program, pays for elder care which medicare does not. So as long as you do not acquire assets and work a menial job, the government will take care of you.

panjoomby said...

forbidden to say: education (& reading!) does not make anyone smarter. people are about as smart as they are pre-set to be.

Anonymous said...

Progressives, including Obama, continuously play the pre-K childhood game of Pretend.

Piper said...

I'm gettin' a whiff of Janet Cooke/Marion Barry and 8-year-old heroin addict here...

Still, what's a little exaggeration in support of a great cause? Even if Crystal Mangum exaggerated a little, we still know the greatest threat to black women in America is gang-rape by rich white university students!

The only reason that the roughly half-million black students who graduate from America's high schools each year don't all get into Harvard (besides the fact Harvard only admits 1,700 freshmen annually) is that those promising young scolars of color didn't go to preschools where the books their parents eschew would be waiting for them along with nice white ladies to teach them how giraffes use the Periodic Table of the Elements.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say, but it IS an old joke. At the very least, it was attributed to John Ford, who would have said it to Peter Bogdanovich, when he told her he would give a book as a gift to John Wayne (an injustice, incidentally - the Duke had intellectual tastes far more sophisticated than Ford).

Anonymous said...

It’s conceivable that the student meant she owned and needed only a copy of the Book.
Certainly, some members of her demographic diligently study that one Book only;
and since it recounts examples of every kind of effort, failure, and success, it’s not a bad choice.
Millions became literate just to read it.

Morgan said...

Hi Steve!

(Big fan here but I don't comment much because I'm not sophisticated enough to have much to add!).

But, *I know that line*--I recognize it from an old joke. It's a classic "polack" joke about the Polish National Library, that takes forms like, "someone checked out the book", etc. I just googled for it found this version on a page of Polish jokes:

http://www.jokes4us.com/miscellaneousjokes/worldjokes/polandjokes.html

So it is indeed an old joke!
morgan

Jerry said...

This joke goes back to the 1950's, as told in a biography of Jean Sibelius; around that time, an American woman was asked if she would buy the LP of the new Sibelius symphony, and she replies, "I already have one", i.e., his symphonies all sound the same. (They don't; and I highly recommend the 7th in the Leonard Bernstein-Vienna rendering.)

Anonymous said...

In an earlier thread that touched upon a similar subject, I may have been wrong about reduced violence in Richmond (the SF bay area Richmond). Here's a story about an unincorporated area adjacent to it:

"North Richmond: Most killings go unsolved in tiny enclave", David DeBolt and Robert Rogers, Contra Costa Times:

"sparsely populated agricultural outpost... rapidly morphed into a bustling shantytown for African-American workers during and after World War II. ...

Today, the per-capita homicide rate here ranks among the highest in the nation. And there is one startling fact of life...

In North Richmond, killers are almost never brought to justice.

...North Richmond is a grid of craggy streets, public housing complexes and aging houses."


About the city of Richmond proper:

"...The city of Richmond, which has just over 100,000 residents, has averaged about 32 homicides a year during the last decade, a time during which it has consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in California."

Anonymous said...

OT: separatist locals have seized regional administration buildings in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov. The combined population of these 3 regions is more than 9 million. Local police is cooperating with the separatists. Such seizures have happened before. Each time the Ukrainian government ended up reestablishing control. I have a feeling that the separatists are more organized today than they were before though. They seem to be gathering people and supplies for a siege. The Kiev government is sending troops, but those haven't arrived yet. This guy is tweeting the events live in English from what seems to be a Western NGO (i.e. Soros/neocon) perspective. If you filter out the bias, it's informative.

ben tillman said...

Google the following:

"give him a book" "he already has one"

You'll get a few hits.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone say Head Start?
A trillion later, what has it got us?

David said...

Who needs public schools when there are public libraries? - libertarian, circa 1970

Who needs public libraries when we have the History Channel? - libertarian, circa 1997

Who needs the History Channel when we have social media? - libertarian, circa 2004

h8rz dble+ungd! #MLK - libertarian, circa 2024

Percy Gryce said...

Compare this expectant Brooklynite's remark with the late Carter Burden's aphorism "You can never be too thin, too rich, or have too many books."

countenance said...

I don't think anyone but a scant few utopian dreamers are deluded into thinking that this is anything but what it actually is, starting the free public babysitting service one or two years before it would start otherwise, for the social or financial benefit of all involved.

peterike said...

Mayor Warren Wilhelm may be the biggest dope ever elected to a major city mayoralty. The fact that he's a true believer makes it even worse. I wonder if, years from now, he will look on the results of his pre-K mania -- namely, no change whatsoever -- and ponder why that might be. On the other hand, they'll probably just rig some statistics and that'll be that.

I've taken to privately referring to de Blasio as Herr Bajazzo, which I think plays nicely with his actual German name. (Herr Bajazzo being Mister Clown. Hat tip to Thomas Mann.)

David said...

"Well, the trend is towards second books."

Love it. Anyone who says Germans are humorless is lying. I dare everybody to read late Schopenhauer without LOL'ing (both at and with).

Anonymous said...

Yet another case of leftists thinking that, if you throw enough money at the dregs, you can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

Jerry Jones flings money at QB and WRs and he has got top drawer talent at those positions.

Dave Pinsen said...

Maybe she was referring to a Kindle or a Nook.

Anonymous said...

Ockham's razor should've cut this thread short a while back:

a) Ms.Bellafante is unironically concerned about lack of vibrant-access to words;

b) "I already have one" is an entirely plausible, sincere response from a poorly educated, NAM mother to the unnamed poet;

(my favorite NAM-parenting moment in NYC occurred in a Duane Reade last year...

...a 17-18 year old Dominicana was "disciplining" her 3-4 year old son, who'd knocked over some toothpaste, with--

"Look bro, I TOLD you not to knock nothing over! Why you doin' this, yo?! We never gonna get outta here if you keep f----ing doin' this..."

I'll spare you the next few minutes worth of her "parenting", but I can assure you that she showered that kid with words, even if 10% of those words were profane gerunds...)

c) The writer is almost certainly going for NYT readers' heartstrings, not consciously (or even unconsciously) ridiculing the unnamed NAM mother...

That said--love the joke searching!

And anyone who's been underrating German comedy should get to know Henning Wehn (German standup who lives in "Souf London" and kills it, in English) &/or..

the incomparable Loriot (for the Sailerites who already spreken zee Doitch...)

Anonymous said...

"I don't believe that they ever believed it would give their kids a leg up, rather a way to stop paying for child care that much earlier."

Preschool is child care plus. A good private pre school costs a lot -- too much for a single parent or even a lower income family.

The idea that it will work miracles is an illusion. But it is very common for the upper middle class. Whether it is a two income family or simply a mother that needs a break. One of the reasons 50's moms were putting their heads in ovens and heavy consumers of amphetamines. http://www.decodog.com/inven/MD/md28731.jpg

The private, decent pre schools are expensive. Roughly as much as tuition at a public college with a a direction and state in its name.

It isn't like a human right or anything. Or anything that will change the world ... but not a total waste either.

Anonymous said...

Fire Destroys Bush Presidential Library

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A tragic fire on Monday destroyed the personal library of President George W. Bush. Both of his books have been lost.

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president was devastated, as he had not finished coloring the second one.

Anonymous said...

Maybe she's a Monty Python fan?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bKooUgk6N8

Big Bill said...

a poet who teaches at various city schools, mentioned a student who had become pregnant.

Who "had become" pregnant? She didn't "get pregnant"?

I always look to weird liberal phrasing for the things we are not supposed to notice. Like hood rats being "at the mercy of the streets" or "the violent streets of [name your ghetto]".

I usually call them on it ( humorously) "Please don't be so judgmental! I walked those streets last week and the asphalt didn't do anything. It just sat there, minding its own business."

Most of them are so dense they don't get it.

Oswald Spengler said...

It's unfortunate that we as a nation can't or won't say "Another poor, resentful, and unassimilating underclass? No thanks. I already have one."

Anonymous said...

"I doubt that any books or a very large vocabulary are necessary to do this. It wasn't in the 18th and 19th centuries, when most Americans were still illiterate."

While agreeing with your basic point (that literacy will not solve the problem here), the point about illiterate Americans might not be quite right.

"Literacy Rates", Tatiana Schlossberg:

" At the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, nearly 60 percent of about 3 million American adults could read but in the following 19th and 20th centuries, literacy rates in America grew rapidly. In 1870, almost 80 percent of 38.5 million Americans were literate and by 1940, almost 95 percent of 131 million citizens could read."

And:

"...literacy rates in England grew from 30 percent of about 4 million people in 1641 to 47 percent of roughly 4.7 million in 1696..."



Even for those rascally French in the New World (weren't a lot of those colonists criminals and prostitutes swept off the streets of Paris?): "...in 1663, of 1,224 persons in New France who were of marriageable age, 59% of grooms and 46% of brides wrote their name..."



US literacy was always high: "Every Man Able to Read: Literacy in Early America", Jack Lynch, 2011: "... Thomas Jefferson said a free press wasn’t enough... in 1816, “Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.” ... Early Americans were uncommonly interested in the power of the printed word, and therefore in literacy. ... Literacy is among the keys to understanding the early chapters of the American story..."




Then there's "Were Colonial Americans More Literate than Americans Today?", Sanjoy Mahajan, 09/01/2011: " In the extensive NAAL survey, only 13% of adults attained this level. Thus, the proportion of Americans today who are able to understand Common Sense (13%) is smaller than the proportion that bought Common Sense in 1776 (20%). Are we a nation in decline?"


Sadly Sanjoy, we probably are. We probably are.

Vic said...

That is actually the punchline from an old Soviet joke about cops (here is proof: http://vshutku.ru/sword-podaritym.html - first one in the list)

Glaivester said...

The line reminded me of an old Dr. Seuss WWII political cartoon, "Bundles for Benito."

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/439030663644873601/

C. Van Carter said...

This is the tragic legacy of plantation owners not allowing slaves to own books.

Anonymous said...

Do orphanages exist in America anymore?

Anonymous said...

Um, everyone knows this has nothing to do with edumacation and stuff and junk, right? It's all about creating more government union jobs, and then the unions launder the money and send it to the Democrapic Party, which creates more government union jobs, wash, rinse, repeat.

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

The "already have a book" joke was also told about Bjorn Borg, possibly because of the "dumb blond" stereotype.

Silver said...

I prefer the line at the end of the 1985 hit movie Forward To The Past:

"Books? Where we're going we don't need books!"

el supremo said...

re: historical American literacy rates

The average rate of 60% for America in 1787 is somewhat misleading due to the huge variation in literacy rates between regions.

New England had a near 100% literacy rate by 1800, with the cities and towns being closest to full literacy and even small towns and villages being remarkably literate for a pre-industrial society.

Literacy rates for poor whites in the South were quite low, around 50%, and of course the literacy rate for slaves was below 10% (deliberately). Virginia and the tidewater did a better job of teaching basic literacy to poor whites than the rest of the South.

So instead of colonial America being a society with a mid-level literacy rate, its better to think of it as a highly literate society in the the same country as a rather ignorant one.

Anonymous said...

Big Bill: Who "had become" pregnant? She didn't "get pregnant"?

Anonymous: It's all about creating more government union jobs, and then the unions launder the money and send it to the Democrapic Party, which creates more government union jobs, wash, rinse, repeat.

Anonymous left out the most important goal in all of this: BREEDING new Democrapic voters.

LIKE RABBITS.

Anonymous said...

Sadly Sanjoy, we probably are.

What's really sad is that we have to rely on folks with names like "Sanjoy Mahajan" to ax these questions.

Or to depend upon guys with names like "M Night Shyamalan" to make beautiful haunting paeans to what was once the American sense of community.

Anonymous said...

"So instead of colonial America being a society with a mid-level literacy rate, its better to think of it as a highly literate society in the the same country as a rather ignorant one."

All I know about this subject I've read in the papers... er, the web, but the “Every Man Able to Read” article contains this:


"Lockridge and his successors showed that literacy was higher in New England and the mid-Atlantic colonies than in the South, and higher in the cities than in the countryside. Traders and shopkeepers were more literate than farmers. They showed that American literacy was high by European standards. As the University of Delaware’s F. W. Grubb wrote in 1990:

"Of all European countries perhaps only Scotland surpassed America in literacy by 1800. Not only had the European literacy revolution been transplanted to the American periphery during the colonial period, but colonial literacy had somehow leaped past that of northwestern Europe."

Such research confirmed a widespread belief in early America itself. In 1800, a magazine called The Columbian Phenix and Boston Review reported that “no country on the face of the earth can boast of a larger proportion of inhabitants, versed in the rudiments of science, or fewer, who are not able to read and write their names, than the United States of America.”




So instead of perhaps "a rather ignorant one", overall the second most literate nation in the world at the time, even counting black illiteracy as 100%?

Anonymous said...

On reflection, were literacy rates in the colonial south really much worse than in the north? Or perhaps lower, but not dramatically? Wasn't Protestant Fundamentalism all about reading the Bible on one's own? Wasn't that why Scotland had the highest literacy in the world? (And wasn't Scottish and Scotch-Irish influence particularly strong in the south?)

Of interest in this regard, the following book surveys libraries, publishers, book clubs, etc., in the the colonial south:

"Intellectual Life in the Colonial South 1585-1763", Richard Beale Davis, Volume Two, The University of Tennessee Press, 1978.

"... Printing-publishing began on a highly respectable scale in the colonial South and remained there.

...by the end of the eighteenth century a traveller such as the Due de La Rochefoucauld­ Liancourt observed that "the taste for reading is commoner [in Virginia] among men of the first class than in any other part of America." His observation would have held for most of the southern colonies if one may judge by late-century inventories for literate men of all classes.

...The omnipresence of the basic religious works among most literate southern colonials... need not be reemphasized. ...

...the titles of books in dated inventories and in letters ordering them prove once and for all that there was no cultural lag...

...the reading and use of the classics for themselves and as lessons in liberty, tyranny, rhetoric, style, and a dozen other matters has been at least touched upon. Classical influences were pervasive, including architecture...

...Out-of-doors men these southern colonials were indeed, but they also spent many hours in the chimney corner of paneled Georgian library or of rough log-walled greatroom taking delight in their books."


Intersting point about the Classics influence on southern culture.