It turns out, I owe a lot of people a huge big fat monster apology. So here it goes: I sincerely apologize.
At the time I committed these various heinous acts, I was unaware of their dire consequences. Furthermore, although this doesn't in any way detract from their horrific nature, my behavior was done with the very best of intentions. I thought I was doing the right thing, but upon retrospect I can clearly see the error of my ways. And the resultant damage may very well be incalculable and persist for generations to come.
As a result, I am now very sorry and need forgiveness.
The first revelation of the magnitude of my transgressions occurred a couple of weeks ago. I saw an article that suggested that children who are read to at bedtime by their parents tend to outperform children that aren't read to. Upon first glance, I was pleased: I've read to all five of my children at bedtime, as have their mother, grandparents, and other family members. Friends have even done that from time to time.
So far, so good, right?
Upon rereading, however, I realized the article was pointing out something that I'd never considered: the advantage in performance being given to my children was an advantage in performance. And an advantage in performance means a likely inequality of outcome compared to other kids.
Inequality of outcome. Imagine that. I was contributing to a potential inequality of outcome amongst today's youth by intentionally helping my kids improve themselves.
The individual quoted in the article said this:
“This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion that perhaps — in the interests of leveling the playing field — bedtime stories should also be restricted.”
Leveling the playing field? I'd spent almost no time considering that the playing field should be leveled. In fact, I'd been working for precisely the opposite outcome.
The article went on to say that while parents shouldn't necessarily have inequality of outcomes constantly on their minds when raising their children, they definitely should consider it from time to time. But to my shame, it literally had NEVER crossed my mind.
The sense of guilt engendered by that article reached a fever pitch last week when I heard the president's remarks at the Leadership Summit in Georgetown.
Here's what he said:
“Those who are doing better and better, more skilled, more educated, – luckier – having greater advantages are withdrawing from the commons. Kids start going to private schools, kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks, an anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together. And that in part contributes to the fact that there is less opportunity for our kids, all of our kids.”
My kids have all, at one point or another, been schooled at home or at a private institution. My older three have all had memberships at a private exercise club (not fancy pants invite-only clubs like the president golfs at, of course, but at the local 24 Hour Fitness- - which is certainly not a public park). Focused on encouraging my kids to do better and better, to become more skilled and educated -- you know, luckier -- and having greater advantages, I've been stealing opportunity from their peers.
That fever pitch boiled out all over the place two weekends ago when I attended my oldest child's college graduation ceremony.
Sitting in the audience, at the small private liberal arts college I myself graduated from more than two decades before, I was overcome. It wasn't with pride at her accomplishment, but at the ghastly monstrosity of it. Consistently ranked as one of the top colleges in the country, its degree confers a level of inequality that is unimaginable. The overwhelming majority of children on the planet will not have anywhere near the advantage of such an education. And I encouraged her to go there in order to further separate herself from the crowd.
At least she didn't get a degree from Princeton, Harvard, or Stanford. That would have been Sylvia Plath time, for sure.
It's taken me two weeks to summon the strength of character to honestly confront my errors and be able to give an accurate account of it. At this point I'm not sure what to do since so much damage has already been done. Of course, no more reading at night or talk about good colleges. Instead, I'll focus on things that will be certain to keep them at the level of everyone else as best as I am able.But please know this, I am very, very, very sorry. Please accept my apology.