Monday, September 03, 2007

Pampered No More...

After I posted a link to my short attempted intervention with Charlie Sykes on a blog-talk-radio show last week, my comments page lit up with all manner of accusers who were outraged by my inability to see the simple "truths" of the Sykes permanent campaign against too-tolerant teachers, indulgent parents and pampered children.

After avoiding my inquiries with a bemused "that’s not what I meant" to everything I brought up that he said he meant, I even got a grudging nod on Sykes’ vanity blog (which never seems to hold on to items very long these days, although I'm sure exceptions are made for the usual love letters from Scott Walker and David Clarke). Without mentioning me by name (Wing-nut Rule Number 1: Never acknowledge possibly worthy adversaries by name. Rule Number 2: Play up all lefty nutbags by name and proclaim them the "mainstream" of lefty thought), he proclaimed victory on behalf of himself and the gullible hosts of the show, one of whom, at least, claims personal knowledge of such injurious coddling by inferior parental units. Sykes claims to have taken particular pride in his comment that I "just wasn’t getting it".

So that's it, is it? If you don’t agree with Sykes or deign to challenge the phony premises of his sloppily-constructed "arguments", then you "don’t get it". Well, that’s easier than actually having to defend the nonsense that’s in the book. Among other things I "don’t get": the Iraq war, warrantless surveillance, wing-nut radio, etc. When I wondered out loud where, exactly, teachers were letting kids off with not knowing the value of pi, as alleged one Rule of his small, thin book, Sykes said he wasn’t saying teachers did this (although this is supposedly one of the rules "kids won’t learn in school" – I mean, it’s right there in the title of the book) and seemed to be saying that I shouldn’t take so seriously all this stuff he pretends to take so seriously when he’s not being directly challenged, which he never is.

Anyway, one of the hosts of the Dr. Blogstein show was so outraged about my lack of outrage about the daily damage to our poor coddled children, he splayed our whole conversation in my comments section on his blog and his comment page was thus lit up with helpful "I saw this happen" anecdotes and a side conversation about the ridiculousness of the No Child Left Behind "standards". The Blogstein crew made sure I was aware of a news item from just this week about a school in Colorado that was banning the game of tag on its playground. Right-wing sites across the internet made a point to play up the tag-banning as yet another example of the Coddle and the Damage Done.

Given this universally-accepted evidence of self-esteem and safety concerns run amok, what are we to make of this item in the paper on Sunday? It seems there is a growing movement – there must be, or else why would it be on the wires? – to raise the diaperless baby. Talk about not Pampering... Apparently taking Sykes and other scolds at their word, a new generation of parents is prepared to impose a Tough and Smelly Love regime on the pre-toddler set, from birth on. This can only lead to other you-figure-it-out practices later in life. Soft baby food? Hah! Suck on this carrot until you get some teeth in your head, you wimp. Toys? Here’s some sharp tools, blocks of wood and lead-based paint – make your own, you big baby. No reading books to these kids – they’ll have the books, alright, but they have to figure out what all those squiggly lines mean on their own.

I expect praise for the poopy-pants movement on the wing-nut blogs – until, that is, they figure out that the no-diaper experiments are probably being conducted by some back-to-the-land cult with a misplaced concern for disposable diapers that survive 3,000 years in landfills, or some other nutty notion like that. It is only a matter of time before they are rejected as reckless parents with a secret agenda to destroy Huggie Capitalism.

Well, you have your anecdotes and I have mine – that’s why they are called "anecdotes". Because Sykes can’t point to any studies, teacher training, or school board pronouncements that would, in the real world, establish a "trend", he pulls isolated incidents from various places on the planet, delcares the trend and dares anyone not to "get it". This campaign is like nothing so much as the phony "War on Christmas" that has become a holiday staple of the wing-nut talk shows. You take a banned Santa from a public park, mix in some lie about kids being banned from wearing red-and-green clothing in school and – voila! – you have another way that the secret leftist agenda is trying to Destroy You and the Way You Live.

Forget the's the Fear that you'll remember...


krshorewood said...

Cheap Shot Charlie gets his facts from the same place that Rush Limbaugh get's his, as Al Franken puts it, "The Bureau of His Butt."

Anonymous said...

Mike: Just wanted to say "right on." I've thought this for years but am so please to see someone put it in writing so succinctly. Thanks. -- Tom

Anonymous said...

I was fascinated by the "star power" that Sykes had on the hosts of the show. Even in your initial introduction, they suggested that you "hate" Sykes. It was apparent from the start that you were not going to be given reasonable time to respond, nor were your views going to get serious consideration. The most unfortunate part of the entire episode was the double standard applied to the "proof" of each argument. By simply suggesting that "some schools…" and "parents today..", guess what, there have always been, and always will be overprotective/coddling parents. I am quite sure that given an opportunity to turn back the clock, I could find numerous schools that banned dodge ball during the "peace era".

By the way, the diaper experiment, hysterical!!!

Anonymous said...


The point is that Mike does hate Sykes--its that simple. Pure emotion. Mike clearly isn't interested in doing an honest examination of the media; (did I miss his regular critique of TV in the area?) you'll find hardly a work here about anyone here except Sykes, Belling, Rush, or that other guy at WISN. Weber? Where's the balance? Why the fixation on radio. Wierd.

Look, its not like Sykes and the others don't hate too. They hate teachers and government employees, perhaps. But lets be honest about it already.

Mike Plaisted said...

Anony 11:27 --

Yep, I'm an emotional guy. All emotion. No reason, really, for my lefty perspective, other than just illogical, bleeding-heart nonsense.

I don't "hate" Sykes. I don't know the guy, except by his "work". He was actually a good, legitimate journalist with Milwaukee Magazine way back when. Then he sold-out to the GOP and now spends all his time driving their talking-points. Why he would do that is not a mystery -- the money's good. But, like Bush, there is no reason wasting time thinking about him, much less "hating". I will spend some time exposing him for what he is, but that's about it.

My focus here has been on wing-nut talk-radio, but that is because it is a unique phenomenon where hours of time -- 24/7 on many stations -- has been handed over to GOP surrogates to do nothing but drive their propaganda.

Anonymous said...

I think any time you tell a decent, hard-working, committed parent that we are raising a generation of kids who are not prepared to enter the real world you should expect a little feedback. When you use examples from one school here and single child there, and you call that are bound to create some anger. Do I think we are raising children who are not prepared to enter the real world? Certainly. But no more than when we were kids, in fact, probably less. Pampered? I was pampered. My mom was home every day when I got back from school with fresh cookies, or at least a hug and the promise of a delicious diner. Our kids get home to an empty house where they are expected to make a snack, get their homework done, arrange carpools for their activities. They are the most self reliant generation of kids in history. How can you support the notion that they are unprepared to deal with the harsh realities of the real world, they’re dealing with them now.

Anonymous said...


I'll assume that by "you" the intent was the more generic "one". As far as your claim that "They are the most self reliant generation of kids in history."--well, this claim is obviously as shaky as any and seems to conflict with your previous statement:"When you use examples from one school here and single child there..."

Look, the value of the criticisms made by Sykes in his little book is that it calls for us to re-examine priorities, values, and expectations regarding our students. I'm sure you'll not contest that specific data from regional and national sources regarding literacy, math, science, attendance and dropout rates echoes this concern. While I have not committed all the 50 rules to heart (rather I browsed at B&N), I think Mr. Sykes is doing a service when he calls to attention his concerns regarding our educational system, the conduct of our civil society, and our ?diminishing? cultural habit of self-reliance.

I do agree that many kids are prepared to deal with the "harsh realities"; I'm not insensible to the many students who come to my classroom each morning from terrible homes and neighborhoods. I'm also aware of the great demands and pressures quietly placed on students from other directions. However, this merely confirms the need for writers like Sykes to continue his evaluation--despite what he says on the radio.

While some might not like the general flavor of Sykes' 50 rules, nobody here has made any serious attempt to suggest that any of them are "wrong" or misleading. Plaisted has suggested they are (to paraphrase) obvious and simplistic. (sorry, mike, if I got you wrong here) But so what? That doesn't mean we shouldn't be reminded. Further, if these same words were written by Senator Clinton, I'm sure this blog would hearld them as evidence of the traditional values of progressives. And yes, some opportunistic "wing-nuts" would trash them--but you'd hear little about the specific rules because they are essentially valid.

Finally, my 90 year-old grandmother would take real issue with you. She, and her friends, walked 10 miles to school in the frigid deeps of winter. Uphill. Both ways...

Anonymous said...


Well said. I think the criticisms of the book leveled by Guess, Mike, et. al. are more colored by their dislike for Sykes' politics and lack any substantive rebuttals. All I hear is "No it's not" repeated over and over.

And that's fine. It's their right to disagree. But they should not pretend they are engaging in a rational social debate.

Bottom line, if you disagree with Sykes "Rules" or think they don't apply to you, ignore them. Don't buy the book. I'm sure your kids will turn out fine.

But don't discount that Sykes' social commentary can and does speak to many parents who are concerned about preparing their kids for an increasingly competitive world.

Other Side said...

When one does not have a cogent argument, one resorts to stating that an opponent obviously dislikes or hates them. This is substantive arguing in the wing-nut world.

That Sykes' book speaks to some parents is undeniable and ... so what! Leading from a position of fear and loathing is bound to find some adherents.

To say that those who disagree should just ignore the book is the antithesis of democracy. The fewer who ignore Sykes and (by extension) this current administration's assault on our liberties, the better off we ALL will be.

Having said that, the book is trite. I took a few moments to look at it recently. That it only took a few moments says something about its lack of intellectual heft.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could come up with a way to make a sitcom about hack bloggers and their ideological (religious) slap fights.

Its success would rival The Simpsons , or at least be as funny.