February 08, 2006
what do parents want?
We human beings are not born free. We are born as completely dependent, totally naive little creatures that are easily influenced and controlled by adults, especially parents. If you want a society dedicated to freedom, then you have to ask whether parents are raising their kids to value liberty. If not, then you face a conundrum: you may have to force people to raise free children. Indeed, this is a common rationale for public schools, which are supposed to expose kids to a broad array of values from which they can choose. If you favor a basket of values that includes compassion, patriotism, and tolerance as well as freedom, then you must certainly worry about whether parents teach these values.
I am therefore highly curious about what parents want for their kids. The pie chart below shows the "qualities" that parents (defined as individuals who had ever had kids) said that they valued most in children. They were surveyed between 1973-1983. I haven't found more recent data, although it may exist.
Some observations: Honesty dominates, far outstripping considerateness and getting along with others. Only three percent chose the intellectual virtues of curiosity and studiousness. (I wonder whether that number has increased since 1983, as we move deeper into the high-tech era.) Obedience to parents is not the top choice of many people. However, more than half of respondents chose obedience as one of their top three virtues.
[NB: I aggregated a decade's worth of data to make the sample size as large as possible, but there are no important changes in the answers over that period.]
Posted by peterlevine at February 8, 2006 10:04 AM
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