"Intensive parenting expectations continue well after children leave infancy. Young children are encouraged to participate in costly club sports, and parents to give up their free time to support them. These activities take time and money, two resources working people lack.
This proliferation of organized activities represents a form of improvement: a child’s free time is now completely subsumed by Bildung. And the ability to provide these opportunities to kids is portrayed as a reflection of a family’s morality, not their economic situation. Just as Victorian women had to learn to play the piano and speak Italian — showing off a refinement unavailable to the other levels of society — modern kids play soccer, learn Mandarin, and volunteer at a local charity.
But the capstone of the modern quest for Bildung is surely the college application process. There is no good nineteenth-century analogue for this ridiculous new ritual, although Dickens would’ve been perfectly able to satirize its inherent absurdity: Millions act as if a system weighted very heavily toward privilege is in fact some kind of meritocracy, and that a person’s worth can be judged by the prestige of the school where they have been accepted."
I thought your essay was incredible. I was looking for an email address where I could give you some feedback about how what your wrote about affects my career as a psychotherapist -- hopefully you will see this comment! I work at a community health center in downtown NYC that primarily serves the LGBTQ community. There are many people who grew up in poverty and who experience all the issues of oppression one would expect from that environment. However, I also have a lot of patients from upper middle class backgrounds, some of whom experienced discrete traumatic events, but many others who just had a vague, suffocating, invalidating and critical environment in their family of origin, in which their needs were not met, and they were not accepted for their sexuality, gender, etc. My supervisor and I have noted this phenomenon and talked about how these patients have flown under the radar in many ways, but still suffer very much. Your essay contained everything I have thought about in really vague ways but had not fully named, other than just "capitalism" or "oppression." On a personal level, I have suffered the effects of this, too, making your essay resonate that much more. Anyway, if you ever want to talk about this more, in terms of the psychological effects this rigid, modern Victorian dogma affects people, please get in touch! anne.rousselot at gmail dot com
Hello! Thanks so much for your comment! I am glad that this has resonated with you.
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