May 30, 2005

Football, Pokémon, and the Working-Class Family

Pikachu -- a Pokémon

My eldest daughter is recovering from her first year of teaching in a suburban/rural Texas high school.

She's shocked by the indiscipline of the students and the combination of evangelical surface piety and teen-age pregnancy, among other things. She points to literature on the rarity of families sitting down to a meal together and learning basic social skills like not interrupting and responding on topic to something someone else says.

When I hazarded that things like Little League might make a difference, she agreed, allowing how her distaste for things like football had done a 180. If a student is on a team, she said, she or he is much more likely to get a decent grade. The coaches check up on how their team members are doing, and demand of them that they perform their basic tasks consistently.

Team sports, of course, teach lessons from the importance of showing up, to perserverance, division of labor, learning and adhering to rather complex rules, as well as intellectual skills such as learning and applying those worlds.

Thinking about all this reminded me of the period a few years ago when my younger girls were into Pokémon, that costly tournament of invented creatures. Although perhaps with a John Stuart Mill upbringing they would have been reading Vergil, Pokémon is a symbolic system whose complexity and structure resembles that of the Periodic Table, and learning to manipulate that system probably stimulates as many synapses as anything else they might be up to at nine and ten.

I agree -- football, like the military, can save a few kids. I nevertheless ponder the destruction, in a generation, of the working class family in America -- how it happened, its consequences, and what to do about it. Neither the left nor the right understand this. The welfare state, easy divorce, sexual "liberation," the decline of decent factory jobs and the unions that went with them, the glorification and spread to whites of ghetto culture, mass-media-induced brain rot, and steeply rising house prices all are factors.

Solutions? Nothing easy comes to mind.

No comments: