Why Don’t They Push Their Kids Harder to Succeed?

CHILDREN LEARN CLASS at their mothers’ knee. Childrearing, like so many other aspects of daily life, is demarcated by class. Working-class and low-income families follow what Annette Lareau, in her important book Unequal Childhoods, called the “accomplishment of natural growth.” They view “children’s development as unfolding spontaneously, as long as they [are] provided with comfort, food, shelter” and other basics. Providing these represents a challenge and is held to be a considerable achievement.121

Clear boundaries exist between parents and children, with prompt obedience expected: crucial training for working-class jobs.122 Class migrants often note with shock the disrespectful ...

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