In a recent article titled The Opportunity Gap, David Brooks commented on how inequalities in opportunity among children will result in a divided country. What kind of opportunity? Parental time investment in children, especially in the first three years of a child’s life – college educated parents spend more time with their children versus working class parents; the amount parents spend on their kids’ enrichment activities, like tutoring and extra curriculums – upper income spent $5300 versus $480. He stated that ‘Richer kids are roughly twice as likely to play after-school sports. They are more than twice as likely to be the captains of their sports teams. They are much more likely to do nonsporting activities, like theater, yearbook and scouting. They are much more likely to attend religious services…It’s not only that richer kids have become more active. Poorer kids have become more pessimistic and detached.’
The children of the more affluent and less affluent are raised in starkly different ways and have different opportunities. One reason raised is that ‘traditional social norms were abandoned, meaning more children are born out-of-wedlock. Their single parents simply have less time and resources to prepare them for a more competitive world.’
Read the full article in http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/10/opinion/brooks-the-opportunity-gap.html?_r=1&ref=davidbrooks
What I found interesting is that in Singapore, this is the paradoxical reasons we are facing for low birth rate.
The low birth rate in Singapore had led recently to some NMPs to call for a change in policy to recognise and help unwed mothers in order to boost the birth rate. Yet David Brooks has advised that ‘Liberals are going to have to be willing to champion norms that say marriage should come before child rearing and be morally tough about it.’
Then there is the criticism that our kiasu system of forcing too many enrichment classes for toddlers as young as two are not healthy for our kids. We are told to let kids enjoy their childhood and that tuition is really not needed for our school curriculum. Now we are told by the Americans that all these extras actually enhance opportunities for our kids in future. Parents who are stressed by our system and who in turn stressed up their kids are actually creating opportunities for their children. hmm!
One question Singaporeans then should ask is, would we face the same ‘Opportunity Gap’ as experienced in the US? personally I doubt so, as low-income kids have access to tuition by the various CDC groups; CCAs (co-curricular activities) are compulsory in school and Edufunds assures that other school enrichments are affordable. (Cynics may disagree.)
The point is, governments everywhere are concerned about social mobility and divide, but Singapore I feel is a step ahead. That is already an opportunity for our kids, whether stressed up or not.