We’ve come a long way, as a species. And we’re better at many things than we ever were before – not just slightly better, but unimaginably, ridiculously better. We’re better at transporting people and objects, we’re better a killing, we’re better at preventing infectious diseases, we’re better at industrial production, agricultural and economic output, we’re better at communications and sharing of information.
But in some areas, we haven’t made such dramatic improvements. And one of those areas is parenting. We’re certainly better parents than our own great-great-grandparents, if we measure by outcomes, but the difference is of degree, not kind. Why is that?
Practical Ethics, the ethical news blog by the University of Oxford, is tackling the question: Why aren’t companies selling us products to make us super-parents?
Well, there are some products (visit the “Parenting & Family” section at the bookstore and take a peek)—it’s just that everyone has their own personal beliefs on what it means to be a “super-parent” and raise well-adjusted children. Plus, children do this thing sometimes where they don’t listen to you no matter what you say or do.
The true focus of Bet on Your Baby is not the children, but the parents. The real dramatic tension comes not from whether the kid will correctly make eight animal sounds in 60 seconds, but from whether the parents will escape the trap of penury by winning what the host, actress Melissa Peterman, explicitly terms a “life-changing” sum of money. Many young families are anxious about paying for college. The producers of this show have quite brilliantly figured out a way to dramatize that anxiety for our entertainment.
“How much would a $50,000 college fund mean for you guys?” Peterman asks the finalist husband.
“Obviously it would be amazing, you know, I’m sure all the families here feel the same,” he says. “That it would not only help a tremendous amount, but also relieve some of the things that you think about as a parent all the time.”
I have just discovered that there is a show on ABC where parents bet that their two- or three-year-olds can accomplish tasks like stacking cookies to win money for college. The first two episodes are on Hulu. It looks … kind of funny. But if you have seen this show and know it’s terrible, please warn us all now.