If you want to vet someone’s commitment to empirical evidence, the topic of parenting will rile people like little else. More specifically, the argument that parenting has limited influence over the character of children — a proposition that possesses a unique potential to offend people to the left and right of the political divide (which means it must get something right — anything that bothers people so much must contain a morsel of truth). To question the influence parenting exerts over the personalities of children threatens to topple the sacred pedestal upon which conservatives elevate the institution of family and to poke holes in the hot air balloon from which the liberal ideal of equality hangs. Which is to say, it’s delightful.
On the April 8th episode of The Pulse, host Maiken Scott explains how Judith Harris found out how touchy the nature versus nurture subject can become.
It also makes good critical thinking fare for the classroom. Ask students to identify which position they like, and tell them to argue the other. Doing so teaches them to ignore affective reactions and focus on data.
The takeaway for parents — think long and hard about where you send your kids to school. Their peers will influence your kids far more than anything you’ll ever do or say.