Reality check for our children

April 27, 2012

It seems as though the whole “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” thing has jumped the shark. Yesterday was the designated 2012 day for kids to skip school and head to the office, store, restaurant or factory where mom or dad make the money. But as Julie Drizin, the director of the University of Maryland’s Journalism Center on Children and Families, points out , the original mission of the 20-year-old program was to show girls that they could do more than follow a traditional female career path. But that mission has lost its way. Drizin writes on her blog:

I’ve come to believe that Take Your Daughters And Sons to Work Day is largely a feel-good exercise for the privileged. Sure, this annual kids-to-work pilgrimage gives children a window into – and hopefully, an appreciation for – what their folks do all day to sustain the family. But parents who work in factories aren’t bringing their kids to the assembly line. Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, isn’t participating. Women who clean homes during the day or offices at night aren’t invited to bring their kids along with them, although some children of immigrants have recounted how they curled up and slept on leather law firm sofas while their mothers dusted, vacuumed and emptied trash cans in fancy office buildings after dark.

… It’s the children of farm laborers, home health aides, waitresses and janitors who should be able to spend a day in the science labs, architecture firms, government agencies and other American workplaces where higher education is the stepping stone to a better life. And perhaps my children and their privileged peers could benefit from a day of hands-on experience in service industries. “Trading places” would offer a reality check and valuable lessons to all about the nature of work and reward and struggle.

I agree wholeheartedly with Drizin. For years now I’ve been looking for opportunities for my son to get a sense of how hard some people have to work for so little. Showing my then-6-year-old pictures of desperately poor children in Mali working in gold mines, he thought having no shoes and smashing rocks in the dirt all day would be fun – far better than wearing shoes and learning in a tidy classroom.

I’ve come to realize that no matter how sharp the resolution on the iPad screen or how huge the flat screen TV is, images of the world around us can’t impact us as living, breathing reality can.

I support Drizin’s idea and would be the first to sign my son up for a day of seeing what really hard work is. What do you think of “Trading Places Day” for our kids?

2 Responses to “Reality check for our children”

  1. Dana Sullivan Kilroy Says:

    I like this post Laura. I And agree that it’s really hard to make our kids understand how lucky they are. This is one reason that volunteering alongside your kids in, say, a food bank or “soup” kitchen is so eye-opening for them.

  2. Absolutely. He’s almost old enough for that. And maybe Habitat for Humanity in the Appalachian Mountains! Thanks for the comment 🙂

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