Marriage is the foundation

I believe most people realize that a marriage should be a rock for your children. It should also be an example of love and kindness that your children can mimic and learn from as they grow in their own relationships. However, many couples fall into a funk where their relationship is based on a tit for tat mindset. This can not only cause issues in the marriage. It can also run over into other areas of your life as well as teach your children that this is how it is supposed to be.

Tit for Tat

What do I mean by tit for tat? What I mean by this is that you will do something for your spouse only if they do something for you. A tally is being kept and the scales in the marriage are to be equal at all times. You do not take more than them and they do not take more than you.

A big issue is that when a relationship is based on keeping things equal, we lose sight of what is important. Is the house work harder than going to work? Is washing dishes worth more than changing the oil in the car, staying with the kids worth less than managing the bank accounts? We each have subject value scales and each of us values these at differing rates of worth. None of those are necessarily worth more than the other.

Don’t keep score in your marriage

You don’t want a 50/50 marriage. A 50/50 marriage is a product of a tit for tat relationship. Your marriage is a living organism. One thing that should be made clear, not necessarily in words but in deeds, is that each of you can take more than you are giving if you need to. I know that when I have a rough day at the hospital I can come home and know that Susie will pour herself into me and let me unburden myself of the stress of my job. Susie knows as well that if her day has been rough that I will cook dinner, I will clean, I will school the children. If you are keeping score and you feel the other person is taking more than they give, you will feel slighted and resentment will build.

Keep the scales balanced sounds great. Each person will do their share and won’t take advantage of each other. This is hogwash! We know that it will happen. You will take more than you give and so will your partner. Marriages, as with all relationships, are always in flux. This week may be different than last week. This month different than last year. This age different than when you were first married. We change, we have bad days and good days, we lose our temper and we are romantic. This is the nature of most marriages to me.

What can you do

There is a natural ebb and flow in relationships. When your wife is sick, you pick up the slack because you love your wife and you want to help out. When your husband has the dreaded man flu, the same happens. This usually happens naturally. As nature has cycles, people and relationships do as well. Being conscious of this natural ebb and flow will allow you to do something that can truly help build a strong successful marriage.

No, I am not going to say something cliche like ” good communication is key”. What will build this marriage is giving more. Having more “positive” positive interactions in your marriage than “negative” ones. What I mean by this is simple. It is like a bank account. The more positive deposits into the bank account the more it grows. The same with marriage. The more positive interactions versus negative interactions will help build your marriage.

This sounds like keep score right? Sorta. You do have to be conscious of having more positive interactions than negative. If you love your spouse though, it should be rather easy to serve. One of the best examples I can think of outside of my marriage is of friends of my wife and me. The wife stayed home to take care of the kids while the husband went to school and work. He was going to school to be a nurse and working to provide for his family. His wife knew it was going to be hard and she handled it. It was not always easy and I am sure they struggled. She gave selflessly to school the children and keep up the house while he gave selflessly to keep them fed and housed as well as building a future. They both contributed in different ways and both gave to each other without thinking of themselves. Neither kept score.

This sacrifice gave them a strong healthy marriage even when going through something as straining as they did for two years.

Is this the only thing that you have to do?

No. We all know that marriage can be tough. However, this can help you have that strong foundation to grow your marriage into what you want to model for your kids. This is not a quick fix, this is not a one and done, and this is not something that you should stop doing. Giving to your partner without keeping score and without expectation of something in return will make both of you happy in the long run and help create that foundation for your marriage, as well as your parenting.

Shawn, this has nothing to do with Liberty

In the infamous words of Donald Trump: Wrong!!! Liberty isn’t simply learning about rights, economics, the non-aggression principle, and when violence can actually be used. I am sure I will catch flack for it but your marriage or your relationship with your partner is the foundation, the ground that you are planting your children in. It isn’t enough to simply talk about principles of liberty it is paramount to model them as much as you can. Live what you know in thought, word, desire, deed. Your marriage to your spouse is the first relationship your kids will see. It has a great influence and impact on them, make it a good one. So make sure you plant your children in an environment that you would want to be in.

Let’s Ditch One-Size-Fits-All Schooling

It is high time that we ditch standardized curricula and lists of stuff that all kids are forced to learn. I am a former k-12 teacher and I used to believe in these lists. Now as a college professor teaching in a College of Education, I no longer do.

Unfortunately, just about everyone else does.

Most developed countries have a national curriculum ensuring that every student leaves school having learned the same content. While the US has no national curriculum, we have what is effectively a list of national standards – the Common Core State Standards – whose stated purpose is to “ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life.” Additionally, all 50 US states have their own standardized state curriculum.

But is there really a list of stuff we can generate that all kids should be forced to learn, let alone one that is twelve years in duration?

I want to suggest several reasons for doubt.

Your List Won’t Match Your School’s List

For the record, I do think there are things that everyone should know. I just happen to believe that those things are needed because of their pervasiveness in human life, but it also means that people would likely learn them without force.

We all need to learn how to speak, but language is such an essential feature to good human functioning that we do it without being forced to.

There are scores of things we teach in schools that are not necessary for students to be successful.

That’s the way we learn a lot of things, like how to navigate the norms of our culture, how to operate common devices like televisions and computers, etc. And if schools were free to choose (or create) curriculum, it is doubtful that we’d need government to ensure that things like basic math and reading were there. In fact, it is likely that parents would simply demand that those things be included in the curricula.

And conversely, there are scores of things we teach in schools that I’d argue are not necessary for students to be successful in the world. In a book called The Math Myth: and Other STEM Delusions, Andrew Hacker argues that a good portion of the higher level math we are convinced students need turns out less than useful unless they are going into one of a handful of fields (mathematics professor being one).

I’d argue that a lot of what we teach in schools are this way. Imagine a list of everything you learned in your years of K-12 schooling. Now, think about all the skills and facts you’ve relied on in the past, say, two years. If you are like me (and I suspect most people are), there is probably only a small overlap.

If we then took the number of things on your school list that aren’t also on your life list and calculated the amount of school time that took up, I’d bet there are a good many years represented.

The things that constitute the bulk of my life are in fact things I learned after I was out of k-12.

I’m a good illustration of the point. I am now forty, meaning that I was educated during the time when computers were gaining steam but the internet wasn’t really a thing, and certainly not what it is today. I learned a lot of stuff in school I don’t remember at all. But what I did not learn anything about – because no one foresaw the need – was all the computer skills that my work (and personal life) revolves around: how to create and maintain a website, write emails, navigate the web, etc. Essentially, the things that constitute the bulk of my life are in fact things I learned after I was out of k-12.

The Problem with Standardized Curricula

One big problem with the idea of creating standardized curricula is that we simply don’t know what knowledge will and won’t be relevant in 12 years. There will be many false positives (things we think students will need to know but won’t), and false negatives (things we have no idea students will need to know).

Some believe that a national curriculum is necessary so that everyone is “on the same page.”

In a recent book arguing for a national curriculum, Ed Hirsch writes that, “The duty of schools is to transmit… shared knowledge of the shared language – to transmit the cultural commons of the nation, its public sphere.” As I argue in more detail here, this grossly misunderstands how culture works.

Culture is so much more diverse than that, especially in the information age.

An economy works not because everyone has the same knowledge and skills, but because we all have different knowledge and skills. Culture is similar. Hirsch envisions a world where we all read and do the same things and talk the same talk to the same types of people. Culture is so much more diverse than that, especially in the information age. I can choose what to read, who to talk to, what to do, etc. And when I need to know something, I can find that out when I need it (without having depended on a national curriculum).

But isn’t it better to learn it while you are in school so that you don’t have to relearn it later? This assumes the likelihood that I would learn something when I’m, say, 12 (before I had any occasion to see its importance) and retain it years later when I might happen to need it.

A stark reality check about this likelihood comes from the hit game show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? which aired from 2007 to 2015. The show consisted of asking contestants a series of questions taken from standard first-through-fifth grade textbooks. During that time, there were only two contestants who answered enough questions (six) to win the grand prize. Yet these were all things we learned between first and fifth grade!

Formal curricula are fine, but we need to recognize that they consist of one group’s guess at what people will need to know a decade from now and what, of that, they will likely retain when needed. My advice is to allow each school to take their own guess, either by allowing them to design their own curriculum or sign on to one of a number of possible curricula (or even choose not to have a set curriculum at all). It just isn’t likely that there really is one list of stuff that everyone should be forced to know.