WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic?
Does this acronym properly describe our culture? Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic?
This may be or may not be the way you view yourself, but it is certainly the way today’s anthropologists would label the majority of those of you reading this. I recently learned this while reading an interview by Mark Leviton featuring David Lancy (The Kids Are All Right) in The Sun magazine. Mr. Lancy is the author of the controversial book The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings and is also a Professor Emeritus of anthropology at Utah State University.
In the interview, Lancy states the United States is a neontocracy (a culture where the youngest members are the most valued), and historically, the majority of other societies have been gerontocracies (a culture where the oldest members are the most valued). He also explains in detail the differences in the ways cultures raise their children and other WEIRD societies “consistently occupy the extreme end of the human distribution curve,” possibly making us “one of the worst subpopulations one could study to generalize about Homo Sapiens.”
He also said “Western, middle-class parents are much too worried about protecting children from perceived threats and optimizing their development. They believe there is one right way to raise children, and even a slight deviation from it causes measurable harm. My review of child-rearing patterns elsewhere shows that it is impossible to identify one best, or normal, practice.” Lancy has done extensive fieldwork in Papua, New Guinea, and in the countries of Liberia, Madagascar, Uganda, Trinidad, and Sweden.
While Lancy agrees there are certainly inappropriate and unacceptable parenting traits in all cultures, his studies have clearly shown him there are weaknesses in the way WEIRD parents parent.
When sharing his view on parenting, he emphasizes the principle of village-based child-rearing. Children should have the opportunity to observe and interact with folks or all ages. “Neighbors should welcome children and take some responsibility for their well-being, even if they’re not relatives.
In an ideal society children are allowed to be children, rather than their parent’s projects or status markers. A child should have the opportunities to learn independently, selecting his or her own books at the library, building things from scrap materials with real tools, making a meal after watching mom or dad do it, or getting instruction from a website.
And children should have a direct experience of the natural world; forests, rivers, fields, and parks, in all kinds of weather. In an ideal society, these benefits should be available to all children, not just the favored few.”(Parents remember, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.)
After reading the interview, I realized this was the very reason I believe fishing is such an important tool to help kids better experience the outdoors. It teaches them many lessons, but most importantly fishing can teach kids independence and self-sustainability. On that note, thanks mom for buying me my first cane pole, kicking me out the back door and into the outdoors!
Editor’s Note: We recently received this comment from retired teacher, Carol Robitschek. “Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Do so appreciate reading what you are thinking.”