I used to work for the Arizona Republic. In fact, my husband and I fell in love while co-writing middle-of-the-night reports about homicides, fires and robberies. (He was in the field; I was at the night rewrite desk.)
We left the Republic to pursue graduate school (a law degree for Dan, an MBA for me). Seven years and two children later, I started Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.
I held my tongue as I watched what evolved at the Republic over the next few years. Raising Arizona Kids pioneered one project after another–comprehensive calendars of events, annual summer camp directories, birthday party resource guides and more–only to see our ideas duplicated in the larger and more efficiently distributed daily newspaper. I held my breath and suffered countless sleepless nights when the Republic (through its magazine division) started a monthly magazine for parents in the East Valley. (Our Kids lasted less than a year before it was yanked for failure to thrive.) And then came the final blow. The Republic claimed moms for its own, providing “new” resources online that we’ve offered decades–but with the advantage of huge teams of web-savvy professionals who could add all the bells and whistles (if none of the depth). Versus me and one part-time IT guy.
But now I’ve really had it. The Republic, in the Gannett model of market-research-driven, increasingly superficial and fluff-oriented journalism, has gone too far. In this month’s az magazine (which is devoted to “buzz, people, style and culture”), self-annointed parenting expert Karina Bland advocates a parenting strategy designed to put children “Ahead of the curve” by enrolling them in what she describes as “10 of the Valley’s best enrichment programs to help your child beat the competition.”
I felt physically ill as I read her describe how today’s parents will “do just about anything to help [children] get a leg up on the competition–even it if means instruction in Mandarin well before they’ve mastered English or college classes before they’re old enough to drive.”
It’s not that the 10 places she lists are bad places (although I know from receiving the same press releases she gets that the Bambini Language Immersion Preschool she recommends just opened on Nov. 17th, so how it can be the “best” with no track record floors me.) It’s her premise that the only way to be a good parent is to push your child to be better than everyone else.
The irony is striking as I proofread copy for our February issue. We have an article by Scottsdale early childhood education expert Melanie Romero, who through both education and experience is far more qualified than Karina Bland to tell parents how to best approach their parenting. In “Parenting on Overdrive,” Melanie rejects the strategy of trying to raise super kids (a concept, frankly, that was on its way out 23 years ago when I had my first child). To quote from Melanie’s article: “Parents who over-schedule their children or push them to achieve risk creating young people and adults with chronic stress, burnout, low self-esteem and lack of creativity.” She condemns “hyper-parenting,” a phrase first coined by Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D. and Nicole Wise in their book The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap.
When I attended journalism school I was taught that professionalism dictates objectivity, despite your own innate preferences and choices. My staff has been trained to work this way. We believe that parenting is a serious and carefully cultivated skill enhanced by exposure to different professional opinions. We consciously choose to avoid recommending any one approach or hyping something as “best” because we know that all parents are different, all children are different, all families are different… and what works for one does not necessarily work for another. We strive to be a place for the exchange of ideas, rooted in a professional perspective provided by local experts we interview or whose articles we publish. We expect that our readers will ponder the options and strategies we describe and choose wisely from their own insights about their respective situations.
In this blog-eat-blog world, we increasingly accept as “news” and “fact” the opinions of people whose intelligence and personal experience often encompass no more than the ability to type and hype. It saddens me that the Republic has such a large and powerful platform on which to promote what their marketing department has determined will sell magazines.
I refuse to relegate my parenting — or my company — to that model.