While it’s relatively easy to find critiques of child-rearing in low-income families in popular media and academic circles, it’s relatively rare to find any critique of the ways in which children are raised within wealthy families.
Thus, I was intrigued by this short piece from American Public Radio’s Marketplace show that speaks to the challenges of talking with wealthy children about family finances. Apparently, many families find these conversations awkward, so often simply avoid them. From a transcript of the broadcast:
The thing is, the majority of parents in the survey said being open with their children about finances was important. But more than half have never discussed the responsibility that comes with family wealth.
One parent who doesn’t talk much about money with her kids is Lucy. She didn’t want her last name used.
Lucy: Well, I just don’t like to be very public with finances.
Lucy has two kids, 18 and 20. The family is worth more than $50 million from when her husband’s telecommunications company went public. But she says her kids learn by example, because the family doesn’t live extravagantly.
Lucy: Well, that’s a little bit not true. We do have probably a few more houses than we can properly deal with but . . .
Cole: How many is a few more than you can deal with?
Lucy: Well let’s see, we have . . . five houses, I guess, effectively.
The children of parents who lose track of how many houses they actually own are likely not going to be found in public school classrooms. They are beyond the reach of policies of income-based integration of public schools, of public school curriculum about social class, of public deliberation about the declining affordability of higher education.
In public schools, we are educating poor and working-class children whose work lives, whose access to public resources, whose access to health care and quality education for their own children will be shaped by those who have grown up in families where no one talks about how owning five homes is, in fact, extravagant.
Certainly, at least in public schools, we can — and must — talk about this?