From The Bachelorette to Annette Lareau: Some Educational and Academic Insights

I’m ashamed to say I watch such excellent smut as The Bachelorette.  I get sucked into the fantasy, reveling in the brilliant extravagance of it all, and rooting for the sweet, witty (also the sanest) guy with the cool haircut.  So yeah, that’s embarrassing.

I was at my friend’s apartment the other night, indulging in the drama of a scorned suitor and rudely critiquing Emily’s (the lovely bachelorette) parenting skills of her daughter, Ricki.  Can you imagine?  Running around the world randomly while your mom “dates” these guys?  Yeesh. Had I been by my lonesome, I would’ve continued the punchiness, remarking on Emily’s clear plastic surgery or something like that, but since I was with my Haverford friends, the conversation took a turn for the intellectual.

Last semester I took two education classes: Critical Issues in Education, the introductory Education course, and Sociology of Education, a Bryn Mawr Sociology class cross listed in the Education department.  For brevity’s sake, I will only say that these classes were easily the most influential in my thinking and career aspirations thus far; I want to be involved in the education system because of these classes.

Both required Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods.  An ethnographic study, Lareau synthesizes her experiences with twelve different families, exploring the major educational implications of the disparate observed childrearing strategies.  Lareau’s work was deeply resonant and catalytic for my own (re)thinking about the formative nature of the education system, and still colors much of my sociological and educational perspective.  I see the implications of her work everywhere…



…even incipiently in The Bachelorette.   My co-viewer and friend is also an Education minor, so our conversation deviated from analyzing Ricki’s conversational contributions (a dragon lives in Buckingham Palace… brilliance) to the inextricable relationship between childhood and educational performance.  We noted the fact that Emily is clearly in a comfortable financial stratum, and therefore able to provide Ricki with an education that can cater to and probably encourages international travels.  This is kind of in jest, since Ricki isn’t actually the best example of Lareau’s theories, (being an indirect reality TV star at the age of six isn’t quite indicative of her demographic), but even though the genesis of the conversation was less than serious, our sentiment certainly was.

We did manage to have a more sophisticated conversation, reflecting on our own, reality TV-free childhoods.  We reminisced on the international travel we were lucky enough to experience, our parents’ commitment to our educations, the many clubs we were involved in (these are all elements of one of Lareau’s observed theories, “concerted cultivation”), and how these had parlayed brilliantly into our current educational status.  We were also cognizant, however, of the situations that don’t coincide so well with the education system.  It’s a conversation that I’m incredibly invested in, and while I could bombard the internet with my educational opinions, I will just say that our conversation was simultaneously frustrating and inspiring, far more so than Emily’s amore musings.  By the time we had come down from our educational soapboxes, some guy named “Wolf” (who???) was crying over something, and another guy with an oddly shaped head was making inappropriate and fairly misogynistic jokes.  And so, we had left the real world and its real issues and returned to the fantastic/ridiculous.

This aspect of the Haverford academic culture – the balance of seriously intellectual and thoroughly non-academic – is something that I celebrate and adore.  There’s this moment during your freshmen year where you realize that everyone on this campus is wicked smaht and it’s the most exhilarating dawning.  These are the students that you’re lucky enough to learn from, but they’re also your friends.  You consequently get an academic climate at Haverford that’s constantly curious, but fun and relaxed at the same time.  So, my advice for incoming Haverford freshmen: make sure you keep up with your favorite television offerings, invest in your intellect, and that will inevitably spill out of the classroom into a confluence of the academic and the light-hearted.  Relish this balance; it is far more beautiful than any bachelorette.