Intellectual notes: Of all the Sesame Street characters, Rachel used to resemble sweet, innocent, and imaginative Elmo the most. But now she’s turning into the Count, whose greatest joy in life is to find something to count. She counts steps, parking meters, people on the bus, bites of food, and sips of water. She can now count past 100 without prompting, can count backwards from 10 to 0, and can add and subtract one number at a time so long as she’s dealing with numbers not much over ten. And, finally, she no longer misses 16 on her way to 20.
She is raptly attentive during Sesame Street, and we’ve just started watching the Sunday evening Disney hour with her. She asks a lot of questions. She likes cartoons but has not yet been exposed to Saturday morning TV. So her very active imagination has not turned to violence yet. Instead, she organizes a lot of weddings, birthday parties, travels, picnics, and classroom activities.
Language notes: Rachel is picking up more and more local English at school. One of the most noticeable lately is mines, as in Yours, Mines, and Ours. (That forces an exception to follow the same rule that adds s to the other forms.)
She has finally begun to use Please, Thank you, Excuse me, and Sorry fairly regularly. And she’ll wave good-bye to kids she knows. Her conversational habits are not always polite though. She wants to dominate every conversation around the house, and isn’t happy to yield the floor to either of us. She is very, very verbal, providing a running commentary on everything she does. When she’s tired, the running commentary turns into a babbling stream of consciousness.
UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston’s Chinatown.
Physical development: Rachel’s handwriting is much smoother now. She doesn’t have to have little dots to mark the angle-points in A, M, Y and other letters. She has even got S and C down pretty well. She can also write quite small and has done a few exercises at school writing numbers. She jumps well with two feet and can stand on one foot. She likes to show how fast she can run. She is quite active during exercise at her school. We enrolled her in a “movement” class at the YWCA on Saturday mornings, but so far the only thing she has participated in is a balance-beam exercise that she enjoyed at preschool. She doesn’t like receiving a lot of attention from strangers. We doubt she’ll go into show business.
Intellectual notes: She still loves to count and do very simple addition and subtraction. In fact, she has discovered the Associative Principle: “Look, 2 and 2 and 1 make 5; and 3 and 2 make 5, too!” She was counting with her fingers in the stroller one day and announced “2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 make 10!” She knows that 100 is a lot, and can count that high if you prompt her for the even multiples of ten. She no longer misses fifteen now that she knows fif is a funny way to say five, but she usually skips sixteen for some reason.
She also loves guessing and telling. “You don’t know how old Panda is?” [Just say “No!”] “I’ll tell you. He’s two.” “Do you know what we can use? … Think! Think!” She likes to involve us in long imaginary games in which everyone’s role is subject to redefinition whenever the fancy strikes her. She also does a lot of reasoning. This is the bicentennial of Chinese emigration to Hawaii. When Rachel asked why so many Chinese came here, Mama told her that many Chinese wanted to leave China. She said, “Yeah, they wanted to find a cleaner place, and Honolulu was clean enough.”
Language notes: Rachel returned from her Christmas visit having finally switched from referring to herself as Rachel to using I, me, my appropriately. She has also switched to an overcorrected pronunciation of the so that it always rhymes with thee. One of her teachers must have stigmatized the local pronunciation, da. (She has acquired the local auwe in place of ouch.) Her pronunciation of consonant clusters (st, str, sp, spr, etc.) seems to have slipped a bit while she concentrates on new grammatical constructions, especially comparatives (good, gooder, goodest, bad, badder, baddest), even complicated syntax like: “When I’m 100 years old, I’ll be tall enough that my head will touch the ceiling.” “Look, I can push the stroller as straight as you can.” Around us, she is extremely verbal, providing a running commentary on her every action.
UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston’s Chinatown.
Old-style Democrat Michael Lind asks a timely question in a Salon essay entitled Can populism be liberal?
There remains the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, represented more in Congress than in Obama’s White House — and more in the House than in the Senate, a dully complacent millionaires’ club. Can congressional progressives compete with conservatives to channel popular outrage? Unfortunately, progressivism in the form in which it has evolved in the last generation does not resonate with populist producerism.
To begin with, most of the moral fervor of the contemporary center-left has been diverted from the issue of fair rewards for labor to the environmental movement. In theory, environmentalism ought to fit the populist narrative of defending shared goods against special interests. Indeed, clean air and water legislation and public parks and wilderness areas are broadly popular with working-class Americans, not least hunters and fishers. But many environmentalists insist that global warming must be combated not only by low-CO2 energy technology but also by radical lifestyle changes like switching from industrial farming to small-scale organic agriculture and moving from car-based suburbs and exurbs to deliberately “densified” cities with mass transit. Whether environmentalists propose to engineer this utopian social transformation by tax incentives or coercive laws, the campaign triggers the populist nightmare of arrogant social elites trying to dictate where and how ordinary people should live.
Even if it had not been eclipsed by moralistic lifestyle environmentalism, contemporary economic progressivism would be crippled by its own priorities. New Deal liberalism was primarily about jobs and wages, with benefits as an afterthought. Post-New Deal progressivism is primarily about benefits, with jobs and wages as an afterthought. This inversion of priorities is underlined by the agenda of the Democrats since the last election — universal healthcare coverage first, jobs later.
It is only in the post-New Deal era that universal healthcare has become the Holy Grail of the American center-left, rather than, say, full employment or a living wage. Sure, Democrats from Truman to Johnson sought universal healthcare, and Medicare for the elderly was a down payment for that goal. But the main concern of the New Dealers was providing economic growth with full employment, on the theory that if the economy is growing and workers have the bargaining power to obtain their fair share of the new wealth in the form of wages, you don’t need a vastly bigger welfare state. Having forgotten the New Deal’s emphasis on high-wage work, all too many of today’s progressives seem to have internalized the right’s caricature of FDR-to-LBJ liberalism as being primarily about redistribution from the rich to the poor.
This shift in emphasis is connected with the shift in the social base of the Democratic Party from the working class to an alliance of the wealthy, parts of the professional class and the poor. And progressive redistributionism also reflects the plutocratic social structure of the big cities that are now the Democratic base. Unlike the egalitarian farmer-labor liberalism that drew on the populist values of the small town and the immigrant neighborhood, metropolitan liberalism tends to define center-left politics not as self-help on the part of citizens but rather as charity for the disadvantaged carried out by affluent altruists. Tonight the fundraiser for endangered species; tomorrow the gala charity auction for poor children.