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October 26, 2005

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Unspoken subtext? "Stay well, Hilzoy, or Mommy will next read Pindar to you!"

Child abuse, plain and simple.

being a faculty brat definitely had its peculiar moments, but the benefits vastly outweighed the occasional oddities.

I thought so too. (Child of an econ professor, here.)

von: how did I not know that? What sort of econ?

My grandfather was an economist, and talking to him while I was growing up had a lot to do with my wanting to major in econ when I arrived in college, and also with my complete puzzlement when I encountered econ 101.

(He was also, much as I loved him, completely self-absorbed: he thought that my Mom ought to spend her life translating his works into other languages, and after I graduated from college, he announced that now that I had "become a philosopher" (his words), I could devote myself to providing a proper philosophical foundation for his work. I said that I'd do that if he would devote himself to working out the economic implications of my moral theory. Oddly enough, he didn't see the joke. -- But knowing him also made me see that if one is self-absorbed, a lot depends on the capaciousness and interest of the self in question. His was vast and fascinating. That didn't make it OK, I thought, but it made it better.)

being a faculty brat definitely had its peculiar moments, but the benefits vastly outweighed the occasional oddities.

I'll third that. [Hi, Dad!]

I thought so too. (Child of an econ professor, here.)

My father started out studying the labor market -- it was the hot field at the time. Now, however, he mostly studies consumer credit and the consumer gas market. (Full disclosure: On the former subject, he has been accused of being a shill for credit card companies. [He's not, of course; indeed, his research sometimes paints the opposite picture.])

Once, as a very small child, I became fascinated with the copy of Basil Liddell Hart's Strategy I found in my father's library. One night, instead of Dr. Seuss, I asked him to read Liddell Hart to me instead. He tried to talk me out of it, but I insisted, and we sat down to read. He must've read about a page or so, when I started to drop off. My Dad put me to bed then and I went peacefully and I don't think I ever asked about it again. Years later I'd flip idly through it now and then and now I have the copy on my bookshelves. I've never read it. I just keep it in case of insomnia.

(My father taught radar fundamentals on a military base, but he lacked any terminal degrees.)

my dad is an English prof., so i got to choose my reading material from his immense (or so it seemed) collection of novels and plays. he taught a couple of sci-fi classes so i got to read all the Niven, McCaffrey, Heinlein, Bradbury, Vonnegut, Orwell, etc., then all the Hardy, Updike, Pirsig, Hess, Kosinski, Shakes, etc.. good times.

My little brother always thought that my parents' collection of books was immensely boring. When my Mom wrote her first book, we all had a contest to name it (eventual name: Lying). My little brother, who was then around seven, thought that it would need a really great name to make up for its (to him) not so interesting content, and proposed "Sailing the Seven Seas of Truth".

Cicero's one thing, but Seneca? Ugh. Not only is his prose style horribly laboured, his precepts are beyond trite. If I remember correctly a relevant one here is his claim that you shouldn't worry about illness because anything extremely painful doesn't last long. Clearly he never knew anyone with cancer or even arthritis.

Well, cancer used not to last as long as it does now ....

My father never went to college - he was accepted at McGill, but his father made him go to work instead - yet he was a self-made intellectual of great personal dignity. (Many people called him "Dr. Owen," even when he had become the only member of the family without a college degree.)

When we were growing up, his personal library was open to us - we had little else to read, at a mission station in China - and I remember as a child being captivated by his weather-beaten copy of James Breasted's History of the Ancient World. Those of you watching Rome may recall the battle of Pharsalus, where Caesar defeated Pompey. Shoot, I could diagram Caesar's tactics in that battle at age six! And a year later my sister and I, then 8 and 7, apparently astonished the passersby in front of the British Museum by our discussion of whether the columns were Doric or Ionic ...

There's really no limit to what kids can learn, and will, given the opportunity. Curiosity is a wonderful thing. Much of what you learn may do no apparent good, and knowing a lot of stuff your peers don't is not necessarily a recipe for fitting in well when you go to a public school. But what the hey -- I can't possibly wish that I hadn't learned what I did when I did. And so my wife and I tried to give our son as much opportunity to learn as we could while he was growing up; we are not displeased with the results. ;}


They say the truth will make you free. No one ever promised it would make you happy.

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