Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Applying Political Theory to Parenthood

Having failed at so many, many worthwhile endeavors Father Goof is a graduate student. As part of my program, I am taking a course on political theory, which, to my surprise, is having practical applications to the art of parenthood. The other day we learned about the Borda count, an election method in which voters rate their choices and the candidate with the highest rating wins. My attitude towards democracy in the home usually echoes Lycurgus who when an Athenian told the Spartans to adopt democracy, answered, “Begin with your own family.”

Nonetheless the Borda count proved useful for maintaining social harmony in my kingdom. The other day, I picked up my son from school and asked him where he wanted to go to dinner. He told me Baja Fresh. I asked him what his second choice would be. At first he grumbled that he wasn’t really getting to choose, but I told him that if he picked two and his sister picked two then they would be bound to agree on one and everyone would be at least a little happy (thankfully they only eat at three restaurants.)

“Good idea Dad, but let me ask her which restaurant she wants for dinner.”

He is learning how to set the agenda to control the outcome – impressive.

When we got to her school he asked her, “Do you want dinner at Baja Fresh or the noodle place?”

“No Baja Fresh, I want noodles!” she voted.

“Daddy, she wants the noodle place.”

“Buddy,” I told him, “If you asked her right, she would have picked Baja Fresh and you would have gotten your first choice.”

“That’s ok Daddy. I was empowering her.”

I think I should stop reading my political theory homework to him for bedtime (although it does have the ended effect – Rawls, Habermas, and Dahl are good, but no one beats Amy Guttman for narcotic effect.)

Still it is an improvement, his previous attempts at empowering his sister have resulted in timeouts for him and the application of ice to his sibling’s forehead.