Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello everyone, and welcome to the 141st episode of the Atlas Society asks, my name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me Jag. I'm the c e o of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit, introducing young people to the ideas of Ayn Rand in fun, creative ways, like graphic novels and animated videos. We, uh, take an open objectivist approach, which emphasizes, uh, a reasoned, non-dogmatic oppo approach to discussion, and we elevate benevolence to a major virtue. Today we are joined by Esther Eski or the wad, as she is known to her students and many admirers. Before I even get to introducing my guest, I want to remind all of you who are joining us on Zoom, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube. You can, uh, start typing in your questions now. Just use the comment section and we'll get to as many of them as we can.
Speaker 0 00:01:09 My guest, Esther Waki, is a journalist and educator whose three daughters grew up to become c e o of u2, co-founder and c e o of 23. And me and a professor at U C S F As one might imagine, many people marvel at that amazing track record and wonder what this mom might have done differently. Esther satisfies that curiosity with her book, how to Raise Successful People, which also draws on her decades of experience teaching at Palo Alto High School experience, which also informs her book, moonshots in Education, launching Blending Learning in the Classroom. Esther, thanks for joining us.
Speaker 1 00:01:57 It's a pleasure. Thank you so much for the invitation.
Speaker 0 00:02:01 So, uh, in your book how to Raise Successful People, you observe that when it comes to parenting, most people default to the way they themselves were raised, and when it comes to raising their own kids. But you share how you were determined to do things differently, though in some ways, uh, it seems that the circumstances of your childhood forced you to take on a lot of responsibilities at an early age and learn that you must think for yourself. Can you describe those early experiences and maybe how they influenced you?
Speaker 1 00:02:39 Sure. So, um, my parents were born in the Soviet Union and the Ukraine, and so I was the first generation here in the United States. My father was an artist, and as you might know, and just guess, artists don't make very much money. So we were always hungry. And, um, I grew up in a place where, you know, money was rare. And, um, so what that did is, uh, it forced me to be much more creative, I think, with what I needed in li in life, whether it was clothing or, um, you know, toys or anything. I tended to be much more creative than a person that, like my own kids, actually, who I made sure that they had a lot of toys. Um, but then also, um, you know, I had some difficulties. I would describe it, um, in when I was about 10 years old.
Speaker 1 00:03:41 Uh, when, because of not having enough money, um, my mother, um, and father, you know, we didn't get adequate medical care, medical treatment, and I had a, a third brother, um, who accidentally swallowed aspirin. And my mother was given the wrong information about how to take care of him. As a matter of fact, they advised her to put him to bed and see what happens. You, you never do that to somebody that ingested a poison. But because she was, um, you know, an immigrant and she was a woman, she was just afraid to challenge the doctor and say, Hey, that doesn't sound right to me. And so she didn't, she just followed the instructions and, um, unfortunately, you know, uh, you the consequences, he died. And, um, so, you know, I was just 10 years old when that happened. And, um, you know, d you don't know how that impacts you as a child, you know, it's just, you're just like, oh my God, this is terrible. You're very upset and so forth. But long term, looking back, I can see what it did. And what it basically did is say, you know, don't trust anybody. Be be willing to always ask questions and to try to find those answers out for yourself. You know, be as informed as you possibly can because if you aren't, you know, you might not make it in the world, right? Just
Speaker 0 00:05:13 Don't blindly trust the authorities. Don't blindly trust, you know, someone who's an expert. You also had an experience, I, I think it was a little bit later, you write about it in, in the book when, uh, your brother, your, um, younger brother, not, not the baby, but the younger brother fainted and you started feeling woozy and your mother, uh, took the brother outside and told you to remain in the house,
Speaker 1 00:05:41 Lie down in the bed, and then I'll come and get you in a bit. And if I would have done what she told me to do already, I was tuned not to do that anymore. Um, I wouldn't be here today cuz it was carbon monoxide poisoning and people die really quickly, you know, without air, with carbon monoxide poisoning. So, um, so that followed me, you know, actually through my entire life, actually till today, for forever. And that's what I ended up teaching my students is, you know, always ask a lot of questions. Don't be embarrassed, you know, if it, there's no such a thing as a stupid question. It's just, if you didn't get the answer to that question, just ask that question again. And, um, and it made a big difference in my life. It made a huge difference in the lives of all my students because, um, they're used to, you know, being told not to ask questions or not to ask, be careful before you ask a quote, stupid question. And, um, so that was not the rule of my class. You can ask what you want. Um, yeah, so that might have encouraged like, all the hundreds of kids who signed up for my class. I mean, I don't know, there were a lot of things that encouraged them to sign up
Speaker 0 00:07:01 And hence earned you the moniker of the Godmother of Silicon Valley because you've had so many successful, uh, young people pass through and graduate from, from your class. So, um, and I think asking questions and thinking for yourself, and that also stands in stark contrast. And, and you've had debates attended by thousands of people where you, uh, were up against proponents of sort of the tiger mom, um, approach where it's extremely strict and it's very regimented and those kids might, you know, grow up to be successful in, in, in one way, but they learn to be very good at following the rules and following instructions. And that is, um, that's in stark contrast with what you try to instill in your daughters.
Speaker 1 00:08:01 Yes, that is in stark contrast. And, um, and that's what I'm trying to, um, allow all students to do everywhere, all over the world, which is why I'm giving all these talks, um, in many different countries. And, um, I think it's really important for the young people to feel confident. And it's not terrible to make a mistake, you know, you need to be able to make mistakes when you learn something. And the reason I say that is, you know, if you do something and you don't make any mistake, well, did you really need me to help you learn it? You already know how to do it. And so I'm really, um, sort of focused on giving kids opportunities to learn something and if it doesn't go right to do it again. So grading in my classes was like never an issue cuz all you had to do was revise. Everybody got an a, uh, but some people revised two, two times. Some people revised 10 times. I didn't care how many times you revised, you just needed to get it right. And kids loved that. You know, nobody felt threatened. It was, I wish the system would do that because it's just too stressful for kids with grades all the time and hanging over their heads and
Speaker 0 00:09:14 Yeah. And as they revise, they're, they're learning as
Speaker 1 00:09:17 Well. You learn a lot when you revise a lot. And, um, you should see the writing in the publications that my students do. I mean, you would think it was written by somebody on the New York Times. It's all kids, you know, ages 14 to 18, and they can learn how to do it just like they learn how to speak a language better than you do, you know? Um, after the age of 14, the kids, the kids that are younger, are gonna beat anybody over 14 and learning a language.
Speaker 0 00:09:49 Amazing. Now, one of the things I love about your book is it has so many great stories and anecdotes, but they're all illustrating a particular point. And, uh, a lot of what they illustrate is this approach, um, this innovative method for parenting and teaching that UDub trick, trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. Could you briefly describe these elements, uh, or a couple of them at least, and share why they're so important?
Speaker 1 00:10:21 Yeah, so I came up with this, uh, acronym to try to help people remember what they read in my book, <laugh>, because I remembered myself that sometimes you read something in a book and you can't remember by the last chapter what you read in the first chapter. And so you have to go back and look and everything. And so this way you could, it's a trigger, it's a way to remember. And I started out with trust because trust is the most important as far as I'm concerned, you know? And why is it important? Well, I think it's really important for teachers to trust the students because when somebody who's a figure of authority and respect trusts you, you suddenly feel like, gee, I should trust myself. I am, I'm better than I thought I was. You know? And, um, trust makes a big difference, um, in relationships, in your family, relationships, in the school, relationships and between, you know, partners or spouses.
Speaker 1 00:11:22 Um, it's so important. Uh, if you don't trust somebody, you, you know, you can feel it when someone doesn't trust you. I mean, you don't have to have them spell it out, <laugh>, you know? And, um, so that's one of the things my students said was incredibly important to them. And my children also said the same thing. It was really important to them that I always trusted them and then I respected them. And by respect, I mean that I was willing to listen. That didn't mean I didn't exactly what they said, you know, some of those ideas are downright wacky and, but the fact that I was willing to listen and talk about it made a big difference, huge difference to them. And, um, then independence, especially in school, there's very little independence for most schools, most classes. So I gave kids as much independence as I possibly could within, you know, the boundaries of the school.
Speaker 1 00:12:18 And, um, and it made a big difference, a huge difference. You know, for example, they got to pick their own story ideas. It wasn't me that picked them, it was they that picked them, and then they did the research, and then their peers edited it just made a huge difference to them. Collaboration. Um, I focus on collaboration a lot because when I was growing up in la, actually all around the country, by the way, the same rules applied. Um, collaboration was called cheating. All, all kids were responsible for doing their own homework. No, you're not supposed to get your mom or dad to help. No, your brother or sister can't help you have to do it yourself or it's cheating. And the same was true in the classroom, cheating if you didn't do it yourself. And so, um, I said, Hey, I want you to learn this.
Speaker 1 00:13:10 I really don't care how you learn this. You know, I've given you some ideas. I've taught, told you a little bit about it. And so I think it's really important for you to learn this. And it's fine if you have a friend that's helping you. So I'm, that's this, that's the collaboration. And then, Kay, for kindness, kindness, kindness belongs in all areas of life. In all places in the world. Every single major religion talks about kindness, and we just don't have enough kindness, especially today in 2023. There is just, it's a lacking lack of kindness, and that makes people suspicious. Uh, it makes us all unhappy. Um, I think, I don't see why we can't be kinder to each other. We're all human beings, and we all have very basic needs, and that's really to be loved and respected and to appreciated and have enough food and shelter and clothing.
Speaker 0 00:14:10 Yeah. So, and the way that, um, you describe the importance of kindness to your students and even to your grandchildren, is that it's in your self-interest. So that's how we, at the Atla Society, we talk about benevolence as a self-interested value. I think there was a story, maybe it was one of your grandkids who was having trouble sharing his, um, toys or something, and you've walked him through and said, well, you know, if you share with them, they'll be more likely to share with you and helping, helping in a very fundamental way to, um, connect with people why it's, it's more productive to be that way.
Speaker 1 00:14:54 Yes, you are happier. You know, personally, one of the things that makes me the happiest is when I see my students successfully, you know, their success gives me a great deal of joy. Um, and I think that as true for parents too, you know, their children when they do well, brings them a lot of joy. But then when you share something with somebody, no matter what it is, you know, it's an idea or it's clothing or whatever, it brings you joy and it brings them joy. And so it's so important for everyone ev all of us to remember, especially now in this world as it is today, what can we do to make the world a better place and to help everybody live a better life?
Speaker 0 00:15:41 Now, you'd mentioned trust. It starts the off the acronym, um, because it's the most important. I like to say trust isn't the only thing. Uh, it's not everything. It's the only thing. And you shared two stories in your book, one in which your daughters damaged the trust that you and your husband had in them, and one in which you damaged, uh, trying to do the right thing, but ended up damaging the trust, which two of your daughters had in you. What happened? And I kissed, most importantly, what did you learn and how did you rebuild that trust?
Speaker 1 00:16:16 Well, I think the first one that you're talking about is when my husband and I went away for the weekend. Yeah. And so, I mean, I left my three daughters at home by themselves. I think they were 16, 15, and 13. I probably should have known better, but, um, I trusted us. You
Speaker 0 00:16:36 Learned
Speaker 1 00:16:36 <laugh>, right? Yes. And, um, I, we came back, never got a phone call, nothing. There was no, you know, electronic stuff back then.
Speaker 0 00:16:47 The house was totally clean and vacuumed.
Speaker 1 00:16:50 And I, the house was like beautiful, cleaned, vacuumed, spotless. I was like, God, what's going on? You know, there, it's so nice. You know, we went away from the weekend and I come home to a perfect house and everything. So I actually, I didn't know anything was different. No other problems. So what I did, I just, you know, the next morning I went to school as usual. And then, you know, in the class, uh, first period there was a lot of sort of talking and giggling and so forth. That was like a ninth grade class. And they were talking about whatever literature they were reading or whatever, and I said, you know, what is going on? I know that something's really different today. And then I looked across the room and there was this girl wearing an outfit that looked just like mine. And I was like, oh my God, you know, I have the same clothes, I have the same outfit.
Speaker 1 00:17:42 And she's like, it's yours, <laugh>. It's yours. I was like, what? And she's like, yeah, I was at your house, you know, on Saturday night, and I spilled something on myself and your daughter said, just help yourself. And she just, this girl just took some clothes out of my closet and put 'em on, and I just could not believe it. I was, I was I the rest of the day, I don't know what I said or what I did. It was, I was just so shocked. I came home that night and I was like, I heard what happened at the house. No wonder it's so clean. And, um, they all confessed finally. And, you know, then we had to sort of rebuild the trust. It took a while because okay, nothing bad happened, right? Uh, the only bad thing was that happened was they broke my trust and that was not the, that was bad. Um, but, you know, we worked on it. They understood it would've been better to tell me it would've, you know, that I could have then had to chaperone there. Apparently there was a big rager, so there were like, I don't know, a hundred people there. Um, so yes, that was a problem. Anyway, I did not go away again, <laugh>. But what was the second one? Do you, and
Speaker 0 00:19:03 Then I think it was, you had, it was with a car and your daughter's and
Speaker 1 00:19:07 Oh, that was, yes. That's a hilarious story also. So, um, you know, when they got to be 16, they got a car and Susan got the first car, which was a, an old Volvo. It was honestly a really old Volvo. It had 200,000 miles on it, and she was very proud of it. And it was like her car, an old one. And then when Janet and Nan came along, you know, I didn't have a lot of money, so I was like, I got another car. This one is a, a Volvo also, Janet went off to Stanford and she's like, um, mom, can I keep the car on campus? You know, I need to go places. I said, oh, then we have to pay for it, and you need a sticker on it and all that stuff. Why don't we just leave it at home and then if you need it, you know, you can come and get it.
Speaker 1 00:19:54 So at the meantime, you know, Anne finally got her driver's license. So then I said to Anne, um, you know, I'm gonna give you the Volvo at can be your car, because I figured Janet was at Stanford. And so she thought the car was hers for sure. She was telling everyone how she got a car. And then Janet, who would come and pick it up every night now and then would say, oh, it's mine. And then one day, lo and behold, they both found out that I had given the same car to both of them. And boy were they furious and they didn't, I just didn't know what to do at that point. But, um, <laugh>, it was, that was pretty funny. It worked for a while. Yes. And then I, we did have to, I finally ended up buying Janet at another car, so then we had three kind of old cars sitting in front of our house. <laugh>
Speaker 0 00:20:47 <laugh>, um, yeah. And, uh, that, that, it just goes to show that even when you think that maybe you can sort of cut corners and tell one person, one thing and another person the other thing, at the end of the day, it always comes out. So Yep.
Speaker 1 00:21:03 Always comes out. And so anyway, I think I've been at this point, forgiven for the car situation.
Speaker 0 00:21:09 <laugh> <laugh>. Alright. Um, so one of my first guests on this podcast was Lenore Skei. She's the founder of Let Grow, uh, author of Free Range Kids. She identified ways in which media inspired fear was leading parents to overprotect children, and thus limit their opportunities to develop more resilience and coping skills. Would you agree with that assessment? And if so, when did you, as a high school teacher, with decades of experience, when did you start beginning to sense a shift?
Speaker 1 00:21:53 Um, uh, actually I started sensing a shift in about a little, maybe 2001, 2002. It kept, it started to grow and get worse and worse and worse. I think as the internet grew, it was just, um, an avalanche of parents that were just terrified that something bad was gonna happen to their kid. Uh, I live on this street at Stanford where there's an elementary school right down the street, just like five houses away. And, um, I remember thinking, wow, this is great. My kids can just walk to school by themselves. And, and they all did. Starting the age of five, they just walked out the front door and walked down to the school, and that was it. Today, and actually starting in about 2005, no one walked to school.
Speaker 1 00:22:55 Hmm. Parents, the parents would drive and park right in front of a path, and then you would think they would just let their kids hop out on the path and run to the school. Uhuh, they get out of the car with the child and walk them directly into the classroom. It's unbelievable. And, um, yeah, and that, I think also, the other thing I noticed is also years ago, I would go to a big box store of some kind, like, you know, um, I don't know, maybe, well, I don't think it ever happened at Costco, but maybe Target Light store, you would hear on the loudspeaker. We have a little three year old boy here at the front desk is wearing a yellow sweater, and his says his name is Adam was his mother, please come pick him up. We never hear that. Ever now, never. It's gone. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>
Speaker 0 00:23:55 Don't. Yeah. I never thought of that.
Speaker 1 00:23:57 Child of sight. Never.
Speaker 0 00:24:01 They have them on leashes even.
Speaker 1 00:24:02 Yeah. They actually, it's a real leash for a child. It's not a
Speaker 0 00:24:06 Doctor actual leash. I know. <laugh> <laugh> really. So how, I mean, you writing this book is I think, part of your effort to, to counteract us, but do we tell parents to turn off the news or,
Speaker 1 00:24:24 You know, I, I think that as long as they're reading the news, and as long as we get one horrible story after another every single day, every day, not just once in a while, um, I think parents' instinct is just to overprotect.
Speaker 0 00:24:40 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:24:41 And, um, you know, I, I have tried to tell parents that, you know, target is safe and, and they should not worry about letting their kid walk alone on, you know, on few aisles or whatever. Um, but I think it's, the culture is really different and
Speaker 0 00:25:03 Have, have your daughters, I know we talked earlier about this tendency to default in your parenting to the way you were raised. So maybe for them it's not as hard, although they're subjected to the same kind of, you know, um, negative news and, and things like that.
Speaker 1 00:25:27 You know, I think that they've been also impacted by the negative news. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's been very hard for them. Although I do have another story in the book called the Target Story. I don't know if you remember that.
Speaker 0 00:25:41 Yeah, yeah. Share that. I thought that was a great story, <laugh>, and that actually it's a good illustration of, you know, your approach and then, you know, one generation removed that it didn't necessarily stick, but it was an opportunity to revisit it.
Speaker 1 00:25:59 Right? So, um, it was a Saturday morning and I was over at Susan's house and all the kids were there, and then two of them, they were two nine year old girls, and they needed to go buy their school supplies at Target. So I said, okay, I'll take them. And then one of the other kids, um, the boy had really long bushy hair, and so they're like, time for a haircut. So I decided I would take them both. So I took the girls and the boy, and I thought, well, I have to go to two different places, you know, they're nine years old, after all, who knows better what they want for school than those girls, you know, I'm not gonna tell 'em what to get. So I said, Hey guys, why don't I just drop you off at Target and you go shopping, and then you can text me or call me when you get all your stuff and I'll come back with the credit card.
Speaker 1 00:26:52 Meantime, I'm gonna take Adam and have him have a haircut. So that's what I did. And then I actually drove down to this haircut place, and, um, I said, why don't you go in there and tell 'em how you want your haircut? Here's the money. You just do it. You know, I don't know how to tell you how to your haircut, just figure it out. So, um, in the meantime, as I was driving back to Target, I got a phone call from my daughter who said, so how's the shopping going at Target? And I said, oh, it's great. You know, the kids are shopping by themselves, you know, I'm going to pick 'em up soon. I just had to take Adam to get the haircut. And she said there was a dead silence on the phone, first of all. And she's like, you did what?
Speaker 1 00:27:40 And I was like, I dropped them at Target. She's like, target, well, you better go back there right now, because something could have happened to them. I was like, last time I checked Target, it was pretty safe. I've never seen anything bad at Target. It's a great store. Anyway, this went on for a few minutes, and then of course I drove back to Target. I found them both there. They were having a wonderful time. Of course, they bought too much stuff. We had to do little filtering, and then I gave them the credit card and I said, this is how you check out and you can sign my name. Let me show you how. And I'm telling you they loved it. And this story was like, so important for them and for the whole family because after that everybody wanted to do the same thing, you know, all like, we want freedom too.
Speaker 1 00:28:29 And, um, and I picked up Adam and he looked great, and I didn't, I, I was not there telling the hairdresser how to cut the hair. He told him and whatever. He looked like a nice young man. So <laugh>, that's, that's the target story. And, uh, I do think that parents are just too overprotective. They're worried that their kid's gonna be snatched. You know, they go down one aisle and the kid's on the other aisle and they think there's, you know, kids snatchers everywhere. And it's, it's all fueled by the social media and the stories that we read and all these terrible things that we hear about. So it makes us much more overprotective. And what that does is that, um, cuts down on the how empowered your child feels. The more you do for your child or the more protection you supply, the more that you do, the less empowered they are if you just think about it.
Speaker 1 00:29:25 You know? So if you are always having somebody do something for you, always, you don't know how to do any of it yourself. And actually in today's world, most kids don't even know how to fry an egg, sorry to say. So, uh, I think we think about what we're doing. The world is not that dangerous, especially your own house. And then especially, you know, walking down the street a few houses, um, although there are those terrible stories, you know, where we all remember the kid that was snatched, you know, from their own driveway or something.
Speaker 0 00:30:05 Um, yeah. But it's so, so easy and so tempting, and we're wired really to, um, to kind of exaggerate the likelihood of something like that happening to us. And it's part of our evolutionary makeup, you know, to be focused more on threats rather than the opportunity. And, uh, when, when kids are overprotected, they're also getting the message that, uh, strangers can't be trusted. The world is, um, you know, people are n not mostly good. And, uh, and the world is a dangerous place. Now we are about halfway through, and I still have a lot of questions, um, because I thoroughly enjoyed your book, and I particularly, uh, thought it was a great narrator on the audiobook, but we have a lot of questions piling up from our viewers, and I don't want to abuse their trust either. So we're going to get to a few of those. I'm gonna read them. Um, if there's one that you're like, Hmm, I don't know, or not, not for you, then we can, we, we've got plenty. Um, all right. From Instagram, my modern ga asks, um, Esther, what you said about creativity compared to your children is interesting. Do you think children need more variety of toys or stimulation or rely more on developing their own imagination?
Speaker 1 00:31:31 Well, I think too many of these plastic toys that you push a button and it sings a song or things like that, I think that cuts into a child's, um, creativity. I think that if you can give them the pieces like paper and crayons to draw pictures or, you know, pieces to put a puzzle together or to put something together or, you know, to make, uh, something out of twigs or, um, there, there's so many opportunities for kids to be creative. And, you know, you don't have to teach kids to be creative. They're born creative. And what we do is we sort of educate the creativity out of them. And that's what Sir Ken Robinson, who is the number one Ted speaker, said that kids don't grow into creativity. They grow out of it because the schools tell them what's right and what's wrong all the time.
Speaker 1 00:32:27 So by the time they're in 12th grade, they have 5% creativity. And in kindergarten, 95% of the kids are creative. So I think don't try to entertain them all the time. See what you can do to let them entertain themselves or entertain themselves and their friend. I think the best that, the most effective thing that I ever discovered was that if I didn't really have time to pay attention to my daughters, all I had to do was to get one friend, one friend over that did it. No longer were they interested in me, they just wanted to play with a friend. And that was like perfect. And, um, so little kids are extremely creative. I mean, one of the things that I did also, I remember we used to have sort of a jungle gym in the family room, and they would take sheets or blankets and cover up that jungle gym. It's like, what are you doing? They're making a house. And then they would do all kinds of wild things that were really incredible inside that house that they created. Um, so that's what I think don't over give them toys, let them develop and create with a lot of the things that are just around the house, your pots and pots, for example. You know, they make
Speaker 0 00:33:50 A get, uh, crates from the, um, supermarket, let build forts,
Speaker 1 00:33:56 You know, on those on boxes by the way that you get, yeah. Let out something with those boxes.
Speaker 0 00:34:03 I love it. All right. Well, I think Valerie, uh, Menez on Facebook, we may have, um, answered this, uh, but let's see if there's more to tease out. She's asking Esther, do you feel American public Education is focused more on test taking and regurgitating information rather than actually developing creative thinking? And, and you're, I would probably say
Speaker 1 00:34:29 The answers yes. Yes, a hundred percent. The, the whole focus of the education system is test scores. And so it makes it really tough for kids that don't like to take tests or kids that are really creative or kids that are not, you know, fitting into the square peg hole that they want 'em to, you know, it's, it's a test taking society.
Speaker 0 00:34:52 Uh, also from Facebook. Alexander Stahl asks Esther, how do you think remote learning compares to in-person? Does it matter more for certain age groups?
Speaker 1 00:35:03 You know, actually remote learning is very effective if you don't do it all the time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it just, little bits of it. I think it was of course, too much in the pandemic, cuz it was all the time. But a lot of kids were able to learn quite a bit online. And it's a skill learning online, but you don't want to do it eight hours a day. Uh, also, just so you know, the Coursera courses, the university courses, they have a very low retention rate. As a matter of fact, only about 9% of the people that sign up complete the courses. And um, and the question is like, why? My personal answer is learning is social and it's interactive, and if you're taking the course by yourself, you don't have anybody to talk to about it. And so, um, I think it's better if you wanna take one of those courses, do it with a group of, of friends, and then talk about what the professor said and then
Speaker 0 00:36:09 Yes, that's a great idea. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:36:11 See, apply that to your own life.
Speaker 0 00:36:13 Katie Voss on Instagram asks, Esther, do you think smartphones and social media are harming kids today? Should parents restrict use until a certain age? Maturity? I, I did wanna ask about that because I, I thought you also had a lot of very interesting stories about collaboratively coming up with rules, but there's actually, I see a lot of similar questions along these lines.
Speaker 1 00:36:38 Yeah. So, um, I do think social media should be restricted to kids who are five years and older. So under the age of five, the main skills that kids are learning are interaction skills, how to get along with the world, you know, just basic skills. And if they spend time on social media or watching TV all the time, then they can't spend that time learning the things that they really need to learn and they can't learn at any other time. So after the age of five, they can, there are a lot of programs on, um, iPads or on computers for little kids. And if you go to Common Sense Media, I would like to promote Common Sense Media. They review all the programs out there and actually all the movies out there. And so you can pick some programs that are age appropriate and I would restrict kids to an hour and that's it.
Speaker 1 00:37:43 And, um, and as they get older, they can spend a little more time. But, you know, if they're spending two hours at a time, that's too much. That's too much for you as an adult. And that's too much for kids also. And with gaming, uh, I think they should take a break also, you know, they can game for a while. And the kids that do gaming, they do learn a lot of computer skills. So parents whose kids are gaming, what they consider too much, you need to realize that you could probably never compete on those games. You know, they're really skill-based and they, they do offer opportunities for learning a lot of tech skills, especially Minecraft, uh, is very effective.
Speaker 0 00:38:29 So, Esther, you, there was a story in your book about, I think you were on a vacation with your daughters and your grandchildren, and it came time to talk about social media, uh, and device use on the trip. And I, I was surprised by how that that turned out. And so were you,
Speaker 1 00:38:51 I was shocked. Yeah, so I'll tell you about that. We, we went to Napa for the weekend. I don't know if any of you've been to Napa, California, north of San Francisco. It's beautiful. I recommend it. Anyway, it's um, we went to a resort that was kind of, it was deluxe, very pricey and had a lot of activities for kids and for us and whatever. And first thing that we saw there, minute kids got up, they're on their phones. It's like, what? You're on your phone and we're paying all this money for you to be at this resort. You should be playing tennis or swimming or doing something, but not on your phone. So then the idea, all the, oh, some of the parents were like, let's just confiscate those phones. It's like, I don't think that's a very good idea. Fortunately, fortunately, somehow I prevailed and I said, why don't we just let the kids come up with the rules for when they can use the phones themselves and then tell us what they think are the best rules, grudgingly or begrudgingly.
Speaker 1 00:39:53 And I should say, everybody's like, oh yeah, well let's just see what they come up with. Oh my God. So they went into a little room in a huddle and they were there for, I don't know, about 30 minutes or so, and they came out and told us what their suggested rules were. First of all, we were all terrified of what was gonna be cuz we thought it was gonna be bad. They came out with this rule, no phones from 9:00 AM in the morning until 9:00 PM at night that was there. We never would've done that ourselves, ever <laugh>. And because they came up with those rules, they stuck to 'em.
Speaker 0 00:40:32 Interesting. They had bias.
Speaker 1 00:40:35 And uh, so I found that was really true in my classes too. You know, I had the kids come up with the rules for the class, and so then I never had to enforce 'em because they came up with them, they knew the rules, they figured 'em out worked.
Speaker 0 00:40:51 So Esther, you talk about this change that you observed starting in 2000 a little bit later of parents overprotecting not letting their kids walk around, target not letting them walk five blocks to school. And both you and others, uh, like Lenore, uh, skei and um, uh, in the coddling of the American mind make the connection to negative media. So Candace, uh, Marinna on Facebook is asking a question to you as a former journalist, so the parent, but the parents started responding to these frightening stories. Did something happen in journalism? Did the media become more sort of fearmongering or sensational, or was it always that way and all of a sudden parents started paying attention?
Speaker 1 00:41:52 First of all, first of all, answer the last question. No, I don't think it was always that way. I think it has become more sort of sensational fear mongering question is why. And I think the answer to that is everyone wants more clicks, right? The more you get, the better off everything is. You can sell more advertising. So everything is sensational. I mean, honestly, sensational is, it's unbelievable. And, um, so I think that that's also had a negative impact on, um, on I guess the students or maybe even just the communities because, um, people don't want to hear what the other side is thinking. As a matter of fact, in colleges, they're like, protect me from the other opinions. I, I, I don't want to subject myself to listening to what they have to say. That's the coddling of the American mind. And I think it comes from overprotection of those kids as children and as students and then as adults. They would just, like, they don't wanna, they don't want to hear what the other high other side has to say. And I was like, that is tragic. I mean, this is America and I went to Berkeley and the free speech movement,
Speaker 0 00:43:19 I know you were just right, right there. I mean this was the, the one of the biggest events in that whole generation,
Speaker 1 00:43:28 Right? We wanted to hear back in those days, we wanted to hear what the other side was doing and thinking and saying. And, you know, it was fun to have a debate or discussion or something. In today's world, it's not, it's gone the other way. People are afraid to listen to opinions that don't agree with theirs. I mean, what discussion in democracy, please, can we get back to the old style
Speaker 0 00:43:55 <laugh>? I vote for that. Um, so you described this change and you know, you're talking about kids on campus showing up with more anxiety, afraid of hearing other opinions that might trigger them or make them uncomfortable. Now those kids are entering the workforce. So I'm wondering, uh, you have two daughters, uh, you have three daughters, but you know, one that until recently has been running YouTube and another 23 and me are, are they observing this in their role as managers?
Speaker 1 00:44:40 Well, I actually, you know, just protecting them. I haven't asked them directly that question and so I'm not sure. But I have observed in other companies where I've been involved,
Speaker 0 00:44:54 Right?
Speaker 1 00:44:55 The answer is yes, it has impacted people. They, they do not wanna hear the other side. As a matter of fact, they can get so, so upset and so concerned about it that they'll quit. Or if they're in a position of responsibility, they'll fire the other people. And I just think that's a, a really negative aspect because we should be able to express our opinion. There should be a discussion and I mean, neither the right nor the left is right, they're both right and they're both wrong in many different ways. And we can be better together if we can work it out and talk about it. Our goals are the same, you know, to make America the best it can be. And somehow, or rather, we can't even talk to each other anymore. And that makes me very sad. I don't even know where I am anymore. I'm kind of, I'm, I'm back in the free speech movement. That's where I am.
Speaker 0 00:45:57 <laugh>. All right. Um, got a question here from Robert Smith asking Esther, do you teach kids courses on taking responsibility and self leadership? And how early do you recommend integrating it into the curriculum? My sense is that you don't exactly teach courses on it, but you incorporate elements of it into
Speaker 1 00:46:21 I do it, I do it. So you want responsible kids, they have to make their own breakfast, they have to clean up after the dinner. They have to be participants in the family. They're not just being served. They have to make their own bed. They do their own laundry. Do you know uc? Berkeley has a course called adulting. Go online and look it up. Wow. You know, what they teach in adulting, how to make your bed, how to, how to fry an egg, how to do things that all the parents have been doing for these kids who are now in college. College and they can't do it for themselves. Yeah. You teach responsibility by giving responsibility. You give the same way with trust. You give trust and that's how you, how they feel trusted. Um, it's really important. You, you know, you don't have a course in you know, how to, how to be responsible. <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:47:14 Roger p asks, how did you discipline your kids, if ever?
Speaker 1 00:47:22 Well, that was, that was tough. Um, so, you know, I guess the main thing I did is try to have a discussion with them. Sometimes a little challenging to have a discussion with like a three-year-old. Um, but that was the main thing. I tried to be, to explain things to them on a regular basis. It was one thing after another. And then as they got older and were able to write, if they did something wrong or something I thought needed to be corrected, I wouldn't have them write a essay about it. And like, why do you think that, you know, this needs to be the whatever way I I described, or, you know, or what is your thoughts about it? And, you know, being a, an English teacher, this seemed like the perfect way to solve a problem. And, um, so that's, that's what I did a lot of that. And as a matter of fact, I think I remember doing the same thing for that party event that they did at the house. I made them all write essays about it and why I might not have liked that, why that violated my trust. And, uh,
Speaker 0 00:48:28 Yeah, I saw you, he kind of did that as well with, with your journalism and, um, having people take just, you know, all right, so you have this opinion, write a little essay or a few paragraphs, uh, for what the, the counter opinions would be or what the counter-arguments would be. And I thought that was an interesting way to help, um, teach objectivity.
Speaker 1 00:49:00 Well, so we've always had pros and cons on controversial issues. Yeah, pros and cons.
Speaker 0 00:49:08 I think that's, I think that's great. Um, I mean, even if you're have one opinion, you're not gonna change your opinion. It's, it's being open and being willing to debate. And it's something that we find, if you can believe it, even here at the Atlas Society within Objectivism, which is a philosophy which is about objective reality. And, uh, there are some objectives who won't even talk with us about our view of objectivism, which differs just a little bit from their view of objectivism, because somehow that would be sanctioning, uh, a view that they disagree with. And I'm like, well, why don't we just debate it? I'll take your side and you take my side and we'll see how it goes. I just don't see how we get anywhere with, uh, with that kind of, sort of, um, unwillingness to engage with people with whom you disagree. Sometimes when we actually disagree, pretty, uh, pretty mu minuscule leave. So, um, so anyway, I wanted to, cuz we're running out of time, but, and I, there's a couple more questions to get to, but I, uh, a gratitude is a big theme of ours at the Atlas Society. And on that score, you wrote an interesting blog about how instilling a sense of gratitude in your kids can help counter narcissism. And you, you had a few tips on how to do that.
Speaker 1 00:50:39 Yes. Um, so that blog is online. I think that was my most recent,
Speaker 0 00:50:43 We'll, we'll put the, we'll put the, uh, links to it, you know, on all the platforms.
Speaker 1 00:50:46 And, um, so I think we forget to teach the kids gratitude somehow. Um, maybe it's because we just think that they automatically should be, you know, thankful for what they get. But kids, it's not an innate trait. You have to teach it. And, um, there's some ways as you can teach it. First of all, you should model it yourself. Kids copy you whether you know it or not. And so if you say thank you to people, um, if you smile and, um, if you write thank you notes to people for something that they might have done for you, um, if you help willingly kids, will they copy you. And, um, if you see your child doing something that you know is not gratitude or not nice, then you might wanna just think about your own behavior and see whether you're doing that, whatever it is.
Speaker 1 00:51:52 But, um, I think we forget to do that. And um, it's because it's so fast with little children. It's like they, one minute they wanna do one thing, the next minute they're doing another. But, um, honestly, if you just want to remember one thing, just have them remember to say thank you. And, um, back in the old days, people used to s you know, say prayers before they ate. I don't think that people are doing that anymore, but, you know, that was thankful for the food that you have on the table. Um, but I think that that would make a big difference, just that alone. Thank you for the Christmas present. You know, frequently kids get birthday presents, Christmas presents, all kinds of presents and they don't even, they say nothing,
Speaker 0 00:52:42 Right.
Speaker 1 00:52:43 And
Speaker 0 00:52:44 Having them right
Speaker 1 00:52:45 Wonder, you wonder like, why don't they appreciate me? Well that's cuz you taught them not to.
Speaker 0 00:52:51 Interesting. Now, we've talked about Berkeley and how incredibly you were right there smack dab in the middle of this free speech movement, but you also met your husband, uh, at Berkeley. You were raised, uh, in an Orthodox Jewish family. Your husband is Catholic as the daughter of an interfaith marriage myself. I'm curious, uh, whether you wanna share anything about how you handled it in your family or just maybe any general advice for other interfaith couples out there thinking of, you know, h how do we navigate this?
Speaker 1 00:53:31 Well, in, in many ways I think this is sort of a blessing because what we did is we celebrated everything. Hanukkah, Christmas, Easter. If there was an opportunity to celebrate a Jewish holiday, we did any special Catholic holidays we did on, if you look back, and that is actually what I taught my daughter is, you know, look back to the origins of Christianity. Christianity and Judaism are very close. In fact, the first funded years after Christ Christianity was considered a sect or a part of Judaism. And you know, we, we all have very similar values. As a matter of fact, you know, even if you look at the Muslims, the values are the same. There's a 10 commandments. And so we'd have different rituals, different ways of reaching the same goals, and we need to respect each other and our, our, um, traditions. And so that's why it worked out, uh, for, for both of us. And it worked out for the kids. Um, they actually, I gave them the choice. They, they could do whatever, pick whatever religion they wanted or no religion if they don't want any religion, that was up to them. And so I wanted to make sure they didn't feel pressure to do any one thing or another thing. They weren't supposed to, you know, support mom or dad. It was like together, we're all together. And so that's what we still do today. We have everybody cel celebrates everything and it works out. Um,
Speaker 0 00:55:13 That's what what we do in my family as well. Um, Melanie has a comment here and I think we could probably end with it. Uh, she says, I think having clear expectations of one kids is helpful to them also being a goal, good role model, hardworking, reliable kind is very important. Would you agree with that?
Speaker 1 00:55:36 Great job, Melanie. Yes, I agree with that. Exactly. I think it's important to have expectations and very clear goals and to model that. You know, if you want your children to be on time, you should model being on time. It's really important. If you don't want your kids to use the phones at dinner, don't you use the phones at dinner? Um, you know, you're teaching them without even knowing you're teaching them because they copy everything you do. So, um, anyway, I just wanna thank you for this opportunity to talk to your audience and, uh, to be on this program because you've had great questions and the questions from your, uh, group. The chats have been great questions and I hope this is helpful to all the parents. It's,
Speaker 0 00:56:31 It's been wonderful. Thank you so much Esther. Appreciate your taking time out of, I know it's a busy day and uh, so thank you and thank all of you who joined us today. Um, thanks for all of the great questions. Always helps me as a host when you guys pitch in. Uh, and to all of you watching, if you enjoyed this video of any or any of our content at the Atlas Society, please consider making a tax deductible donation to support our [email protected]
. And please be sure to tune tune in next week when we'll be joined by narrative non-fiction author Daniel James Brown to discuss his four books, which explore facets of American history ranging from the Donner Party to the heroism of Japanese American soldiers in World War ii. Thanks everyone.