Sunday, January 16, 2011

Educated, Rational Tribalism

I like to think of my society as a tribe of educated, usually university educated, rational people an ERSSG. It is by nature diffuse and intimately mixed in with those that are not rational or whose education has been curtailed short of their capability. Education as the tribe views it includes training in critical and rational thought at all levels. The level of achievement is less important than the ability to make rational judgments about important life choices.

It is my observation that this society does have many tribal characteristics that may separate it from the rest of the world as effectively as a stockade. In this post I will be exploring some of the characteristics of this tribe that clearly differentiate it from other tribes, particularly tribes based on religion, politics, and industry. Like any tribe it has well defined mores, values, and traditions. I will be exploring some of them in this post.

It is important that absolute performance is not as important as reaching a level of competence available to the child. One of my favorite quotes is "We can't all be first violins in the orchestra, some of us got to push wind through the tuba." Apparently from E.E. "Doc" Smith. An early leader of the tribe. It is significant that one parental unit in the tribe never told a Downs Syndrome child that he was limited or different from the others in his school. They celebrated his mediocre grades and his athletic achievements and he ended up as a highly productive member of the tribe.

Originally intelligent was part of the designation of the tribe, but since absolute levels are not as important to the tribe as good education to whatever level the person is capable of achieving, educated seems more apt. If a person is using the intelligence they have rationally and effectively to improve the welfare of the tribe all is good. The separation from the believers is not so much intelligence but how that intelligence is used.

At Davies Symphony Hall last night sitting in the cheap seats next to a family obviously out of place in the setting. Chit-chat quickly revealed that the youngest daughter was in town for a master class with the musician on stage. The family was obviously uncomfortable with the fact that ":She really likes classical music:" but were determined to give her a chance to follow her muse. Probably putting a fair dent in the family budget to do so to provide lessons with a world class musician in the rural city. Kudos to that world class musician who was "also an attorney" for carrying the rational educated tribal values to the hinterland.

What got me thinking about ring speciation was a comment by several women medical students that the 3rd year of Medical School was the baby year. There was even pressure on a philosophical non-breeder I know of to get pregnant. Other female academic achievers generally plan on the first baby in their second to last year of their planned scholastic career. While advanced academics and atheism tend to go together, there are many men and women active in the campus churches, who fit into the late parenting end of the Ring.

The ring is driven by the acceptance of women as productive contributors to the intellectual and economic segments of the society. They are no longer viewed as breeding stock and property of men. One of the reasons I identify the other end of the ring as religious, is that the Abrahamic traditions, tend to strongly reinforce the status of women in the society as the property of and subject to the men, their fathers prior to puberty and their husbands, defined as the man who took her virginity. Many of the Abrahamic traditions have involved sexual rules designed to insure the position of women as breeding stock.

At the late breeding end of the ring, generally the women are the choosers. Sexual rituals are designed around building the parenting pair bond enabled by female control of contraception. Loss of virginity is largely incidental and no longer the equivalent of betrothal. Sexuality is just part of the dance of long term mate selection, although it seems that casual sex among the late breeding end of the ring is uncommon, as sex is viewed as a relationship building activity by both the men and the women. Biology still rules, but sexual partners are chosen by those aspiring to advanced education with longer term goals in mind than simply satisfying biological drives although those drives still encourage early mate selection although the breeding will be deferred by consent of both parties.

The negotiation involved in removing the contraceptive is complex, involving child care issues, career support, and generally recognition of the fact that a male's career is generally more flexible than that of the female. I speak largely from experience here, three times I had to play the male MBA card to change careers to accommodate the inflexible career path of my co-parent. I am also seeing more males deferring career building for parenting either in the sense of limiting hours and travel at the cost of career advancement to outright deferral of employment for the child care role. Please note that dissertation completion, is quite compatible with primary parenting and is not viewed by the larger advanced educated society as a career interruption for either gender.

As you look at the median age of first child for couples with advanced degrees, it is mid to late 20's for the women and much the same for the men. Compare this with the believers, defined in this context as people who adhere to the dogma of their church or mosque with little questioning who generally are parents in their late teens at the latest. Particularly the females have no interest in advanced education unless they didn't get their Mrs. in high school. The men may well go on to advanced education, with mom tagging along but as mom will be using the church as support, the man will be tied there as well. Even well into graduation and career.
The assumption is that the woman will be an economically productive part of the parenting pair and the man will be at least an equal partner in the parenting duties. Current realities in job mobility generally result in the man changing jobs and even careers in support of the woman even stopping out as necessary for parenting emergencies. This is all part of the negotiation that results in the female agreeing to remove the contraceptive.

Neither the man nor the woman will necessarily be celibate prior to the choice to pair up for breeding, although typically the pairing will have occurred long before the breeding is planned. The pair bonding may well be reinforced by contraceptive sex, with or without the benefit of marriage according to the preferences of the pair. In general any teen dalliances will be carefully contraceptive and usually prophylactic. But generally these are rare as part of the preparation for pairing is intense educational and frequently arts and/or athletic achievement to the ability level of the partners generally precluding the intensive party scene. Intelligence is obviously a selection criteria, but effective utilization of available intelligence is respected as well. In rare cases even a challenged person can fit into the group.

A fundamental value of the tribe is creating a rich learning environment for all children, with intense encouragement, OK, pushing, from the caregivers to make the most out of whatever talents the child demonstrates. One may argue about the "Tiger Mom" (or dad) approach, but the argument is tactical. The strategic goal of full realization of all capabilities of the child is unquestioned. Caregivers will be brutal to all instructors to insure the best possible learning environment is provided for all of the children of the tribe. Schools and instructors will be selected for their ability to provide that learning environment. Other than simply looking at school district real estate values, a quick visit to a PTA meeting will be useful in selecting a school. The caregivers will outnumber the teachers, and will insist on finding out what resources are needed and ways of providing them. An activity club will be evaluated on how fast children move through the levels as well as the skills demonstrated at the elite level.

Child raising and socialization is a joint activity with heavy use of professional child care made possible by the dual incomes of the parents. It is taken for granted that prior to school age the professional aim of the parents will be career building rather than wealth building as child care costs are high. The investment in the children is a given in the ethos of the species as it is expected that children will be high achievers as the parents are.

Some members of the ERSSG choose not to breed but support the overall welfare of the group in their contribution to the intellectual advancement and overall welfare of the ERSSG through their employment and social activities. Although a mid life change of mind is common, with a partner from one of the adjacent groups frequently with children chosen to complete the pair. But the partner may have been a misfit in the adjacent group, explaining both the choice to leave the group and the aspiration for the ERSSG.

But even with no kids, not common, the status of the pair bond will be of equals regardless of who is the breadwinner in the sense of more income.

TV, games, and popular entertainment activities are generally ignored in favor of networking intensive dinner and a show with friends or associates. Ballroom dancing, renaissance fairs, and community theater and music are common investments of limited free time.


  1. The Times is finally catching up.
    "For a woman seeking a satisfying relationship as well as a secure economic future, there has never been a better time to be or become highly educated."

  2. W E L C O M E to Science Connection, the meeting place for single science professionals and others with an interest in science or nature.
    Why are we here? The world is a crowded Petri dish, and yet for those of an intellectual bent who happen to be single, it's not easy, especially past university age, to find that certain microbe for a great symbiotic relationship. Enter Science Connection.

  3. Between this a music performance group and a bridge club, if you can't find happiness maybe you don't belong in the ERSSG.