The Breakfast Table

The Tumble-Up Theory

Dear Cathy,

Good morning! My mind feels significantly less cluttered today, since I actually printed out my entire dissertation late yesterday afternoon. Today it goes to the bindery, and Friday I will officially submit it to the registrar. Its subject, Ralph Waldo Emerson, says that “the reward of a job well done is having done it.” In the current academic job market I take some comfort in this thought.

With some of my newly found free time today I plan to read the Harper’s article you have been recommending. It sounds very interesting. Based on your summary, I find Ehrenreich’s position both appealing and plausible. I know that my brothers and I benefited immeasurably from the fact that before he died, my father, a high-school teacher, had the time and inclination (and emotional maturity) to be actively and intimately involved in our day-to-day nurturing. For a while, when my mother was working nights, he even did the cooking and organized us boys (ages 8 to 14) into a somewhat unlikely housecleaning squad. Not to mention driving us to countless soccer, baseball, and basketball games. In Great Expectations, Dickens describes the growth of the children of one large family as “tumbling up.” I think my father genuinely got a kick out of helping his kids tumble up, and I can’t see any reason why all men can’t or shouldn’t. Especially in an increasingly abstract work culture, the emotional immediacy of child-rearing is surely good for the souls of men as well as women.

Since I plan to be a more active correspondent today, I think I will leave off here and let you start your day gradually. Before closing, however, I will draw your attention to the articles this morning (in the New York Times) about the Supreme Court decision holding schools liable for students’ sexual harassment. What do you think? Too intrusive, or necessary to protect the rights of young girls to learn? There’s also an interesting editorial by a Democrat in favor of school vouchers. Do you have any thoughts on that difficult issue? I’m still thinking about the very good question you raised yesterday about why we should intervene in Kosovo and not Rwanda.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.