Mrs ERJ and I were driving home from watching Mom and Dad and talking about Chicago and some of their issues.
The conversation turned to culture and fairy tales. Fairy tales, Aesop's fables, tropes, memes are not just markers of culture, they define culture and transfer it to the next generation.
If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the inner-city culture it would be to inculcate the skill of being able to delay gratification.
The Ant and the Grasshopper were the only tale that came close to inspiring that characteristic. For the most part the tale's payoff were short-term karma on steroids.
Another problem with the Ant and the Grasshopper involves bugs. It is difficult for humans to empathize with bugs. In some cases, bugs are racist.
Studies show that children who exhibit the skill of being able to delay gratification are significantly more successful than those who cannot.
I think it is important to talk about delaying gratification as a skill rather than an immutable personality trait. Skills can be improved through practice. The practice has to be realistic and involve multiple repetitions. Later practice must branch out so the child gains skill in recognizing situations when it is appropriate to transfer that skill.
Does the urban landscape offer any memes that are the equivalent of not eating the seed corn but planting it instead? Does it offer many venues where those skills are exercised and extended?
My mental image of the inner-city is that lack of self-control is not just tolerated, it is celebrated and enabled. Those who show self-control "lose."