Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Here's something that has bounced around the political internet the last few days, warming the hearts of lefties everywhere: How to Spot a Baby Conservative. (Michelle Malkin has the actual "scholarly" paper on her site in full). The lefty internet has embraced it like a Che Guevara plush toy. The gist, expressed in the Toronto Star piece, is that

The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests.

The study is total crap, of course, because it's full of subjective analysis under the guise of scientific impartiality. What is "visibly deviant," anyway? And the idea of labeling toddlers as "deviant" is in any case a little bit appalling.

But let's take the study on its own merits. Look at the child behaviors the study views as "bright" and "non-conforming," and, more to the point, correlative with future liberalism:

Behaves in a dominating manner (Note that this is the second-highest correlative with liberalism, after "talkative")
Is aggressive physically or verbally
Attempts to transfer blame to others (This is a positive trait?)
Tends to be judgemental of others
Can admit to own negative feelings (We all know this one: The child whose favorite phrase is "I hate you!")
Tends to exaggerate, dramatize mishaps

I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to spin these personality traits as desirable. These are the behaviors, to put it plainly, of bullies.

On the other hand, the traits that the study correlates with future conservatism are quite different:

Appears to feel unworthy
Has a readiness to feel guilty
Anxious in unpredictable environment
Tends to brood and ruminate or worry
Is shy and reserved
Is fearful and anxious

These are the behaviors of, to say the least, children who can be described as sensitive and thoughtful. Note that the Star story that introduced the study to the world summarizes the future conservatives as "whiny." Since when does "shy and reserved" equal whiny? "Tends to exaggerate, dramatize mishaps"--a prime liberal correlate--sounds a lot more whiny to me.

But the biggest problem I have with the study is that it politicizes four year olds, which feels like child abuse. I can't help thinking that people are going to take this study seriously, and are going to punish or ridicule children for being "little Republicans" if they're at all quiet and sensitive. And that infuriates me.

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