What is “Parentology”? Bring Your Questions for Dalton Conley

9781476712659Last year, we talked to NYU sociologist Dalton Conley and his two children, E and Yo, on our podcast “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” Their names — E Harper Nora Jeremijenko-Conley and Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley — are a bit of an experiment:

CONLEY: Of course it’s hard to separate out cause and effect here until Kim Jong-Un allows me to randomly assign all the names of the North Korean kids…but my gut tells me that it does affect who you are and how you behave and probably makes you more creative to have an unusual name.

Conley’s approach to naming his kids is certainly interesting (and highly unusual), to say the least. As it turns out, Conley has the same approach to parenting. He chronicles his unorthodox, research-inspired parenting in his new book Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to AskThe book is out today, and Conley has agreed to answer blog reader questions about the book, so ask away in the comments section below. As always, we’ll post his answers in short course.

Here’s the table of contents to get you started:

Parentology 101 Syllabus

Preface: “Parentology” Defined                                                       

1. What Not to Expect When You’re Expecting

2. Tying the Knot (and I Don’t Mean Marriage—or the Umbilicus)

3. But Maybe You Should Name Your Boy Sue:What’s Not in a Name

4. The Best Thesaurus Is a Human Thesaurus: How to Read to Your Kids

5. Practicing the Delicate Arts of Extortion and Bribery (How Else Are American Children Supposed to Catch Up to the Finnish People in Math?)


7.  Shut the F* Up, Dad! Discipline (or Lack Thereof) 

8. Turn Your Feral Child into a Nice American Capitalist (You Know You Want To)

9. If It’s Organic, Don’t Panic—and Other Tips I Learned in Berkeley for Drugging One’s Kids

10. Go Ahead and Get Divorced—Your Kids’ Genes Will Never Notice

chocolate seller

Are your kids old enough to realise they've been made unwitting guinea pigs in your experiment? If yes, how are they taking it?

RJ Lavallee (@documentarian)

Aren't all kids unwitting participants in the the grand experiment we call parenting?

caleb b

I'm a strong believer that the kids should get to keep their Halloween candy (less the progressive candy tax that i charge), but my wife thinks that it is too much sugar and they should only get to keep two or three days worth of treats...with the rest getting given away at the office. I think that sounds like Communism! What say you?


While I did enjoy Parentology and subscribe to many of the same beliefs as Mr. Conley, I'm surprised at his lack of evidence regarding homeschooling. He states in chapter eight:
"Funny that back then, the group rejecting school was the far left....Today the same charges are levied by those on the religious right, who form the biggest group of homeschoolers in America, resistant to the secular influences of public education."
In every search I've ever conducted and heard of on homeschoolers in the US, the total numbers and reasons are undeterminable, partly because some "homebound" are considered homeschooled, some are partly homeschooled, etc. Not only are the numbers unknown (states vary in homeschooling laws and reporting so there's no national database or headcount), but if you don't know who is actually homeschooling, how can you know why? What I do know is that in every major metropolitan area, you have a large number of secular homeschoolers and this population seems to be growing by the minute. So, I'd wager that his _assumption_ that the religious right "form the biggest group of homeschoolers" is completely false. Or, if he had any data on homeschooling numbers and reasons in the US (that aren't published by a religious entity like HSLDA), I'd love to see on what he based this statement.

The reason for my concern is that schools (especially public, especially for boys) in most places are becoming such soul crushing bores or brainwashing factories that it's hard to imagine kids actually learning anything of value (see also _anything_ related to "direct instruction"). Yet, when families are faced with few options, statements like his make them think they can't homeschool unless they want to hang with the sister-wives in their homespun. Media coverage of homeschooling also continues to focus only on the religious, but step into any secular homeschooling group and you'll not only find, well, secular folks, you'll also find the parent-teachers are college-educated--often with advanced degrees--and removed (or never entered) their children from school for the purposes of better education than schools can provide or, yes, because some of do still want to "combat the indoctrination of their kids into the capitalist machine."
I thought the rest of his book was so well done, I wonder why he'd fabricate data on this topic and, thus, slam a door shut for so many who need another option.