The title of today’s post was a title of one of the sections of Time magazine’s issue about questions. My first thought when I read the article was my mom’s answer when I asked her why she married my dad if she didn’t love him: “When I was in college you had to get married after college,” she said. “As a woman, there was no other way to be part of the adult world. I didn’t want to move back to my parents’ house.”

It took me decades to really understand the social pressure she felt. Because as a kid this explanation sounded ridiculous.

The answers in Time magazine were fun to read.

Jon Acuff, author of the book Do Over, said our kids will be horrified that we had to go into an office to work. “In 20 years we’ll laugh at the idea that work could only be accomplished in a cubicle after a soul-crushing commute and aggressively terrible break-room coffee.”

Penelope Leach, author of Your Baby and Your Child, wrote that kids will be horrified by juice. She says it’s absurd that families are replacing soda with juice because it’s just as bad. She says that right now cutting juice is “the most important single thing you can do to prevent childhood obesity.”

Reading Time magazine I realized that we each have an answer to the question based on our expertise. Because it takes deep knowledge in an area to see where the vast majority are wrong.

My husband, who grew up farming, would say the thing kids will be most horrified with is the way we treat animals today. For example, the way most American farms manage pigs is to crate them and not let them move while they are pregnant and raising piglets. (This practice is already illegal in Europe.) My husband changed to pigs that graze and live in open housing and he can’t believe how much easier it is to raise pigs.

And you can already guess that I’d say the thing kids will be most horrified with is that we send out kids away to school for eight hours a day. I am a firm believer that only poor kids will go to school in the future. And that’s a good thing because school is a social service. This will make perfect sense someday. And people will wonder why it took so long.

So there are four ideas:  cubicles, juice, pigs and school. Can you think of a fifth one?

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79 replies
  1. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    I can tell you what I hope. I hope that genetic technology follows something like Moore’s law and quickly becomes so powerful and so cheap, that within my child’s lifetime there is a revolution in medicine and nutrition resulting in both of these being individually tailored to a person’s genetics. Psychology and many other fields may be similarly impacted when we start to really see how unique individual humans are. One size does not, and never can fit all.

    Just a single example to illustrate: SSRI’s. Some people do well on them. Some people really don’t. At present, the only way to find out is start someone on them and see what happens.

    One generation is the blink of an eye in terms of real social progress. But over larger spans of time, my presumption is that almost everything we think right now, across broad spectrums of our normal practices, will come to be seen as wrong, uselessly ignorant and cruel, much like routinely bleeding sick people as a standard treatment for “humoral imbalances” is now viewed. That took many hundreds of years to overcome. And it took centuries for doctors to come up with the idea of washing their hands between autopsies and child-birthing.

    Every little advancement comes with a price of unmeasurable human suffering. That’s why every little advancement is so precious.

    And we still have a very long way to go.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I agree on technology, that will be the one thing that will change the most rapidly with a short twenty year window.

    • mh
      mh says:


      1) the extent to which climate science locked out opposing data. Like the Catholic Church to Galileo.
      2) the credulity given to the media
      3) the lapse in 4th amendment rights in this generation
      4) the totalitarian impulses of the us government. After defeating fascism and communism in the 20th century, the democrats adopt both.
      5) the murder rate of black Americans
      6) affirmative action
      7) the acceptance of death and taxes.

  2. Khadija
    Khadija says:

    I think they’ll be horrified at our simple lack of humanity. I shudder to think how they’ll see us in future generations. Kind of like when we look at those old newsreels during the civil rights era in the US.

  3. Sue Mitchell
    Sue Mitchell says:

    I would go a little past the time when people are horrified that we used to send kids to school to the day when they are appalled that anyone ever thought it was a given that there would be “poor kids,” and that it was socially acceptable for them to be educated differently than “rich kids.” I hope so anyway.

  4. Jeff Till
    Jeff Till says:


    (fingers crossed)

    Great post. I think that school will eventually be a signal of poverty as well. And the mainstream people won’t reject it until it does so. They’ll fight against it.

      • Aquinas Heard
        Aquinas Heard says:


        I love that your kids are already appalled by this. I don’t know if your in agreement with this but the unschooled kids I’m around are also appalled by forced sharing (and spanking, of course).

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          We don’t enforce sharing at all. I do encourage taking turns and collaboration! For instance, we have one piano and all the kids enjoy playing it. During the rare times where they all want to play at the same time, I encourage them to come up with a system that works for them to take turns and in what order. Same with TV shows.

          I also encourage collaboration, we have a lot of what I would categorize as community property. Things like legos or art supplies etc. I encourage them to build together or draw/paint together.

          I also encourage my kids to give their items to charity when they know they won’t ever play with or wear something again.

          When we have friends come over, my children have no problems sharing their toys or technology etc. But I never force sharing. How does that even work? If it’s forced, then it isn’t sharing. It’s taking something away from one kid and giving it to another kid. Sharing is only truly sharing if it is authentically coming from the person. Otherwise, it’s just stealing. I don’t think I would feel comfortable manipulating my kids into sharing the way I have seen others do it, and it goes against me raising them to be independent free-thinkers.

          Do you make your kids share?

          • Aquinas Heard
            Aquinas Heard says:


            Forced sharing is stealing. Great identification on your part. I’m glad to see we are in agreement here.

            Thank you for explaining, in detail, how you handle the “community resources” in the house. Your approach is very similar to what I would do, IF I had children. I don’t have any. I am just an unschooling supporter and children’s rights advocate. Children are a very high value to me. I’ve been working with them for the last 22 years. They are such a joy!

  5. Rayne of Terror
    Rayne of Terror says:

    It’s so deeply engrained now, but I think tackle football for young boys will go away. We are learning too much about brain damage to continue to let boys play it beginning in 3rd grade. Very, very few of my college friends let their boys play – and none of them encourage it. My husband says high school football was some of the best times of his life, but we’re not letting our boys play.

    • Betsy
      Betsy says:

      I’m in Texas but I am already seeing educated people pull their sons away from football. The risk is simply not worth it.

      • Rayne
        Rayne says:

        Believe it or not, soccer isn’t available in our tiny town beyond 1 session of park district 6 week intro for early elementary years each year. Baseball, wrestling, and football are the big sports here. They play baseball every spring. They’ve dabbled in basketball, wrestling, and triathlons, and we go 15 miles “into town” for ice skating lessons and rock climbing team.

      • mh
        mh says:

        I hate soccer. It’s so boring to watch. I’m raising boys with no soccer – it can be done!

        Our sports are swim, cross country, bike, skateboard, and ski.

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      Rayne, I’m really wondering what’s going to happen with that too. Here on the coasts, it’s not such a big deal as it is in the middle of the country. I literally don’t know any kids who play football. I know kids who play a half-dozen sports, but not that one. My son is 5’5″ and 170 pounds at age 11, and he’s never going to play football, doesn’t even want to. It’d probably look different from Kansas.

      With the recent studies coming out, it’s like the tobacco-cancer link coverup, with the NFL playing the part of RJR. The studies show that the brain damage is worse in people who started playing before 12. I saw that they’re using robotic tackling dummies at Dartmouth and only tackle people during games. They’re going to have to do something at the kid level, but the rural schools can barely afford uniforms, let alone robotic tackling dummies. I’m wondering what they’re going to do, but I’m certain that twenty years from now kids tackling kids 500 times a season isn’t going to be happening.

      • Rayne
        Rayne says:

        Not letting our kids play football makes us outliers here in the rural Midwest. Nearly all the athletic boys play starting in 3rd grade. Homecoming parade was yesterday and I knew every boy on the bantam floats because they are the same boys who play baseball in the spring. I hear through the grapevine that the HS coaches don’t want them playing this young because they get burnt out by high school, but church and kids sports are the main social lives of parents here and I think that has something to do with it. I mean, the football MOMS have their own homecoming float.

        • Bostonian
          Bostonian says:

          Rayne, I hear you. I didn’t grow up in Boston and I know what it’s like in the rural Midwest with football. That’s why I’m wondering what’s going to happen out there. Here in Boston football is probably only as popular as hockey or lacrosse, certainly less popular than soccer or even baseball.

          Before high school, there are no school teams, only Pop Warner. You’d have to be an enthusiast and seek it out to have your kid play at eight. Meanwhile you can see hundreds of kids on the soccer fields this moment (my kid is a conservatory kid so not him).

          So changes here will be simple. Pop Warner will wither away and football will hang on at a handful of high schools only. Latin will play English, Milton will play Nobles, but nobody else will play. The sportiest kids will play soccer, basketball, swim, row, etc. instead.

          But how will this go where you live?

  6. DB
    DB says:

    – Not giving kids vaccines
    – Low fat (anything that’s low fat is typically loaded with sugar…yes, agree juice is awful but it’s only one thing)
    – The horrifying amount of stuff that we all throw away (vs. significantly reducing packaging, making composting a standard curbside service, making “creative” recycling – like old clothes to Good Will for scrap, corks to Whole Foods, etc a standard practice – and forcing more companies to take back / recycle their products)

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The extent to which students are expected to have a college or university degree for almost any job or career today. There are definitely many instances of where a student benefits and makes good use of their degree and where advanced studies make sense for certain professions. However, with the expectation that everyone needs to go to college and attain a degree, the sheer number of degree holders has made a college education almost a requirement by the fact many businesses use a degree as a way to screen applicants for a job. Also, as a result of the above, the cost of a higher education is very high and difficult to pay back. I hope to see more viable and socially acceptable options available to young adults in the future.

  8. Kimberly R.
    Kimberly R. says:

    That certain life saving medical treatments are only available to people who can pay big money (or who have expensive insurance).

    And I agree, Penelope, with yours.

  9. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I second Penelope’s answer about school.

    I loved Sir Ken Robinson’s answer to the Time’s article question.

    “I can only hope that future generations will look back in amazement at how we now test and test our kids in school. When I moved to the U.S. 14 years ago, I was warned by friends in Europe that Americans don’t get irony. I knew it wasn’t true when I saw that legislation, No Child Left Behind, because whoever thought of that title gets irony.

    The relentless pressure of testing has turned millions of kids off school, demoralized countless teachers and pitched schools and districts against each other in a frantic race for resources. Meanwhile, it hasn’t raised standards in any way that matters. What it has raised is the profits of the testing companies.”

  10. Sarah Pierzchala
    Sarah Pierzchala says:

    What a great, thought-provoking question!

    I’m so glad your husband is having success with the pigs, and that example reminded me of something: When we first got dwarf dairy goats, we attended a lot of meetings of the local support group, and I noticed that they listed something called a “dump fee” in the expenses for participating in the State Fair…turns out that the milk collected during competition can’t be consumed, but legally has to be poured out.
    I was appalled by this, because I had been studying how hard the goat’s bodies work to produce that milk, and what a miracle the whole process it is!
    I doubt future generations will care much about this issue, but it sure made our family less wasteful!

  11. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    I started reading Jon Acuff about six years ago or so. It was one of the wedged that began breaking all my foundations and preconceived notions about…well, everything.

    I can’t agree with him more.

    It’s amazing how raising pigs and raising kids are sort of the same. I bet lots of people think that it’s havoc to let pigs roam a bit. That’s what we believe about kids anyway.

    My kids have never gone to school because they are too little. But I had it so ingrained in me that you had to handle your kids one step below intense micromanaging otherwise they’d turn into “brats” or with awful manners. This blog was invaluable when it came to trying something I knew deep in my heart was the right way, but my mind fought it so hard. I now see that the hardest part of parenting my sensitive kid was because of the tug-of-war I had going on and inconsistency in letting him do his own thing, and then demanding he does as I say.

    He’s much more calm and happy and agreeable now that there are no aggressive expectations on him. Parenting is easier this way. So I imagine the pigs are happier too.

    I hope that it will be totally passé for institutions to try and provide mental/emotional health help from counselors that are completely oblivious to the implications that culture play in the issue. I want more culturally literate and adept counselors. Also, what’s up with trying to treat an issue that has many ramifications with only addressing one aspect? we need more holistic mental health help.

    I know it’s asking a lot. But the current system doesn’t work anyway.

  12. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    “I am a firm believer that only poor kids will go to school in the future. And that’s a good thing because school is a social service.”

    On the one hand, I get where you are coming from. In real life, it’s notable to me that most homeschoolers I meet come from a fundamentally middle-class background (i.e. one parent has a white collar job). And folks who come from chronic poverty can’t give up school because that’s where basic needs are met, like meals.

    But on the other hand I think that there are a whole lot of people who aren’t in poverty precisely because there are two working parents. There was a Pew study on SAHP trends in 2014 that showed that 1/3 of families with a SAHM are in poverty and only 12 percent of families with working moms are in poverty.

    So, if the middle class opts out of school en masse to homeschool (and most of those families go from 2 working parents to 1), will they go from middle class to poor and start collecting SNAP and other social services to make ends meet?

    • mh
      mh says:

      Indeed, sending middle class to kids to school makes them dumber, less competitive, more passive, and less entrepreneurial.

      I can’t wait till the day the poor rise up and demand to know why their children are consigned to day prisons.

  13. MBL
    MBL says:

    I thought artificial dyes and and colors in foods would be among the first things listed here. Haven’t most been banned in Europe?

    I think ADHD diagnoses would go down if they were. Dismiss school and they would further plummet. We do have legitimate diagnoses in our family and the impact of dyes is swift and severe!

  14. Heather
    Heather says:

    Great post, Penelope! I discovered your website accidentally and it was instrumental in my decision to put a long-time dream of homeschooling my son into action this year for fourth grade. I’m a single mom and working professional and I work from home so I am able to homeschool and have been so happy leaving the cube behind. I have been amazed at how beneficial it has been to both of us having that time back together.

    • mh
      mh says:

      No forced sharing.

      This is his. This does not belong to you. Ask permission.

      This is a bit easier because my kids are older and they have bought things out of their personal earnings. But even when they were little, I let them lock their doors, lock their treasure boxes, enforce their property rights.

      Big blow-up when my then 8-year-old stole something and brought it home. He had to 1) return it. 2) write a personal apology note 3) accept the consequences – loss of something important to him.

      I hated that day. But the concept of “not yours” was weak in that kid. Doing better now.

  15. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    The glass ceiling.
    And raising little girls to be complacent about it.

    By the time my little girl is a CEO, women will be a majority in every corporate workplace, including on boards and at the highest executive levels. They will look back aghast at the almost mythical times when women were unwelcome in the boardroom and wonder how companies ever built long-term value without them.

  16. Amahla
    Amahla says:

    I’ve always thought this about conventional dentistry – that in time we will look back and think ‘how barbaric’.

    I see a movement to humanize birth & reduce intervention so I have the feeling that in the future we will be shocked at what was happening during typical hospital births. (I’m often shocked now.)

    I’m also a single homeschooling parent who works from home btw.

    • mh
      mh says:

      I dunno.

      I’ve had two children through medically-necessary c-sections.

      Both experiences were very human: nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, and babies and parents all in harmony. Excellent outcomes. Babies just as easy / difficult as normal deliveries.

      I wouldn’t trade those kids for a more “natural” experience that would leave both Mom and Baby dead.

  17. ruo
    ruo says:

    i hope kids will be appalled at the idea of setting up an rrsp to lend money to the government and then pay taxes on it when we die.

  18. Susan
    Susan says:

    That divorce is better for the kids than staying in an unhappy (yet not abusive) marriage. Being a step parent, I’ve seen up close and personal the damage of divorce.

  19. Julia
    Julia says:

    This makes me wonder which things are on one way trajectories, and which are on pendulums. Cubicles: Working from home vs. office is on a pendulum, as is working in cubicle/office vs. open plan. Schooling is made up of pendulums. Variations on student-directed learning have been swinging back and forth in the US for at least a hundred years, yet people now talk about project-based learning as though they just discovered the key to education. Desks will come back into favor at some point. If school becomes something that’s only for poor people, it will certainly be a pendulum rather than one way trajectory. The sociological implications are too great (as one commentor said, “what could go wrong!”)

    • Amahla
      Amahla says:

      I’ve read somewhere that the pendulum in educational institutions swings because it goes back and forth between two broad Myers – Briggs types that go into education – the NF and SJ (nurturing vs authority oriented).

  20. Kate
    Kate says:

    That feeding babies artificial milk was seen as a reasonable alternative to breast milk rather than a last resort… ?

    • Julia
      Julia says:

      Can we just find a home on the internet for the “mommy wars” crap and keep it all there? Then I could not visit that place ever and actually enjoy the internet.

  21. Angela
    Angela says:

    Patriarchal name taking after marriage (maybe marriage itself), dichotomous genders, circumcision, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, national acceptance of poverty and global poverty, traditional schooling, factory farming…

  22. Not Yours to Cut
    Not Yours to Cut says:

    That Americans used to cut off the most sensitive part of their little boys’ genitals at birth.

    “Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity, and fashion will drive them to acquire any custom.” ― George Bernard Shaw

  23. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    The answer to the question this blog post poses Is so obvious it could almost have been posed as a Jeopardy answer, “The most common practice of today that people will most look back in horror. ..” the correct response to which would be, “What is male infant circumcision?”

    Male Circumcision will be on the list of historical abuses so horrific and so blatantly sexist that our descendents will be absolutely incredulous that our present – day Intactivists were ever met with any resistance.

  24. concerned cynic
    concerned cynic says:

    1. Routine infant circumcision done without anesthesia. Since 1880 or so, this has been done to over 100M American and Canadian baby boys.

    2. 2.3M people are doing hard time in American slammers.

    3. Every year, American police use violent means to end the lives of about 1000 people they interact with. In my country, the police are normally unarmed.

  25. Moira
    Moira says:

    Childcare: Childcare is even worse than school. the data on childcare centers is that most are terrible. No person on the planet is better equipped to promote a child’s brain development and overall development than the biological mother.
    At age three one can predict a child’s future intelligence. It can be predicted on the number of words spoken to the child in the home. Childcare centers do not come anywhere near homes in the number of words spoken hour by hour, to the child. And no-one gets as much pleasure out of speaking and listening to those words, that the biological mother.
    The data is clear. Mothers to not want to put their babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers into childcare, why are they being forced to take this action? Who speaks up for what mothers (and fathers) want for their children?

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