May. 13th, 2017

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Tom Braden’s Eight Is Enough is a big-happy-family memoir in the tradition of Cheaper by the Dozen, and although alas nothing can be quite as delightful as Cheaper by the Dozen (my mother read it to me when I was eight so I am of course biased; but still, the Gilbreths had a frickin’ lighthouse, the Braden’s oceanside regular house just can’t compete), Eight Is Enough is nonetheless gently charming in much the same vein.

It is, as the title suggests, about Tom Braden’s eight children, and also an interesting glimpse of the liberal view of society in the 1970s. (The Bradens were family friends of the Kennedys, and the book mentions a number of other names I suspect I would recognize if I knew the seventies better.) Braden has made a fragile peace with marijuana but retains a horror of harder drugs, particularly misused prescription medications; he is uneasy about the way that the Pill has separated sex and marriage, but nonetheless tries not to be an interfering old fuddy-duddy with his children.

And he’s already, in the early 1970s, complaining that college costs have skyrocketed beyond the point where hard-working youths can foot their own college bills through part-time work. It’s rather sad to realize that this problem has been recognized for over forty years and has only gotten worse.

I think we damned ourselves to ever-rising college costs for ever-decreasing returns the moment we made it a social priority to send as many kids as possible to college. We’ve built a house of cards on the belief that the correlation between college degrees and middle-class financial stability is innate when in fact it came about because college degrees were comparatively rare.

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