Open Phones: Better Growing Up In The City?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Listeners: Do you think growing up in a diverse, big city better prepares you for life? Does it give you a leg up in some way? Or are you thankful you didn't? Give us a call at 212-433-WNYC or comment here!

Comments [47]

Lara from Brooklyn, NY

I know this is kind of late but I just listened to this the other day. I think the question should be, does growing up in a big diverse city make you a better person, not Do you think growing up in a diverse, big city better prepares you for life? Because I don't think it prepares you better either way for life because it all depends what you are going to do when you become an adult anyway. The question to me is does it make you a better person. I think growing up in a densely populated and diverse city makes you a better person because it makes you understand that you are not the only one that inhabits space, you are always thinking about what is around you from simply walking on the sidewalk with a stroller (that you have to not walk right in the middle where you might block people trying to get by) to things like religious holidays and different customs. When things are so populated and diverse and all in your face it makes you understand why and when to follow rules and what rules are good. Here you understand that everything you do and say affects other people, we are all close in space near each other for it not. You also see different ethnicities, immigrants and economic groups to understand their plight more. So when thinking about the big picture say in the U.S.and your views on policies, laws and institutions it makes you a person that thinks more about other people and all the different types and situations more when voting or coming up with laws, rules and policies and that is why I think it makes one a better person. While when you live so far apart from people and don't see diversity it is hard for one to think about the plight of others and therefore are less empathetic.

May. 30 2011 04:11 PM
SGW from Manhattan

There are obviously advantages to a childhood in the country and a childhood in the city. My personal experience has been that many folks born and raised in NYC are quite clueless to the rest of America - not from a tourist's standpoint, but, from an understanding of its people As Bowie says, "This is not America." Our teenage son is perfectly happy being raised in Manhattan. He can be independent, enjoys all that the city has to offer, and has attended magnificent public schools (only downside is that they're all overcrowded). Having said that, we tell him, "You will not go to college in NYC! You need to go somewhere with a vista!" We're very lucky that he sees both sides of the coin - frequent visits with family in small-town Pennsylvania, and, the big-city life. You need both to be balanced.

May. 25 2011 01:09 AM
Chantal from Long Island

Hi, I grew up in Nassau Country, Long Island -- a half an hour train ride away from Manhattan -- and am currently a student at NYU. I cannot begin to emphasize the lack of diversity and culture in my hometown. Parents embed old school values in their children's brains; as a result, kids are never taught to challenge opinions or think on their own, and it's really a shame because they are very capable. The private schools are even worse.. There is absolutely no way I would raise my children in the suburbs.

May. 24 2011 04:55 PM
Chantal from Long Island

Hi, I grew up in Nassau County, Long Island -- a half an hour train ride away from Manhattan -- and am currently a student at NYU. I cannot begin to emphasize the lack of diversity and culture in my hometown. Parents embed old school values in their children's brains; as a result, kids are never taught to challenge opinions or think on their own, and it's really a shame because they are very capable. The private schools are even worse.. There is absolutely no way I would raise my children in the suburbs.

May. 24 2011 04:54 PM
Alex PA from Manhattan

I was born and raised in NYC and have now retired to Manhattan after living for extended periods in Philadelphia, Paris, and Munich as well as in Alabama, rural North Carolina, and rural Pennsylvania. All wonderful. Non-urbanites do not have the cultural amenities of the city, such as the Brian Lehrer Show, but city dwellers do not have the extended direct experience of nature that one has in the country. Growing up, you learn different skills for interacting with people suited to the different environments. In sparse populations one is naturally more demonstratively friendly, in cities more frankly competitive and defensive. In cities we learn tolerance of and respect for otherness and a respect for the privacy of others. In the country there is less privacy but a greater sense of community, with the community functioning, for better or worse, as a kind of extended family. In short, each kind of experience prepares us to live in a particular environment. The important thing to learn is to carry these skills over, so that each enriches the other.

May. 24 2011 02:29 PM

I couldn't agree more with the callers who talked about the possibly detrimental effect on kids of being surrounded by such obscene wealth as they are in NYC. I did not want to raise my child in that, so we moved (for other reasons too, of course).

I did grow up in a huge city, but not NYC. I think that growing up in a big city prepares you well in a big city! I've noticed that while I still prefer to live in a big city, friends and family who grew up in a more rural community end up returning to that, even after a stint in a big city. And I don't think there's anything wrong with it.

May. 23 2011 03:29 PM

I am a mid-twenties native NYer that both feels superior to people from other places and is chronically underemployed.

May. 23 2011 02:04 PM

Moved from Manhattan to Park Slope to a small town in Jersey.

This town is by far the most diverse experience, no majority here, racially or economically.

In the last 20 years Manhattan has changed enough that I don't think of it as diverse, but simply rich -- this is surely the draw of it to many of its present dwellers of those once-legendary buildings and blocks and storefronts.

May. 23 2011 12:56 PM
J.C. Calderon from Beacon, NY

I grew up in Brooklyn and benefited greatly from the great teachers in the public school system and all the free cultural activities. My wife and I could not afford to stay in the city to give our daughter the kind of life we wanted and chose to move to Beacon, NY. Beacon has a great feel of a real community great for children but with a world view. As a green architect, I love the artist/environmentalist feel of Beacon. Check out this review just last Friday:

In the end what matters most is what kind of parenting you get growing up. You can live a very stifled life in NYC if your parents are not open to what it offers. You can have a great life outside the city if your parents introduce you to the world. All things being equal, I do think the city life more likely leads to a tolerance of others, but there is no guarantee. Just recently more than half of humanity is in the city box, so it seems that we are going in that direction.

May. 23 2011 11:53 AM
CSP from Hell's Kitchen

I think growing up in NYC (Manhattan - Upper West Side) in the '50s and '60s allowed us to develop a sense of independence -- with public transportation, you didn't have to be old enough to drive to get around town.
But I wonder if this freedom, and a lot of the opportunities I enjoyed, are still there for kids now:
As a student at a public Junior High School, I was able to take part in special art classes at the Museum of Natural History and NYU, and a science class at Columbia. With all the budget cuts these days, I wonder how many of these kinds of programs are still available...
I also remember hanging out with friends at museums, which parents considered a safe place for us to wander around un-escorted: Admission was free, and we didn't have to be accompanied by an adult -- not so any more (even at the Children's Museum!).
I don't get the sense that middle-class city kids now have the same freedom to explore the city on the streets and the subways -- I'm not sure how much it is that the city is actually less safe, vs. parents worrying about being seen as irresponsible if they let their 10-year-olds do things on their own...
Because I think it's that taste of independence that gives city kids a leg-up: Otherwise, it's all just a spectator sport mediated by parents.

May. 23 2011 11:25 AM
mary from Long Island City

(Continued from previous comment) NYC definitely teaches one how to do what you want to do. As one caller said @ educating her daughter by moving to different places, that is one way. People in the mid west United States are better off if they have traveled to different places, as New Yorkers are if they get out of the city and see what it's really like in the rest of the US.

May. 23 2011 11:05 AM
tom from uws

Wrong question.
Effective, successful adults are not formed by the place the grow up, but by the people who influence their lives and development.
Thanks to Facebook I now follow the friends I grew up with in Nebraska. Their successes in career, marriage and raising children certainly weren't guaranteed by their own childhoods in small cities and towns; neither were they prevented by that history.
The large city does offer culture and diversity, both of which are important to me, but neither of which is required in childhood to become a successful adult. Love and education are the keys.

May. 23 2011 10:53 AM
Heidi from Brooklyn

I'm a big proponent of the advantages of growing up in the city and am raising two children here. But I think we are experiencing a massive and rarely acknowledged societal loss, at an ever increasing rate, of our connection to the natural world. Our connection to the rhythms of the seasons, sun, moon, tides, birds, is important to our mental well being. And critical to our role of the earth's caretakers. We care for what we know. How do we protect our bio-diversity if future generations don't know it.

May. 23 2011 10:52 AM
mary from Queens

Hi, Brian -- Currently living in Long Island City, I lived for 16 wonderful years in Sioux Falls, SD and grew up in Chicago (Northwestern) Fortunately, my parents, especially my father, a native of SD, gave me books on the American Indians and we were fortunate to travel. After Chicago, I lived in Iowa and Texas before coming to NYC to get my doctorate degree at Manhattan School of Music. It is truly the most diverse and amazing city, especially if you are in the arts, which I am. One of the best things besides the city is that it is easy to get out of - train, bus, airplane, and just an hour away one can go hiking in beautiful and accessible Harriman Park among others along the river.

May. 23 2011 10:51 AM
Sophia from Tappan, ny

I grew up on the southside of Chicago where the public schools were primarily attended by black kids (I'm Chinese American). I felt like I was so lucky to be involved in the Chicago Children's Choir where we were the most diverse children's choir in he country. Now raising my child in Rockland county after living 20 years in NYC, I make it a point to bring my daughter to he city so she'll feel comfortable in as many settings as possible because for her, she is bi-racial and needs to see people of all backgrounds and how they live together. Luckily, Rockland county seems to be getting more diversified.

May. 23 2011 10:50 AM
Sandi from Hoboken

I grew up in Wisconsin and have lived in Chicago, Baltimore, Boston and now Hoboken. I love cities. However, I would distinguish New York from all of the other cities I live in because - more than any other - I meet people completely condescending and dismissive of the values and opinions from people from other parts of the country. While they seem to embrace the culture within NYC and from various areas abroad, I am frequently frustrated by the way people treat the rest of the US. I think a lot of New Yorkers are genuinely befuddled about why one would live anywhere else. In that way, I find the diversity available in the city to be somewhat limited.

May. 23 2011 10:50 AM

My sister is thrilled about raising her child here, except for the idea of trick-or-treating at the butchers!

May. 23 2011 10:50 AM
Asli from brooklyn

CITY!! I didn't grow up in New York City, but in Istanbul, which is a whole other story. But having lived in NYC for the last 10 years, there are so many similarities and I have felt just at home here. I think the biggest advantage is the tolerance you develop for difference when you grow up in a city. -and the fact that you cannot avoid difference as you could do in a suburb, driving everywhere in your car.

i am sure that one is prepared for a wider world view growing up in any big city.

-and you can always get out into nature for the weekend!!

May. 23 2011 10:49 AM
Danielle from Washington Heights

My parents moved us up to Nyack in the late 70s when the Bronx was burning. But everytime the family was together, all they would do was talk about the beautiful days of the Bronx and stories of riding trains, running around the neighborhood with friends, and the shops and stores they so missed. My brother and I, confined to our cul-de-sac always wondered why they were so proud of their decision to leave. Sounded pretty good to me!

May. 23 2011 10:49 AM
Ruth from Brooklyn NY

I think it's a very different experience growing up in the city from childhood and coming to the city as an adult. I grew up in Manhattan and had a great experience in both exposure to culture and education. I think I also really appreciate my visits to the country because I did grow up in the city. All the native NYers I have known are so much more knowledgeable and open to ideas and diversity.

May. 23 2011 10:49 AM
Ken from Stamford, CT

What about the intellectual, cultural, musical, artistic opportunities of a city, and how they enrich our lives absent of consumerism?

May. 23 2011 10:49 AM
Patty from Brooklyn

I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a smaller city that had a deep mixture of cultures from Haitian to Portuguese. I then moved to Bard College, Hudson Valley and learned to love the natural world and it really changed me and helped me to become deeply involved in sustainability. I then moved to New York City for graduate school at NYU. I feel that a balance of living in different areas and understanding the diversity of the natural and cultural world builds maturity. How you are raised and taught throughout your life does that just as much as where you come from. The city, suburbia, or the country is the background for that learning and adds a richness to the growth of any child.

May. 23 2011 10:48 AM
Theo Egan

I am the African-American mother of three teenage boys. We live in Nassau County, Long Island in a very diverse community. Recently, my son started driving and locked his key in the car. He called me at work to ask if he could call the police to help him unlock his car and retrieve his car keys! My sons have grown up so protected and privileged they don't have the same concerns many urban black boys may have about the police.

May. 23 2011 10:48 AM
jerry from brooklyn

Oh please you are sooner exposed to alternatives to growing up in the city by growing up in the city and theres a big advantage in manhattan vs. The other boroughs!!! at least in my 70's 80's and 90's see a trend??

May. 23 2011 10:47 AM
Mike from Inwood

This is false dicotomy. I lived in Brooklyn for 15 years and met a lot of people who hadn't left their neighborhood in 20 years. There are more parochial 'rednecks' in NYC than anywhere else. Often I think that NYC is best described as a bunch of small towns with no farms between them than a colorful mosaic.

May. 23 2011 10:47 AM
Lynn from Astoria

it depends entirely on your experience and you. i don't think either can be said to be absolutely better or worse than the other. i grew up inthe midwest and have beenin new york for the last 13 years. many people i meet that are born in raised in new york can have tendencies to be just as 'small minded' as someone living in the small towns where some of my relatives live. you can be surrounded by 'diversity' and find those that are like you and never see the supposed diversity that the city offers. you can be surrounded by fields and space and no diversity and stir things up and see more places, faces, and rhythms than someone who lives in the big apple. both are valuable - both are incredible, and having the diversity of both is what makes up our country, and is what makes up many incredible people.

May. 23 2011 10:47 AM
Josh from brooklyn

I think there are 3 categories here- city, suburb, and countryside. If you are comparing city to suburb I think the city might make for a more aware child. But if you are talking about the countryside I think a true country upbringing prepares you in many ways to be self-sufficient.

May. 23 2011 10:46 AM
IC from NY/Montreal/Hawai

My son sent holidays in NY while attending a very tony all-boys school from pre-K to middle school in a wealthy Montreal neighborhood, then attended boarding school in Hawai'i (where I'm from) for a year before coming to NYC living in Manhattan and attending a public high school in the heart of Chinatown, a world so different from his previous 15 yrs. I see that the city naturally cultivates children to be more independent and ready to meet the unexpected and how they mature on their own simply by daily actions and realize to suceed in life they really must fend for themselves and work hard on their own, unlike children having life predictably laid out in less crowded places where parents have the luxury to drive their children and kids have far more time on their hand to do not things of best judgment out of boredom.

May. 23 2011 10:46 AM
Steve from Flatbush

This seems overly simplistic. Individual experience and how they are nurtured by the adults responsible for their care are extremely important factors in who a child becomes. Like your current caller, I had the benefit of growing up in both the suburbs (never thought I'd put benefit and suburbs together; I hated them) and the country, with regular visits to the city. I've lived in Brooklyn for 10 years. But environment is only part of someone's development. How they are raised and by whom is far more important.

May. 23 2011 10:46 AM
carolita from NYC

I grew up in Flushing, which was not really the country, and not really the city, and it was very diverse, which I loved. It totally didnt prepare me to move to Long Island, which was much less diverse at the time. You get used to diversity! But neither prepared me for the big city. I found myself very frightened and naive till I got used to it. Growing up anywhere is not going to prepare you for adulthood anywhere, really. It's kind of a pointless question. Maybe the question should be, does growing up with responsibilities prepare you more for adulthood than growing up with a childhood?

May. 23 2011 10:46 AM
Dan from Greenpoint

Growing up in Portland, OR, I had an incredible urban upbringing. We were never more than 30 miniutes from the absolute wild.

My mother was raised in rural Washington State, my father from Seattle.

The question really is, what is the "REAL" world?

May. 23 2011 10:45 AM

I grew up on a farm and then moved to the city as an adult. I never fully adapted to the city and always found myself somewhat disconnected from the rest of the country. I think having a balance of country/city life is important. That's why I moved my family out of the city but stayed close so that our children can have access to what the city has to offer while still teaching our kids things that I learned as a child - lessons like caring for animals & trusting your neighbors are just as important as exposure to diversity and connections to the rest of the world.

May. 23 2011 10:45 AM
Jean from Ossining

Love your show always but this premise is simplistic. Manhattan is by all accounts less diverse than in the past, and the suburbs are increasingly diverse. My kids grew up in a small town where they went to school with and got to know all kinds of people. Great preparation for 21st century life. Come to Ossining!

May. 23 2011 10:43 AM

I think there is a difference between diversity and tolerance. I moved into the city in my 20s and thought I was in heaven with the level of diversity seeing people of all colors and languages around me. But I have also had the most racist and derogitory comments come my way. Diversity of cultures does not mean more tolerance for others.

May. 23 2011 10:42 AM
Sara Jane

I think kids who grow up in the city have a clearer sense of how conflict can be productive and stand a better chance of recognizing that we're all responsible for one another. I grew up in Colorado. I don't think I'll ever move back because of the isolationism and the weird belief that conflict can be eternally avoided.

May. 23 2011 10:41 AM
Brendan from Bellingham WA from East Village

I moved to Manhattan from Bellingham WA. I tried to move back to Seattle WA after ten years. I couldn't stand it and now I am back. On one issue at least, growing up in a smaller town prepares you better for life: it is much easier to move to NYC from a smaller American city than it is to make the opposite move. Thus, it seems that at least in respect to the fact that modern life inolves moving to cities of various sizes, it's better to start small and go big. Big cities can never prepare you for the pace, lifestyle, and provinciality of small towns.

May. 23 2011 10:41 AM

Well, I suppose it depends on one's race, age, ethnicity, and class. Personally, I was born and raised in the Bronx (as were my parents), but live abroad, and find that many New Yorkers (both transplants and natives) can be quite parochial. In other words, they extol the virtues of NYC above all else, which is a shame because there's a big world beyond the five boroughs.

While exposure to diversity is an admirable aspect of city life, a place like NYC can make one jaded, suspicious, and hardened, among other things, before one's years.

Also, define 'adult'!

May. 23 2011 10:41 AM
Brendan from Bellingham WA

I moved to Manhattan from Bellingham WA. I tried to move back to Seattle WA after ten years. I couldn't stand it and now I am back. On one issue at least, growing up in a smaller town prepares you better for life: it is much easier to move to NYC from a smaller American city than it is to make the opposite move. Thus, it seems that at least in respect to the fact that modern life inolves moving to cities of various sizes, it's better to start small and go big. Big cities can ne

May. 23 2011 10:40 AM
Erin from Brooklyn

Does growing up in the city better prepare you for life? This question is meaningless without specifying what kind of life you are being prepared for.
Brian and his guest pointed specifically to the encounter with diversity, and it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who grew up in a remote resource-based community. He objected to the idea that growing up in the city makes kids more open and tolerant. For him, city kids grow up in the context of diversity without ever having to actually engage with and work through issues presented by diversity. In small communities, he contended that diverse groups actually must work together and work through our differences. In the city, diverse groups live in proximity and may never be brought into interaction.
For my part, I love what New York City has to offer. But I find it laughable when New Yorkers laud themselves for their worldliness and cosmopolitanism, when many have never seen a thing of rural or even suburban life in this giant country of ours.

May. 23 2011 10:40 AM
Anna from Sunnyside, Queens

I grew up in Akron, Ohio, and am living in NYC now raising my year-old daughter. I LOVE the city. However, I feel I had more independence growing up in a small city (i.e. playing with friends for hours in the backyard, riding my bike to friends' houses in the neighborhood) than I will be willing to let my daughter have. I'm torn b/c I want her to have the awesomeness of the city but I feel like she's never going to have the freedom to not be constantly supervised out of the house.

May. 23 2011 10:40 AM
Roberta from Brooklyn

It's been great for my daughter to grow up in the city, not just for racial diversity but economic as well. She always had kids in school with her from families that had less than we do (which is not much), and friends with families that had more. And now at age 13, she takes the subway and we will not have to deal with the issues of teen driving.

May. 23 2011 10:39 AM
Jane from Brooklyn

Diversity gives one an open mind, an ability to listen to different opinions, to see things in a new light.

May. 23 2011 10:39 AM
art525 from Park Slope

Uh oh this is going to open up the floodgates for those who grew up in the city to go into their nostalgia for egg creams and spaldeens and johnny on the pony etc etc. New York natives are so wrapped up in their gauzy childhood memories and will tick them off at the drop of a hat. I grew up in the country and I learned to create my own amusements. I could entertain myself and to this day I am never bored. And I developed a sense of independence and self reliance. Yes I can change a tire. I am amazed by people who sit there and wait for the service truck. I do all the repairs around the house. It's something that everyone ought to be able to do. Oh yeah and I developed a love for nature having been living in it's midst. I remember hearing that most presidents and most corporate CEOs grew up outside cities. (Well CEOs don't advance my argument do they?)

May. 23 2011 10:39 AM

One of the positives about growing up in an urban area is independence. If there is a public transportation system you don't have to drive your kid everywhere.

May. 23 2011 10:36 AM
Naomi Alexis from Brooklyn

I loved growing up in New York. I was thinking back to junior high and my friends from back then. An Isreali girl, an Indian girl, and Egyptian girl and me a black girl. We all experienced each other's families, cultures and religions. When I went away to a rural college campus, I was lost amongst the homogeny. I missed the diversity of experience.
I also spent a lot of summers in the south so I never missed the contrast as a kid.

May. 23 2011 10:36 AM

I grew up in Manhattan during the 70's. When it was more or less affordable. I now live Upstate because (among other things) NYC is NOT affordable for a family.

May. 23 2011 10:23 AM
a g from n j

if you have the right gregarious disposition, and or, supportive family or tribal base,nyc can be a great place to grow up in. if you do not,then people who are formed outside of nyc with [or without], the aforementioned requisite qualities and conditions,have a better chance in nyc. they don't carry the baggage and trauma of nyc,and its association with school and neighborhood violence. multiculturalism,can be a beautiful thing,but it also creates tentions in working class neighborhoods,that children growing up in nyc, are certainly not exempt from. even specific family issues,which are not directly related to nyc,but often are part of the bad memories package,deservedly or not, make up, part of the bad resonance for a kid growing up in nyc. obviously,there are many who have a very mixed experience growing up in nyc. and many,that had a great time. there is no singular narrative.

May. 23 2011 10:19 AM

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