Weber’s Traditionalist in Portlandia


Thinking back to Weber for a bit, I’d like to point out a pretty interesting thing I found in one of my favorite shows that relates to some things he’s talked about.

A Weberian traditionalist believes that they will work until they can achieve the things they want. When they reach their goal, they stop working and enjoy the life that they have made for themselves. Many will also rationalize their time – plan out every aspect of their life and figure out what they need to do and when they need to do it in order to reach their goals and aspirations.

A satirical demonstration of this kind of traditionalism can be found in the second season of Portlandia.  In the very beginning of the episode, Brandon and Michelle Marston stand in the kitchen of their home and present posters and charts to their young son, Grover, about his academic life and success. They are applying for a special pre school that they believe will create the perfect life for him. To demonstrate this, they present charts and explain to him what can happen to him if he gets in, as well as if he doesn’t. Their ultimate belief is that if their son Grover is accepted to the Shooting Star Preschool, eventually he will be successful enough to buy his own Ferrari and whatever else he wants. However, if Grover is not accepted, he will set himself up for a life of failure.

view the clip here

The traditionalist idea here: If we get a credible education, we can succeed in whatever we want and maintain a comfortable life, and as a result, work until we achieve these goals and spend the rest of our life enjoying the life we’ve created for ourselves. This clip can be seen as an over-the-top example of Weber’s traditionalist “rationalization of time”. Grover’s parents also go as far as making a promotional video for their son to bring to the pre school’s interview. I’m sure that a lot of parents may have visions of what their child can achieve, but few would go to the lengths that Brandon and Michelle Marston did.  Reading Weber’s ideas on traditionalism and rationalization of time, along with watching this particular episode of Portlandia, helped me better understand his explanations of these concepts. It was also entertaining to see this idea demonstrated in such a ridiculous and satirical fashion.

With that said, I present two questions to you:
-Do you think that the education system in our country, by creating options like attending private pre schools, instill this idea in our parents and in our youth?

-Additionally, do you think the American dream was founded on traditionalist principles like this, and as a result, could that be why some of us find this clip especially funny?


3 Responses to “Weber’s Traditionalist in Portlandia”

  1. givenarnold Says:

    I think this clip touches on another interesting point: how societies are beginning to label whether people are successes or failures at such early ages. While this clip is certainly an exaggeration, it reminds me of the advantages certain children have from grade school simply due to the schools they attend. In the United States, societies main judgement to a persons success tends to be the college they make it to. However a students education preceding college certainly plays a large factor on their “success.” In other countries we see an even earlier point of reaching success in a child’s life. Japan’s high schools are incredibly competitive, and also generally determine whether or not one will be successful in life. The problem with this system is that 12-13 year old kids are making their most significant life decisions when applying to high school. Sadly, Japan has the second highest suicide rate in the world, with a large portion being adolescents under too much pressure.

    I think this clip is also trying to point out the immorality of this cultural phenomena. There certainly seems to be something wrong with the way we make the early years of peoples lives the ones that decide the direction of their success.

  2. akolot Says:

    The education system is definitely responsible for planting the idea in parents’ heads that early education will guarantee that their child intelligence enough to pass high school and advance into a big name college with flying colors. However, demographics also play a very strong role in the American education system because the quality of public education is very inconsistent across the country. Sometimes the survival of the family comes first before eduation, thus redefining success for a child personally. However, when considering the child’s education in context of our society people tend to dismiss the social aspect of what could enable or disable completion of education and make quick judgement as to the success or failure.
    This particular approach to making decisions very early in life strongly resounds in the community in this school because many students learn their instruments at an early age and, in order to succeed, must display 100% confidence when presenting themselves. Unlike many professions, the decision to go into music has to be made earlier and one has to mature faster because one has to face competition during highschool, if not sooner

  3. edurellblog Says:

    I believe that private preschools, rather than being responsible for instilling a protestant ethic into American parents and youth, are actually the result of parents and society at large that have already been indoctrinated with the protestant ethic from the start. When parents feel the anxiety of making sure that their children are successful (because they themselves have felt that pressure to be successful their whole lives), they feel that there must always be a ‘better’ option for their child. While wanting to have a ‘better’ option is not necessarily a bad thing, it will most certainly expose existing disparities within and between communities in terms of economic stance, and race as a result. As we have discussed in class, segregation wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it weren’t for the fact that one race is in control of the other. Private (read: unofficially segregated) preschools are a prime example of whites legally circumventing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as continues to this day. Are private preschools inherently a bad thing? Do they intentionally exclude non whites? Probably not, but the post-colonial, post-segregationist societal structures that are currently in place have simultaneously birthed the notion of private preschools while keeping nonwhites (the former colonized) in a state of subjugation.

    If we are defining the ‘American Dream’ as having the freedom and means to pursue your goals and ambitions in accordance with your will, (I’m picturing a blond, patriarchal family of heterosexuals on a lush, green lawn, surrounded by a white picket fence with an adorable golden retriever leaping at their feet) then yes, I do believe that the American Dream was founded on these traditionalist principles. Having said all of this, I did go to a private preschool and I remember learning a lot and having a wonderful time – I think the reason that I find this clip funny is because I find it relatable. The protestant work ethic is alive and well, and post-colonial economic and racial structures of power ensured that I got a good education from the very beginning.

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