Letter: ‘You May Now Thank Your Mother and Me’

A dad—and engineer—takes issue with a scientific example. But its message, he says, is spot on.

Amy Lee Ketchum

Why You Should Argue In Front of Your Kids

In a recent episode of Home School, a Wharton psychologist suggests that exposing kids to respectful disagreements can help develop their independent thinking and creative problem-solving skills.

I very much enjoyed your video but as an engineer I cringe when I look at the graphic that shows the Wright Flyer’s props rotating in the same direction.

The full story is here as written to my kids:

Subject: You May Now Thank Your Mother and Me

Neat video that makes a claim that parents should argue in front of their kids. Uses an interesting, and personally favorite example, even though I am not sure that one example is sufficient to make the point. However, I cannot resist but point out that the graphic is screwed up. The Wright Flyer’s props rotated in opposite directions. Not in the same direction. BTW prop contra rotation was nothing new. Ships had done it for at least 30 years.

An excellent example of a classic STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics] failure.

Still, great little video and so reassuring to our parental methods, regardless of the other damage we have inadvertently inflicted as parents on our spawn.

I would add that it is good to have your parents argue, but probably even better to let your kids join the argument. Respectfully like Hannah used to do: Oh my fucking God you are such a fucking asshole dad! :) :) :)


From the note you may infer that I am an engineer (I am an aerospace and ocean engineer) and I am no blind fan of STEM, and less of STEAM. I personally promote STEMPHLA: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Philosophy, History, Language and Arts—intermingled and combined.

FYI, this is my take on the Wright brothers.

You can see that I think all pieces need to work together to prevent stovepiped confusions. Engineers need to write well and clearly, and appreciate the social and historical impact of their work, but, at the same time, artists need to be aware of physical concepts and also endeavor to depict things with physical accuracy when the purpose is to explain, instead of just delight.

You can imagine that I was truly delighted by the video (since it so strongly operates in a STEMPHLA environment) and if it can be reasonably achieved, I would enjoy it even more when the video can be remade to show the props rotating in the proper direction.

Rik F. van Hemmen
Red Bank, N.J.

When we asked van Hemmen’s permission to publish this, he cc’d his family on his response. His daughter Hannah van Hemmen, of New York, N.Y., wrote: “Haha oh dear, this is going to be problematic for my presidential run down the line, but I’m cool with it.” None of van Hemmen’s other children replied. “We normally only comment when we disagree,” Hannah explained.