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Thread: How to show my parents urban planning is an actual field

  1. #1
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    How to show my parents urban planning is an actual field

    Okay, I feel a little silly and embarrassed posting this on a forum of people who have devoted their careers to urban planning, but in reality this is my best resource.

    I am a student studying urban studies at a liberal arts college. An expensive one at that, but aren't the all? Anyway, I recently declared Urban Studies as my major. My parents kind of hit the roof when I told them. For one reason or another, my parents have this narrow-minded idea that the only contributing members to society are doctors, lawyers, and computer scientists.. basically anything that doesn't involve a scalpel or computer is pulling up short in their book. (My dad kind of warmed up a little when I started about GIS though) They're both immigrants, which may or may not have some bearing on the issue...

    I've sat down and attempted to speak with both of them about the field, but nothing really seems to get through to them. I'd like to show them one single undeniable piece of "evidence" of sorts that proves this.

    My concern is less with winning their approval, and more about keeping their (very minimal, but still essential) financial support...

    Suggestions?

  2. #2
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    I feel ya...

    I totally get how you're feeling about this. My parents are both immigrants too, and despite my dad serving in the US Navy for 20 years, he still hasn't changed with the times of accepting anything besides nursing, medical, or engineering (it's a Filipino thing). When I was in high school I was on a path towards Civil Engineering, then focused on Architecture in community college, BUT turned things around and majored in Urban Planning when I transferred into a university. After 3 years doing Urban Planning, I finally graduated last year and while everyone is happy and all for me - my parents STILL say I graduated with "architecture" to the rest of my family. I work for the Planning Department in my city and while I thought yay - no more unemployment, it's still confusion on their part to what I do no matter how hard I explain it. In all honesty, because of my parents mixed emotions of what I actually do AND not living up to their dream, they probably would never know what I do (or even truly care).

    In terms of your situation...evidence of urban planning? I suppose you can show them different types of planning projects like (if you have access to it) plan checks, zoning maps, your city's development code, site plans, specific plans, et al. Those are very tangible examples and even if they don't approve, at least it can bare in their minds that what you're doing is REAL.

    Hope that helps.

  3. #3
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    good luck and go on..

    hi you all, I only can say you should go on anyway. I'm an architect, non US citizen, who work in urban planning since I've finished studies. Here, at least, nobody consider it's not a productive job despite right now it's not a lot of work.

  4. #4
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Personally, the easy answer is you explain to them what it is, and if they don't approve, you do it anyways.

    The more complex answer is to break down what we do into sections. Relate it to the life they live. Do they live in a suburban neighborhood? Relate how this is different than a city. The dynamics of planning for roads, utilities, services, and development. Ask them about how they view their community? What landmarks are easily identifiable? Do they like the aesthetic of their community? What do they like?

    When they answer, tell them that these elements were likely created by planners. Cities are diverse amalgams of millions of pieces that fit together to create the environment that you know. We make sure those pieces fit together correctly.

    Or go with Planning is kind of like Architecture... but at a larger scale and for cities not buildings.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  5. #5
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    While not immigrants, my parents kind of wondered the same thing. Maybe mention planning when you see a related article in the paper, or a news story about highway congestion, or a picture of half-completed buildings. Planning is one of those things we ALL have an opinion on even if we don't know it is called "planning". This may be tough to do, but talk about the influence a planner has- how they get to meet almost everyone important in a community, how they shape the future, and how even though it doesn't pay as well as as doctor or a lawyer, the profession is fighting to make a better place for all of us to live. (by undoing what planners of previous generations have done :o) )
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by suntwee View post
    For one reason or another, my parents have this narrow-minded idea that the only contributing members to society are doctors, lawyers, and computer scientists.. basically anything that doesn't involve a scalpel or computer is pulling up short in their book.
    Gosh.. mine were overjoyed (of course, that was a long time ago). Their (or rather my retired military officer dad's) worst fear was that I might want to become a lawyer (evil), Democratic politician (chaotic evil) or even a tree-hugging activist/organizer of some type (presumed guilty of high treason and fit for the firing squad). And they liked the idea of having an architect in the family.. and figured planning was a first step in that direction (I did eventually get a graduate degree in architecture as well as in planning). I should note that my dad works in the property sector (as a developer of the most rapacious suburban sprawl imagineable), so he already knew what planners do and underestand their usefulness. Urban planning sounded to them to be suitably technical and might cause me to shift toward architecture or engineering. 'course I think my dad was more thinking that I'd rebuild Iranian and Arab cities into glorious American mini-malls after we invaded and conquered them... but who knows. Maybe by that point they figured anything that didn't involve getting a degree in the Marxist Revolution was a good thing since I'd already given up my chance at a service academy appointment (what my dad really wanted for me.. but I had no mililitary inclinations). They're not immigrants though.. just rightwing militarists. hehe.

    In retrospect, though, I kind of wished I had gone the service academy route. I might've actually learned some discipline (and I have the utmost respect for the armed services, now that I'm older.. although I'm still a liberal). Anyway, I broke a Naval career tradition, and I don't think my dad's ever fully gotten over that.

    But he respects what I do now. Building better cities helps the nation, to his way of looking at the world. He's actually bought into the whole sustainability thing too.. and is glad that I'm working on the cutting edge of helping communities cut GHG emissions, which he thinks is a patriotic thing, now that the Great Chinese Frenemy (the next great evil) is doing it - and arguably doing it better than we are, and since he thinks that it might just be the next big thing that'll create jobs and let us reduce dependance on, from his way of looking at it (perpetually evil) Arab oil. I make a point of occasonally sending him clippings on how the Chinese threat (his way of seeing the world involves viewing it as degrees of enmity with foreigners, ranging from suspect Canadians to pure evil Iranians.. and don't even mention the French) is investing resources in green technologies, wind capacity, PV capacity, etc. It makes things easier for our relationship if he thinks I've beavering away for the good of the nation and the glory of America's great capitalist empire.

    Sorry if I offended anyone with my attempts at humor here.. I'm trynig to capture a certain mindset.. that I grew up with, but still find amusing.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 25 Jan 2011 at 11:23 AM.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Wow! My parents were happy that I stayed out of prison!

    In fact they were happier that I graduated from high school than they were when I graduated from college or got into grad school. I lived in a city where the high school graduation rate was dismal. Going off to college actually meant a lowering of my parent's contribution to my education to $0 (I was taught by inner-city nuns).

    Does this means my parents had low expectations?

    Dad was actually thrilled with my choice of work. He worked as a civil engineer for 45 years for two municipalities. Once I started to work, I was working with his current and former co-workers. Mom and Dad actually met in City Hall where they both worked.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    It's your life, so the deal is you get to do what you want with it (until you have children), regardless of what your parents want. They may never--and probably will never--see things from your persective. It may be hard for your immigrant parents to accept the fact that you won't go on to have a lucrative profession, but in that they will miss the point of freedom and opportunity, which is to lead a healthy and productive life doing what makes you happy, not to lead a healthy and productive life doing someone you hate just because you make more money.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    My parents never really understood what the heck i do, even though my dad is a retired civil engineer from the Air Force. They just know I have a hand in helping "stuff" get built. It also helped out a lot that I worked on a neighborhood master plan community nearby their house and they heard me talk about what was going to get built and to actually see it get built in the way i described it helped them realize really what i did. CC is absolutely correct. My parents are also first generation immigrants. They were just happy that i graduated college, and to them, that's all that they really cared about is that i was given the opportunity to have a "better life" doing what i love rather than doing what is by necessity just to get by.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    It's your life, so the deal is you get to do what you want with it regardless of what your parents want.
    Unrelated to this topic, but I don't agree with this statement. I am married, employed, a home owner, etc. but I still like to ask my parents' input before I do something major, like buy a new car, go on a trip, bathroom remodel, etc. Maybe I have a odd relationship, but I always thought my parents were kind enough to provide for a great upbringing for me and I owe it to them to make them happy. I know my dad appreciates this because he tells me how blessed we are to have a good relationship when so many others don't.

    The same goes for my wife. We see how her sister stresses her father out with her bad choices and questionable purchases so my wife makes sure he knows how much she appreciates all he has done for her. She doesn't always follow to a T the things he suggests but she always asks his opinion.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Unrelated to this topic, but I don't agree with this statement. I am married, employed, a home owner, etc. but I still like to ask my parents' input before I do something major, like buy a new car, go on a trip, bathroom remodel, etc.
    Ummm.. ok. Is this like asking for permission?
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Ummm.. ok. Is this like asking for permission?
    No, it's asking for input, opinions, and suggestions.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    No, it's asking for input, opinions, and suggestions.
    and managing the potential for conflicts and misunderstandings.. always necessary in any family.. or any planning process for that matter.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Tell them you are interested in changing your major to theater arts or art history. Then the prospect of you becoming a planner will seem wonderful!
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    Tell them you are interested in changing your major to theater arts or art history. Then the prospect of you becoming a planner will seem wonderful!
    or "community organizing".. and emphasize, "just like Obama." I love goading certain far rightwing relatives of mine with statements like that... sorry, couldn't resist.

    To Suntwee's original question.. I don't know where your parents immigrated from, but many "old country" cultures have rich historical traditionals of urban planning. It may be helpful to show them some examples they know about from those traditions. The masterplanning principles of Chang'an in China, for example, shaped nearly a thousand years of planning conventions in China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea. The Roman town planning model arguably contines to dictate urban form throughout Latin America. Innovations in plumbing and sanitation from the Indus civilizations influenced Central and South Asian planning well into the modern era. Hippodamas' principles for Miletus and Alexandria created concepts in urban civic structure that are still used throughout the western world.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 25 Jan 2011 at 1:26 PM.

  16. #16
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    All good advice.

    Reading your location, I gotta' be a bit of a downer and say that there are very few prospects for planning employment in the Cleveland area. Only a few suburban communities have planners or planning agencies, planners are entrenched with little mobility, and the county governments are continuing to slash budgets. Economic development (which, in NEO, means enticing a factory to move from Independence to Strongsville, or from Bedford Heights to Mentor) and community planning (free paint programs, issues related to housing and foreclosures, etc) get far more attention.

    It isn't like this everywhere. It's just a quirk of how local government is arranged in the area; the tens of small, nearly built-out cities in the area like Lyndhurst, Beachwood and Willowick can't justify having a full-time planner on its staff, nor the Chagrin Valley estate 'burbs like Hunting Valley or Gates Mills. Further out, townships in Ohio (Concord, Bainbridge, etc) have very limited planning and zoning authority; their zoning officials tend to be laypeople, not planners, and their salaries are often quite small.

    Once the recession has passed, you may find opportunity with the City of Cleveland, NOACA (the regional transportation planning agency), the Akron-Summit/Portage County area, Columbus, or elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

    Quote Originally posted by suntwee View post
    For one reason or another, my parents have this narrow-minded idea that the only contributing members to society are doctors, lawyers, and computer scientists.. basically anything that doesn't involve a scalpel or computer is pulling up short in their book. (My dad kind of warmed up a little when I started about GIS though) They're both immigrants, which may or may not have some bearing on the issue...
    Maybe try relating it to the engineering profession?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  17. #17
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    My parents still think it's funny that my title involves the word "Plan".
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  18. #18
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    my parents remember me playing SimCity as a kid, so they assume the job I do is identical. I don't really bother trying to correct them. I like the field, they like that i'm doing something i like

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Tell them you're getting into the land development industry - problem solved.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ9139 View post
    my parents remember me playing SimCity as a kid, so they assume the job I do is identical. I don't really bother trying to correct them. I like the field, they like that i'm doing something i like
    hey.. speak for yourself! I use and develop city simulation tools all the time (albeit ones that spit out numbers and not jazzy images). hehe.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Unrelated to this topic, but I don't agree with this statement. I am married, employed, a home owner, etc. but I still like to ask my parents' input before I do something major, like buy a new car, go on a trip, bathroom remodel, etc. Maybe I have a odd relationship, but I always thought my parents were kind enough to provide for a great upbringing for me and I owe it to them to make them happy. I know my dad appreciates this because he tells me how blessed we are to have a good relationship when so many others don't.

    The same goes for my wife. We see how her sister stresses her father out with her bad choices and questionable purchases so my wife makes sure he knows how much she appreciates all he has done for her. She doesn't always follow to a T the things he suggests but she always asks his opinion.
    It's great you have that kind of relationship with your parents, but I think you're in the minority. And with respect, this isn't about consulting with parents, but about doing what you want after all is said and done and you still disagree.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    Most of my family had no clue what my job entailed for the longest time, or why the heck I had to go back for two more years of college for a thing called a master's degree. I explained and explained everything that sound like it came out of a book, but I think that only confused them more. Eventually, I said, "people like me may be the only think standing between you and a strip club next door" and they seemed to get that.

    What is also helpful is that planning is all around us. Take them on a driving tour. Show them things and ask them what they think of them. Then ask them how they think that happened?

    As for following parents advice, lets not forget that there is often some give and take with parents. I came from a very poor family and so all six years of college were on my own dime. I shared information more than anything else. But if you are accepting financial support from your family, there is going to be some expectation of them to at least explain what the heck you're doing with all that money (and for some, thats a LOT of money). I've had friends do what their parents wanted because they were paying, and some who cut off the support so they could do what they wanted. Hopefully neither case would apply and you can all support what the plan is.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    ... I still like to ask my parents' input before I do something major, like buy a new car, go on a trip, bathroom remodel, etc. ....
    Doesn't hurt to have a second or third opinion, or someone who could say "how about positioning the sink on the other wall."

    I have a (very) few friends who serve somewhat the same function: they are on my side, know something of the backstory, have lived long enough to see more than one side of things. Usually I have to explain a lot of the details to them before they can get it right.

    My mama was notorious for wrapping things up in one pointed comment. (Blind date: dude tells me I should have a steak, eat more, get a better job, lied about his national origin, etc. Ma: "I wonder why he's still single.")

    Wish I could still consult them.

  24. #24
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    Yes, your former situation sounds really similar to mine! Before I moved towards planning, I considered architecture, which also infuriated my parents. Oddly enough, now they're okay with architecture rather than planning and pushing me to do that... The lesser of two evils maybe? I don't know

    Hopefully over time they'll accept it. I try to forward them current articles on urban planning every now and then... I also tried to get them to attend a talk by a reputable urban planner but to no avail. Baby steps, I suppose...

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    Tell them you are interested in changing your major to theater arts or art history. Then the prospect of you becoming a planner will seem wonderful!
    Haha too late for that one I'm afraid- I was learning towards an art history major my first semester of school... now that one drove them insanely crazy.

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