Archive for the 'Education' Category

23
Jul
08

Breaking Down Stereotypes Starts at home.

Today I read a very interesting article about the racial achievement gap between Asian, Caucasian, Latino and Black students at a California high school. I found this article particularly interesting, because the LA Times took the initiative to talk with students about a very controversial topic.

The idea of racial profiling and stereotyping is a common and very touchy subject. I personally do not believe it stereotyping, however I do believe in statistics. Statistics, when used objectively, are great for clearly seeing patterns and trends that can provide valuable insights into a lot of things. Statistics do not lie, and assuming there is no bias in the way the statistics are collected, are entirely objective.

However the mistake people make is usually in how they use or interpret this data. Statistical data is a great generalization tool, but cannot be applied to specific individuals. This is where the problem occurs. Many people make the mistake of attributing a generalization to a specific case, and that is where stereotyping takes a wrong turn.

Now I’m not just raving about statistics for my own personal amusement. I brought it up because of an interesting statistic that appeared in the article I mentioned above:

Both the neighborhood and student body are about 15% Asian. And yet Asians make up 50% of students taking Advanced Placement classes. Staffers can’t remember the last time a Latino was valedictorian. – [LA Times]

The statistics do not lie. Clearly Asians generally do better academically than other demographics. But this is where it gets tricky. Why do Asians do better? How do we interpret this information? The same article speaks of the negative academic stereotype of the average Latino. And statistically, they are accurate. But is is because Asian people are smarter than other demographics? Or that Latino or black students are less intelligent?

How about the oft cited blanket “socioeconomic status” stereotype to explain why some do better than others? Nope. I think not. This should be obvious, as there are many kids from very, very poor families that are academically brilliant. But if my opinion is not enough for you, (and it really shouldn’t ever be) even the statistics do not support this explanation.

According to a study of census data, 84% of the Asian and Latino families in the neighborhoods around Lincoln High have median annual household incomes below $50,000. And yet the Science Bowl team is 90% Asian, as is the Academic Decathlon team. – [LA Times]

So what is it? Is there a race related intelligence deficiency at play? Cultural biases? What? These are thorny questions that need to be discussed in order to get answers. The problem, of course, is that there are too many unwilling to even ask the hard questions.

Apparently some educators walked out when it came time to discuss this aspect of the problem, apparently due to concerns about making sweeping generalizations and reinforcing stereotypes. But from my perspective, those people fail as educators. If you are unable to see how to address a problem like this in an honest, open and objective fashion, then frankly, in this bloggers humble opinion, you should not be anywhere near a classroom, let alone teaching kids.

Clearly, making any sweeping generalization is the wrong thing to do. And would, in any case, be inaccurate, since high achieving students from every demographic are not rare. So obviously something else was to blame, and during the course of the discussion, I believe they nailed it down. Really well, I might add. It is kind of simple actually:

Asian parents are more likely to pressure their children to excel academically, the students agreed.

George said his mother, a Mexican immigrant, has high expectations for him too, but she is not so white-knuckled when it comes to school. She wants him to do well — he’s now thinking of college — but the field of endeavor is up to him.

“She said, ‘I came here to do better for you,’ ” he said. “But that’s about it. Being happy and getting by, that’s what she wants.”

For Carlos Garcia, the one with the knack for math, the message from his parents was to focus on school. Neither got to finish grade school in their native countries. – [LA Times]

There are several similar statements printed in the article, but they basically all make the same reference to how the expectations of their parents, teachers, and even other students, determined how much work they put into their academics. From this, we can make one basic inference. It would appear that how well a student does is directly proportional to the expectations of their parents and their community.

In effect, it is not that any demographic is inherently smarter or dumber than another, but rather that the attitudes of the members of that demographic, and specifically of a students parents and guardians, determine how important academia is to any given student.

This, is actually a much more reasonable explanation than that of socioeconomic status, or inherent racial or genetic predisposition. And it confirms something that I’ve believed for a long time. Parents are perhaps the single greatest influence on a students ability to excel. In anything. Yes, parents are subject to the expectations of the community they live or were raised in, but the one thing that this article does prove is that even cultural expectations can be overcome by parental determination.

We can see that in many Asian households academic achievement is a high priority, where as in many Latino house holds, just working, or getting by is the priority. And yet, where the parents desires clashed with the cultural status quo, the student often defied the cultural stereotype.

So there are two thoughts I would like to leave you all with.

The first is, we all need to learn how to put our plethora of various sensitivities on the shelf, and learn not to shy away from a difficult discussion. We’ve all grown so super sensitive about so many issues that we tend to avoid them, and lash out at anyone who tries to get anywhere near those hot button issues, all the while failing to realize that true resolution and the breaking down of stereotypes and walls, only comes from putting our fears and biases aside, and talking openly and honestly about them.

The second, is for the parents. It cannot be stressed enough how much your attitudes affect your children, and our future. You are the most important influence on your kids. If you want your kids to excel, you must expect them to, you every word or action should demonstrate that you believe they can do better. This actually works for everything, from them misbehaving to teaching them about life. You attitude, your life, even the things you don’t say are as important as the things you do. Kids pick up on them all. So when you see something going wrong with your kids, please look at yourself first for the solution.

Much like in the move “The Matrix”, you may find that it is impossible to bend the spoon. So bend yourself instead…

Why do Asian students generally get higher marks than Latinos? – [LA Times]

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23
Sep
07

Presidential ignorance is a curse…

You may remember many moons ago I posted about American citizenship, and whether or not a citizenship exam should include questions on things like sports, world events, and cultural awareness. Now in this bloggers humble opinion, these things are not a true measure of whether or not a person will be a good American.

I would rather have every aspiring American citizen take an ethics test and be done with it. In fact I’d like to see every young American, not just immigrants be required to take a federally mandated ethics test when they reach legal age, before they are allowed to be considered a legal adult. I think the country would benefit from this more than anything else. The rest of it is almost inconsequential by comparison.

Almost. There are many positions where I think a broader, more comprehensive test of ones knowledge, ethics, social awareness and general knowledge of world events and character should be a mandatory requirement. High ranking police and military are a couple that come to mind some of them. Even your average street cop should ideally have comprehensive periodic psych evals, as well as more ethics and social training. But most important of all, President of the United States of America should be one of those positions that requires all of the above.

Before you ever get to see elections, or even start running for president, I think you should, at the very least, be able to demonstrate significantly above average ability on an IQ test, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of social, political and world issues. This should be a requirement for the position.

Why? Because ignorance has absolutely no place in a presidential office. No self respecting IT department would hire a professional bricklayer for their server administration. Nor would a construction company hire a nerd for manual labor. Why does the same not apply for the oval office? People with that kind of power need to know how to use it intelligently. And when I read some of the (many) questionable things our outgoing president has to say, It is clear to me that he is lacking in that department:

In a speech defending his administration’s Iraq policy, Bush said former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s brutality had made it impossible for a unifying leader to emerge and stop the sectarian violence that has engulfed the Middle Eastern nation.

“I heard somebody say, Where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas,” – [Reuters]

Saddam killed all the Mandelas?!? You know, any country as great as this one really ought to be run by someone who has a modicum of awareness about important world leaders, events, issues, etc. I’m all for presidency being open to any American citizen, but shouldn’t there at least be some sort of IQ requirement? World knowledge? Social awareness? How about the basic ability to form coherent, meaningful and intelligent sentences?

The presidency should be open to everyone, but at the same time, becoming president should be a highly selective process. I don’t believe that it should be solely the domain of highly educated aristocrats though. Lord knows we don’t need more classism. But I think that maybe the presidency shouldn’t be an option for your common, average everyday ignoramus either…

Mandela still alive after embarrassing Bush remark – [Reuters]

23
Aug
07

Kids NEED discipline and guidance people…

I frequent a number of social help sites and message boards. I do it to help me understand people better. I do learn a lot, but I am constantly struck by how often people tend to confuse issues. Especially when it comes to raising kids. Like spanking. And discipline. Or never learn important life lessons for themselves.

I am all about letting kids learn to be their own person, but they need somewhere to start. A good framework to base their character on. If you want them to become positive, productive members of society, they need to be taught values/ethics and morals. They cannot learn these things on their own.

I have been quite vocal on this blog about the problems of society in general being the result of a lack of parental child raising discipline. Or, even worse, the parents teaching kids the wrong lessons. The results of this is all around us. And the evidence is equally salient. Here are a couple of examples:

A 12-year-old British boy appeared in court Wednesday charged with assault for throwing a sausage at a pensioner, police said.

Hmm. Odd… Let’s read on…

The youth, who can’t be named, was arrested after a 74-year-old man reported him to police for throwing a stone in Manchester, northern England.

The object turned out to be a cocktail sausage.

“Charging was the only option because the boy had previously been issued with three reprimands on separate occasions,” a Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said.

OK, this kid obviously has issues. What was even more disturbing to me was the way this kids mother responded to all of this:

The boy’s mother described the decision to charge her son as “an absolute joke,”

The boy’s mother said her son was worried he might be sent to prison. – [Yahoo/Reuters]

Now it may just be me, but it sounds like this kids mother is more worried about the penalties her son may face, rather than the fact that on 4 separate occasions (including this latest instance), her son has acted in an undisciplined and inappropriate manner? Didn’t she feel the need to discipline her child for that behavior? How about making him apologize to the pensioner? How about being a parent?

This kid is in court because he is unruly and inconsiderate. Or more likely, his mom has let him become that way. He is NOT in court because he threw a cocktail wiener at an old guy. Perhaps it is extreme to have to go to court for being a rambunctious kid, but if you’ve had the police called on you 4 times already, then obviously something has to be done.

I realize that there are cases where discipline is difficult, and I can only speculate on what is happening in that household, but from what I’ve read, I think MOM should be in court. Much better motivation to discipline her kid. Or not. But at least that way, when she shows up in court, it will be because she made the conscious decision to let her son do whatever he wants, and is willing to bear the consequences of both of their actions.

If I had done that to my Mom, she would have been mortified! She probably would have handed me over to the police herself! The thing is, the very first time I did something like that, I would have been severely disciplined. Regardless of whether it was a spanking, being disallowed to go hang out with my friends, no pocket money that week, whatever, I would have been taught that what I had done was wrong. It doesn’t matter what specific method was used, I would have learned not to do it again.

Instead, this kids mom probably defends everything he does, and he is now in court. He probably still doesn’t truly realize that what he did was wrong. What’s even worse is that he may still get off because he is a juvenile. Saddest of all, is the possibility that he will never learn anything from the experience because his mom will probably tell him that none of this was justified, and that he has been victimized by the authorities.

His antisocial behavior will continue, now with an added hatred for the police, and any/all authority figures. And when he finally grows up and decides to join some criminal organization, and a pursue a life of crime his mom will spend many a sleepless night asking herself where she went wrong raising him… Or not. She may keep cheering him on regardless. And yet we wonder why our kids are so jacked up…

Here’s another example, a worse scenario, with a rather blatant display of parental ignorance:

A mother and father are facing charges they encouraged their 13-year-old daughter to fight another girl. Debra Sue Grubb, 33, is charged in Kanawha County Magistrate Court with misdemeanor battery after allegedly forcing her daughter Gabrielle to fight 14-year-old Megan Willis near the Grubbs’ home on Aug. 15, Trooper J.M. Comer said Wednesday.

Are you kidding me? I could understand a parent telling their kid to stand up for, or defend themselves against bullying, but this?

At one point, Grubb allegedly grabbed her daughter by the arm and used her daughter’s body as a weapon to knock Megan to the ground.

Thomas Leon Grubb, 35, is charged with misdemeanor assault. Comer said Grubb is accused of threatening to harm two boys who were with Megan if they tried to break up the fight.

“It turned into a mess,” Comer said. “The two parents allowed this to happen when it should have been handled by the parents.”
– [Yahoo/AP]

You know, I almost don’t even know what to say about this. Obviously these parents never learned that violence is not the solution for everything. In fact it sounds like the kids may have been better off without their involvement. Much like the irate cussing YouTube parent I talked about before, the problem here is that even the parents don’t know any better. The only thing that might save the kids is if they end up being more intelligent than their parents, and figure this out on their own.

Then I run across parents on the message boards I was taking about earlier asking how to get their kids to do things like chores, dishes, cleaning, homework, even their own freakin’ laundry… It amazes me… Parents, your kids need discipline. The whole spanking /non-spanking issue is stupid. It’s in your head. Spanking is only abuse if you use it to vent your frustration. When used correctly, it is a tool, just like any other. And there are many of them. Use your head. Use what you know will work. Try a bunch of different things.

Just use them correctly. You can still psychologically abuse a child if you misuse a non-physical punishment. Do not punish out of anger, or out of frustration, or out of weariness or fear. Use these tools for discipline. To teach important life lessons. To teach them to be considerate of others. To be good human beings. Kids need this in order to become healthy adults. Do not deny them that opportunity.

Boy in court for throwing sausage – [Yahoo/Reuters]

Parents accused of encouraging fight – [Yahoo/AP]

14
Aug
07

Only YOU can prevent Illegal Immigration…

Republican presidential candidate and former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani made what i thought was a rather bold statement:

“We can end illegal immigration. I promise you, we can end illegal immigration,” the former New York mayor said at a community center — the first of the day’s two stops in this early voting state.

Giuliani said he would require a uniform identification card for foreign workers and students and create a central database to track the legal status of visitors to the country. He told the crowd of more than 300 that 12 million immigrants have entered the country illegally.

“That’s a lot of people to walk over your border without being identified,” he said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Ok so I have one question. Has he seen the size of our borders lately? It isn’t exactly a short stretch of barbed wire fencing. You know, anyone who has successfully been mayor of NY has to have something going for them. But his recent actions have cast a serious shadow on opinion of both his competency and honesty. If it were so easy to stop illegal immigration, it would have been done already.

Instead, it appears he will simply be one of those people who employ sweeping, indiscriminate, invasive and ultimately useless legislation that attack everything but the source of the problem, just like everyone else, especially the current administration.

I mean, the database idea is pointless because by definition, we don’t have any info on illegal immigrants. They don’t exactly register with the authorities after jumping the fence.
And as I pointed out earlier, America has a lot of border ground to cover, it’s not such an easy task to watch all of it. I don’t see where he has come forward with a good solution for anything…

The only way to stop illegal immigration is if we stop hiring illegal immigrants. Stop giving them jobs. Stop giving them benefits. Stop making it worth their while to cross the border. I don’t think that is going to happen. Nor do I necessarily think it should. They have become a significant part of our workforce. I think we need to figure out a way to integrate the ones that are here, and then provide some sort of incentive for new immigrants to do migrate legally. Because clearly, prohibition isn’t working…

And before you say “Grant them amnesty? Give them an incentive? Preposterous!” think about this. How much of your tax dollars is already currently going to giving illegal immigrants health care? Do you want them to be able to put their share of that cost back into the tax pool? Or do you want to just keep carrying their share of the economic burden for them?

Giuliani vows to stop illegal immigrants – [Yahoo/AP]

07
Aug
07

Constitutional violation solves nothing…

Today I came across an article about a California judge who appears to be able to recognize when an unconstitutional law is being passed, and has the foresight to veto them. This is an unusual development from The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, where local police, activists and Lawmakers seem to have an impressive track record of passing unreasonably draconian, even unconstitutional laws in the name of “The Public Interest”:

A federal judge ruled on Monday a California law to label violent video games and bar their sale to minors was unconstitutional, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to say he would appeal the ruling.

Of course you will.

California passed a law in 2005 regulating video games with strong support from Schwarzenegger, the former star of many violent action films. Legislators argued violent video games could bring psychological harm and spark aggressive behavior in minors.

Can anyone say “Anecdotal Evidence”?

The Video Software Dealers Association and the Entertainment Software Association promptly sued to block the law, arguing their games were protected under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Uh Huh. “Free speech”? That’s your reason? It would probably be mine, but the ESA and VSDA? Yeah… I don’t think so. Now cash flow… That I’d buy…

Judge Ronald Whyte, who had previously granted a preliminary injunction against the law, issued a permanent order that also cited conclusions from judges facing similar laws in other states.

“At this point, there has been no showing that violent video games as defined in the Act, in the absence of other violent media, cause injury to children,” he wrote in his decision. “In addition, the evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, Internet sites or other speech-related exposures.” – [Reuters]

Thank you. Sanity at last. Now I’m not saying the law didn’t have any value to it. The part where developers are required to label them is just common sense. We need to know what kind of content is in the games we give to our kids. But banning them? Who are they kidding? So it’s OK to let my kids watch “Saw” on video, but heaven forbid they play “ManHunt“? Come on!

OK Look. I understand that as a parent, you may be willing to do anything and everything in your power to keep your kids safe. And I agree. Anyone who doesn’t feel this way can’t really be called a parent. The problem arises when you decide that it is OK to violate the rights of others in order to achieve this.

That is a double standard don’t you think? Nobody should violate your (and, by extension, your childrens’) rights, but it’s OK to violate others? Sounds like a double standard to me. If you, as a parent, decide raise your kids on video games, you also have to take the responsibility of talking to them about what exactly they are looking at. The same applies to movies, and even music.

It seems like some parents will bend over backwards to get a movie, album, video game, etc. Off the shelves. The outrage is always fierce and unrelenting. But here’s my question. Why can’t you just talk to your kids about these things? When they leave the house they see these things everywhere. Our culture is permeated with them. We, as adults, have become so desensitized that sometimes we don’t even see it, but it is there.

If your kids don’t learn, early on, about what they are see everyday, and what is right and what is wrong, then how do you expect them to tell the difference? Banning games won’t help you one whit. Denying them TV, radios, computers and video games for the entire tenure of your custody of them won’t save you either. Unless you live in a very, very, isolated community. Instead I see people embark on epic but fruitless crusades against violence in the media, gun control, school practices, regulation, etc. As I have stated in a previous post, I think these are little more than very poor crutches.

The gang member running around with the gun in their waistband was/is someones kid. Just like yours. What kind of lessons do you think he/she learned growing up? Do you think they would be in the gang if they learned from childhood that doing so could easily reduce your life expectancy by 50%? Do you think they would even pick up a gun if they thought there were other, better solutions? It’s hardly the gun we should be worried about. It’s the fact that the kid doesn’t know any better. Why is that?

What they need is education and guidance. And as parents we need to give it to them. No one else can, will, or even should do it for you. Do whatever it takes. And I don’t mean waste time protesting about pointless things. Work less hours, and spend more time with your kids. Engage in more group activities. Have one parent actually stay at home. It doesn’t matter who. Move into a smaller house/apt/condo to make ends meet if you have to. You may physically have less, but I believe the quality of your kids lives will be richer. It’s not always possible, but I submit that they are worthwhile sacrifices.

This is what I believe it means to be a parent. If you really want to protect your kids, I think this is the best place to start. It is no good to provide all of our kids materialistic needs if you fail to teach them about morals, ethics, good bad, right wrong, the light, the dark, all the gray areas in between, and about life in general. I honestly believe this is where we are failing as a country.

Forget about the TV, radio, music, video games, etc. Play with your kids. Talk to your kids. Teach them something positive. That way when you let them loose, you will hopefully be able to worry less about whatever it is they encounter on the street. Yeah. I sound like a bad public service announcement. But there it is.

Judge blocks California’s violent video game law – [Reuters]

06
Aug
07

China’s gentler, kinder side…

China has banned crude birth control advertising slogans for it’s national one child per family policy:

China has banned crude and insensitive slogans promoting the country’s ‘one-child’ family planning policy, such as “Raise fewer babies but more piggies,” which have stoked anger in rural areas, state media said Sunday.

China’s 28-year-old family planning policy limits most urban couples to just one child and allows some families in the countryside to have a second child if their first is a girl.

Critics say that has led to forced abortions and sterilizations and a dangerously imbalanced sex ratio due to the traditional preference for male heirs, which has prompted countless families to abort female fetuses in hopes of getting boys. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now the real reason I posted this was not because of the slogans, but because of the interesting detail that it seems that many Chinese families are aborting female fetuses in order to get boys.

It seems to me that, after a few generations of aborting female fetuses, your overall population production ability would drop dramatically. Which could be a good thing to begin with, but could turn bad really, really, quickly.

And it would suck to try and find a wife if you are a guy, because your selection would be slim to none. I really hope the Chinese what they are doing…

China bans crude birth control slogans – [Yahoo/AP]

03
Aug
07

Forget OLPC! Wealthy mexican man does OSPV…

OK so OSPV is my made up acronym for “One School Per village.” But this article, I think, demonstrates the right way to help developing or impoverished nations learn to stand on thier own. And interestingly, it does not involve every child getting a laptop…

Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim, who is estimated by some calculations to be wealthier than Microsoft founder Bill Gates, said Thursday he did not care if he was the world’s richest person.

“It’s water off a duck’s back to me,” the cigar-smoking Slim told foreign correspondents. “I don’t know if I’m No. 1, No. 20, or No. 2,000. It doesn’t matter.”

 Slim, 67, told foreign journalists at a luncheon on Thursday that making sure his job was compatible with his family or personal life was more important than his wealth.

 Slim said Thursday his charitable foundations planned to invest $300 million in the next few years to build 100 schools in poor regions of Mexico that will focus on digital education. The plan would later be expanded throughout Latin America. – [Reuters]

Mr. Slim appears to be a man who is in touch with the people he is trying to help and has  a good understanding of what is truly needed. No gimmicks, no fancy schmancy technological baubles, nothing that is not self sustainable. Just straight-up education. That’s is what is really needed. A tip of the hat to you sir, a tip of the hat…

I don’t care if I’m richest in world… – [Reuters]




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