Archive for the 'Parenting' 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]

02
Jul
08

Your Brain. Use it or Lose it. It’s that simple.

OK, I’m not trying to be flippant about the recent rather horrific tragedy involving a 17 year old boy who was decapitated after he jumped two fences in order to gain entry into a restricted area of the GA Six Flags roller coaster he and his church group were visiting.

It was very much a tragedy, and by all accounts this was a good if a little rambunctious kid. He did, however, make a rather terminal error in judgement that ended his life and left behind traumatized witnesses and family members, some of whom may spend a good portion of their lives trying to recover from the loss. It is a tragedy no matter how you slice it.

But this is not what has me posting today. What Irked me were a couple of videos and posters on youtube who I saw talking about how Six Flags should be sued for insufficient signage and fencing…

LOL… Whut?

Now looky here. I’m sorry, this was indeed a tragedy, but honestly, lets look at the reality of what happened.

This kid ignored multiple signs, and jumped over two fences, for reasons we may never know, to enter an obviously dangerous part of the roller coaster ride. If any of you are thinking “Oh well maybe it wasn’t obvious..” Or “Maybe the signage wasn’t clear enough…”, I’m sorry but you are not using your head.

At least not any more than this kid did. You look both ways before crossing the road right? And watch for trains at a railroad crossing, right? This is no different. In fact there is less preventing you from proceeding across a railroad crossing, than there was between these kids and the restricted roller coaster area, even when a train is approaching.

And yet some people have the ignorance to suggest that maybe there should have been more signs. Or more explicit signs. Or taller fencing. And that Six Flags should be sued. Always blame someone else. That’s our MO these days. We try to blame everyone else for our own laziness, ignorance, failings and weaknesses.

Seriously, how difficult is it for a reasonable person to surmise that if you happen to be standing next to, beneath, below or even just in the vicinity of the rails of a roller coaster, you may be injured if it should come by at the breakneck speeds they are all very well known for? Is that such a leap of logic? Perhaps too challenging a mental exercise?

No. We all know fully well that this kid, for whatever reason, was not thinking about any of that, and was bound and determined to do whatever it is he and his buddy were trying to do. More signs, larger signs, more explicit signs, neon signs,  taller fences, a 10ft florescent colored effigy of Krusty the Clown standing there mindlessly repeating: “Don’t jump the fence, or you’ll end up brain dead, like me!” it won’t matter. Unless you want your amusement parks to look like prison camps, there is not much more they can do.

Please, let’s stop trying to place blame where it doesn’t belong. This kid either lacked the common sense or discipline to prevent him from making what turned out to be a fatal mistake. It is what it is. That is either his fault (youth can be reckless), that of those who raised him or of anyone who was supposed to be watching him. Nobody elses.

I wish these people would put this amount of energy into coming up with ways of making our kids behave better and act smarter, rather than on how to make money from tragic incidents like these…

Teen Decapitated by Six Flags Coaster – [AOL News]

08
Dec
07

Teen MySpace Suicide. Preventable, but not the way you think…

An article today talked about a teen who committed suicide after a rather cruel Myspace prank:

The parents of Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie, who hanged herself last year, said her suicide came minutes after she received mean messages through the social networking site MySpace. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now that is very tragic. Teen suicides are probably the saddest thing that can happen, and probably the most devastating thing that can occur to a parent.

A police report said that a mother from the neighborhood and her 18-year-old employee fabricated a profile for a teenage boy online who pretended to be interested in Megan before he began bullying her. – [Yahoo/AP]

OK now this is just plain mean and senseless. Some people really need to get a life. That 18 year old seriously needs a date or something…

After the case became public, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt asked lawmakers to review state law to see if changes were necessary to better deal with cases that involve Internet bullying. Some municipalities have also considered or passed statutes to strengthen laws that deal with Internet harassement. – [Yahoo/AP]

Ah, of course. The obligatory knee-jerk, parent activist motivated legislative law passing that is bound to bite us in the rear at some point in the future…

What is truly sad about this incident, isn’t that internet laws aren’t tough enough, bullying laws aren’t tough enough or even, as an extreme example of the futility of this kind of lawmaking, that suicide laws aren’t tough enough. The truly sad thing was that the teen wasn’t tough enough.

Here is the thing. I have known kids who were beaten down and abused daily by their parents, who did not kill themselves. I’ve seen kids grow up in environments that would mentally cripple an adult. But they actually became tougher, stronger and more resilient.

When I was growing up, many of my friends and I were subjected to actual physical bullying. Not stupid disparaging emails. Actually, we didn’t have email. I would have preferred to be bullied by email. But the thing is, none of us contemplated suicide, only survival. None of them have committed suicide. Not one.

My point is this. The internet bullying isn’t the big problem. It’s the way kids today are raised. The ones that commit suicide tend to have considered it long before they ever do, and need special treatment. Or even better yet, to have been raised differently.

If it isn’t internet bullying, it will be failing a test, buckling under peer pressure, failing to achieve a goal later in life, who knows. No law will prevent that mindset. But good parenting, and where necessary, the right treatments, can. So let’s quit making stupid knee-jerk laws, and focus on how to treat suicide prone teens, indeed how to properly raise our kids so they don’t become suicide prone teens.

Seriously, if all it takes for your teen to kill themselves are mean emails from someone they really don’t even know, don’t you think there must be something else terribly wrong?

No charges in MySpace suicide case – [Yahoo/AP]

06
Oct
07

We Need BIGGER GUNS!

I ran into another interesting article this morning about a mother who decided to defend her son from bullies. At gunpoint:

The police report says 40-year-old Johnna Briggs pointed the gun at other students getting off the bus and said, “Does anyone have something to say?” – [Yahoo/AP]

Now call me a pacifist if you will but I would have opted to have a few “words” with the bully and his/her parents instead…

But it might be interesting to see the parent of every kid that got bullied in school show up packin’ heat.  It’d be an impressive sight. That’s right. Yeah. Go ahead. Make My Day. Punk…

Mom allegedly flashes gun at bus stop – [Yahoo/AP]

07
Sep
07

The Southwest Airlines morality police…

You know it never ceases to amaze me how seem to think that immorality can be controlled by censorship. Censorship breeds ignorance. Nothing more. And if one day those who have been shielded from the  vices of life should come face to face with it,  do you think that their ignorance will provide them with the mental tools to deal with it correctly? I If were to hazard a guess, I’d say… no.

Americans are really quick to claim to our “individual freedoms”. However too often it seems like everybody thinks that the term “Individual Freedoms” extend no further than their own person. On an almost daily basis I see people trying to enforce their view of morality upon others, and in the process,  trample underfoot the very values they claim to hold dear, restricting what others can and cannot say, write or, for that matter, wear:

 23-year-old woman who boarded a Southwest Airlines plane in a short skirt for a flight to Arizona says she was led off the plane for wearing an outfit that was considered too skimpy.

“You’re dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane,” she quoted the employee as saying.

The employee felt the outfit “revealed too much” but was placated after Ebbert made adjustments that included covering her stomach, Mainz said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now this raises so many issues in my head that it’s almost mind boggling.  Like who determines what is considered too revealing? Too revealing for who? Is there wording in the airline contract that prohibits skimpy clothing? Did this employee have any legal right to even say anything to a passenger about this? Was this employee speaking for the company or was the employee using the airline to back up their own individual moral code?

Now these are all very important moral and legal questions. But what is not so obvious are the underlying assumptions that go into a statement like “This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane.” Are we to assume that family values prohibits the exposure of ones midriff on a plane? And whose values might those be?

And more importantly, shouldn’t the parents of said hypothetical “family” be able to explain to the youth of that family the right and wrong with any given attire? What I am asking, in a kind of round about way, is this: Why do people feel the need to shift the responsibility of parenting to everyone else but the parents? Why did this lady have to endure the humiliation she did?

Notwithstanding that fact that a persons dress code is not an accurate indicator of their morals, I believe that any responsible parent should have taught thier children what is considered appropriate clothing in that particular household, and so this should not have been an issue.

And I mean no offense, but it is only those parents who have not taught their kids what is right and wrong, and how to tell the difference, or who are afraid to openly discuss these topics when they come up (say, while buckling in for a short plane ride) that will have problems with this. And that will be because they are not parenting properly, not because of how someone is or isn’t dressed.

Others should not have to bear the burden of parents who don’t really understand what being a parent means. It is not easy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But no parent should have the right to impinge on anothers’ freedoms just to make the job easier. The end result will be ignorant children, living in a confusing world, without the tools to make the right decisions when faced with crises.

Airline tells woman her outfit won’t fly – [Yahoo/AP]

31
Aug
07

A minor “Hit and Run” with tragic consequences…

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which some people will go to avoid bearing the responsibility of their actions, as displayed by the ff article submitted by a friend:

A woman, fleeing the scene of a wreck that she was involved in, crashed her car into a tree Thursday night, killing her child, police said.

The woman, who was not identified, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. But the boy, believed to be between 5 and 7 years old, died at the scene, said Atlanta police Officer James Polite.

Police said that minutes before the collision, the woman – who has not yet been named – was involved in a minor wreck on Jonesboro Road and Cleveland Avenue in Southeast Atlanta. – [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

You know, even though we don’t know the details of the original accident that caused this woman to decide to flee, and eventually careen out of control, it is easy to see the trail of bad decisions that got her there. First, a “Hit and run” is just plain irresponsible.

We may never know why she decided to run that day, but regardless of who is at fault, if you are involved in a traffic collision, to drive away from the scene without ascertaining the condition and well being of anyone else in the collision is just not acceptable.

But to then decide to drive your vehicle so fast that you lose control of it going round a curve with your young son in the car is just plain negligent. Plain and simple. I firmly believe that the most honest measure of our character can be seen in how we react when we are faced with difficult situations. And to be quite frank, I think this lady was of very poor character. And she paid for her bad decisions with the life of her young son.

Some people seem to think that responsibility is something that can be shucked when it is inconvenient. In fact, the opposite is true. It is at the times when it is the most inconvenient that being responsible is of the greatest value. Is is sad that such a small inconvenience had to cost so much. Had this woman understood that, her son might still be alive today…

Woman kills her child after fleeing minor wreck – [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

30
Aug
07

What kind of kids are we raising?

I think that America, as a culture, we have started down a long slippery slope towards self imprisonment. We are stripping away from ourselves the very freedoms we hold dear. I see it every day. Even in some of the most innocuous things:

On the playground of a northern Colorado Springs elementary school, tag is not “it.”

The touch-and-run game and any other form of chasing was banned this year at Discovery Canyon Campus’ elementary school by administrators who say it fuels schoolyard disputes.

“It causes a lot of conflict on the playground,” said Assistant Principal Cindy Fesgen. In the first days of school, before tag was banned, she said students would complain to her about being chased or harassed.

Fesgen said she would hear: “Well, I don’t want to be chased, but he won’t stop chasing me, or she won’t stop chasing me.” – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Is this what we want our kids to do? How do we expect our kids to learn anything about people and life, if every time they run into a problem we ban it wholesale? How are they going to learn how to deal with each other? Learn how to handle people and their idiosyncracies? When will they understand that not everything is going to go our way, and that not everything is under our control?

And even worse, how do we teach those kids what they can and cannot do? How do we teach kids that you cannot harass someone just because? Banning tag isn’t going to teach that. All this teaches them is if you don’t like it, get it banned. No tolerance, no patience, no  understanding. Nothing else will be learned by this action. The playground will have one less game, and the children will have one less avenue  to learn about others and themselves.

 Nationally, several schools have done away with tag and other games because of the accidents and arguments they can lead to. It’s a trend that has rankled some parents and childhood experts who say games such as tag contribute to children’s social and physical development. – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Apparently, even childhood experts can see the flaw in this way of thinking. And yet we have schools, communities, cities, states and even federal legislation that allow exactly the same thing to happen on a national level. What’s the betting that this is all fueled by the same mentality? People don’t seem to be able to see the big picture. It may sound like an unlikely slippery slope, but at the rate we are going, sooner or later, we will legislate ourselves out of our own personal freedoms.

Believe it or not. Your choice. But I have seen enough insanity to tell me that it’s possible. I can only hope we either come to our senses, or I’m not around when we finally lock ourselves in and throw away the key…

Springs elementary gives tag a timeout – [Colorado Springs Gazette]




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