Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New research on College Learning

Have you seen the new research on learning in college.  45% of students tested had not learned much in their first two years over what they knew in high school.  Let's look at a couple of additional factors: 
  • The first two years are usually spent taking general education courses which are repeats of much of what they took in high school.
  • We let almost anyone into college within our system.  No student left behind.
  • Many universities use Graduate teaching assistants for entry level classes.
  • There is no distinction between the big boys (research institutions) and the regional institutions (those who have a focus on teaching over research and who use far fewer TA's.

It would be interesting to see the data and break it down more than is being done where everything is painted with a broad brush.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


How do we end up with hyper-parenting:
1.  "We want our children to have the best of everything and to be the best at everything.  We want them to be artists, academics, and athletes, to glide through life without hardship, pain, or failure."

2.  "Schools, churches, grandparents, etc. are all involved in hyper-parenting.  Each is seeking to manage children's lives so that they don't make mistakes or suffer by making bad choices."

3.  "This is the first generation to star in their own version of the Truman Show."

4.  "To recruit college students, some blue-chip companies have started sending out "parent packs" or holding open-house days when Mom and Dad can vet the company for their children."

5.  "By any yardstick, we are raising the most wired, pampered, and monitored generation in history."

6.  "Children from homes with an annual income between $120,000 - $160,000 are three times more likely to become depressed or anxious than their less affluent peers."

7.  "Employers complain that new recruits are less flexible, less able to work in teams, and less hungry to learn.  Raised on a pedestal, children come to expect the world to fall at their feet - and they get angry when it doesn't.  They don't want to take risks as they have been told that they dare not veer off of the safe line that their parents and others have planned for them."

8.  "Reared on someone else's definition of success, with failure not an option, children can also end up with narrow horizons.  At a time when the global economy is crying out for risk-takers, we are teaching our children to play it safe, to follow the path handed down by others."

9.  "When adults hijack childhood, children miss out on the things that give texture and meaning to a human life - the small adventures, the secret journeys, the setbacks and mishaps, the glorious anarchy, the moments of solitude and even boredom.  The message sinks in at a very young age that what matters most is not finding your own way, but putting the right trophy on the mantelpiece, ticking the right box instead of thinking outside the box."

10.  "Bubble-wrapping children drains the life from public spaces.  Look around neighborhoods and do you see children out playing.  We have taught children that the outside, unplanned world is a scary place and that they are better off in front of a computer or TV."

11.  "Children thrive when they have the time and space to breathe, to hang out and even to get bored, to relax, to take risks and to make mistakes, to dream and have fun on their own terms, even to fail."

Notes are reactions based on Under Pressure by Carl Honor'e

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How about this thing called hyper-parenting

I am reading a book that talks about hyper-parenting, helicopter parents or what is known in Scandinavian countries as curling parents.  I like that term as it is easy to picture parents sweeping all of their children's problems out of the way before the child runs into them.  Some parents might think, "Why not?" or "Aren't there enough issues that our children will come in contact that it won't hurt to remove some of their roadblocks?"  Granted not all parents who are deeply invested in their child's life goes way overboard.  However much like other issues every parent looks at others and sees that they have the problem.  Here is a conversation I had with a parent a few years ago:

The parents finally called me after first calling the Dean, Provost and President of the university's office.  Their daughter was failing in one of her general education courses and the parent wanted either the daughter's grade changed or the faculty member fired.  The mom explained that when she was in college her advisor let her redo all of her assignments as many times as she wanted until she got an A in every class.  The father said that he would not donate any money to the university because of the situation.  Guess what?  The parents had never donated money before and the daughter had missed 40% of the class. 

The question becomes, how did we get to this point where we hear reports of parents going with their college graduates to job interviews and negotiating their child's salary and benefits?  It starts with how we view our children as infants and toddlers.  It is understandable to be proud parents and to want children to have a stimulating and enriched environment.  It is another to be worried about if their child might not be happy all of the time.  Children learn how to handle distress by handling distress.  Going back to what we know from theory, children need a balance of trust and mistrust (this is not a 50/50 balance but somewhere between 75/25 and 90/10.  They need autonomy but also some level of doubt.  They need their opportunity from the earliest years and all through their life to eat some dirt, to take some bumps and bruises, and to get up when they fall down.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My daughter will be 2 in February. She really hasn't eaten well for the past year. She would usually eat about 8 things and that was it, but she loved healthy stuff for the 8 items so I didn't worry too much. But now she will hardly eat anything! We are lucky now to get her to eat a bite of toast at breakfast, a few chunks of apple at lunch, and some crackers and peanut butter on a spoon at dinner. That's pretty much what she'll touch these days. Any ideas??? We ask her if she wants this or that and she just freaks out screaming and gets mad. She is starting to learn to talk a tiny bit but she does knows signs for a lot of foods and no matter how we approach meal time she freaks out! All she's had today (almost 11 am) is a bite of toast, her vitamin, and a cup of milk.

Do you have any brilliant ideas of new ways we can approach mealtime with her to get her to even try something new? We offer whatever we are eating and she swats it away and says no without even tasting it. I just don't get it!
Answer:  Generally young children while not necessarily eating what and as much as parents would like, do eat as much as they need at that time.  It may go down for a couple of days but usually picks back up again.  Anytime the lack of eating much lasts more than a few days it is worth talking with the pediatrician about.  Observe for other things like stomach discomfort, lethargic behavior, etc.  Is she sleeping well?  Is an appropriate amount coming out reflective of what has gone in?  How is her weight?
If is was just finicky eating then "no thank you helping" help (small amounts that the child needs to eat before moving on.)  How much is she drinking?  Look at how she reacts to choices (fresh fruit bits versus fruit flavored snacks) (animal crackers versus graham crackers).  All of your observations should be shared with the doctor.