Category Archives: Education

Bribery?! Haven’t We Been There, Done That?

The Health section of The New York Times on March 2 debated the usefulness of bribing school children with money, toys, candy and electronic gizmos to have them attain better grades.

When I was in school, it was cute stickers and the pride of getting a good grade that you could brag about that made your parents all sorts of happy.  The good grade was the proximate award for all the hard work.  Getting the reputation as being smart was a good thing, and becoming valedictorian was great, as was qualifying for scholarships of all sizes for college.  Spending a lifetime knowing you worked hard and earned what you had the hard way was the long-term reward.

Now, some geniuses want to rob children of all of that.  These greater minds than ours want children to fight for things of substance (money) rather than for things of glory (purpose).  Not all endeavors have a high rate of financial return:  a hospice worker helps the dying and their families face their fears of death; a fireman runs into burning buildings to save complete strangers from a horrible death; kindergarten teachers introduce our children to the world of budding independence, self-confidence, social maneuvering and the alphabet…and that’s only a few examples.

Frankly, we need more kind and compassionate people than we do more “A” students in this world, as it turns out that the greatest thieves (many CEOs, crooked politicians and Ponzi scheme giants), terrorist masterminds, and general sociopaths all have very high IQ levels and got great grades.

How about us giving financial rewards, candy and electronic gizmos to kids who go out of their way not to bully, tease, steal, lie, sexually harass, or sexually act-out?  Or to those who won’t drink or take drugs or steal or backtalk their elders? 

Would that work, I wonder?

Protecting Electronic Insults Is Insulting

A Connecticut state lawmaker is proposing legislation that would bar schools from punishing students for their electronic insults – even if they write them on class computers during school hours.

This idiocy is in response to the punishment meted out to Avery Doninger, a 17 year old high-schooler who was disciplined in 2007 for writing a blog from home using vulgar language to defame and insult school administrators.

School authorities barred her from running for office at Lewis B. Mills High School in Burlington as a “punishment.”

Her parents – of course– are suing!

I can’t believe I heard the whole thing.

On, almost 100 people put in their two cents; the following was the most cogent of the bunch:

“‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’  As far as I can tell, Congress did not impede on her freedom of speech. The child needs to learn that while she is free to say whatever she feels, there are repercussions to the things we say.”

And there it is.  You have the freedom so say whatever you’d like – without any consequences?  I think not.

Colleges and employers have recourse to Internet records and can judge students by the electronic trail they’ve left behind, according to Tom Hutton, senior staff attorney for the NSBA (National School Board Association).  Well, let that be a lesson to adolescents who feel bigger than their britches with this pending legislation!

The girl’s mother “wished her daughter ‘had used more sophisticated language.’”  Instead of standing by the school punishment to teach her daughter the consequences of not thinking behavior through in advance of indelible actions, she’s making it a cause for free speech. 

Oh please.  It’s another one of those cases of parents defending their children right or wrong because they don’t want any criticism or don’t want to risk their children’s ire by punishing them for wrong- or stupid-doings. 

Imagine if the teacher had put on a website that this girl was a “douche bag.”  Would anyone defend the teacher or would he or she have to take sensitivity classes and then be fired anyway?

We are getting way too far in “The Lord of the Flies” for my tastes.

Solving Lipstick on the Mirror

A listener sent this in and there’s a punch-line:

According to a news report, a certain school in Garden City, MI was recently faced with a unique problem. A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the washroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick, they would press their lips to the mirror, leaving dozens of little lip prints. Every night, the maintenance man would remove them and the next day the girls would put them back.    
Finally, the principal decided that something had to be done. He called all the girls to the washroom and met them there with the maintenance man. He explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, he asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.           
The maintenance man took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.  Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.                                                               
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY:                                                 
There are teachers, and then there are Educators.

Kids and Questions About the Tough Stuff

I’m a licensed psychotherapist (MFT), and I’d like to offer the following to help you parents deal with your children when so much that is scary to them is happening locally and internationally.

It is impossible for your children to not notice things like fires burning homes down, or hearing about gang violence, murders of children, store robberies and the like.  It is natural for parents to want to protect their children from ugly realities and have them immersed in their innocence as long as possible; it’s just a bad idea not to answer their questions, even when the subject matter brings a sense of horror to your own heart.

I’ve gotten a number of emails inquiring about how to answer questions like:  “Why would God let all those homes burn down?”  As children develop their notions of the Divine from whatever house of worship you attend, they tend, with their yet immature perspectives, to equate God with one of the characters in a Disney feature film with a magic wand, carpet or genii.

“Honey, God didn’t burn down anybody’s home; God created all the wonderful trees and flowers, and left it up to us to keep them trimmed, make our homes as fire-safe as possible, and not be careless with fire…as were those college students at the Tea Garden in California.”

An answer such as this places responsibilities on humans to take care of all their blessings, lest unfortunate, sad, and desperate things happen.

“Dad,” your child may have asked after Black Friday, “Why did those people crush the man in Wal-Mart? ” “Sweetie,” sometimes people get so focused on what they want or what they think they need – you know, they get greedy-that they don’t even notice they are hurting other people’s feelings or bodies.”

“Mommy, why are those terrorist people blowing other people up all over the world?”  “My love, there are people who wish to believe that they and their way of living and believing about God is the only way.  When people are unable or unwilling to share the world with others’ beliefs (as long as those beliefs do no harm to others), this is the sort of ugly thing that they do.”

“Mom, will they come here to get us too?”  “Well, sweetie, it is possible and that is why we have so many police all over the world getting information and doing things to stop them.  Since 9/11, we’ve been saved by our government staying alert.  And God forbid, should something more happen here, we will have the courage to stand against it.

I realize I sound like I’m politicizing some of these issues, and I don’t really mean to.  I’m simply pointing out how I believe you, as parents, should handle the questions your children ask.  Don’t hide from the questions; don’t lie for the sake of a false sense of security.  Children need to know – age appropriately – the realities of life within the context of something they can hold on to to feel safe or at the very least, prepared.

Some of the situations you’ll have to contend with are far more personal.  For example, “Why is Mom/Dad leaving us?”  “Grandpa died when he was asleep.  Could I die when I go to sleep?”  “Cousin Andrea is having a baby and she’s only 15 years old.  Can I have a baby, too?”  “Why did Uncle George kill himself?  What made him so sad?  I get sad too sometimes.”

In each situation, you must fill the vacuum of the child’s lack of understanding with something that makes sense – or they will fill it with ideas that are far more destructive than the truth.  Always be reassuring that they are loved, will be taken care of, and that because something happens to someone they love, it doesn’t mean it will happen to them.

And always try to leave a moral message.  For instance, “As for Cousin Andrea, don’t you think it is better for a baby to have a grown-up, married Mom and Dad like you have?”  This answer takes it from the “romantic” and brings it home.

Stop Picking on Boys!

I am so unbelievably sick of academic feminist organizations perpetually whining about their imagined assaults on girls in education.  A long time ago, The American Association of University Women once had me give a keynote speech at one of their luncheons.  I looked around the room of successful and powerful (mostly older) women, and wondered why they had to have a meeting to complain about how difficult it is for women to succeed…when we had a room chock full of women who had incredible accomplishments because of their efforts and sacrifices.

I didn’t get a standing ovation and never got invited back.

The truth interferes with the perpetual “we are victims” mentality of the feminist activists.  Here are the facts:

* 2/3 of all learning disability diagnoses are for boys
* 70 percent of all D’s and F’s go home with boys (they’re not challenged appropriately)
* 90% of school discipline referrals are for boys (it’s hard to make boys sit still)
* 80% of all Ritalin takers are boys (yeah…drug the little buggers into submission – a kind of psychological castration, I’ve always thought)
* 80% of school drop outs…are…boys!
* Fewer than 40% of college students are currently males (making it harder for girls to find a date)

Girls, in general, are surpassing boys in school in all subjects except math and science -  and that gap has been closing quickly

Other facts are that boys are more competitive, energetic, visual, physical, risk-taking and so on than are girls.  Boys need a different learning environment than girls.  The “girly”-oriented educational system in the United States demands that boys become like girls or be medicated.

Boys need more physical movement in the curriculum.  They need recesses to work off that male energy, they appreciate reading more male-friendly subjects, they like projects, and they enjoy competing rather than cooperating and all getting the same grade.  Boys do better with male mentors, and boys need teachers with more of a sense of humor toward “boy antics” without punishment or demeaning reactions.

I believe boys and girls should have separate classrooms, curriculum, teaching styles, and completely different academic environments.

The beginning of the feminist attack on the educational process proclaimed that girls were being short-changed.  Maybe so…and, if so, maybe the best thing for girls is a girl-centered and oriented academic program.