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Archive for the ‘Child Development’ Category

The first crime committed in the Sandusky 2002 child rape scandal was not five adults failing to do the right thing – after the fact.

It was 28-year-old Mike McQueary walking away after witnessing the 58-year-old former coach raping a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State football shower room.

Imagine what lesson was emblazoned on the boy that day.

This story first focused on Joe Paterno, the 84-year-old coach ousted after a storied career. But the story and crime truly begins when former graduate assistant McQueary did nothing to stop the rape of a child in progress.

The criminal indictment of Sandusky says a shaken McQueary first asked his father for advice and then slept on it. It wasn’t until the next day that McQueary told Paterno what he saw. Paterno then told his bosses. Yet no one ever called the police.

And it was 10 days before Penn State officials talked to McQueary and then longer before officials finally banned Sandusky from bringing children onto campus. That ban sent the message that Sandusky’s crimes could continue off campus – as long as they were out of sight and out of mind of Penn State football.

While all the skirting, ducking and pushing under the carpet was going on, a 3rd or 4th grade boy, who had been knowingly raped, was left unprotected. It is sadly obvious that Penn State was acting much the same way the Catholic Church responded when charges of child sexual abuse by priests surfaced.

Penn State continues to care more about the enterprise of football than the atrocities of child rape that allegedly occurred on their campus. Should they have canceled last weekend’s Nebraska game as a statement of solidarity to get this right once and for all, to send the message to fanatical students that child protection is far more important than worshipping football?

But they did not cancel the game. One child, eight children, a hundred children, it doesn’t matter, the game goes on. Is this the same ethical mistake they made in 2002 when State officials chose to lamely ban Sandusky from bringing children onto campus instead of calling police. Once again, they focused on the game, the machinery of making money and pushed the “problem away,” out of sight, out of mind, a clear statement of their priorities.

The boy, now 19, lesson, then and now is the same, that his suffering doesn’t matter, that powerful men get away with crimes, that nothing is more important than money and football, in this case.

When McQueary walked away, he made it clear to the boy who saw him that he was unworthy of the former quarterback’s protection, that he was invisible and forgettable. When Penn State students rioted and pushed over a TV van because they were upset their beloved hero was ousted, the message was clear: “We don’t care about the suffering of children when stacked up against our scared football habit.’’

In the end, the boy is left alone. He has no option but to get up each morning, go to school and probably continue to deal with Sandusky preying on him. And maybe, the boy thought, it was all his fault. Maybe he should have called out, cried “help!” Maybe then the big man with red hair would have done something.

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He was smart, maybe too smart for his own good. He was a listener from a very young age and he thought he understood. He listened because he thought he should, because the tension was there in front of him, being served up daily like his morning cereal. He never thought to go to another room, to hide his self from his parents’ unhappiness. Instead he listened and felt like he was pulling a wagon people were shoveling dirt into, making it impossible to move in any direction.

The problem was probably his intelligence combined with enormous feeling. It would have been easier if he didn’t think so much about why his parents were unhappy or why kids were mean at school or why adults were careless with him and how no one did anything when it was obvious something needed doing.

At first he tried to help his parents see that fighting made them unhappy, and his teachers see that that children were being excluded at recess and not just him. But they nodded dismissively and said, “don’t worry, we’ll handle it,” and they never did.

Instead of getting lost in video games, he worried about why adults weren’t better at being adults. And if adults couldn’t do something, who could, because there was no one else besides kids and adults, he thought. I suppose he might say, if he could articulate his feelings without adult prompting, he felt unsafe, which made him weary, which made him not trust, but no one asked him how he felt and he certainly didn’t think to tell anyone anyway.

At school, he knew he was on his own. Homework was easy and always would be. The real problem was he didn’t have friends. There was no one to play with during recess. The other boys controlled the football and threw to the kids they liked. Every time the ball didn’t come his way, he felt a pain in his head, like they were hitting him even though they weren’t. He looked at the adults looking like everything was fine and instead of asking for help, he told them he felt sick and they sent him to the nurses office.

His strong thinking and feeling moved unobserved through the grades and by 6th grade, a hard crust replaced his once soft malleability; his hard understanding of how the world worked made permanent grooves in his pliant brain.

By 10, his thinking made so much sense; he started to grow a turtle’s shell, a shell strong enough to last his lifetime.

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“In my early teaching years I was in the wrong forest. I paid scant attention to the play and did not hear the stories.” (p. 5)

Vivian Paley taught preschool children for 37 years, much of that time at the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools. She is the only Kindergarten teacher to ever receive one of the MacArthur “genius” grants. In addition to teaching, Paley has written more than 10 books about life in the classroom. The books are:

* White Teacher
* Wally’s Stories
* Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner
* Mollie is Three
* Bad Guys Don’t Have Birthdays
* The Boy Who Would Be A Helicopter
* You Can’t Say You Can’t Play
* Kwanzaa and Me: A Teacher’s Story
* The Girl With the Brown Crayon
* The Kindness of Children
* In Mrs. Tulley’s Room: A Child-Care Portrait

She writes and thinks….

“When I was a new teacher, it was the principals approval I sought. I was afraid of the children.”

“Those of us presume to ‘teach’ must not imagine that we know how each student begins to learn.”

“Teachers announce it, children respond to it…I really think that punishing children for what they have not yet learned, about social behavior or anything else, is completely counterproductive. It creates no useful dialogue.”

“Having given up the time out chair, I needed to replace it with a consistent and positive teaching strategy…I must not do to a child that which I would not have done to me. As my teaching errors have not been punishable by isolation, humiliation, and denial of activity, I would not impose these sentences on children.”

“The children like to dramatize books and fairy tales but are not dismayed if there is time only to read them. Acting them out is better, but listening is usually enough. They feel quite differently about their own stories.”

“Play is the universal learning medium.”

“Play and its necessary core of storytelling are the primary realities in the preschool and kindergarten.”

“There is a tendency to look upon the noisy repetitious fantasies of children as non-educational, but helicopters and kittens and superhero capes and Barbie dolls are storytelling aids and conversational tools.”

“The children have many more safe and ingenious ways to deal with frustrations than I have.”

“Pretend…is the stage upon which any identity is possible and secret thoughts can be safely revealed.”

“The power of fantasy play to restore balance and ballast can never be overestimated.”

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Newsweek Back in 1958, Ted Schwarzrock was an 8-year-old third grader when he became one of the “Torrance kids,” a group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who completed a series of creativity tasks newly designed by professor E. Paul Torrance. Schwarzrock still vividly remembers the moment when a psychologist handed him a fire truck and asked, “How could you improve this toy to make it better and more fun to play with?” He recalls the psychologist being excited by his answers. In fact, the psychologist’s session notes indicate Schwarzrock rattled off 25 improvements, such as adding a removable ladder and springs to the wheels. That wasn’t the only time he impressed the scholars, who judged Schwarzrock to have “unusual visual perspective” and “an ability to synthesize diverse elements into meaningful products.”

The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful, and that’s what’s reflected in the tests. There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).

In the 50 years since Schwarzrock and the others took their tests, scholars—first led by Torrance, now his colleague, Garnet Millar—have been tracking the children, recording every patent earned, every business founded, every research paper published, and every grant awarded. They tallied the books, dances, radio shows, art exhibitions, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies (written or implemented), leadership positions, invited lectures, and buildings designed.

Continue…

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[This is an expanded version of the published article, published in the Post’s Sunday “Outlook” section.]

If the subject is kids and how they’re raised, it seems our culture has exactly one story to tell. Anyone who reads newspapers, magazines, or blogs — or attends dinner parties — will already know it by heart: Parents today, we’re informed, either can’t or won’t set limits for their children. Instead of disciplining them, they coddle and dote and bend over backward to shield them from frustration and protect their self-esteem. The result is that we’re raising a generation of undisciplined narcissists who expect everything to go their way, and it won’t be pretty — for them or for our society — when their sense of entitlement finally crashes into the unforgiving real world.

Read ten articles or books on this topic and you’ll find yourself wondering if a single person wrote all of them, so uniform is the rhetoric. The central premise is that the problem’s dimensions are unprecedented: What’s happening now contrasts sharply with the days when parents weren’t afraid to hold kids to high standards or to allow them to experience failure.

That’s why no generation of teens and young adults has ever been as self-centered as this one. Take it from journalist Peter Wyden, the cover of whose book on the subject depicts a child lounging on a divan eating grapes while Mom fans him and Dad holds an umbrella to protect him from the sun: It’s become “tougher and tougher to say ‘no’ [to children] and make it stick,” he insists.

Or listen to the lament of a parent who blames progressive child development experts for the fact that her kids now seem to believe “they have priority over everything and everybody.”

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ScienceDaily (6/30/09) — When students are underachieving, school policymakers often examine class size, curriculum and funding, but University of Missouri researchers suggest establishing relationships may be a powerful and less expensive way to improve students’ success. In a review of the research they show that students with positive attachments to their teachers and schools have higher grades and higher standardized test scores.

“In this era of accountability, enhancing student-teacher relationships is not merely an add-on, but rather is fundamental to raising achievement,” said Christi Bergin, associate professor in the MU College of Education. “Secure student-teacher relationships predict greater knowledge, higher test scores, greater academic motivation and fewer retentions or special education referrals. Children who have conflicted relationships with teachers tend to like school less, are less self-directed and cooperate less in the classroom.”

The authors summarized a range of research on attachment-like relations with parents, teachers and schools. They found that student attachment influences school success through two routes: indirectly through attachment to parents which affects children’s behavior at school and directly through attachment to teachers and schools. Children with healthy attachment are able to control their emotions and are more socially competent and willing to take on challenging learning tasks in the classroom.

“To be effective, teachers must connect with and care for children with warmth, respect and trust,” said David Bergin, associate professor of educational psychology, and the other author of the article. “In addition, it is important for schools to make children feel secure and valued, which can liberate them to take on intellectual and social challenges and explore new ideas.”

To help enhance student relations, the authors offer research-based tips for teachers and schools:

Teachers

* Increase warm, positive interactions with students
* Be well prepared for class and hold high expectations
* Be responsive to students’ agendas by providing choices
* Use reasoning rather than coercive discipline that damages relationships
* Help students be kind, helpful and accepting of one another
* Implement interventions for difficult relations with specific students

Schools

* Provide a variety of extracurricular activities for students to join
* Keep schools small
* Keep students with the same teachers and/or peers across years
* Decrease transitions in and out of the classroom
* Facilitate transitions to new schools or teachers

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ScienceDaily (12/7/07) — Parents prefer teachers who make their children happy even more than those who emphasize academic achievement, a new University of Michigan study shows.

When requesting a teacher for their elementary school children, parents are more likely to choose teachers who receive high student satisfaction ratings than teachers with strong achievement ratings, said Brian Jacob, the study’s co-author and director of the Center on Local, State and Urban Policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

These findings, however, mask striking differences across schools. Families in higher poverty schools strongly value student achievement and appear indifferent to the principal’s report of a teacher’s ability to promote student satisfaction. The results are reversed for families in wealthier schools.

“The value of this study is that it helps education practitioners and policymakers better understand how factors such as family poverty can influence what parents are looking for in a school,” Jacob said. “While all parents presumably want what is best for their children, this can mean very different things depending on the school and neighborhood context.”

Lars Lefgren, an economist at Brigham Young University, co-authored the study.

The study is the first known review of its kind to examine parents’ preferences using information on parent requests for specific teachers within a school. The sample included more than 300 kindergarten through sixth grade teachers in a mid-sized school district in western United States. This district did not have a formal procedure for parent requests, but parents could submit requests to principals before class assignments were made.

Within a school, there were no differences between more and less advantaged parents who requested a teacher in terms of the value the parents placed on student satisfaction versus student achievement. Continue

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