Too Much “Entitlement”, How to get your kids to do more

It’s funny how we have been living in families for so many thousands of years, but the modern family is so new that we don’t really understand the dynamics of it.  Our relationships to our partners is new where love as the basis for marriage came around less than 100 years ago.   Our relationships to children is dramatically different, with social influences and online access to information there are many outside influences that we may not agree with.

We are in the age of privilege where entitlement is a common complaint of the upcoming generation.  Kids these days hardly hear the word no, and rarely have to wait to get the toys they want.  It boggles my mind because it seems like we are making the parenting job so much more difficult.

o-TAKE-YOUR-KIDS-TO-WORK-DAY-facebookI agree with child labor laws to prevent us from working our children, but now we also seem to limit their contributions around the house.  As kids help less and less around the house, parents now have to work more to fill in that deficit.  And now that the kids are bored, without a sense of purpose, we have to create positive activities and parents rush around to get their kids to soccer practice on Monday night, Scouts meetings on Tuesday, the Math Tutor on Wednesday, a soccer fundraiser on Thursday, and Joey’s house on Friday night.

Jennifer Senior captured my thoughts exactly in her Ted Talk.  I suggest listening to the excerpt on the TED Radio Hour which interweaves an interview with Jennifer between the TED presentation.  She gets to this point: we have limited our goal of parenting to “Making them Happy.”  Now we all can debate the success of this goal for ourselves, and everyone we know.  But my question is how do we get back to wanting to teach our children “to function as an adult.” I see it in my nephews, and people all around us.  They are not learning to how to make a plan, solve problems themselves, manage finances, challenge advertising claims which may be deceiving.

Well Bruce Feiler’s Ted Talk addresses this issue and proposes a solution.  A way to get your kids to do more that helps out the family, and teaches them responsibility to be successful in life.

Well I might be biased, growing up as the oldest of 5 kids I had the responsibility burden when there were problems in the family.  Some people pity my childhood of cleaning, cooking and laundry for the whole family starting at age 9, but I wouldn’t trade my situation now.  No debt, paid for school, motivated and confident enough to pursue what I think is right for me.  People want to think that they are raising good people, and that is enough.  Well all my siblings are good people because of our family values, so yes that is important.  But one sibling did not get the responsibility role and now struggles to provide for himself and his family.  His work ethic is just a bit different and my parents still support him in various ways.

I think we need to give kids more responsibility, teach them how to get through it, and be supportive as they learn, but continue adding increased responsibility.  We see so many outreach programs for kids that have positive effects, many of them are successful due to the opportunity for responsibility given to young people.  This is the best time for them to learn, we should not rob them of that opportunity.

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When you buy an iPhone, where does the money go?

Where people expect the money goes

Where people expect the money goes

Where the money actually goes

Where the money actually goes

I find this pretty surprising myself.  For the 5 minute explanation from Robert Reich, see this video on Upworthy.com. It’s funny that he talks about the economy and the decrease of unions being linked to income inequality.  Today I saw another video explanation, also by Robert Reich, on the rising gap in the U.S. economy, talking about the number of unions rising after WWI.  It’s part of a series of videos called Inequality for All.  Another in the series talks to some people working at an energy plant, and really brings home the question about corporate profits and what is the value of the work people do.  Productivity has been increasing and stress is so high.  I support the recent discussion to raise minimum wage.  It’s not a simple answer, and it may not fix the problems as John Green explains here.   Personally, I can’t believe Walmart can use the catch phrase “Save Money, Live Better” in their ads, as it turns out, we pay $6,000 or more per Walmart Employees due to their low wages.  The government is busy chasing their own tail in elections, they will never fix the problem, because corporations have no incentive.  But someone out there has the answer, and collectively we have the ability to make things better.  That’s why I have increased my spending at stores offering a decent wage and benefits to their employees.  If it means I have to eat out less to save money, that is fine.  If it means I buy more second hand, no problem.  We have more than any other country in the world, we will not suffer. Personally I love the work Mike Rowe (former Dirty Jobs TV show host) is doing.  His promotion of skilled labor is idea for getting people into decent jobs, and improving the situation in the US.  It’s time we stop doing crappy work because we’re being treated like crap.  Personally, when I go on a construction site, I want to see the work being done well.  Check out his website Profoundly Disconnected.

One last tidbit, how does this relate to health care costs in the US.  Yep, saw a John Green video on that today too.  Because we don’t have bargaining power with the providers of medical devices and medications… sounds a lot like the problem of not having bargaining power for salaries due to the lack of unions.  I wonder…

More Female Engineers!

I am proud to be a female engineer.  We are just as good at engineering as males.  And the engineering world benefits from having a diverse population with different skills and points of view.

This new line of kids toys helps young girls develop an interest in science and math which may lead to an engineering career.  Too many science and math toys are not well suited to connect with the interests of young girls.  These books and building toys go together to make a fun and interactive way for girls to create something.  I was lucky enough to like regular blocky Lego’s when I was young, maybe that explains it all…

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If you agree, click on this link to see the Huffington Post article, and to click the bottom link and vote for this commercial to air during the Super Bowl.

Love their commercial.

I’m Reading a Book…

Yes, this is a real book.  It has paper pages that you turn to see the next chapter.  I can take this book anywhere, and it never runs out of power so I can read it anywhere.  On a sunny beach, during take-off and landing, and in the bath if I’m careful.

reading-in-the-bathNow I happen to own this particular book.  But I also love to get books from the library too.  Thanks to Benjamin Franklin for creating the free library system, we can use books to travel to a new land, to imagine the impossible, to learn the story and lessons from important people, or to teach ourselves something new.  In fact, that’s why Benjamin Franklin created free libraries, so that poor people can get themselves out of poverty by learning a skill or trade.  At the time, books were only available to people with money who could afford to purchase them or join subscription libraries.

So books can help people lift THEMSELVES out of poverty!  But you have to be able to read first. Illiteracy prevents people from reading street signs and bus signs to get around efficiently, from doing simple accounting to make sure they are getting the correct change for a purchase, or from reading the religious manuscript that guides their life.

buildon-worldwide-mapI know a group that has built over 500 schools in rural areas of developing countries around the world.  Right now, 85,060 children, parents, and grandparents attend those schools and learn to read.  First, buildOn meets with the community members and they elect 3 men and 3 women to form a committee.   The committee works with buildOn to coordinate all the details.  Before the construction starts, all of the community members sign a covenant along with the buildOn members, that promises to send boys and girls in equal numbers to the school and other policies.  buildOn works with the local government to ensure that an educator is provided for the school.  After 22 years since the first school was built in a Malawian village, that community now has 4 more just like it that they built themselves.  Students from those schools are able to learn to be teachers, etc.   It has also improved the standing of women in the community, who are in turn speaking out against some of the awful practices committed against women.

So go read a book, and remember how lucky you are to be able to read.

Do you believe in God? Yes, No, or Maybe?

If you believe in God, then maybe it was god speaking to me as I woke up this morning with these thoughts in my head.  If you do not, then it’s my brain assembling the teachings from recent TED Talks in my head.  For you maybes out there, does it matter which is true?

Things in my Head

Our first human instinct is survival. We learn to adapt and persevere in the most desperate of situations.  Three young women in Cleveland, held hostage, near the place they call home, eventually found help to get rescued.

Yet we also hear news about suicides over something as trite as teasing on Facebook. It does not involve physical assaults, and some of these people do have people around them who love them.  How can someone be treated so poorly, that they lose all hope for a better life?

If our instinct to survive is so basic as human nature, how can we continue a lifestyle that threatens and exterminates the worlds biodiversity?  It feels morally wrong to cause, intentionally or by accident, a species to cease to exist on this world.

Humane Connection Blog

Humane Connection Blog

Nature Knows Best- A recent TED Talk I listened to uses sound recordings to show human impact on wild nature. You can imagine the devastating results.  We need to approach our choices and practices with scientific analysis.  And the scientists are learning how each our actions affects nature and its biodiversity.  Another TED Talk describes how the imbalance when a predictor is removed from an ecosystem, such as reduced whale populations in the southern oceans, actually breaks the circle of life and kills off smaller species of that system.  Google images of the “plastic gyre” and you’ll see the island of plastic packaging and containers floating in the ocean.

It’s not just plants and animals that are suffering.  The impact on our water sources, the loss of pollinating bees in agricultural locations, the loss of our protective ozone layer, it affects our Health, our Food Production, and our Bottom Line (dollars).

There are things we can do to help.  No matter your education level or economic status, we all can improve. We all can learn and support the science to a better understanding.

You can do as little as planting flowers in your garden, or buy some organic foods, encourage others to reduce and recycle waste, TEACH children/adults about nature and our effects on nature, stop spraying chemical indoors kills those spiders with a shoe or paper towel, enjoy nature as it has been shown to have a restoring effect on us.  Whether you make little changes in your daily life, or you go back to school to become a Humane Educator, we all have the power to help the world and everything living on it.

Humane Education

indexTo all educators, there is a 4th grade teacher, John Hunter, who includes a World Peace game in the curriculum. The movie and TED Talk are both great ways to hear about the educational experience. I recommend watching the extended trailer (second on this webpage).

It’s funny how much of our development includes winners and losers, in teams or as individuals. This game gives kids an experience where to win, everyone has to prosper and benefit.  It teaches them to think of the impact on others, both in war and prosperity.  They have many world problems to solve including environmental issues etc.  Now watch the film again and remember, these are 4th graders; they are ages 9 and 10.

It’s funny because Mr. Hunter makes a comment in the film about the importance of having a strong relationship with the students, which facilitates their learning.  It reminds me of a TED Talk by Rita Pierson, who shows how human relationships are mechanisms for learning.  She says something to the effect of… we won’t learn anything from someone we don’t like.

IMG_8174_905-350x233Building on this theme, I heard an episode on the radio program State of the Re:Union about an alternative education program for teen mothers.  Holyoke is one of the poorest town in MA, 348 out of 351 on the list; 25% of the population is living below the poverty line.  This is where the Care Center has opened up and helps teen mothers learn the skills needed to be successful in life.  Again, the staff discusses the recipe for success which depends on the attitude of the staff and their ability to connect with these young women.  They go on to discuss a recipe for success…

I’ve been wondering a lot lately, what is the recipe for educational success?  What gives someone the drive to succeed?  Maybe there is a biological aspect, a predisposition for a person to be motivated in their educational pursuits.  But there seems to be big component that is environmental.  What outside factors can we control, to create the most positive outcome?   Humans by nature seem to be inquisitive, and learning begins in the womb, so when does it stop and why for so many people?  Unrelated to teen pregnancy, the number of high school student dropping out in the US results in 1 every 26 students.

A common theme I have been seeing is also described by the radio show host.   Someone, a respected adult, sets the expectation of what the student is able to accomplish, and a support system helps the students make the achievements to achieve success.   Sometimes it just takes one person to make a difference, the power of a good mentor can change a person’s life.  And their success is in their rate of students going on to college; the national rate for teen moms is 2%, but the Care Center rate is 75% of graduates.

The Future of Education – Happy Teachers Day

Thank you to all of the Teachers around the world, who have the most difficult job and one of the most under-appreciated jobs.happy-teachers-day-wallpapers

There is so much research on education, it’s difficult to think we will ever have the right answer.  And maybe that is the answer, that there isn’t a RIGHT answer.

For one, I don’t believe there is a magic formula to achieve universal learning.  People are so different, with strengths and weaknesses, now evaluated by 24 different characteristics, with at least three different learning styles, etc.  But to know where we are going in education, we have to at least know where we are now.

Right now the education system outlines specific goals for each age group, independent of ability, socioeconomic background, support from home, etc.  We then test students on these limited goals which may evaluate knowledge more than intelligence or understanding.

I’m reading How Children Succeed… by Paul Tough, but you can get a snapshot of the book from this New York Times article.  One underlying idea, briefly mentioned, is not that the school environment is not only a place of instruction.  Rather, it’s a place for therapy, where children are improving the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals.  Okay, this idea is also forming from a TED Talk discussion I just listened to on the TED Radio Hour by NPR.  Specifically the talk by Rita Pierson who shows how human relationships are mechanisms for learning.  That’s why some teachers are better for students to learn from, because they are able to develop such strong relationships with the students.  Although it wasn’t discussed in depth, she gives an example of the relationships which address the child’s individual need which allows the child to achieve more in their education.  I think we all sort of knew this, and we know of many great teachers accomplishing this with their students, such as Mr. Foteah who is also a fantastic blogger.

So we go to school for therapy, to address the issues and behavioral problems that interfere with learning.  Now thinking about the future of learning…

In that same collection of TED Talks from the NPR radio show, listen to the bits by Suguta Mitra.  He did some experiments which show how children can teach themselves difficult material.  Even very poor children who have no idea what a computer is or how to speak English.  If you have heard about the Khan Academy, and if you have ever taken an online course, we can see a shift coming in the education system.  People choose what they want to learn, and how they want to learn it.  Salman Khan talks about how his online courses allow students to prep for classroom lectures in advance and teachers now use class time to help students master the skill.  This will allow students to learn at their own pace, and hopefully as the students identifies their best method of learning, they can become more efficient in the learning process.  So the teachers role as an instructor might be reduced even further.  There will be more time to deal with the “therapy work” for students, to help them stay motivated, and help them develop “character” (discussed in the book How Children Succeed).

Not that this is an easy task.  How does one person identify the specific needs of 120 students, and find positive ways to address each of those issues?   But in a way, it’s part of their task now, along with the instructive tasks.

What if education can be a “learn at your own pace” with the instructor meant to get to know you to help you identify challenges and develop methods of overcoming them.  And to help evaluate your learning achievement.  Is that the system we can expect?

Teachings Knowledge or Teaching Skills

230px-Nofretete_Neues_MuseumI distinctly remember my 6t grade social studies assignment to write a research paper on Ancient Egyptian history.  We got to choose our own topic, and I was interested in the Queen Nefertiti who is now more famous than her Pharaoh husband.  Those of you who read my blog, have probably noticed that story telling is not my one of my strengths.  It doesn’t come natural, and it’s only once in a while that I think of a good story to include in my posts.  6th grade was the start of this lifelong battle with writing.  My research involved writing down quotes of important information from various sources, and combining them into the final paper.  I do not recall what preparation and training was provided for this task, but I do remember the note on my graded paper to redo the work and this time write the paper in my own words.  220px-Ankh_isis_nefertariThere is a lot I don’t remember about childhood, but this embarrassment, although not public, has seared this experience into my memory.  And although I cannot say I have mastered the skill, at least I’m conscientious not to plagiarize.

I think growing up, my view of education was that we were taught knowledge.  My view of that particular assignment at the time was that I was supposed to learn facts about Ancient Egyptian history, but now I see how the class was teaching me a skill to be used throughout the rest of my life.  Would I have performed better, had I been focused on the development of the skill rather than the accumulation of knowledge, maybe?

Each grade level and class type during K-12 education will vary in it’s focus.  Math and Science I think are more weighted on teaching knowledge with some skills learned as well, but history and social studies  have the opposite distribution.  Maybe this distinction doesn’t make a difference to students, or educators.  Maybe the educators are completely aware of this and subtly build it into their curriculum so that students have no idea.  But I think I might have learned more, if I realized the necessity of learning skills.

My boyfriend used to teach at the graduate level, thinks that higher education is more focused on the learning of knowledge.  If this were true, then we might expect it could be possible to test through an undergraduate degree.  But to my knowledge, you have to complete equivalent coursework to be eligible for a diploma.   Does this suggest we are more concerned about people learning skills?