From Bahamian Folklore a New Children’s Book by Dr. Sa and Durelle Williams

THE ADVENTURES OF BOUKI AND RABBY:

COTTAGE IN THE CLOUDS

Bouki, a greedy cowardly goat, and Rabby, a witty courageous trickster are long time friends. On the search for food, the two buddies find themselves in a spirit cottage. However, the occupants are on their way home! The two have a history of beating the odds but this one might take more than luck.

Bouki and Rabby are beloved characters in Bahamian Folklore. After reading this hilarious misadventure they will be two of your favorites!

Available at Amazon.com in paperback and on Kindle

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Music Training Boosts Children’s Academic Performance (IQ, focus and persistence)

American education is in perpetual crisis. Our students are falling ever farther behind their peers in the rest of the world. Learning disabilities have reached epidemic proportions, affecting as many as one in five of our children. Illiteracy costs American businesses $80 billion a year.

Many solutions have been tried, but few have succeeded. So I propose a different approach: music training. A growing body of evidence suggests that music could trump many of the much more expensive “fixes” that we have thrown at the education system.

Plenty of outstanding achievers have attributed at least some of their success to music study. Stanford University’s Thomas Sudhof, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine last year, gave credit to his bassoon teacher. Albert Einstein, who began playing the violin at age 6, said his discovery of the theory of relativity was “the result of musical perception.”

Until recently, though, it has been a chicken-and-egg question: Are smart, ambitious people naturally attracted to music? Or does music make them smart and ambitious? And do musically trained students fare better academically because they tend to come from more affluent, better educated families?

New research provides some intriguing answers. Music is no cure-all, nor is it likely to turn your child into a Nobel Prize winner. But there is compelling evidence that it can boost children’s academic performance and help fix some of our schools’ most intractable problems.happy violin

Music raises your IQ.

E. Glenn Schellenberg, a University of Toronto psychology professor, was skeptical about claims that music makes you smarter when he devised a 2004 study to assess its impact on IQ scores. He randomly assigned 132 first-graders to keyboard, singing or drama lessons, or no lessons at all. He figured that at the end of the school year, both music and drama students would show bumps in IQ scores, just because of “that experience of getting them out of the house.” But something unexpected happened. The IQ scores of the music students increased more than those of the other groups.

Another Canadian study, this one of 48 preschoolers and published in 2011, found that verbal IQ increased after only 20 days of music training. In fact, the increase was five times that of a control group of preschoolers, who were given visual art lessons, says lead researcher Sylvain Moreno, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He found that music training enhanced the children’s “executive function”—that is, their brains’ ability to plan, organize, strategize and solve problems. And he found the effect in 90% of the children, an unusually high rate.

Music training can reduce the academic gap between rich and poor districts.

The Harmony Project in Los Angeles gives free instrument lessons to children in impoverished neighborhoods. Margaret Martin, who founded the program in 2001, noticed that the program’s students not only did better in school but also were more likely to graduate and to attend college.

To understand why, Northwestern University neurobiologist Nina Kraus spent two years tracking 44 6-to-9-year-olds in the program and then measured their brain activity. She found a significant increase in the music students’ ability to process sounds, which is key to language, reading and focus in the classroom. Academic results bore that out: While the music students’ reading scores held steady, scores for a control group that didn’t receive lessons declined.music1

Prof. Kraus found similar results in a 2013 study published in Frontiers in Educational Psychology of 43 high-school students from impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago. Students randomly assigned to band or choir lessons showed significant increases in their ability to process sounds, while those in a control group, who were enrolled in a junior ROTC program, didn’t. “A musician has to make sense of a complicated soundscape,” Prof. Kraus says, which translates into an ability to understand language and to focus, for example, on what a teacher is saying in a noisy classroom.

Music training does more than sports, theater or dance to improve key academic skills.

Last year, the German Institute for Economic Research compared music training with sports, theater and dance in a study of 17-year-olds. The research, based on a survey of more than 3,000 teens, found that those who had taken music lessons outside school scored significantly higher in terms of cognitive skills, had better grades and were more conscientious and ambitious than their peers. The impact of music was more than twice that of the other activities—and girl violinheld true regardless of the students’ socioeconomic background.

To be sure, the other activities also had benefits. Kids in sports also showed increased ambition, while those in theater and dance expressed more optimism. But when it came to core academic skills, the study’s authors found, the impact of music training was much stronger.

Music can be an inexpensive early screening tool for reading disabilities.

Brazilian music teacher Paulo Estevao Andrade noticed that his second-grade students who struggled with rhythm and pitch often went on to have reading problems. So he invented a “game” in which he played a series of chords on a guitar and asked his students to write symbols representing high and low notes. Those who performed poorly on the exercise, he found, typically developed severe reading problems down the line.

Intrigued, he joined with Nadine Gaab, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, to follow 43 students over three years, and they found that the test predicted general learning disabilities as well. Why? Mr. Andrade notes that the brain processes used in the music test—such as auditory sequencing abilities, necessary to hear syllables, words and sentences in order—are the same as those needed to learn to read. Prof. Gaab says the test, which is simple and inexpensive to administer, has great potential as a tool for early intervention.

Music literally expands your brain.

In a 2009 study in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers used an MRI to study the brains of 31 6-year-old children, before and after they took lessons on musical instrument for 15 months. They found that the music students’ brains grew larger in the areas that control fine motor skills and hearing—and that students’ abilities in both those areas also improved. The corpus callosum, which connects the left and right sides of the brain, grew as well.

Ellen Winner, a Boston College psychology professor and co-author of the study, notes that the study doesn’t show a rise in cognitive abilities. But she argues that music shouldn’t have to justify itself as an academic booster. “If we are going to look for effects outside of music, I would look at things like persistence and discipline, because this is what’s required to play an instrument,” she says.girlpiano

Yet music programs continue to be viewed as expendable. A 2011 analysis in the Journal of Economic Finance calculated that a K-12 school music program in a large suburban district cost $187 per student a year, or just 1.6% of the total education budget. That seems a reasonable price to pay for fixing some of the thorniest and most expensive problems facing American education. Music programs shouldn’t have to sing for their supper.

Original article: J. Lipman, Wall Street Journal

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The Best Mentor: Qualities to look for

Over the past decade or two, the idea of mentoring has become increasingly popular.  Lots of companies now offer mentoring programs, where executive-level professionals support their younger colleagues’ success. Mentoring programs have been created specifically for women, people of color, the disabled, and other groups for whom having a supportive and knowledgeable advisor might be especially helpful. Youth mentoring has evolved as a means to help young people understand how to operate in the grown-up world.

However, the tradition of having someone to support you with his or her wisdom and experience is probably as old as the human race. In any tribal society, younger members depended upon the older members to pass on their hard-won knowledge and insight about how to stay safe, find food and shelter, understand the world around them.mentor1

The word “mentor” as applied to such a person has its roots in Greek mythology. In the Odyssey, Mentor was a character who advised and protected Odysseus’ son Telemachus.  Then, in 1699, a novel called Les Aventures de Télémaque, (“The Adventures of Telemachus”), included the character of Mentor as Telemachus’ tutor. He was the hero of the story, and the modern usage of the term “mentor” seems to have arisen from that book.

So, finding and having a mentor isn’t just a modern fad; it’s a time-honored practice that has served us well for  many thousands of years. And as with most things, there are good mentors and there are not-so-good mentors.  What can you do to make sure you’re getting one of the good ones?

Over the years, as I’ve observed mentoring relationships of various sorts, and have been asked by others to mentor them, I’ve noticed some qualities that seem to distinguish truly good and helpful mentors from those who are indifferent – or even harmful.  Based on that experience, here are five core qualities to look for in a mentor:

Self-reflection:  If you want someone to share their wisdom with you, they need to have wisdom to share. Some people simply don’t spend much time thinking about their own experience; a person can be quite knowledgeable and successful without having reflected much on how they got where they are today.  However, just hearing about what someone has done is much less valuable than hearing about why they did it, and about their understanding of why it worked or didn’t work. My father, one of my most important mentors, was great at seeing the key patterns and principles in his own experience, and passing those on to me. His insights about his life have helped me avoid mentor 2innumerable pitfalls in my own life.

Discretion: In a good mentor relationship, you need to be able to be honest about your own life and circumstances – and you need to be confident that your revelations won’t go beyond your mentor.  If he or she can’t be trusted to keep confidences, your relationship will be superficial at best – damaging at worst.  I know of one mentee who shared with his mentor, in confidence, his frustrations about his boss’ poor delegation — only to discover, when he was later called on the carpet, that the mentor had told his boss. The mentor said that she’d done it to “create more openness between them” – but, unfortunately, that strategy backfired, and the mentee was left with a worse relationship with his boss than before.

Honesty: If you’re brave enough to ask your mentor for advice, he or she needs to be brave enough to give you a straight answer. If you’re contemplating taking a new job, for instance, and you explain the situation and ask for your mentor’s point of view – he or she should give it to you, unvarnished.  I was in that situation a few years ago, and told my mentee that it didn’t sound like a great opportunity; I thought she was overqualified, and would soon be bored with the job.  She responded that, while she agreed, she believed she could quickly get promoted. I encouraged her to look more closely at that part of the organization and decide whether that was a realistic expectation, or wishful thinking on her part.  She ultimately chose not to go for the job, because on deeper exploration it looked as though there was
actually very little possibility for advancement.

Curiosity: This one may seem counter-intuitive – isn’t it the mentee’s responsibility to be curious about the mentor? mentorpuzzle Yes. And…if the mentor isn’t curious about you: who you are, how you’re wired, what’s important to you, what you’ve done so far and how it’s working for you – it’s unlikely his or her advice will be very helpful.  It will more likely be generic wisdom that won’t be targeted to you at all.  One mentee was thrilled to be connected with a very senior, very experienced executive in his organization. But after the first few months of being dazzled by the big names and big experiences the mentor threw around, the mentee realized that she knew nothing about him, and wasn’t sharing anything much that he could apply to his own career.

Generosity of Spirit: This is essential.  A great mentor wants you to succeed, and he or she will actively support your success with words and action. The great mentor will never be envious or feel threatened by your growth; he or she will congratulate you on your triumphs and help you recover from your setbacks. The generous mentor will make connections or offer resources that could be useful to you whenever he or she can. Most important, a generous mentor believes in your potential, and communicates that to you freely and with hope. The generous mentor supports you to become the person you want to become.

Having a mentor can be helpful; having a mentor who is self-reflective, discreet, honest, curious, and generous can be life-changing.

 

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Black America’s Precarious Relationship with Upward Mobility

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, have once again made the nation consider the durability of racial injustice as a defining factor of the American experience. Black children go to increasingly segregated schools, experience significantly less mobility than whites and are far more likely to be incarcerated for nonviolent crimes. The American Dream has always been defined by upward mobility, but for black Americans, it’s harder to get into the middle class, and a middle-class lifestyle is more precarious.Little grads

There are numerous factors that help explain why blacks have lower levels of upward mobility, but a surprisingly unpersuasive one is family structure. Conservatives like to tout the research of Raj Chetty and others who find that, “The fraction of children living in single-parent households is the single strongest correlate of upward income mobility among all the variables we explored.” But this observation comes with a caveat — children in two-parent households fare worse in areas with large numbers of single parents. There is reason to believe the causation is reversed. Rather than single-parent households causing low upward mobility, low upward mobility and rampant poverty lead to single-parenthood.

Two researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research — Melissa Schettini Kearney and Phillip B. Levine – find that single motherhood is largely driven by poverty and inequality, not the other way around. They write:

The combination of being poor and living in a more unequal (and less mobile) location, like the United States, leads young women to choose early, non-marital childbearing at elevated rates, potentially because of their lower expectations of future economic success.

A report by the British Rowntree Foundation had a similar finding: “Young people born into families in the higher socio-economic classes spend a long time in education and career training, putting off marriage and childbearing until they are established as successful adults.” Women in the slow track, in contrast, face “a disjointed pattern of unemployment, low-paid work and training schemes, rather than an ordered, upward career trajectory.” This is largely due to “truncated education.”

Most recently, Bhashkar Mazumder finds that, among those between the late 1950s and early 1980s, 50 percent of black children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income scale remained in the same position, while only 26 percent of white children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income scale remained in the same position. His research finds that the role of two-parent families for mobility is less important than conservatives assert. While living in a two-parent households increases upward mobility for blacks, it has no effect on upward mobility for white children, nor does it affect downward mobility for either race. If marriage has a significant effect, it is not marriage per se, but rather income and parenting effects that are at work; married people by default have more incomes and more time to spend with children. The solution, then, is paid leave, universal pre-K and government-provided daycare, not wealthy conservatives clutching their pearls and chastising young people for not getting hitched.

So, marriage fails to explain black-white gaps in mobility. What, then, is responsible for the lack of upward mobility among blacks?

1. Housing segregation

Racial segregation explains how it’s so easy for the black middle class to slip back into poverty. As sociologist John R. Logan writes, “The most recent census data show that on average, black and Hispanic households live in neighborhoods with more than one and a half times the poverty rate of neighborhoods where the average non-Hispanic white lives.” This has profound implications for upward mobility.

A 2009 study by Patrick Sharkey finds that, “Neighborhood poverty alone accounts for a greater portion of the black-white downward mobility gap than the effects of parental education, occupation, labor force participation, and a range of other family characteristics combined.” Sharkley finds that if black and white children grew up in similar environments, the downward mobility gap would shrink by 25-to-33 percent. As the chart below shows, black children are far more likely to grow up in high poverty disadvantaged neighborhoods, which makes upward mobility difficult. (Source)

2. War on drugs and mass incarceration

The war on drugs disproportionately targets people of color: One in 12 working-age African-American men are incarcerated. While whites and blacks use and sell drugs at similar rates, African-Americans comprise 74 percent of those imprisoned for drug possession. The U.S. prison population grew by 700 percent between 1970 and 2005, while the general population grew only 44 percent. The effects of incarceration on upward mobility are profound.

Bruce Western finds that, “by age 48, the typical former inmate will have earned $179,000 less than if he had never been incarcerated.” This impact, however, is more profound for blacks. Western finds that incarceration reduces lifetime earnings for whites by 2 percent, but Hispanics and blacks by 6 percent and 9 percent, respectively. All of this means that men who are incarcerated will live a life at the bottom. For men who begin life in the lowest income quintile, only 2 percent of those who are incarcerated will make it into the top fifth, while 15 percent of those who are not incarcerated will.

3. Segregated employment opportunities

In “When Work Disappears,” Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson points to the importance of occupational segregation — the fact that African-Americans who are often concentrated in poor urban areas struggle to get jobs in the suburbs or places with a long commute. Only 2.9 percent of white workers rely on public transportation, compared to 8.3 percent of Latino workers and 11.5 percent percent of black workers.

An excellent example of occupational segregation is in Silicon Valley, where data released after pressure from advocacy groups like Color of Change suggests that at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google and eBay, only 3 to 4 percent of workers are black or Hispanic. However, a study by Working Partnerships USA finds that, “While blacks and Latinos make up only 3 to 4 percent of the disclosed companies’  core tech workforce, they are 41 percent of all private security guards in Silicon Valley, 72 percent of all janitorial and building cleaning workers, and 76 percent of all grounds maintenance workers.” (Source)

Much of the problem is social networks. Recent research by Nancy DiTomaso finds that favoritism perpetuates inequality, even in the absence of racial bias. She finds that most employees relied on social networks to obtain a majority of the jobs they held in their lifetime. Because social networks tend to be segregated, this fosters occupational segregation. Miles Corak shows that many children get their first job through their parents, further solidifying the effect of social networks on occupational segregation.

Marianne Bertrand finds that changing the names on résumés to those that are traditionally white or black affects call-backs for jobs. White-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview. She also finds that whites with better résumés were 30 percent more likely to get a call-back than whites with worse résumés, but for blacks, more experience only increased call-backs by 9 percent. Another barrier to employment can be social networks.

4. Wealth gaps

Wealth is an important part of a middle-class lifestyle. When a family or individual is struck with illness or the loss of a job, wealth provides support. When a child attends college or is trying to get on his or her feet, a family with wealth can help pay the bills. The large wealth gaps between black families and white families, then, helps explain why black families have such high levels of downward mobility. The recently released Survey of Consumer Finances allows us an opportunity to examine wealth gaps. Matt Bruenig finds that, “The median white family has a net worth of $134,000. The median Hispanic family has a net worth of $14,000. The median black family has a net worth of $11,000.”

Between 2007 and 2010, all racial groups lost large amounts of wealth. However, the effects fell disproportionately on Hispanics and blacks, who saw a 44 percent and 31 percent reduction in wealth, compared to an 11 percent drop for whites. This was due to blacks and Latinos disproportionately receiving subprime loans, both because of outright lending discrimination and housing segregation. A recent research brief by the Institution on Assets and Social Policy finds that the wealth gap between white families and African-Americans has tripled between 1984 and 2009. They find five main factors responsible for driving the gap, which together explain 66 percent of the growth in inequality. The factors, in order of importance, are number of years of homeownership, household income, unemployment, college education and financial support or inheritance.

5. Two-tiered education system

The U.S. increasingly has a two-tiered education system, with students of color trapped in underfunded schools. (Source)  A recent study finds that, “schools with 90 percent or more students of color spend a full $733 less per student per year than schools with 90 percent or more white students.”

Schools today are becoming more segregated, rather than less segregated. The average white student attends a school that is 72.5 percent white and 8.3 percent black, while the average black student attends a school that is only 27.6 percent white, but is 48.8 percent black. These schools are underfunded and understaffed. In 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit after 18 public schools had “literature classes without books,” computer classes where students discuss what they would do if they had computers, “classes without regular teachers” and classes without enough seats where students stood in the back.

Mazumder finds that student scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (a comprehensive test taken toward the last few years of high school) can help explain differences in upward mobility between blacks and whites. He also finds that completing 16 years of education is a crucial factor in upward mobility. The fact that AFQT scores help predict upward mobility is often used by those who argue that racial differences in intelligence largely explain differences in upward mobility. However, since the AFQT is taken in high school, a better explanation is that differences in AFQT scores represent the combined impacts of poverty, bad schools, wealth gaps, substandard healthcare and segregated employment opportunities working together to reduce long-term mobility.

The idea that there are biological factors reducing upward mobility for African-Americans is both odious and entirely false. As Nathaniel Hendren told me when discussing his research:

We can absolutely reject that theory. In order to believe that theory, you have to believe that the spacial differences across the U.S. are differences in some kind of transmission of genes. Suppose you move from one area to another and you have a kid. Does your kid pick up the mobility characteristics of the place you go to? Now obviously, your genes don’t change when you move. What we find is that kids start to pick up the mobility characteristics of the place they move to, and they do so in the proportion to the amount of time they end up spending in that place. The majority of the differences across places are casual. If people lived in different places, they would have different outcomes.

This all leads to the saddest conclusion — were it not for poorly conceived policies, we could have more upward mobility in the U.S. While conservatives like to point at cultural factors and throw up their hands, a far more productive solution is to redress our massive public policy problems — like the war on drugs and dropout mill schools — that are proven to reduce upward mobility.

The conservative mind-set is ahistorical — we are told to throw away the legacy of slavery and segregation and expect blacks to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, ignoring the structural dynamics keeping them down. Research by Graziella Bertocchi and Arcangelo Dimico finds that counties with higher concentrations of slave ownership in 1870 had higher levels of poverty and racial inequality in 2000. Matthew Blackwell finds that Southerners who live in counties with higher levels of slave ownership in 1860 express more racial resentment and are more likely to oppose affirmative action. As Marx noted, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

This article originally appeared on Salon.

(Sean McElwee)

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Militarization of U.S. Schools: Books and M16s

Although many Americans are aware that their local police forces are steadily acquiring military-grade weapons from the Pentagon, news that local school districts are also the beneficiary of the firepower is eliciting an outcry from citizen groups.

Just one month after the shooting death of African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer, which brought military-grade vehicles and weapons onto the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in response to an outbreak of protests and riots, Americans are wakening to the realization that their school districts are also being militarized.

At least 26 school districts have participated in the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which since the 1990s has provided free military surplus goods, including mine-resistant armored vehicles, grenade launchers and M16 rifles.

Last week, for example, the San Diego Unified School District Police Department (SDUSD) announced that it had received from the federal government a $733,000-dollar Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) similar to those used in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In June, the Los Angeles Unified School District also received a MRAP.

Although the 18-ton vehicle does not come with any weapons, citizens and watchdog groups are wondering exactly what type of emergency would require the use of an armored vehicle.

Although America’s localized arms race has been explained as a way for helping police fight against terrorists and drug cartels, the militarization of school police departments has been explained by incidences of violence on school grounds, most notably the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which left 15 dead, including the two perpetrators of the shooting spree, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

This week, almost two dozen educational and civil rights groups sent a letter to Pentagon officials, urging them to halt the controversial practice of militarizing US school police departments, which have been reported in California, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Florida, Georgia, Kansas and Michigan.

“Adding the presence of military-grade weapons to school climates that have become increasingly hostile due to their over-reliance on police to handle routine student discipline can only exacerbate existing tensions,” said the protest letter, signed by a number of groups, including the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Children’s Law Center and Public Counsel.

Democratic congressman Adam Schiff said while there was a role for surplus military equipment going to local police forces, “it’s difficult to see what scenario would require a grenade launcher or a mine-resistant vehicle for a school police department.”

The call for school police departments to return the military equipment they received from the Pentagon has been met with a mixed response.

Rick Stelljes, the chief of Florida’s Pinellas county schools police, said he had acquired 28 semi-automatic M16 rifles through the program. Although the firearms designed specifically for battlefield conditions have never been used, they are “something we need given the current situation we face in our nation. This is about preparing for the worst-case scenario,” Stelljes told AP.

Jill Poe, police chief in southern California’s Baldwin Park school district, said she would be handing over three M16 rifles acquired under her predecessor.

“Honestly I could not tell you why we acquired those,” Poe said. “They have never been used in the field and they will never been used in the field.”

President Barack Obama in August ordered a review of federal programs that allow state and local law enforcement to acquire military-grade weapons and equipment.

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Hovering and Smothering: ‘How helicopter parents are ruining college students’

Attention, parents of college students.

Say your kid has a problem with a roommate. Maybe one “borrowed” his favorite t-shirt. Maybe your daughter’s roommate leaves old, stinky Chinese take out in the mini-fridge. Perhaps your child is so upset about this he texts you five times a day to complain.

Here’s the thing: Don’t call the college president to ask him to handle the situation. (Yes, that happens.)

Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State University, has had parents call him at his office to talk about a squabble their child is having with a roommate. “Don’t you trust your child to deal with this on his own?” he asks. “Rather than telling a son or daughter to talk to a [resident assistant] or [resident director], parents will immediately call my office. And that I consider to be a little over the top.”Helicopter-Parent

A little over the top, yes. But also the way things are now for many people. The kids who have been raised by parents who watched their every move, checked their grades online hourly, advocated for them endlessly and kept them busy from event to activity to play date are tucked away in college. But that doesn’t mean their parents have let go. They make make themselves known to schools, professors, counselors and advisors. And yes, college presidents.

But those parents are forgetting some very important lessons in Parenting 101, and that is how to help a child learn how to really thrive.

“When I was going to college in 1975… my mother helped me unload into the dorm room, put a note on the door saying this is the way we wash our clothes,” Gibralter said. “I didn’t find out until years later that she cried all the way home because she realized I was going to be independent.”

Oh, it is more than difficult to let go. But saying goodbyes at the dorm and then giving that little bird a push is what will help him or her succeed. That doesn’t mean letting go or not being involved anymore. But hovering and intervening too often doesn’t do students any favors.

A study published recently in the journal Education + Training found that there is an important line to draw between parental involvement and over-parenting. “While parental involvement might be the extra boost that students need to build their own confidence and abilities, over-parenting appears to do the converse in creating a sense that one cannot accomplish things socially or in general on one’s own,” wrote the authors, two professors from California State University Fresno. The authors of “Helicopter parents: An Examination of the Correlates of Over-parenting of College Students,” Jill C. Bradley-Geist and Julie B. Olson-Buchanan, go on to detail how over-parenting can actually ruin a child’s abilities to deal with the workplace.

Bradley-Geist and Olson-Buchanan, both management professors, surveyed more than 450 undergraduate students who were asked to “rate their level of self-efficacy, the frequency of parental involvement, how involved parents were in their daily lives and their response to certain workplace scenarios.”

The study showed that those college students with “helicopter parents” had a hard time believing in their own ability to accomplish goals. They were more dependent on others, had poor coping strategies and didn’t have soft skills, like responsibility and conscientiousness throughout college, the authors found.

“I had a mom ask to sit in on a disciplinary meeting” when a student was failing, said Marla Vannucci, an associate professor at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, who was that students’ academic advisor. Her team let the mom sit in, but in the end it doesn’t help. “It really breeds helplessness.”

 helicopter-parenting-sm250Vannucci also had a college-aged client whose parents did her homework for her. The client’s mother explained that she didn’t want her daughter to struggle the same way she had. The daughter, however, “has grown up to be an adult who has anxiety attacks anytime someone asks her to do something challenging” because she never learned how to handle anything on her own.

These may be extreme cases, but parental over-involvement has been bleeding into college culture for some time now. “I think they need to know that they are actually diminishing their child’s ability to understand how to navigate the world by trying to do it for them,” Gibralter said.

So what to do? Gibralter has a formula: Parents and children need to sit down and have honest conversations. “‘How do you want this to go, and when do you want me to be involved, and … how can I support you.’ That, to me, is an incredibly important conversation for parents and children to have as they head off to be freshmen in college.”

Abbey Barrow, a senior at Drake University majoring in journalism and English, said when she went off to school, they all knew they wanted to maintain the closeness they had, but also realized it was time for her to grow more as her own person. “I remember my mom telling me that they would not set the boundaries on communication, that it would be up to me when I would call and stay in touch,” she said. “That was a good turning point where I knew I’d be in charge and in control.” Their usual schedule includes two telephone calls during the week and Skype on weekends. “It allowed me to have some independence and not be constricted,” she said.

Barrow knows classmates who call after every test, or whose parents text or Facebook asking how particular questions helicopmomwent. “Those kids are still very reliant on their parents making decisions and doing their everyday life,” she said. “It’s a tough way to head into life if you are reliant on other people to help with decisions.”

Her parents admit it wasn’t so easy, letting her go and letting so many other things go. “It was very tough for us,” said Mimi Barrow. “We just tried to make sure she was well prepared for it.”

“It was harder for us than for her,” echoed John. “We started very early with her in terms of just teaching her that she had control and power … We did the time out chair, but it wasn’t done as punishment. It was ‘This is your time to think about what you can do differently.’ I think it was really just reinforcing her autonomy.”

Said Mimi: “I think we wanted to raise a strong, independent woman. We wanted her to make good choices as she grows and becomes an adult. We always try to model good decision making for her.”

Even when she was little, her parents encouraged her to do the ordering at restaurants. She chose the gifts for birthday parties. She had to, in other words, live. “We always tried to get her to make well-informed independent decisions. Because when you grow up, you need those skills.”

HeliParThe Barrows both work in education, where Mimi is an elementary school teacher and John is an educational pyschologist. “We’ve seen the harm helicopter parents can do and we see the need for children to grow and build their self confidence,” Mimi said. “When you hover, you take away that sense of self esteem.”

 

Credit: Amy Joyce

 

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Reform and Restorative Justice: Race equity in school discipline

In a month dominated by news reports of racial tension, a significant milepost in American race relations garnered less attention: For the first time in this country’s history, white students will this year no longer comprise a majority of the nation’s schoolchildren.

In recent days, several writers have argued that the unrest in Ferguson can be connected to issues of inequality in local schools. The shift in the composition of the nation’s student body should be considered part of the ongoing conversation about the changing landscape of race and disciplinary consequences. Those new majority students — particularly black and Latino students —  are suspended, expelled and arrested at far greater rates than their white peers, according to numerous academic and government studies.

Many activists — and some policymakers, including the president — argue these disciplinary trends among schoolchildren mark these students for continued troubles into adulthood, contributing to the nation’s disproportionate incarceration rates among black and Hispanic men and women.

Now, a growing number of school districts across the country are discarding policies that experts say target minority students unfairly, and increase their odds of more serious encounters with the justice system as they age out of school.

Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco have all recently implemented new discipline codes that steer students who commit non-threatening offenses to counseling, community service and other assistance in lieu of suspensions — or worse. Maryland has adopted a similar policy statewide, while a bill passed by California’s Legislature would bar schools from expelling students for defying school officials’ orders.

And more districts appear likely to follow. The Obama administration in January urged school systems to re-examine their discipline policies so that a smaller share of minorities wind up with punishments forcing them to miss school.

The School Discipline Problem in Numbers

In the penal system and in the nation’s schools, an outsize share of minority males and females are punished.

One in 15 black males is imprisoned, while the same is true for one in every 105 white males, the ACLU in 2011 reported. Among Hispanic males, one in every 36 is incarcerated.

Compare those rates to school discipline statistics. A consortium of 26 researchers spent four years crunching data on suspensions and expulsions, finding that one in five black male students was suspended in 2010 — more than three times the national average. Latinos and students with disabilities were also overrepresented in the discipline data. As California news outlet EdSource Today noted, the racial disparity data do not suggest black males or Latinos commit more severe offenses. More often than not, suspensions are issued for behavior that’s not a threat to student safety.

Even the earliest learners are caught up in discipline actions that are racially disproportionate: Forty-two percent of preschool students who have been suspended at least once are black, even though they represent less than a fifth of all preschoolers in the country, according to federal data.

And more research is pointing to the existence of a school-to-prison pipeline. A 2006 study found that a first-time arrest doubles the risk of a student dropping out of high school and quadruples that hazard if the case leads to a court appearance. The ACLU calculates that up to 80 percent of these juvenile offenders enter the justice system without a lawyer, often committing minor infractions that violate their parole and worsen their punishments because they didn’t receive sound legal counsel.

Another study that looked at more than 200 schools in Virginia found that a school’s dropout rate rises the more it suspends or expels students. In many cases, quitting school before high school graduation also increases the risk of incarceration.  In Texas, more than 80 percent of its prisoners are high school dropouts.

Finally, a landmark 2011 study researched the student files of nearly one million Texas students and found higher rates of grade repetition, dropouts, and incarceration for students who were suspended or expelled — a larger share of whom were black or Latino.

School Discipline Reform

Against this backdrop of evidence that minorities are disciplined more harshly, and as a result, are more likely to face jail time, districts and states are taking action. In the past year several major school districts have adopted policies that aim to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions, along with the number of punishments that involve police officers.

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the nation, announced last week that it’s adopting a series of disciplinary reforms that will refer more students with minor offenses to counselors and community organizations.

“We want students to be with us, not pushed out and sent to jail,” Superintendent John Deasy was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “We have been disproportionately incarcerating, disproportionately citing, and disproportionately suspending youth of color, and it’s wrong.”

Coupled with last year’s school board vote that banned suspensions for “willful defiance” — a catch-all offense for not following the orders of school officials that accounted for 47 percent of the district’s suspensions in 2011-12 — the new policies are seen as a response to community leaders who called for practices that pared the number punishments resulting in students missing school.

[A 2012 investigative series by Center for Public Integrity and KPCC shed light on the city’s discipline policies. EWA judges awarded the series first-prize honors two years ago.]

San Francisco’s school district eliminated willful defiance as a reason for suspension or expulsion in February of this year. Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, in June passed revisions to its code of conduct that stressedmore remediation and fewer referrals to the police. In 2013 the district suspended 13 percent of its student population, according to a report by local news outlet WBEZ.

Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, already a leader in discipline that eschews suspensions, formalized its policies last week by creating a rubric that recommends mentoring, counseling, and community service for most offenses. The district’s earlier efforts to mete out softer punishments led to a 37 percent drop in the number of suspensions and expulsions in the last year.

State bodies are reconsidering their states’ school discipline measures, too. Maryland in January passed a new set of regulations that establishes rehabilitative measures that sidestep suspensions and provide educational services when student punishments cause them to miss school. California may be next. Lawmakers of the nation’s most populous state passed a bill barring schools from expelling students for willful defiance. If signed by the governor, the law would also ban willful defiance suspensions issued to students in third grade and below.

Additional Challenges

Some of these policy changes require additional school resources. EWA interviewed a journalist from the San Antonio Express-News who documented one middle school’s implementation of “restorative justice” — a disciplinary scheme that places students who violated school rules in group settings to talk out their frustrations. The sessions occur on school grounds and require additional personnel and considerable buy-in from teachers who may be used to more heavy-handed tactics like suspensions.

But even with this new shift toward softer punishment, racial disparities continue. In Los Angeles, for example, police fines and citations dropped from nearly 11,700 to 3,500 between 2009 and last year after a series of reforms. But as the Los Angeles Times notes, “African Americans are still disproportionately arrested, making up 31% of 1,100 arrests by L.A. school police in 2013, even though they make up less than 10% of the student population.”

And previous efforts to adopt a more lenient disciplinary code still leave much room for out-of-school punishment. In 2012 New York City schools reduced the maximum suspension period from 10 to five days for mid-level offenses like pushing and graffiti. The policy switch applied to students in kindergarten through third grade.

Nor does it appear that all school officials support softer punishments. A July survey of superintendents found that 72 percent of district leaders expect teachers to oppose curbing out-of-school suspensions. The superintendents felt the same way about their principals 57 percent of the time.

With the share of white students falling and Latino students rising, school suspension and expulsion figures in the United States risk hitting new highs, unless more districts tackle their discipline policies head on. After decades of believing tough punishment holds students in line, can schools right the ship to keep more of their students academically afloat?

*source

 

 

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