Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Try And Stop Them

There is a fair pressure in our culture to shove children ever faster through the phases and stages of growing up. As a society, we think we know where we want them to be in 20 years, but we don't have faith that they'll get there without force. We do not believe they will automatically and naturally grow and mature. We are wrong.

It takes continual effort to impair a child's natural drive to mature, just as it takes willful effort to stop them from responding to their bodies' needs. When children are trapped for years on end in a closet or cellar (or sensory disability) without any contact with adult activities like walking and talking, yes, children will fail to progress appropriately. For some reason, though, this realisitic concern has bled over onto everyday parenting. Ironically, the result of trying to force children to mature is actually to stunt their growth.

Benjamin Hoff, in The Te of Piglet, describes a time in Chinese history when people felt it was essential for children to learn the art of conversation as early as possible. While the activities that directed this early learning were absolutely effective, the unintended side effect of all that focus on early talking was to push later and later and later the onset of walking.

Today, much the same thing can be seen in the early reading programs: yes, it is possible to teach a child's brain to decode written language earlier than it would on its own. So? At what cost is this 'earlier is better' promotion of reading? I don't know, but it is not possible to divert the energy of the brain's development from its natural path and not derail some other development.

Do early readers wind up as better readers? Absolutely not. I have personally known children who read before their third birthday because their brains were clearly attuned to that task. Today they are indistinguishable from their peers... in fact, they are indistinguishable from the many children I have known who didn't catch on to reading until they were 12. This is also the case with potty training, walking, dancing and playing the violin: by the age of 18 it is impossible to tell who started at 2 and who didn't start until 12.

Beyond this, where is the evidence that all this coercion to do things as early as possible isn't solely responsibile for the arrested development seen in the 20-somethings who still wear what look like toddler's clothes and carry stuffed animals (or wear costume ears or tails everywhere) and respond to challenging tasks exactly like 2-year-olds: by refusing to do anything at all, with or without a temper tantrum?

Where is the evidence that it is safe or healthy to manipulate the growth and development pattern of a child?

There is a lot of fear that a child will be (to quote the frightful US government program) 'left behind' if she doesn't get pushed ahead as fast as possible. Well, there is a lot of fear in parenting and children's education, period. But what benefit does this fear of the future have for kids? Children become aware that they are 'behind' or that others are 'ahead' and because of our deranged and contradictory values, quickly learn to believe that this is the same as failing--and worse: being worth less. Their self-esteem becomes predicated on things outside their control (viz: the growth pattern of their brains), which is a simple recipe for a lifetime of misery.

Children, given space and time and access to a variety of people in a variety of settings, will learn everything they need to know, develop all parts of their brains, and become (eventually -- not immediately) well-rounded, fully-grown adults. Just as it is not possible to make an infant into a physically-mature, full-grown adult in 6 years, it is not possible to make an infant into an emotionally-mature, fully-educated adult any faster than it will happen on its own. It is possible to stunt growth, but it is not possible (or desirable) to accellerate it.

Children are driven internally, physically, mentally and emotionally, toward the things that aid their maturation, at exactly the speed that is right for them. Normal, healthy kids in reasonably normal, healthy settings, the children will grow and develop into adults in about 20 years. Try and stop them.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Excellent use of the materials at hand? Are you resourceful?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/7166737552/in/photolist-bVipoy-e6Xgf6-7CXxaM-BSBgVi-6pypBR-rYGoGh-6pCXbS-bVnkZe-re1eCQ-9zrPjw-bVqv5g-aRn4Z8-nwwCGu-ciabm1-BXzXwS-e5FCJb-fxKLqV-5uCQMp-RN6FRG-JnCPPX-GFaLU1-QBNLD6-csBhnE-35FWLx-dMVUFx-apPTqp-8P9Umk-6XYKHq-ibD8ZT-dfcvx-g7f4FM-6cPxJT-6um3SM-fpAmK1-a4Jbep-5fmqJG-6xjoWF-mp476Y-5iYUFJ-aLw2Ui-4LAgby-9TH7uz-91Qauq-gbAiLX-51ZBxq-h4bm8K-5qUFXc-eYeVtW-nDyjwf-8NXwbM
Excellent use of the materials at hand.

That's what I think of when I hear 'resourceful.' 


Then there is the opposite of resourceful. I can't decide if it's impatience, selfishness, expediency or some kind of sense of being indestructible, or even that it just doesn't matter, really.


That the consequences, whatever they may be, are deemed not important enough (or is it likely enough) to sway the decision.

Unbelievable decisions have become something of a theme around here these days. The tragedy that started me thinking about this was a 32-year-old who fell off the 15th floor of my daughter's building and died from the impact with a balcony rail and a concrete planter and the ground. Her distraught co-workers and friends insist 'it wasn't stupid it was just poor judgement' ... which is a synonym, I thought, but whatever...

Now I think: if there was anything I wanted my kids to take with them into adulthood, it was a sense that there is more than one way to accomplish anything, and it's usually a good idea to think of more than one before acting on a plan. The aforementioned woman had locked her keys in her apartment and instead of any of these choices:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/allandonque/4423383088/in/photolist-7JSZFE-cNCqW3-5oE6xH-9N3uje-5FbPcw-6KzKDp-5ugsnR-37DF7m-72hCy7-7xWyyv-88Lq1i-4813tb-eEUSMo-mQJgyM-arpyFV-9pUjcd-6ZH4sh-9C8hEw-7h4HLP-jun5hY-72cR52-cSuJYQ-mcaaqp-oXtEb8-d3X13q-8YWyST-6h2g8K-dBCE5b-qFjNsW-8SqKDw-9TfRmX-pcWXYb-6s8b-8JRnat-37uTZj-fjJCgF-jvMHXU-4CKcga-QErvr4-6TH6g-ry2fJ9-5XqCrY-5rW57Y-GoUXP-69R6nh-beozf6-a67apt-dN3sPi-sjMdA-95FUSV
  • get the other set from her new husband, at work 6 blocks away
  • call a locksmith and pay $50 to be let into her home
  • call the manager and have him use the passkey (no cost)
  • wait somewhere else until her husband arrives home from work (several hours)
  • try breaking in herself
  • find some strong guys to break the door down
  • get the keys from her husband, get another set cut and return his keys to him
Which seem to me to mostly be pretty sensible ideas... Instead, she decided to climb down to her 14th floor apartment from the apartment directly above, without a safety line. I've done a small, informal survey: no one, of any age, who I've ever talked to about this has ever thought it was a smart idea.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mllerustad/524063712/in/photolist-NiXTf-6TrAN1-897Nzu-mejWV-8GDWEq-9dGpQm-p6TBnK-ruvgy-oe1meL-dAVd5G-siJyT-a9Hvm2-61mYAZ-awPrnE-oe1xES-eJkuYY-7D4QUZ-6D8vEw-gfiEcP-cA6RGJ-7dAYDn-4AZY61-8kSVNA-o4q9cA-SsctXh-chrwkC-oe1h1q-6TrECo-6Trxjj-6DX6JQ-9vg9-6jPMdj-gfiGZS-6TryfC-r4DXzd-6TryYb-9Qh6iX-nWzJXo-8sL21d-pa1bVY-oe1uUS-9dZj3-qVe7T-9GzTL4-7mo8ar-6GQoP-4oELoV-7oF7Jq-4CYMyi-5DXNoB
My daughter lived on the 17th floor, and I wouldn't have leaned over that railing to catch any falling object (I'd make a stab for one of my kids, but otherwise, not even for a cat.) I'm not wigged out by the height, I think it's fun to look over the edge and see all the little stuff below, but I wouldn't throw my weight against the railing for anything.

The apartments in this building have 10' ceilings, and there is no 13th floor (or, rather, the 14th is the 13th floor) so when she landed on the ground level with the 2nd floor, she fell more than 120 feet. 


A review of her plan: instead of hesitating or being talked out of this idiotic plan by the wise, elderly woman who tried, this not-young woman decided it was so important that she make her apartment perfect for her new husband that she would not be swayed from what appears to be the first solution that occurred to her, full of confidence that she would absolutely succeed because, as she told the neighbour, 'I climb mountains.'

https://www.flickr.com/photos/15585764@N05/4946242292/in/photolist-8x5Mvw-dpBjvD-6XQUTe-8BTqDZ-5xXrH-QZsbuo-6f7aSM-88R3ST-ogaTMU-HLd6GX-5F6kYi-fx1cwg-8fqQAr-fx1cnD-fx1cDg-kaAnAp-dSGcU5-fxftJj-6PSNxf-4ZsW98-7eP3LL-o56Ksi-CzJHfk-4fdkcc-dpBjag-dpBpBy-dpBjnX-4Si5pE-dDA6k-dpBsN1-dpBqA5-dpBptY-dpBgqT-dpBpJE-dpBghi-dpBhX6-akq9we-9qtFZP-5tJk5y-dpBqtf-dpBq6L-dpBfVv-4LAzLf-qwJsTR-bNniaD-6fbcuj-6HXFr6-dpBifX-dpBiQt-dpBspjOne of the unfortunate realities of life is that sometimes the single dumbest thing we ever decide to do is also the single last thing we ever do. 
If you can't be a good example, at least you can be a horrible warning.
This story, and all the folks who one way or another make it into the Darwin Award nomination list, points to a sense of 'I couldn't (or didn't) think of anything else to do in the situation.' This lack of creativity just astounds me.

So, kids, resourcefulness may some day save your life, without you ever really noticing.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Overwhelmed already? 'Tis the (frantic) season (in a few weeks)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rcmotions/31991199173/in/photolist-QJXfXx-qigZ9T-dCmmkf-4oRa12-4w13Tx-4oRcUB-cdXQDQ-dENu-bsfxHT-5Dj5yz-5GGXJy-pggnKx-vfjuN-4oVCGo-goGeSR-4oVEpy-4oVysG-94atXo-5L9GVQ-b1dVRe-5Dj6Ux-5KV2Pj-q1JJDi-5HCpnd-igp6wK-6B5U77-4acgzN-4oRAqa-7srwTZ-4em7MQ-goG9UC-4oRcwe-91k1he-4oRyh2-aS3Z2F-qf62Z3-dCYPgE-dAu7mi-4oVzFE-4oVDtb-4oRzBR-4dHT7Y-9hZvkp-fSnAud-5Fc7cK-bWADEn-bC1bnK-41Bvj1-7iKm7H-c67UKm
Oh, man... I feel it. The neighbours across the street had their Christmas lights up (and lit) before Halloween. The stuff in the stores started appearing in August. The ads started in the papers, on bus stops, in stores and on tv by Canadian Thanksgiving (second Monday in October).

While I appreciate that stores are hoping to make 50% of their annual earnings between October 15 and December 31, and that everyone seems to be celebrating earlier and earlier... People, could we have some restraint. 


Have you lived with a 2 year old through 10 weeks of immersion in Christmas? By the 13th of December, they are already overwhelmed, and the excitement of Christmas Eve often makes them barf. 

There is simply no way that kind of ongoing hype can lead to anything but disappointment.




What is a thoughtful parent to do? How can we protect children from the onslaught of all-things-merry-and-bright while sustaining the magic of the season, and not go broke or crazy ourselves in the process?

Sane Holiday Preparations


    https://www.flickr.com/photos/jaras/31270602600/in/photolist-FM1X62-sqfAs1-RWoDe5-QHvm1h-nFbZjd-E7AF3n-Sv9RYj-jG1RyF-dyf4U-Rqmukw-kuXBz2-8EHB3j-6SZGTJ-b61x2Z-FM1WCZ-FM1WXB-PDh1GG-b653J-PzUywS-PzUwJo-PzUxA3-PD7eCr-NpJ6ev-dUWyW6-GRshJ9-QHvmrh-RLqCEm-QHvmxQ-rQHPNG-PNJnvv-4YtcTx-HQSgY2-KPH8NP-9Y2uV9
  • make two budgets -- one for time/activities and one for money
  • slow down in general -- if it's a special season, all the regular stuff need not be done in addition to all the seasonal stuff
  • find out what you do love about the holiday season and do that
  • determine what you find a burden about the holidays and do not do that
There are many books and websites about bringing the meaning back to the season, filled with great tips for making the holidays personal again, and taking out the obligatory unpleasantness. Many even include suggestions for helping relatives near and far understand why you're opting out. 

Stay focused on the things you love and ignore the pressure to do everything.

There Are SO Many Things To Want

Here are a few suggestions for avoiding the wall-to-wall advertising aimed at your kids, so you don't have to deal with the non-stop 'wants' and to prevent some of the more predictable sources of disappointment:
  • instead of going to the mall or stores:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/intentional_accident/5217173911/in/photolist-7JcSmt-D7jEZ6-7xu5Jm-dYxADV-64mSfh-opHa9X-5TSWwH-92ZTsF-4GEzRy-k7NkrQ-8X2o3k-reBZtb-aEo7oD-7xieEv-AJX3m-k5LtwK-7tt8Zy-7toZAR-91VLCB-91W3C6-91YLij-91VquD-91VMKi-91VyPP-91YHks-91Yyqy-91VPic-91VKr4-91VWax-91YYLj-91YNZU-91VFst-91W1Sr-91YCEQ-91YB7y-91YZNA-91VYUH-91VRfB-91YJPq-91VQhi-91VUUk-7EL8KK-dZVvJX-91Z7Hy-91Z1Ns-91VHQB-91VzRn-5WpFYp-4qTUzv-fc5Kh
    •  go to a park and feed the ducks or to look for the seasonal changes
    • visit friends or relatives or local nursing homes
    • play in the yard in all weather except horizontal rain and blizzards
    • go to the library and pick out seasonal books, DVDs, CDs or to enjoy the seasonal activities
    • look at the local events pages and do something new: go to a concert, look at the tree decorating competitions or craft fairs or other fundraisers, parades...
    • walk around the neighbourhood after dark to see the light displays
  • instead of watching tv and listening to radio (advertisements):
    • stream tv and movies, ad-free, from online services (a subscription will save you a lot of money, and you can have on just for a few weeks or months), an ad blocker app can help
    • watch videos or DVDs and listen to recorded music
    •  check your friends' collections and the library for free variety
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/infobunny/8301936690/in/photolist-dDBAxu-92gTGH-SVF7pJ-94XGtu-5MG4Qi-92gFdM-izwGuh-dDCxeU-bxRcs6-aZJnWD-pBCysV-7oWJEz-pk8VdE-998pWZ-5GtKyM-6B1BD2-u1wh7-bxRcet-99bxdA-7phV1C-B9zGqu-5M1AGz-iJ4ois-6B5Mjs-aUyuAP-dDtihR-5LQtDn-6B1Bnt-7qcU59-7p3Hj7-bjWjr1-7qwsWw-vbEZX-b2EZWv-5M6Tkt-qdwK6A-5Go1xz-pk8Ygc-dDhCom-4fDP7C-qsCcAg-q8FT9D-pBAHfW-6DDvwD-pBAxjJ-pBCot6-b7NNf2-5LTWYz-aZMGnt-icJUV8
  • instead of shopping (where all that stuff to want is displayed so alluringly) for gifts for others
    • make gifts --libraries have a whole section of gift crafts, and there is Pinterest
    • take already-made artwork, or have the kids make more, and frame it for aunts, uncles, grandparents --they are obliged to appreciate kid art

  • instead of having the kids make a single request from Santa
    • get them to make a long, long list, of all the things they would like, so there are various price points for different budgets and not a single focus on the Santa request (or the guaranteed disappointment of not getting the live baby tiger)
    • get them to make lists and plans for what they're going to give others, how they are going to surprise or delight their friends and family (to focus their attention on the fun of giving to others instead of the greed of getting.)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/justycinmd/6720900243/in/photolist-beUnup-qAvA1v-5LnjUJ-5Li5M8-b2Mojr-qAodd5-5Lnk6E-qQEzCG-94pdgS-tYZwx-94pdcu-dGYK9p-9mmNxk-vbyMk-q9QER5-beUo48-vbwNA-GB289-vbzHf-7qQGAt-tYZvN-8ZSSWK-aBkrPo-b2haKt-dMZtMB-isAUVH-94e2U3-b1LB42-b1dEax-7SYcd-dN65tm-7qqzx3-7oJXTo-99bxdA-im6LPt-aNTfDr-aWp3HF-4ztuCS-aS67TR-97nxF3-vbAta-C5cjx-b2MoMp-iPMUDf-7DFsf-5Li5Wv-938Kd-5LU6Jv-Cy3q6T-8ZSSHe

In all your delightful free time, you'll find it an attractive idea to engage in a seasonal craft or baking project

You will probably save money because in the absence of all the 'great ideas' suggested by advertisers, kids generally come up with much shorter, more personal lists.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Do You Have an Except-Me Clause in Your Contract?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126083770@N05/14907636002/in/photolist-oHkwNW-S14JmD-6nq3bq-pUrcQ3-nvVrV7-oakMyL-oPYhuo-RR681y-4GDJaC-RwHaBG-i436ca-G3EvFP-iKsVqq-RNThcu-QA4Pmn-RF8vYj-oDrCNL-Sn5xna-QSjrcM-cCuHwN-oYSyBH-ojUBwM-8F9K3R-RVmXrx-4MLTK1-RHNWXM-efT5Ds-RUKapg-onLAcP-34Ydj3-qrS6sB-RUKYVD-omLRts-QPRM59-RSKLdy-aK8NY2-edZUNj-4Eahp2-RVnqsr-5tFwKC-4DvoCC-cRG7Zw-7V2GHA-66nB9s-QSjryZ-kieG2Y-7TMdE6-9A6JDL-6geeFr-dYt6kT
I have a hilarious friend who used to work at a busy downtown parkade. 

This parkade exits onto a busy downtown street. 

There are 'No Left Turn' signs all around the exit. Turning left there takes a long time, backs up traffic in the parkade for people trying to leave, and creates dangerous situations for other cars, bicycles and pedestrians because of visibility problems. 

In the summer, when people's windows are rolled down, she'd yell 'Except you, honey,' at all the cars (many cars, every single day) who turned left anyhow.

For a long time, I wondered about people persistently turning left against the signs, including the ones painted on the roads. I used to wonder, 'are there this many people who don't know which way is left?' and 'are there this many people who passed the test and forgot that a double yellow centre line means you are never allowed to cross it?' 

Then, I heard this friend one day... 
Ah-ha! I get it now!

It's the 'except me' clause. 

Yes, yes, we all know we're not allowed to turn left, here, but I live there and work over there, so I have to turn left there ... or I'd have to approach my house from a different way, think about my route more than once in my lifetime, go around the block or go past and turn around and come back, which, obviously, I'm certainly never, ever going to do. 

Although, everyone else in every single situation exactly like this that makes me have to stop or wait or slows traffic or breaks laws should get a ticket and have their licence revoked and probably be publicly shamed and pilloried (whatever that is.) 


https://www.flickr.com/photos/london/685790529/in/photolist-23ARCD-4BzwEi-4BEheb-6qsmvd-4BDXxj-nUXRcz-5u1P3d-3FKmVg-5oBtHy-9YNM3S-9YKTHR-4BEgCb-4BJMjC-72CPbN-3bRADy-8Qmzt5-4BA8oK-4BDRc3-4BEhQm-4BzACM-bk4sre-4BAmqk-4BDBZA-6qskB9-4BJUDm-4BDYe3-GrqEgK-iPUqQV-4Bzr1z-dvG8jH-7qGHxM-iPVCdF-AAtp2-5omedA-4BEBom-9konXV-4BEpvG-iPVyQP-4Fu6Tr-6qsk6w-4BzRKB-e4oS2t-4BzmUc-pFFu2X-iPYhjE-4BzN3X-4BA8Dc-JFcu4-4BDFYG-4BAjxk
Obviously. 

Except me. 

Obviously.

This sounds a little bit like a massive ego and a major sense of entitlement interfering with thinking clearly, but it's actually much worse than that. It is sheer, unadulterated, disengagement from reality.

This pops up everywhere. Years ago, when the Canucks (Vancouver, BC-based NHL hockey team for all the non-sport folk) won or possibly lost a big game, riots occured all over Vancouver. 


https://www.flickr.com/photos/rastafabi/529610538/in/photolist-NNoLb-8dx4AP-8dxdgD-8dx5dk-8dAmty-8dAurW-8dAtkC-bFCsE8-8dAkPG-8dAkeA-8dAmbU-aDjoCh
On the news footage, on nearly every corner, there were people standing still, ignoring police instructions to get off the streets. A couple of women stand out in my memory as they stood chatting and smoking on the corner as the riot passed by like a parade, with police very intensely ordering them to move away to safety, and they just stood there all affronted that someone was actually under the impression that they had any authority to even ask them to take a step backwards. 

It was hilarious, watching the tear gas roll over them, and they started choking and gasping and screaming and crying... 

I really wanted to be close enough to them to ask, 'did you think they were kidding?'

Somehow, to these women, the police just didn't mean them. "Everyone else should be somewhere else, but I'm okay, 'cause I'm just standing here not doing anything, so they all have to do what they're told and I'll just stand here, 'cause they don't mean me..."  

I always wondered if they sued for pain and suffering.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/9785724574/in/photolist-6fWPte-f8fDcc-94fdxX-94fdGH-Dg2kR-Dg2ib-9a83T-oqw1pd-8Kjch7-cNxwUL-cNxDSh-be8xv4-db4C8y-4av2Cj-dCwacB-aGk6YR-fUJoZd-4zntt1-a1du4w-8XwERa-3R5AG-AssSp-736Nh-Dg2cA-51RWyE-q2xjWR-F12nAe-v4eVm6-FpXefj-vqHDRU-QJtEnU-rvTuUM-EQE9u-8XzJVm-7XKPTJ-7XKPzs
Of course who they'd sue is an interesting question. I mean, where does it stop, if no one in your whole life up to now has disabused you of the delusion that there is an 'except me' clause in your contract with the world? 

Do you sue your parents for not enlightening you? Your school? The whole country for not including it? 

Your own lawyer? Earth?

Saturday, 13 September 2008

What is the Difference Between Passing and Understanding

Stop me if you've heard this before:

What do you call a doctor who had the 2nd to lowest mark in his graduating class? 
Doctor.

As enamoured as people might be with the hilarious idea that someone who passed the test is as capable of the work as everyone else who's passed the test, I disagree...

I've passed a lot of tests over the years. A lot. 

Some of them, I even understood some of the material. 

One of the things everyone knows' is that there are techniques to taking tests which have to do with understanding testing schema rather than understanding the material being tested. 

The process of mastering 'test' in any given field of study is remarkably different than the ability to master the material being tested.

Everyone knows someone who is book smart but incapable of applying the information in the real world. They can often teach very well, but using the knowledge is a very different thing...

https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishredcross/4951210395/in/photolist-8xwfmt-q2rwMi-bA7ydW-fz3JXw-iZhLZ-bPuoDP-rzXydS-dByfcn-dZSnz9-2reYRY-7eUuks-5cR7LX-bPub1g-3e3mmd-njkNHd-9ksVjF-eeRyC-8dcna8-cpWSQf-dJTo76-7RzoLn-8dcB1D-q2ApXW-8df3V9-bivuy8-bUk59b-8dffG1-74UeFU-8dfnKU-8dfwQd-8x1smU-7RznJF-axQEac-7GHntQ-9kvTj5-8dbUE2-CgQk75-e3fHSc-g4P8w-nCL8nB-k1H7g-8B3PLE-47Pq2r-h6PVM3-9Gdjj5-frutuC-dYCXU6-cp4c1Q-fUjhb-hipAe1Here's an example from real life: one daughter's boyfriend passed out, late one night, in our kitchen. He made a lot of noise going down, he's tall, a full-grown man. First on the scene was our first-aid-certified younger daughter. She heard him go down and when she saw him lying on the floor and she did what she always did a crisis when she was 14: curled up in a ball (on the floor in the doorway to the kitchen) and screamed and cried.

She is certified. 

She took all the coursework, studied the book, passed the test. 

Can you see the problem? 

Add this: her dad is also certified and was on the scene almost immediately after me. What did he do? Hover in the next room asking unrelated questions, obviously, just as he is trained to do? He is actually certified at a much higher level, being in the military where everyone gets to take this stuff all the time, and has been for decades.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/archivesnz/15868018799/in/photolist-qbcKa2-qhfPBD-48ZbU-69m5Cr-fyNrFV-23pnCe-ap6N5U-8zLkaK-cJP7xY-pJUVcj-gFDoqX-e49WqS-mjJct2-q6NSnC-dPFfXw-9BAevQ-arXw9-er7Cko-mHGa8-ctAbmU-7Ljyw4-n3nX6c-dDGU6Z-8AZHZp-7QjJVy-a3pV3Y-7Ce7YW-mjKr4C-oxEkvU-67rRe3-8deYWW-n3jVPR-oqfS67-oV9nEw-c9BtzG-efjDrG-9sk6t4-srPao8-nTJH8Z-2aF1r-cAv4kG-oW7p6e-4mgcUp-mDnxPF-csuKNb-5A6gb9-bHCBSp-9EZzJv-ab95jy-pCYRsMThis left me (totally untrained) and our older daughter (certified with 'industry' first aid, to know when to call 911) to deal. 

We got cold, damp cloths, examined for head injury, checked for broken bones, pulled him out of the cupboard and watched to see what he'd do as he woke. We gave him juice and water, washed off his wounds, sat with him while he re-oriented himself and determined that he was fine, but bruised with a headache. 

Did we do the right thing? Who knows. 

The people who had already passed the test never told us...

The thing is, there are personality issues related to applying material just as there are personality issues in test-taking. 

Some people freak out with the pressure of taking tests, and fail although they know the material. Those people are unfortunate victims of our test-friendly society, because they're stopped doing what they can by failing a process that has no bearing on being capable of doing it. 

But it gets worse:

There are people walking around convinced that they are 'very good' at things that they aced on tests, without any awareness that the skills necessary to ace a test are very, very different than the skills necessary to perform in the real world. 

Sometimes that's kind of irritating but irrelevant, like when it's the hairstylist who isn't any good messes up your hair. 

Sometimes it's scary-dangerous, like when it's the anesthesiologist keeping you alive...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Are Children Valuable People? Who is Allowed to Waste Their Time?


https://www.flickr.com/photos/wecometolearn/8066863117/in/photolist-dhQMmR-62Yv2h-8vBVYM-5EaGa6-3Wm4s-djaFxZ-pBAxjJ-pBCot6-8vBVXt-oKz53c-eF3mLA-ipytp-56sJzo-56sBsh-56or7c-56oyV6-a3Pdjy-8vBVUB-nuJMy8-aBpGDL-9MpRbq-4qNk5S-4KgiQw-9reDhr-conecb-dTW2xo-8uYX59-bHZuW6-9wYYMh-kVUSH-7WkVn6-niaHHt-8uVTqx-pk7BLi-hN1djZ-6ZDBnt-8WkzRS-du35bh-pk8JmQ-56oxxZ-rWv6dk-8vEXiu-56sCMC-3bfXUE-56owBt-56sKe9-56otwx-56sJMq-56oxii-56oqng
Way back in the olden days, I took a series of tests. In fact, I was taken out of class regularly to do a lot of tests. For months. The tests were to find out if I should skip a grade. Isn't that the coolest, aren't I amazing? I was in 4th grade. The lowest placement on the tests was grade 8 math, because I didn't have any idea what algebra was. The average placement was university, second year. Clearly, skipping a grade was going to be pointless, to say the least.

Spin forward a lot of years... until quite recently, actually. When a person is thoroughly indoctrinated into some idea by true cultural cohesiveness surrounding it, sometimes it takes a really long time to see through it. Or, rather -- gee for someone supposedly smart, it took me a long time to twig to this...

I had essentially finished high school and first year university when I was 9, except I dipped the math.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/efleming/1404773803/in/photolist-398QiZ-q7FgWt-oqYWpW-8xmA6k-nGS36F-QxiwkF-eoxkzY-gwmFi5-gwm16W-4Xdq9T-C1N8fb-r3ad4w-FHEhG9-PDJgQm-9wo5fM-r84kdp-HRvTso-LJLR9q-5WCKNm-6SqLAh-4JvWvc-QivXAL-5CzECP-9HXky9-f6mD9-nBVgjW-cty1Eq-6Q1PWA-pybpSe-do76eT-55gAWq-5YKs81-qBfYRa-72eVwc-4Y39XE-afczeJ-eZ12b-DREaNo-Hz7xdK-9tXPSo-8VwEgr-Mmqop-5ceyMw-5FBAeu-jhzsvq-fbtPbH-AvfgH-MJpTs-haRmwg-5GrTtM
Now, here's the funny part. Or, rather the part that I've only recently stopped gritting my teeth about: 
since it was pointless to move up a year, and it's completely acceptable to waste any child's time, I got to do the next 8 years anyhow
Nope, I haven't stopped gritting my teeth about that. It still makes me really, really mad.

Now, check your response to that: a 9-year-old challenged and passed the exams to complete first year university, what should that child do tomorrow? Oh, just finish the rest of grade 4. 

Perhaps upon consideration, that's a bit silly. 

But, what, then? 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stan0/7296976548/in/photolist-a9vd6-c7NUUu-ei4vHr-pN7nmE-oeeLy1-6A9NPi-7YFXMQ-nAe7hG-5Xc9sj-6JsLCo-6HoRms-oqqPg3-bxPEJi-bHvJUi-pt682Y-pt65B7-7wWrLr-6SPWzP-5oaw9d-pbcQmL-5Xc9yS-atPNy5-aHjngD-bunogu-6BisPW-pajQfP-abT6VK-iQzSPk-pt41Tk-di7SLS-7htNPd-5Zb9G-qJsF3e-6JZJ76-5Dd1W4-di7SvS-di7RLE-orYn1M-7NZtPw-bgaZcD-4MGdor-6b7Lov-7M7u8e-jGuSKb-aCcaZ7-oz4e7x-xS8Lh-49w8Fp-9Q3dD-72HXhX

Too young to go to university, obviously (is that really that obvious? Or is it just a really, really ordinary way of thinking about something we simply do not think about much?) 

Certainly can't just 'hang out' -- imagine the dangers to society, having unemployed children out wandering around after they've finished learning everything the schools hope to teach... yeah. Imagine. 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rickmccharles/17374957455/in/photolist-stncvZ-e7Q2RY-raQVte-c7McPm-89um12-5RDH7q-QNXnix-coNxc9-Qg5n7J-qTwVUK-qdYMfY-eceKad-aQaU4a-5LryG6-e6q7hK-554Mdi-e7JX1p-ec96jV-aQN2gR-dB5SXs-8nKyxw-gWQgTu-HYws7P-4rnvC8-4Wd5GF-JUVn9z-dS4Mh1-dUZDu2-en5j1R-dzNH27-dAZqrk-7nrUh2-7nyhhc-aqSfd1-JRTjkw-dUZDpZ-JGRsFo-BdkMc3-H1CBP9-Jt55JX-Jt2z2e-Jt4Dtg-JYrqam-Kpqhpt-Kht5va-KmwZnN-JYmyS1-Kpnjcc-JsYhz2-Kmu1yG

Can't work (there are laws about interfering with a child's...uh... education.... um.)

It is acceptable in our society to waste a child's life any way any authority happens to see fit, and this is the perfect example: 9 years old, already done everything (except math) that will be required for the next 8 or 9 years, and, well... who cares? 

It's not as if a child has anything valuable to do with her time.
It isn't like the child's life is valued.
This is the most pervasive form of de-humanizing discrimination in our society today.

Virtually no one will speak up against boring teachers, boring or outdated coursework, poor textbooks, unnecessarily repetitive tasks, waiting around for 6 years while the rest of the class fails to catch up, or spending 13 years floundering over their heads with material they may never understand... 
Because even if it is a total waste of time, so what?
Children aren't important enough to don't have anything important to do.
Imagine a doctor, who'd passed every test and licence exam, being required to continue taking the classes that were designed to help her pass the exams, for an additional 9 years, because she wasn't 37 yet. 

What does 37 have to do with it?

Exactly. 

What does 18 have to do with it? More to the point, what on earth does being 9 have to do with it?

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Normalizing Breastfeeding: Ignore the Guilt, Feed the Baby

Confronted daily with ancient, ignorant and silly suppositions about the function and purpose of human breasts, I'd like to take a few moments to offer some basic facts.

Breasts are glands.

That means that they are not, say, fence posts or buckets, nor even bladders. 

Do many people know what glands do? Here's a simple overview: through interaction with the blood system, glands absorb blood components and create enzymes and hormones and a variety of complex fluids and then excrete what is created. We have salivary glands, men have seminal glands, we all have adrenal glands. They excrete things: saliva, semen, adrenaline... or, in the case of mammary glands: milk.

When you think of eating, do you say to yourself 'better wait for my salivary glands to fill up, so I'll be able to chew and swallow....' Hardly. Glands don't 'fill up' they 'produce.' So, just for real, blatant clarity: breasts produce milk, they don't store it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/photofarmer/14117597485/in/photolist-nvwnTc-8vGnwi-JoBnsw-pGPryv-r86XQF-ehaVyE-8yWpRF-n1zprF-fyZYBX-hWF2n5-euYyqj-3GqCC-3ckeF3-2V3SPR-5YUXw3-nrScxt-bYfGW5-bCfaPZ-a6jJwq-7id6dE-9Rn3hz-r2VvpL-hCJz5H-vGaTR-8edQtM-8yZuYY-a3RQv2-8yZvc1-7FCUJ9-7f5fZz-HEAHp-euVqXn-8yWpYv-8yZwiQ-8yZvSf-ecsGfu-fDu2BN-9w8wiR-rYESWh-a2fagn-fErmVw-b6KTAe-ric5mj-b6KQ4M-5mmYdU-cpPtXN-7vMUS-5HiVyP-9uM78c-ho9jeK
Since they don't 'fill up' it is also not possible for them to 'empty.' If one more healthcare professional says 'empty the breast' within 100 yards of me, I am going to scream. What century, do you think it was, when it was 'discovered' that breasts were glands? Who, out of a random sample of professions that includes lawyers, research librarians, potters and physicians, do you think should know that?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/imagesbywestfall/5093910979/in/photolist-8L8Cgn-6eTCvv-4444aY-LnUvV-4KK6j-4GLFmt-7VhVHw-pRyagD-asRRg-9U8g2-eqNAAK-8ou6RL-jQU4G-6bUyQ8-7H3FpF-z7GoG-rxBDrd-nqYEzy-9w8ZN1-FAfww-ri6Kw-gEJXNs-dSVzKX-oNh1gK-8hWVbn-mt2m-8RRcuU-6HkPkx-oyxYNQ-RVEnRa-7H7BjE-7TAsj7-48uquQ-w6S8G5-5Cyxgq-5XZiZe-vFUtU-bJBVCc-EYroqW-7Est9V-8yizY-4Fn9Mb-4jsyrT-aHWoLi-4Q2iA9-4raxU1-4pZwBD-AH9jFo-5pn1pd-7vGi6hLike pineal glands and pituitary glands and sweat glands, mammary glands don't have an expiry date. That means that whenever those glands are triggered to start doing what it is that they do, they don't magically stop being able to do so at some arbitrary point in time. So, cue the screaming: the next time I hear a healthcare professional tell anyone that after X years or months mothers can no longer make 'good' milk, I'm just going to go completely banshee.

The changes that occur in breasts during pregnancy alter the function of the breast forever. From being a cute way to fill out a bra they become functioning glands. They do not revert to non-functioning glands, although their production without the necessary stimulation will reduce to virtually nil. So, whether or not this mommy is currently making any milk for anyone doesn't stop the gland from being fully capable of functioning at any time. It may take a while for the necessary stimulation to create a significant supply again, but demand (or the lack of it) is the only reason for the supply to diminish. Women who are decades post-menopause can continue to lactate.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/g-dzilla/3947667182/in/photolist-6SWbFX-iCiRUh-2T2cb5-iLSZk5-6wEWuH-nWgSy-gbSTrU-7KxNoC-gbSGHY-qQA9RY-nWgMg-3hSU6W-5sxgzb-5sxeFW-5tK1M9-5tJZu1-oQkZdV-5tJZ5E-71QPVh-7FnASs-bkwAYx-de3FpY-4LTrPj-7AVY2A-de3FbW-nWgyz-nWgrB-6CuEAx-5tXkMb-nWgG8-dYr23q-8fyhDt-FBPY4-7FGuxQ-7Ed4qs-FBPYZ-FBPYK-FBPYe-nmKtJU-5SqRDu-7HiNDt-CiU1-64baZf-ampJD7-nhu1mk-xLbdaj-ob8Gij-aEPccHWhich brings me to the next one: 'lost my milk'. Grrr. Shall I just scream now and save myself the suspense in waiting?

It is not possible to 'lose' milk. Well, after you've expressed it into something, you can certainly lose track of it... but 'I couldn't make any milk' is so incredibly rare a physical condition to be statistically-irrelevant for this diatribe. No matter what makes anyone feel less guilty about their choices, sorry to say.
[At this juncture I will just interrupt myself to point out that I happen to know there are a great many vile and unhealthy choices that rival even artificial breastmilk formula in terms of damage to baby's health and potential for loss of life that a great many children have survived being fed in infancy. I know that for many women breastfeeding is a tremendous struggle and for many more it is just about the most gross and disgusting thing they can think of doing with their bodies (which makes me wonder how they felt about the process of getting pregnant.... but, hey! whatever!). But, honestly, it would be so much less obnoxious if they just said 'I just didn't want to,' instead of repeating all the physically-impossible fantasies about how they 'couldn't.' If they can't deal with how guilty they feel about not wanting to (or about caving into the pressure not to, or by being ignorant enough of the facts to be convinced by someone that it was impossible, or didn't matter much anyhow), I am certainly not going to go to any trouble to cover up the accurate information -- first because it won't help them and, second because lying to another woman certainly won't make anyone's else's guilt go away, either. Get therapy, and leave the breastfeeding advocates out of it, k?]

So... 'losing' milk. Losing what is necessary to maintain a milk supply is closer to the truth. 

Just as no one measures the amount of saliva output when they're not eating (and then fret about how little saliva they make, oh my!) the measure of 'enough' breastmilk is based solely on the baby having unlimited access to the breast and being well-positioned to be able to do the job. 

Yes, I did say 'unlimited'. 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/50066720@N03/5836914190/in/photolist-9TMHey-cev6eY-3kBsr-6y88DK-27Uggx-4SroPg-cVTVeQ-6ZyTaD-7SD4GK-gvhs77-6HieDM-ncBYPw-qj4kzg-bSSkv4-cZ5rhU-ojtgGo-8Kwttr-rxP2JK-NLmTu-6NasAc-bjFevt-9tdPnj-pD4oi3-85fzGt-9TFHKF-a2HtGK-iGoGM-pDvtvs-9Ve9Gn-dttKLz-4DxT81-5uXxLL-bVacCi-6yq69U-4Yr2WW-fgsR6P-5vkVFY-bxNWoE-93Mfsd-dkBvGj-6yq69w-37iZdB-9PJbTH-7Bfjta-bUCEiZ-mA8wb-mA8y5-aHGMi-6yq6ah-arWPw8
Breasts need babies around to stimulate an appropriate milk supply (oh, what a surprise), and babies need breasts around to grow naturally and normally. Isn't it fortunate how breasts and babies tend to come all of a piece... 

When mom decides that baby can be 'over there' (in another room or city), she is gambling on her body's ability to respond to stimulus that is not present. Lots of women have those kind of breasts: make buckets of milk at the drop of a pin, pretty much no matter what is going on around them. 

Other women are less fortunate (and have drier clothes): they need the baby right there, hormones and all, for their bodies to respond to the stimuli necessary. Including [is everyone ready to shudder and shriek?] licking, bumping against and mouthing without sucking 'purposefully'.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_the_seeker/15185003806/in/photolist-p8R7As
Yes, that means that a baby with unlimited access to the breast is not going to be nursing 'down to business' 100% of the time. Restricted from the rest of the natural behaviours that increase milk supply, this mom is going to have a great deal of difficulty making her body do what would otherwise be natural. Pump or no pump. Period. No matter how uncomfortable it makes anyone else.

Breastfeeding, lactation and the function of the human breast are biological processes. 

Pretending that the social 'norms' or cultural discomforts are important is naive to say the least. Cultural lies actively impede healthy breastfeeding.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Is It Possible to Increase Confidence and Self-Esteem?

Following the post about a problem prodigies often face, I decided to write a little more about the book mentioned at the end. That post is here.

Carol Dweck wrote a fascinating book, MindSet, the new psychology of success, which described in detail a reality I was vaguely aware of for a very long time. I love it when smart people describe clearly things I've been convinced of, but have never found the words...

It explained why I'm mildly offended every single time someone tells me I'm 'lucky' (usually for being able to do something that I've spent considerable time learning how to do) or that they can't ever do... whatever... because they don't already know how to do it.

I swear, somedays, that the single biggest obstacle facing most people and their chance at success is the solid, unsupportable, immutable belief that they can't do.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/67194724@N03/12968618575/in/photolist-8UBCPi-aDk1iA-dugc8b-kJapD5-2vVkpu-gwmAC2-6voQ7g-kKZytZ-gwmN7H-g1EDcJ-86fcYs-rnkaww-34Ydj3-ddP1WZ-2Yxpw-5tFwKC-7jU2EN-4Eahp2-Rzn9WN-8LUCWX-c2T7tE-HfcRiL-jWBS3a-pHSTC7-rmJckM-7fh3g3-8LUDQ4-8LUDnD-pVCjgF-eiC5pG-8LUBNM-8Z6NkM-eiC5SU-5mSoVV-8LG9B6-oqFzVZ-8LUEoD-mJ1xV-7du1dy-pHUtNZ-4tWfHb-5EaGa6-jKpAsW-dthBzJ-93yD7i-axoYvZ-6JW6tZ-dkrLNi-4W4Lky-b39MdD
As Dr. Dweck explains, there are two different views of the world: fixed (those 'lucky' comments) and mine. Well, she doesn't know me, but it is mine: the growth mindset. I assume that if people have learned how to do something, figured out how to do something or done something, I could, too. 

The only impediment I see is that I have not yet done it and that I haven't yet learned to do it or figured out how. 

I may never take the time or go to the trouble of learning or figuring it out... but I can, I'm sure of it.

Those other people have a completely other view of the world: 
they can't
If they haven't done it before, they can't. If they don't identify personally with someone who has, they can't. If someone hasn't invited them to, they can't. They can't.

The tragedy is that this mindset is learned. The good news is that both are learned.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/alaneng/13656073185/in/photolist-4sMemV-4yh2qh-5Cm2Ys-8UtEcN-9CZBXH-mNJWMF-eLqTQ7-SLwsS-SLwt7-dEwq5o-61GQp6-JbXpyJ-oaVRm1-7z66hp-cYKnS-9JKw3G-6QJE5S-472frY-46X9Tv-5cikrR-ronL8L-9aiVzQ-9buRFZ-9buGHK-nUy9D4-drUV2p-f1TbNT-drV5oA-drV69w-ej3tVc-drV3pQ-drV4WL-ej9kkC-drV2rE-hn4PcE-6fUKMr-ej9gQL-ej3wKD-drUUPa-drUWB2-drV2Jw-6fU7Bt-fkidpD-ej9cWU-drUSJB-drV3LQ-JLFut9-9buQXF-9C1qxi-drV1U1
No one is born with any belief. Beliefs are learned, assembled, adopted, conditioned and acquired. However cast in stone they feel, they are learned. That means that they can be re-learned. The only thing anyone needs to know is that it is possible.

A thing I know about self-confidence is that it is based on the things one believes one can do well... and the collection of things one thinks one can probably learn to do. 

While there isn't much anyone can do to increase the number of things they've accomplished in the past, there is a great deal that can be done about what they think they can do. It starts with believing it is possible

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/5608084139/in/photolist-9xyU2R-bGmV1K-EjC89f-bXa1Gn-r3AR5J-6khjxb-c1iZid-9h3dwf-c9N6Hu-83NqHY-6khknb-c8EKhY-ayLyNL-6dDznx-6XXqNC-bGmV2g-a9mhJF-fhoKej-6xyN8a-c8EDcm-cantCG-bts6W5-c8x1iQ-7cbUMC-c8EFTy-6FoGYE-canmqj-cVWWTC-6dHJPJ-bGmUYr-jPPSJZ-c8EV1u-c8UcsL-6AWK1n-4x5iBk-c8EAFG-c8x1q9-7qN16e-c8EL7W-56d63Q-cA32XW-7vdRrh-BtcWbK-ayLzo3-c8ECkm-cABXT3-canmtj-c8UcKb-aGwZ7e-canucC
It is possible to increase self-confidence and intentionally adopt a growth mindset. It, like all changes to ingrained thinking, takes practice, intention and self-awareness. 

It is possible to take the things we thought were cast in stone and mold them into other things.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

What is in a real treat? Hint: it's not junk food

Hurrah!! for eating close to the earth!

While the general level of understanding about food choices and the importance of healthy eating is certainly increasing, there is a hold-over from the Clean Your Plate Era that I believe just needs to die. 

Every time I hear someone tell me all about how they're improving their diet this, making healthy choices that, moving more, being conscious of this and that but...

...they like a treat now and then... 

My teeth meet and grind a little. Grrr.

How... how? 

How has the lowest-grade, nutrition-free simple salty-fatty-sugary flavour with artificial colours, flavours, emulsifiers and extenders and preservatives crap managed to get such a sweet, cute word? 
'Treat'... wheee. 
 It sounds light, delightful... Why is it attributed to such nasty grub?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/karljonsson/485239281/in/photolist-JSYJv-8Xjfj1-815v8c-83D4b4-5Ga6Yi-p1hpsm-f3P7PA-6zg1Qc-5Z98h-9qJ2wV-59rKXk-9G7kC2-EVeMb6-j8P5hw-32opMD-QGp8-8fAd8H-98doNE-5k6SnL-fhGgtC-oKPajH-8QnKT9-6c2H2Q-d8u6wY-Hzo6G7-ciRD2m-fhs27X-j8LS1x-9f7KhM-8ahYMA-6Cyv3G-9ykBvF-qpPSDR-5tMscE-9gieV-KSBGU-bP7Q1i-KY6bY-4syrTg-7QnTwm-ckECuy-jY1Mu-6ffQhh-Zt1cE-ffhDX-U82fP-531So-kAzjjt-bMB6Rg-83DJ72A fresh, local, juicy and perfectly-ripe strawberry. That I could see is a 'treat'. 

A package of six different kinds of sugar, artificial colours made to look like drawings of surreal strawberries, and artificial flavours made to smell or taste like something else entirely, with bha and tri-sodium phosphate? That is supposed to be a treat? 

How?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/renaissancechambara/2781954537/in/photolist-5eQfap-5eQhyT-5eUDW9-5eUGhq-4EPyDP-4JUnMi-4opvPS-4JYCx5-4MMxPb-9bo7Bz-dsUqVT-4f8MyA-4JYDgf-9ZziW8-4MHn8p-4f8Mc3-4zzc5R-bVmaTU-ouQd6-dBXATg-5L5q34-4j1eVg-4f8N5d-kWcQNr-4f4QaP-asXyUC-7zFacQ-4f8LYq-4f4N3r-4f4Q4a-KL8n4-4a5j3Z-7Djg5x-4VaMQ6-4a9nfQ-4VaNvn-4VaQsv-7NJ6MH-6h3c3W-7wpiTZ-9pcHvA-7wt7Hw-mhxB-e55sp1-4rC6fs-sAfAnn-7jTcWy-9Ayfr6-4rC6fu-i3cM89


Is it just the 'fun' packaging?

A couple of years ago, I got over pop. And candy. However much you might be attached to the wonderfulness of candy, I suggest you stop eating it for 3 weeks and then go back to your absolute favourite kind first.

Just try it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aigle_dore/15061081508/in/photolist-oWTYP7-Jujh8N-Bp8Um-4QYxAx-54yo8s-78dcLJ-4enwnB-7yYGzD-ovBENQ-92wWae-8knVxA-63wdxg-t3t7o-t3t7p-t3t7s-5yeiQA-4wyqk5-aSVmer-2wi4h-9H8Sjr-3XG7z-35726-qN5sQJ-E1WGq-3hYwBX-oL5bqh-kjUqMX-E1XdT-E1X2x-nAoaSC-9YPxpE-8Hyrqi-E1WGm-ovBbNn-4nEgdW-6PVWMU-E1Weg-5fXJ5J-E1X2A-E1WGp-nzmBws-5UyouU-oiTYr2-oMQ8t6-E1X33-4JFj7B-zQXPi-drkPhC-5M2Jyy-ovBi51
What you'll taste when you try it again is chemicals. Candy is not sweet and delicious... it's just sweet.

A friend noticed that people are no longer satisfied with naturally sweet foods, but prefer sweetened foods. I thought it was an important insight. 

If your palate doesn't experience fresh, ripe raspberries as sweet without sugar (or those ersatz chemical engineering feats called 'sweeteners'), there is something wrong with the palate not the raspberry...and the palate needs to be re-trained.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/manduhsaurus/4934937784/in/photolist-8w5R5d-9Ga6mi-4C15yw-ovBiRa-nUfgcv-oMQ6R8-oL58SS-oW9GKs-ovBXxk-a6NQht-fsy4m-a8TPH4-ovBdNq-oN5eY3-ovBE4J-oMQ2RK-zyoFFr-E1WGj-dRJnGP-4BVLrv-byQNw-aDLrE1-6fwTK-zQXDZ-aSJAEc-5e9Uou-df6zFq-Lpxqo-byQ7e-78W5c9-oL56B9-76XXzL-33BPXF-2gegSf-ePo5Zc-6xrrGU-4C16ro-7xRGAZ-5K4PYw-8kQiEt-9BzWZh-5ER1PL-zFRUh-em62XY-aWyEs-7xVwLf-ekAJS8-qUbtMy-jBhaH5-oeQRat 

So, once and for all... if it's not made out of nutritious food that nurtures and sustains a human body, could we just stop calling it a treat and call it what it really is:

Junk food.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

What Do Grades Have to Do With It?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/g-dzilla/7255907620/in/photolist-c4bqxw-gudL2-nNUMTj-6zAmW8-89TGhL-89TH5Y-CRvDSV-btULTM-88bizx-tu7EBe-pbh6Mc-RDMZSa-e66dcT-5QFQ4V-btUHWt-4MLQri-btUM7F-borSey-btULrZ-sxcS3c-nNXT6D-tcsaB1-6zAndF-c4qTjE-btULzk-ttJZGU-dLiPaC-dEus2T-btULnz-btULar-btUMjD-btUMbk-btULH4-57Kzd2-57PH5d-idxjU9-btULcx-btULpR-57YkyU-btULka-btUMet-idxbW4-btULtZ-btUMrD-idxdjp-idxEBx-btULwT-58hPb7-btUK8k-btULEH

Ah, grades... 

Remember the lovely, tight horror of seeing an entire year's effort nailed to a piece of paper in one letter or two digits? 

Now, when it's been announced, when you suddenly realize there is nothing at all you can do about it, you realize too late there was more you needed to do...

Had a conversation not too long about about the 'reality' of the fact that people will be grading you 'in the real world' for 'the rest of your life.' 

Well, someone else had that conversation at me. 

Wow, does it ever not match my personal experience. 

Even in the military, a very large organization that thinks it is forced to rate and classify, much the same way the school system does, people don't get 'graded by everyone for the rest of life.'

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/5119120679/in/photolist-9C7ADt-9ewnJY-5mZS7p-8JkgKz-7uSXSE-8SELd2-88biBa-8X8Yrf-88euwL-khqeEz-8NmQen-7Rns72-9HxFPs-7afnXW-ar5tjs-feTosg-88biBR-7VVF1c-dcsyXj-HgNHrE-6jdZCG-awXDf-835AAj-cNf2NQ-4HrMCy-9yUiFk-oTTNTD-k7GuB-ro8NU-G4aqsS-GqYN43-Gth79z-ybsMWf-GqYMNy-7CipYe-7dn7uj-68C3vL-67aTsX
From this conversation, I remembered one that I'd had years ago with a principal who actually said out loud 
'grades are objective standards.' 
We were in a group setting, and my only response was a snort of derision (because sometimes even I can be restrained).

First, a couple of facts about grades:
  1. largely arbitrary, definitely judged by individuals, each according to their own scale or their own interpretation of the 'objective' scale,
  2. like the winner of the Stanley Cup, no more a statement about this whole person and their whole knowledge of a subject than any single game is a determination of the 'best' team in the league -- even when the grade is compiled from more than a single exam,
  3. determined from the grader's understanding of the material, which certainly may be based on dated information, and the grader may simply be less knowledgeable than the person being graded (this becomes a critical problem by post-secondary, when an instructor may be the person in the room with the least experience in the field in the real world),
  4. related far more, it has been very clearly demonstrated with some very creative and devious research, to the grader's opinion of the victim than the victims' actual knowledge (everything from 'the better looking the student the better the grade' to the instructor's prior knowledge of the student-- ask any third child in the same family going to the same school about this),
  5. related to the grader's preferred learning style-- expressions that match that style are marked more highly than expressions that conflict with it, even when they're both correct,
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/7359286694/in/photolist-cdjgxm-jsyKgS-5Afnxk-jBb83N-jgt7WS-5USugn-m2e6U8-dLrhCw-8MueWm-cdjjVY-746CqM-79G7PL-m2ekta-6kbNno-c8siiy-ppjXGa-5AjDYQ-hX4EBZ-5AfmRM-8EjexQ-8EjUnL-ckBvHJ-pq67uS-Mqzmw-bVWVct-m2fx3S-m2dqJp-m2f8aG-m2epye-m2dwov-m2eDMK-qK9pn-8MzrvU-m2dP2F-m2fkLU-m2f6oq-qK9Lg-qKbV8-qKbGn-m2exq6-akAzHX-8MrcQR-8DRcFn-8v1DNp-8Dife3-8MpPc4-8Mr8Ap-79G7N7-8Mubpb-8Df24g
  6. sexism is alive and well in education, and grades reflect that bias, too,
  7. based on the unsupportable idea that what is known in 'this' context (whether that be 'right now during this test' or 'expressed in this assignment' or 'how extraverted the student is and whether or not said student participates enough in class'), which generally means that students with more stable lives have better grades overall, being the least likely to have something tremendously distracting demolish the score on even one assignment or exam,
  8. based on the hiliariously impossible theory that in a random, small group of individuals it is not possible for all of them to be extremely capable.
That last one really annoys me. 

I've been in groups of more than 30 people who were all, judging by their conversation and behaviour, true idiots. But if they were all in a classroom together, some of them would receive B's on their work anyhow. Potentially, some might even win an A. 

Conversely, I've been in a classroom with 17 geniuses who all understood the material at a very high level, and some of them actually got C's. 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/53272102@N06/16597948915/in/photolist-rhGPX2-bWmtGd-566ZgL-9iofst-7Sktxj-87ubSQ-4oPsYr-6xmF4o-c2UWh9-6xhv3p-bWmukm-bWmsms-9chvEw-GUHCws-6xmJ2j-8xBdaS-f8BxSn-qmrTW6-8xybSv-8xBdjj-683hkW-96hqu8-a6zw7D-f8RU6j-bWmt2U-6xhwBD-7SkrSb-cRBnkL-8xybvn-7ShbC4-c2UWXb-bZhfGQ-6xmJjG-7Shczk-8xBde3-7Skqa3-f8S8oG-6x3p2P-f8BJcx-f8RJEm-f8Bqw8-bnDXNL-6ka41Y-f8RP2G-c2UZMC-7SksEm-7Skob1-7SkoUU-7SknJQ-6k5LKp
This is the 'statistically unlikely' idiocy that makes people who don't understand statistics attempt to force 'averages' onto very small populations. 

The fact is, if there are 10 people in a group, the chances of them scoring on a bell curve in any metric is ludicrously unlikely. 

It is much more likely that there will be clumps of identical scores. Teachers, who often know more than is good for them but less than they need to, are uncomfortable with this reality and will not give out 5 A's in a small class, even if there are no differences between those 5 students' knowledge or skills. 

Of course, this also reflects the insanity of the system that would certainly flag that many A's in one class as 'probable cheating.'

Now, having mostly been in the 'smart class' throughout school, that statistical unlikelihood became a subject of some controversy -- because the grades on the transcripts are the same. Why would a smart person (it was argued) take a 'smart' class and risk getting a B or even a C, by doing much more rigorous work, when the same student could take a 'regular' class and be virtually guaranteed all A's? 

If it's all GPA then, seriously, taking the 'dumb' class is the way to a university scholarship.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/toddle_email_newsletters/17233999165/in/photolist-sfUKwD-7TDZhJ-8imKkN-q9KSVR-5UkJwn-dwdTLY-5fjtBM-zpzg-6YGC6b-JZrWte-4zM7xj-8Z2UVh-696yv4-7jf8MB-78SoRB-bJMqZT-sgD1Z5-8e1uTi-5xmFdz-sbcsov-71oDST-5Yg4vi-4A68zo-5E4Lvp-5WYjgH-hmE7E-77NUSP-qF5ofN-8YYRkX-C4dqC-cigMzG-cRFzDb-dbM86R-4nuoHe-bZteq7-71WQvP-6Zms77-7QRot9-GczRyY-8Z2UNw-72Vy62-6XtSn9-bWXiaD-a9pnEK-p8PMfd-c3feDU-6LbX4K-9g8q1n-5gu98W-4fna3U
Don't you just love it when the carrot and stick methods reward completely the wrong things?

And here is my point from the beginning, in that initial conversation:

Grades are irrelevant to 'real life'.

They are also almost entirely self-referential. That is, they are made to use within the school system, and refer to things entirely within that system...

And yet grades (and GPAs) are considered by everyone in, and everyone supporting, the system as 'valuable', even when no one can articulate exactly how grades are valuable.

The troublesome logic is thus:

I know that grades are meaningless, really, but there has to be some way to rate and judge people we don't really know because there are too many of them to know... 
...and we have to communicate those ratings and judgments to the people we don't know who need to know how everyone 'scored' so they can use those ratings and judgments to ... further rate and judge these people ...instead of getting to know them.

Or, such:

Obviously grades are a poor way of rating someone's knowledge, being so easy to:

  • cheat  

  • fake

  • hire 

  • or otherwise bluster to a higher-than-justifiable mark 
...so we certainly don't know what any individual's most-accurate grade really is. 
Because we don't know how many are cheating or how many are having others do the work for them and we don't know how many (upwards or downwards) are based on instructor bias or school standing... 
...but we need some way to convey what we know about this student to others, even if we all know it's inaccurate, even if they know it's inaccurate, even if everyone knows it's inaccurate. 
We need a metric everyone already understands, so we use this deeply flawed one.
Well, now, that makes sense...