Things to Read - 7 Interesting Articles From Around the Web - On Drunk Perfect Moms, Malala's Transformation, Redshirting Kindergartners, Validation, Homework, and Unicorns

* I needed a drink after reading the Atlantic's Alcohol as an Escape from Perfectionism. Sorry, bad humor. A really fascinating (and scary) read. "Alcohol offers a time out from doing it all—‘Take me out of my perfectionism.’ Superwoman is a clichĂ© now, but it is extremely dangerous. I've seen such a perversion of feminism, where everything becomes work: raising children, reading all the books, not listening to their instincts. The main question is: What self are they trying to turn off? These women have climbed so high that when they fall, they crash—and alcohol’s a perfect way to crash.

* In the New York Times, Adam B. Ellick tells an ethically complex story of how Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old Pakistani schoolgirl who the Taliban shot in the face (and runner up for the Nobel Peace Prize), became famous.

"While my original documentary tells the story of Malala’s struggle for education in the face of the Taliban, this back story also raises some sobering and difficult questions. Malala was a brave young girl, advocating for a better future for all girls in her country, but was it fair for her to fight so publicly in such a dangerous environment? Or was she thrust into the limelight by adults captivated by the power of a child staring down the Taliban?

. . . .

Malala’s father may be a progressive educator, but her family is very traditional. As in most families in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, where they lived, her father works and her mother is a homemaker. In the larger region around Swat, only one girl in five attends school. Malala’s own mother is illiterate, and Ziauddin told me she did not interact with men outside the family. I was never able to speak with her, and rarely saw her at all, because, as her husband explained, “she was not habituated to be on camera.”

. . . .

After my documentaries aired, the family’s life changed dramatically. Donations poured in. Awards arrived. Dignitaries visited. The American Embassy sent Zia on a free trip to the United States. In the bombastic Pakistani press, Malala became the de facto voice of Swat.

* I loved (and empathized with) this piece on how back to school night made the author feel like a bad mom. "Our hunter-gatherer ancestors who carried children on their backs had to protect them from a world full of dangers, such as ravenous lions and monkeys vying for meat. Those who encouraged their children to compete for scarce resources including food and shelter helped their kids survive and reproduce, passing their genes down to succeeding generations. […] We’re the modern recipients, hardwired to want our children to win whatever battles they may face. Whenever our kids meet a competitive danger, our minds and bodies go on high alert. We receive signals of anxiety and alarm, inciting us to push our children forward to compete. Of course, the “threat,” that my sons may fall behind in their musical or athletic skill, is far from dire, my body does not know that."

* The New Yorker published an interesting argument against "redshirting" (the practice of holding a child back for an extra year before the start of kindergarten). "By the time they get to eighth grade, any disparity has largely evened out—and, by college, younger students repeatedly outperform older ones in any given year. Why would that be the case? It all comes back to that relative difference: if you are always bigger and smarter, you may be more likely to get bored, and to think that everything—learning included—should come easily. You don’t have to strive and overcome obstacles in the form of older, more developed kids. If, on the other hand, you’re on the younger end of the spectrum, you are constantly forced to reach for your limits. And unlike in sports, where physical size often plays an undeniable, difficult-to-circumvent role in your eventual success, in school a physical disadvantage can turn into an academic advantage: children may learn to compete where they can succeed, where their persistence and attention can accomplish what their physical size may not."

* My Daughter's Homework is Killing Me - I love any article where the author gets high and attempts to do his daughter's homework, especially while trying to figure out why kids need homework at all (a question I find myself asking quite frequently these days) - "If Esmee masters the material covered in her classes, she will emerge as a well-rounded, socially aware citizen, a serious reader with good reasoning capabilities and a decent knowledge of the universe she lives in. What more can I ask of her school? But are these many hours of homework the only way to achieve this metamorphosis of child into virtuous citizen? According to my daughter’s teachers, principals, and administrators, the answer is an emphatic yes. Certainly, they have told me, all the homework does no harm. As I watch my daughter struggle through school days on too little sleep and feel almost guilty if she wants to watch an hour of television instead of advancing a few yards in the trench warfare of her weekly homework routine, I have my doubts. When would she ever have time to, say, read a book for pleasure? Or write a story or paint a picture or play the guitar?"

* But I Have A Law Degree wrote a wonderful post on women and validation, I loved every word so much I hate to excerpt it, but here goes - "I also believe that a person is not defined by their job or their status. The prestige I felt from my legal career reflected a fake kind of confidence. It's embarrassing to admit now, but I felt an immense sense of pride from my job title alone. But why? Someone's job status doesn't in and of itself make someone interesting. Saying I'm a lawyer at a cocktail party doesn't mean anything. What means something is who I am as a person, and what I have to say. Perhaps what I have to say happens to be about my career, and that's great. But surprisingly, I've learned that I still have plenty to say, notwithstanding my employment status."

* Finally, this Huff Post piece on Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy was already all over facebook, but it really is a great read (plus, I like unicorns).

"Cal Newport points out that "follow your passion" is a catchphrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years, according to Google's Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how prominently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time. The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase "a secure career" has gone out of style, just as the phrase "a fulfilling career" has gotten hot."

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