Things to Read - Five Articles About Education (Just in Time For Back to School)

1. (Overparenting) - NPR's article about How Schools Are Handling an Overparenting Crisis contains the following advice (personally, I'm frightened that all three bullet points aren't obvious to everyone):

Three things parents can do right away:

1. Stop saying "we" when you mean your kid. "We" aren't on the travel soccer team, "we" aren't doing the science project and "we" aren't applying to college. Our kid is. These are their efforts and achievements. We need to go get our own hobbies to brag about.

2. Stop arguing with all of the adults in our kids' lives.
As Jess well knows, teachers are under siege from overinvolved parents insistent upon engineering the perfect outcomes for their kids. Principals, coaches and referees see the same thing. If there's an issue that needs to be raised with these folks, we do best for our kids in the long run if we've taught them how to raise concerns on their own.

3. Stop doing their homework.
Teachers end up not knowing what their students actually know, it's highly unethical, and worst of all it teaches kids, "Hey kid, you're not actually capable of doing any of this on your own."

2. (College)
- The New Yorker asks (but can't really answer) What Is College Worth?, a question I ask myself more and more lately as tuition rates continue to skyrocket along with unemployed 20-somethings, plus can't we all learn everything we need on the internet now?)

" . . . . Studies, and there are lots of them, usually find that the financial benefits of getting a college degree are much larger than the financial costs. But Cappelli points out that for parents and students the average figures may not mean much, because they disguise enormous differences in outcomes from school to school. He cites a survey, carried out by PayScale for Businessweek in 2012, that showed that students who attend M.I.T., Caltech, and Harvey Mudd College enjoy an annual return of more than ten per cent on their “investment.” But the survey also found almost two hundred colleges where students, on average, never fully recouped the costs of their education. “The big news about the payoff from college should be the incredible variation in it across colleges,” Cappelli writes. “Looking at the actual return on the costs of attending college, careful analyses suggest that the payoff from many college programs—as much as one in four—is actually negative. Incredibly, the schools seem to add nothing to the market value of the students.”


3. (Gifted) - Brainchild takes on gifted elementary programs, suggesting they create unnecessary anxiety and/or overconfidence.

"But what did it mean that he was “gifted”—in elementary school? That he was a quick learner? An early reader? In the top math group? That he has a higher than average IQ? If children are truly “gifted” (however that word might be defined), shouldn’t school communities wait to apply the label until it’s more obvious, until it really matters—in middle school or beyond. Why lock a child into a label with tattoo-like permanence at an age when they are still changing so rapidly?

Instead of inspiring these young kids, the expectation that gifted kids will automatically excel and succeed can often lead to anxiety and meltdowns over the fear of failure or getting an answer wrong. Or, in the case of my son, now fifteen, it leads to believing he’s smart enough that he doesn’t need to put forth much effort, creating a false sense of security when faced with an inevitable academic or emotional stumble.

“There’s a good chance Daniel will go all the way through high school without needing to study for a single test,” Mr. C., Daniel’s third grade teacher, boasted as he adjusted his stylish thick-framed glasses. But didn’t I want my son to study for tests, I wondered, shifting uncomfortably in my miniature chair? And how could Mr. C. predict into my son’s future? Is this the message the teachers, as well as the TAG program, had been sending my child?"

4. (Sex Ed) - PBS makes a compelling case for starting sex education in kindergarten (based on the Netherlands' education system).

"You’ll never hear an explicit reference to sex in a kindergarten class.In fact, the term for what’s being taught here is sexuality education rather than sex education. That’s because the goal is bigger than that, says Ineke van der Vlugt, an expert on youth sexual development for Rutgers WPF, the Dutch sexuality research institute behind the curriculum. It’s about having open, honest conversations about love and relationships.

By law, all primary school students in the Netherlands must receive some form of sexuality education. The system allows for flexibility in how it’s taught. But it must address certain core principles — among them, sexual diversity and sexual assertiveness. That means encouraging respect for all sexual preferences and helping students develop skills to protect against sexual coercion, intimidation and abuse. The underlying principle is straightforward: Sexual development is a normal process that all young people experience, and they have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject."


5. (Children's Sports) - And, finally, although this Harpers' article doesn't deal with education per se, it deals with coaching, which is similar right?

"According to a survey conducted by ESPN, 23 percent of parents believe that youth sports are putting a strain on their families. Perhaps this is because an astonishing 32 percent believe that their child has a good chance of winning a Division I athletic scholarship. Eleven percent believe that their child could be a professional athlete someday. I took some comfort knowing that other parents, at least some of them, cared as deeply as I did. But why? What was actually at stake? Nothing.

My daughter, it was obvious, was not going to play basketball at a high level, or perhaps even for another season, given the experience she was having. As a dad, I had previously taken my daughter’s athletic endeavors lightly, rooting for her but not obsessing over wins and losses. But now that I was coaching, the metronomic regularity of the beatings my team was taking wore me down so much that I became irritable around the house. My wife and my father both told me to quit."

. . . .

I couldn’t persuade my girls to walk down the line and shake hands with the Sky. I could barely shake Coach Stan’s hand. Most of the girls left without their second-place trophies. Half were still crying. Parents emailed me into the next day, vowing to withdraw their children from the league.

I struggled to find a lesson we could draw from the experience.

We simply lost. And maybe that’s the lesson, the most brutal of all. Sometimes you will lose, regularly, decisively, completely. And there will be nothing you can do about it."

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