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  • Obama's Smart Sex Education Funding

    Although health care has dominated the policy sphere as of late, I wanted to call attention to the sex-education funding in the 2010 Appropriations Bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies. The 146-page bill is, to be fair, not a Twilight-caliber page turner, but it does tackle sex education, a hugely contentious issue during the Bush administration, when $1.8 billion was appropriated for abstinence-only education.Here’s the Obama approach to the issue:$100,000,000 shall be for making contracts and competitive grants to public and private entities to fund medically accurate and age-appropriate programs that reduce teen pregnancy; and for the federal costs associated with administering and evaluating such contracts and grants, of which not less than $75,000,000 shall be for replicating programs that have been proven through rigorous evaluation to delay sexual activity, increase contraceptive use (without increasing sexual...
  • Can You Never Tell a Child She’s Smart?

    Ultimately, we want kids to believe they can get good at skills and talents if they practice and try hard. We want them to be persistent in the face of early difficulty. The work by psychologist Carol Dweck and others suggests that this adaptive mindset is dramatically a function of the praise kids hear. If you’ve heard this research, you know the new rules: praise the process, not the person. Avoiding suggesting that success is due to innate qualities. Instead, steer the child’s attention to strategies they can do again to repeat their success.A question I often get is “Does this mean I can never tell my kid she’s smart?” We’re not perfect, we’re enthusiastic, and the old “you’re so smart!” just flies off the tongue. Where's the line? Is there a margin for error here?In everyday life, kids hear a wide mix of praise types from parents, teachers, and other children. Even a kid who gets praised correctly by his parents (“you studied really hard, so you did well on the test”) will...
  • This is Your Brain on a Test

      This is a picture of a Quick-Cap, which measures electrical activity on the surface of the scalp. While it looks like something out of a futuristic movie about thought control, it’s actually quite comfortable and unobtrusive. While it’s not nearly as precise as a fMRI, electroencephalography (EEG) is much easier to use and drastically cheaper; the cap does a decent job of registering which regions of the brain are firing moment to moment. Carol Dweck and Jennifer Mangels had Columbia undergraduates wear the cap while taking a computerized trivia test. The students worked through over 200 questions, covering topics from geography, religion, world and US history, math and science, literature, and art history. These questions were chosen because they’d ring a bell of familiarity – students felt like they should know the answer, but often weren’t quite able to recall it. Example: In what country is Kathmandu? The computer adjusted the level of difficulty just slightly, so that most...
  • Is the Brain Like a Muscle, Really?

    Back in 2007, Ashley and I reported on the science of praise for New York magazine, highlighting in particular the body of work by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck had done studies for over a decade – and we covered them all – including a brand new semester-long intervention that had been conducted with Lisa Blackwell at Life Sciences Secondary School in East Harlem. Life Sciences is a health-science magnet school with high aspirations but 700 students whose main attributes are being predominantly minority and low achieving. The scholars split the kids into two groups for an eight-session workshop. The control group was taught study skills, and the others got study skills and a special module on how intelligence is not innate. These students took turns reading aloud an essay on how the brain grows new neurons when challenged. They saw slides of the brain and acted out skits. After the module was concluded, Blackwell tracked her students’ grades to see if it had any effect.It didn’t take long....
  • Should States Think Twice About Forcing All Eighth Graders Into Algebra?

    Twenty years ago, most middle-school kids spent most of their day in tracked classes. Even if they had bland names like English A, B, or C, every kid knew if they were in the smart or the dumb class, and research indicated that the kids most hurt by tracking were the kids at the bottom. ...
  • Do Your Kids Know How to Fight?

    My kids get stressed out from social conflict. Each has a distinctly different style of coping. Our son’s a retreater. “We’re not friends anymore,” my son says about one of his best friends, whenever his feelings get hurt. Even with me, when he’s upset, he runs from the house and down the block for awhile.Our daughter’s a threatener. When she’s mad or embarrassed, she threatens. She’s not looking for a solution; she’s hoping we’ll back down if she makes her threat big enough.One of the most important set of skills kids need as they mature is the ability to work out conflict without destroying relationships. When arguments happen, some kids simply want to win – they’ll attempt to dominate. Other kids are quick to cave, doing anything to make their friend happy just to save the relationship. Ideally, kids will learn eventually to neither dominate nor cave; they’ll learn to stand up for themselves and yet not put the relationship at risk. An amazing long-term study by Dr. Joe Allen...
  • Barbara Bush: Go See 'Precious'

    Recently George and I hosted a special sneak preview of Precious in our hometown, Houston. The audience of 200 included young people and old, teachers and corporate executives, parents and grandparents, and folks of just about every ethnic and economic background. I planned to say a few words when the movie was over—but I was speechless. (My husband would tell you that is highly unusual.) ...
  • Bloomberg Announces New Round of Aggressive School Reforms

    Education reformers are buzzing today about New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s ambitious new education goals for New York City schools that will not only up the ante for all states vying for a piece of the federal $4.35 billion Race to the Top school-reform fund, but is likely to spur sharp resistance from teachers' unions. While participating in a panel discussion about the future of education reform sponsored by the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, Bloomberg announced that he and his school Chancellor Joel Klein are aiming to push through a platform of new reform proposals that include:Overhauling teacher evaluation systems to include student performance data.Boosting salaries for high-performing teachers in hard-to-staff specialties (math, science, special education) in low-income schools. Ignoring seniority (and prioritizing merit) when making layoff decisions.Making it easier to get low-performing teachers out of the classroom and off the payroll.Raising...
  • How Not to Helicopter

    I’ve never bought macrobiotic cupcakes or hypoallergenic socks. Nor have I hired a tutor for pencil-holding deficiency, or put covers on the stove knobs, or used a leash on a toddler to be safe in a busy airport. At the grocery store, my kids are often in other aisles, but they’ve never felt lost. When they were babies, we weren’t scared to leave them with babysitters. Their preschool didn’t teach Mandarin, nor even worry about teaching them to read. Nor have I ever questioned a teacher about one of my children’s grades. ...
  • Is Homeland Security Gun Shy About Confronting Far Right?

    The Obama administration didn't hesitate recently to pick a fight with Fox News, but its Department of Homeland Security now appears to have backpedaled on a report expressing concern about what its analysts earlier this year described as "right-wing extremists." Back in April, Homeland Security's intelligence analysis division produced a nine-page "assessment" describing how the nation's economic problems and the ascent of the first African-American president "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists" and might even lead to violence between such groups and the government. Although the paper was stamped "for official use only" and bits of it were labeled "law enforcement sensitive." the document quickly made its way onto the Internet. Its contents provoked howls of rage from conservative activists (some of which was reflected in reports from ... Fox News). The report's critics...
  • Senate Bill Restores Abstinence-Only Funding

    While the Senate toned down the House's language on abortion restrictions, it may have ratcheted things up with another controversial reproductive-health issue: abstinence-only education. Sec. 2954 of the Senate health-reform bill, released Wednesday evening, restores funding for abstinence education. As of this summer, abstinence-only education seemed en route to becoming a thing of the past. As I wrote for Newsweek this past month: ...
  • At What Age Do You No Longer Have to Check your Children’s Homework?

    Every Tuesday, my 3rd grader has a spelling test for twenty new vocabulary words. Driving him to school, I usually check in – “do you need any review for your test today?” There’s time on the drive to have him spell them out, if necessary. The relevant question is, can I trust his answer? In NurtureShock, we wrote: “Kids who are doing well in school know it; when they write down their answer, they know whether or not their answer is correct. They have a subtle sense, a recognition of whether they’ve gotten in right. Children who are struggling are genuinely unsure; they might get the right answer, but lack such awareness.”While that’s broadly true, let’s get into this in a little more detail. This field is considered the science of metacognition. It’s important because on a day to day basis, kids can be vastly more efficient in their studying if they focus on what they need to learn, and don’t waste time repeatedly practicing things they already know. The better they are at this...
  • What If Colleges Had Lower Standards for Boys to Achieve Gender Balance?

    Earlier this week, NPR’s Claudio Sanchez reported that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is taking a year to investigate college admissions, to find out if admissions departments are discriminating in favor of boys to achieve gender balance. This investigation will start with a subpoena for admissions records from a dozen (unnamed) public and private universities. They’re unlikely to find any overt discriminatory policies; the question is, will they be able to find a pattern that is itself evidence of discrimination against female applicants. It’s quite clear that in the current educational system, girls are outpacing boys when it comes to higher education. Boys are now only 46% of the total college enrollment, and it gets worse the higher the level of attainment – female students now earn 60% of the bachelor’s degrees. (Interestingly, this gender split is not there yet for Hispanics, where the boys in college still outnumber the girls. The imbalance is worst among Blacks, and it...
  • A Cure for ADHD?

    One out of four cases of ADHD eliminated. It almost sounds too good to be true. Nevertheless, a report in the preeminent journal Pediatrics suggests it's possible.What needs to happen for this to occur? Some new miracle drug or radical kind of psychotherapy?Nope. All it could take is treatment of children's snoring.ADHD is defined by a list of symptoms, so if a kid has those symptoms, then he likely has the disorder. But what causes those symptoms may vary from child to child. And sleep disorders could be one of those causes.University of Michigan professor Ronald M. Chervin is one of the world's leaders in investigating sleep's role in ADHD. According to Dr. Chervin, unlike adults who suffer from sleep problems, sleep-disordered children are hyperactive. The version of this we're all familiar with is the crabby toddler who skipped his nap. When it gets more serious, as in the case of the kids Chervin sees in his lab, they are "bouncing off the walls....
  • Why Tarantulas Can Seem So Scary

    It’s not every day that social scientists use tarantulas in their experiments. Professor Kent Harber brought unwitting Rutgers students into his lab. They were escorted into a semi-darkened room and asked to stand right in front of a table. Then the lights snapped on, revealing a huge hairy crawling tarantula a couple feet away.(There was no real danger: the spider was contained in a glass box, but it was big enough and close enough to have the desired effect.) Harber asked the students to estimate the exact distance, in feet and inches, between where they were standing and the tarantula.The thing was, on the way into the room, Harber asked a random half of the students to pause and recall a moment of personal success. Still others were to think about a time they'd failed at something. Harber didn't ask the students the specifics of what they were thinking about – he just asked them to place it in their mind before they walked into the dark room. The students who'd...
  • Online Lectures Are Not Just for Students Anymore

    YouTube has built a global reputation as the place to go for video clips of singing cats, laughing babies, reckless drivers, and raucous wedding processionals. But there's more to the site than pointless entertainment; there is a growing collection of university lectures available, including one by a Harvard Business School professor talking about consumer psychology in the recession, and Cambridge University historian David Starkey discussing the history of the British monarchy. Earlier this year YouTube launched a new home for education, YouTube EDU, which started as a volunteer project by company employees seeking a better way to aggregate educational content uploaded by U.S. colleges and universities. Last month the subsite went international, with 45 universities in Europe and Israel adding their content to the stream. "Around the world people can, from the comfort of their home, refresh their knowledge on a subject or explore other topics to better themselves intellectually,"...
  • The Future of Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

    It's been a mainstay of sex ed for more than a decade. Now, as the Obama administration cuts off federal funding, the movement scrambles for money, determined to continue its mission.  
  • Letters: Why College Should Take Only Three Years

    In the name of saving money, a shortened education for all students is heralded as not only possible but prudent. The human psyche be damned!William G. Durden, President, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.My college made it difficult to graduate early. The loss of an annual tuition fee was surely a factor. Families and politicians should request the option of an à la carte menu, instead of a one-size-fits-the-wealthy prix fixe.Jennifer Mason, Boston, Mass.As a high-school student, I hope to lower my future tuition costs not by accelerating my collegiate studies but by earning Advanced Placement credits now.Matt Epting, Ft. Worth, TexasI had to take unnecessary courses to fulfill my undergrad major requirements. I would much rather have graduated in three years and had the freedom and some financial reserves to get into the job market and gain real-world experience, or go on to pursue a focused graduate degree. Let's face it: in today's competitive climate, graduate degrees are...
  • Why Private Schools are Missing the Best Kids

    Hypothetically, let’s say you ran a fancy private elementary school. Like other private schools in the region, you’re competing to put out the brightest kids. And one of the ways you engineer this is through your admissions process – you try to select the kids who will get the most out of what your school has to offer. Kids who can handle the intellectual challenge, and who don’t disrupt the class. So, if you’re like other private schools, you bring the five-year-old applicants in for some intellectual assessment, and you also set up some games and playrooms for them so that you can watch them for an hour or two – to monitor their behavior. You’re looking for kids who get upset, withdraw, can’t wait for their turn, dominate other kids, can’t sit still, don’t pay attention to the instructions, et cetera. Then you admit the kids who looked best.This seems innocuous. It’s common practice.However, according to an ongoing study in Germany, what you might have done is just reject some of...
  • Duncan Offers Incentives for 'Revolutionary' Overhaul of Teacher Colleges

    As I predicted Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan's major speech at Columbia University this week called on America's teacher colleges to follow the lead of Louisiana, which has been setting the pace nationally in terms of overhauling its schools of education. The state has turned the devastation wrought by Katrina into an opportunity to force through the kind of education reforms that other states just can't seem to muster. One of its most controversial strategies has been to include data on how effectively new graduates are teaching and how much their students are learning when evaluating the quality of teacher colleges and other training programs. ...
  • In Defense of Children Behaving Badly

    It’s widely accepted in our society today that young kids’ behavior is a window into their future. When they can’t sit still in preschool, or they whack a friend, or they disobey─we recognize these as signs of portent. We all grasp that kids grow out of it, but it’s often hard to keep that in mind in the moment. Our vigilance has been piqued by the ADHD phenomenon, which is both good and bad. It’s good in the sense we want to spot hyperactivity early, in order to help kids who need it. It’s bad in the sense that we judge ordinary childhood misbehaving pretty harshly, through the lens of diagnoses. Amidst these trade-offs, there’s common ground─a baseline that educators and parents agree on: children with better behavior at the start of kindergarten are more ready to learn. Behavior and attention go hand in hand. Better behavior leads to improved attention, which in turn leads to soaking up more knowledge. This behavioral-advantage, it’s understood, continues for several years....
  • Duncan Pursues Teachers Who Make the Grade

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spent the past several months dangling $4.35 billion in Race to the Top money at states to entice them to include data detailing students’ year-to-year academic growth when evaluating teachers’ performance (an idea that the teachers' unions have long dissed).Now he may be poised to push states to dramatically overhaul their teacher colleges by urging states to follow Louisiana’s lead and include information specifying how well new teachers perform in real classrooms when evaluating the quality of schools of education and other training programs. Duncan is scheduled to give what his staff says is a major speech Thursday at Teachers College at Columbia University to set a new “national direction” on teacher preparation. The quality (or lack thereof) of America’s teacher colleges has long been one of the main stumbling blocks to closing the achievement gap. Arthur Levine, the former president of Columbia's Teachers College, put it bluntly...
  • All Talk and No Integration

    By Stefan TheilGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel has put integration at the top of her agenda, pushing for naturalization of immigrants and creating a high-powered Islam Conference that has raised the visibility of Muslim leaders in German public life. Yet last week, the OECD published a damning report on Germany's integration efforts, ranking it at or near the bottom on several measures of its ability to provide education and employment opportunities for its 15 million migrants (who make up 19 percent of the population). One painful statistic: young second-generation immigrants--who should be getting integrated through the education system--are twice as likely to be unemployed as native Germans, even when both hold a college degree. The gap was the highest among the 16 countries studied, a result that author Thomas Liebig blames on rampant discrimination....
  • Mike Lanza: Emotional Intelligence is Better Learned Outdoors Than in Classrooms

    Mike Lanza writes the Playborhood blog. Having followed our thread on the shoddy science for teaching Emotional Intelligence in classrooms, Lanza had an interesting take: if kids today are lacking in “emotional intelligence,” it’s not because schools have failed to teach kids to get along. Rather, he writes, it’s because “Children in 21st Century America don’t play outside on their own any more. Thus, they have far fewer opportunities to develop social skills, leadership skills, sense of mastery, and creativity.”Lanza’s point is that when kids went outside to play in their neighborhood, they learned tremendously from the experience of having to self-organize:"Remember pickup games?  Every time we did it decades ago, we were deciding what to play, who would play, where we would play, and what the rules would be.  We adjudicated disputes and interpreted rules.  We made exceptions to the rules for kids who were less fortunate than us – special needs kids, little kids, or just less...
  • How Biased Science led to Emotional Intelligence Curriculum in all UK Schools

    In 2005, elementary schools in England were told by their Department of Education to include, in their curriculum, a program known as SEAL─which teaches children how to develop their social and emotional skills. In 2007, this mandate was extended to high schools─English children now get this curriculum every single year of their student life. It’s nothing less than an official governmental national strategy for the future. SEAL's rocketing through British schools was really launched by a single evaluation of a pilot program, which had been conducted in 80 elementary schools from 2002 to 2005. In the pilot, schools used activities such as group discussion, stories, puppet play, games, and role playing, to teach topics such as antibullying, the hurtfulness of gossip, and "uncomfortable feelings"─such as bereavement over a loved one's death. When children were kind to each other or acted appropriately, teachers would publicly reward the children with prizes and...
  • Should Socio-Emotional Learning Be Taught In Schools? Part 1

    This week, we’ve hosted Daniel Goleman here to hash out our disagreements over emotional intelligence in children. Dan has been a good sport, and we respect his willingness to engage in this dialogue. We've extended an invitation to Dan to return, if he'd like to respond to more of our questions; if he does, we will make sure to let you know.Over the course of the week, Dan seems to have agreed that at the time his book Emotional Intelligence was originally published, in 1995, he was covering the burgeoning science of emotions – but the construct of Emotional Intelligence itself, as a master unifier, had yet to be proven. So the real question is whether the data in the last 14 years has now proven the validity of Emotional Intelligence. And over the course of the week, our debate over that data boiled down to two competing factoids, at least as it relates to children: On one hand, scores of Emotional Intelligence in students have a very weak, to nonexistent, correlation...
  • How We Overvalue Education

    It's treated as a given in our political debate that offering a good education is the most important way we can reduce our large, and growing, inequality. Democrats, from President Obama to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all say they will invest more in education. George W. Bush pledged to be the education president, and signed No Child Left Behind. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg says that failing to provide equal educational opportunities is a failure to achieve the goals of the civil-rights movement. Wherever you sit on the political spectrum you are supposed to think that education is the way that we mitigate the vastly unequal opportunities that children in America receive. It's intuitively appealing: we are compassionate, we give kids a chance, but then they better pull themselves up their boot straps! ...
  • New Calls for a National Test?

    Calls to create a national test have long been fought back by advocates of local school control, but the release of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress results that showed no gains nationally in fourth-grade math scores—as well as shocking gaps between students' scores on that test vs. state test scores in places like New York—will likely reignite the debate again. While eighth-grade math scores rose by 2 points on the 500-point NAEP scale, it was the first time since the test was launched in 1990 that no uptick was recorded for fourth graders. Scores on the highly regarded NAEP test, commonly known as "The Nation's Report Card," are based on a national sampling, and not every student in the country takes it. But it has consistently given a more accurate picture of what (if any) progress American students are making over the years than the highly political state tests, which vary wildly in rigor from state to state, and have come under increasing...
  • Is the AFT Trying to Reform Its Image?

    Education reformers were pleasantly stunned when the American Federation of Teachers announced today that two of the winners of their new Innovation Fund grants planned to use the money to create teacher-evaluation systems that give weight to students' standardized test scores. The idea of considering gains (or the lack thereof) in student test scores when evaluating the effectiveness of teachers is an idea that reformers have pushed for years. But it's also an idea that the AFT, the country's second-largest union, as well as its rival, the National Education Association, has repeatedly dissed, insisting that research doesn't prove that teacher quality and test scores correlate. In fact, AFT President Randi Weingarten, while head of the New York City teachers' union, helped push through state legislation banning use of student test scores in teacher evaluations for tenure.  ...
  • Motivation and Flow: The Teenager Edition

    Over the past week, I've been writing about the importance of motivation in improving the rate at which kids learn. Typically, when we think about such examples, we tend to think in terms of a particular activity that a kid becomes emotionally invested in. (In my son's case, it was Pokémon, now it's sports.) However, motivation is also affected by structural factors—by how a subject, skill, or sport is taught. Certain ways of teaching enhance motivation, and other means of teaching weaken motivation. This becomes particularly clear in the research on the concept of "flow."  ...
  • Leading Psychologists Reveal Some of Their Own Inner Demons

    Today, I recommend checking out the British Psychological Society's Research Digest. BPS asked over 20 of the world's leading psychologists to confess (in 150 words or less) to one nagging thing they still don't understand about themselves.Witty, charming, and by definition insightful, the psychologists' answers are well-worth reading. Richard Wiseman's piece wondering where comedy comes from made me chuckle; Robert Plomin's thoughts on parenting and genetic influence reminded me how much Po and I want to delve into this work – and how many questions are still left unanswered. But, read the essays as a group, and I think the scholars' replies offer an even broader insight.For example, evolutionary psychologist David Buss has studied the way men frequently – and incorrectly –  believe that women's friendliness towards them is an indication of sexual interest. He knows that men get this wrong all the time; however, in the moment, Buss confesses...
  • Marshmallow Boy vs. The Pokemon Kid – The Neuroscience of Children’s Passions

    If I could use subtitles on this blog, this one would read: Why the most famous study of child-distraction is itself a huge distraction.But give me a minute to set this up.Over at The Daily Beast today, I have an essay about how Pokemon changed my son’s brain. Or at least that’s how The Daily Beast is packaging the story. The real point of the article is that my son’s passion changed his brain. Passion, or motivation, is experienced by the brain as the spritz of dopamine. Dopamine increases neural signaling speed – the brains performs better and learns better. Think of dopamine as the turbocharger for learning. You want dopamine on your child’s brain. You want your child motivated.In my son’s case, because he was in love with Pokemon, he used the cards to learn math and reading. And because he loved Pokemon, he did a lot of math and reading, which made him very good at both. Prior to his love of Pokemon, he was entirely unexceptional at either. Now I want to talk about how passion...
  • Playing the “Conditional Love” Card

    It’s interesting to see the term “conditional love” reenter the zeitgeist, as Ashley wrote about yesterday. Conditional love, everyone can well remember, is being hot and cold with a child – accepting them only when they are polite, honest, bring home good grades, get into name-brand colleges, and marry well. Generations went into therapy and realized this was the dominant loving-style of their parents; it traumatized them by making them feel that any natural exploration off the predetermined path was taboo. Individualism and curiosity were forbidden – children felt like showpieces, useful only to impress other parents at the country club.Since the dawn of the age of therapy, we’ve all understood that conditional love was the wrong message to send children. Unconditional love is what kids need. Ever since, we’ve heard the emphasis on unconditional love. Conditional love is almost unspeakable, unmentionable – something we were supposed to eradicate from children’s lives, like lead...
  • Abstinence-Only Education Is Back

    After weeks of railing against the price tag of health-care reform, Senate Republicans managed to bond over pumping up the budget for one aspect of health-care reform yesterday: abstinence-only education. Proposed by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the amendment reinstates $50 million in funding for abstinence-only education that President Obama had previously removed in his budget proposal earlier this year. Committee Republicans were joined by Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Kent Conrad in voting up the measure, which passed 12-11....
  • Are Time-outs for Tots Conditional Love?

    Recently, in the New York Times' science section and Motherlode blog, education writer Alfie Kohn argued that both praise and punishment are equally bad for kids. Essentially his point was that praise and punishment both teach a child that our love for them is conditional – we only care for them when they succeed and stay out of trouble. Accordingly, Kohn thinks that parents should not praise or punish their kids. From no dessert to time-outs and groundings, "What a good job!" and trophies – it all should be thrown out the window. If parents do so any of those terrible things, Kohn warns, children are hostile, resentful, and likely end up in therapy.His pieces have left parents across the nation scratching their heads; they were left feeling incredibly helpless and unsure about how to parent. While Kohn's made some interesting points in the past, we think that Kohn went way too far in both pieces for two reasons. First, he overstated the science he had to support...
  • Clarifying the Science of Building Early Language Skills

    In today’s Science Times, Jane E. Brody conveys a dozen tips on how to develop infants’ and toddlers’ acquisition of language. She makes several very important points – the most vital one being don’t listen to an iPod while pushing your infant in a stroller, because you can’t hear the infant’s vocalizations and then respond accordingly. However, several other tips in the article contradict the scientific record and need clarification.1. Baby Talk. Brody’s article suggests that when parents use Baby Talk, it confuses toddlers. We’ve heard this concern often, but the science is remarkably clear on this point – Baby Talk clarifies language for kids, well into their second year. The scientific term for the speech pattern of Baby Talk is parentese – the emotional affect is giddily upbeat and the vowels are stretched, with highly-exaggerated pitch contours.** It’s not cultural – it’s almost universal. The phonetic qualities help infants and toddlers distinguish discrete sounds. Many...
  • What is Mature, Extended, Pretend Play – Exactly?

    On Sunday, Paul Tough published an article in the New York Times Magazine about how the Tools of the Mind curriculum for preschools and kindergartens enhance children’s self-control. He covered the some of same ground as we did in our chapter of NurtureShock, and it was nice to see the material covered thoughtfully by another journalist. (Full disclosure: Tough has been Po’s occasional editor, but we had no input or influence on his reporting.)So we thought we spend some more time addressing the 60 to 90 minute section at the core of Tools – mature pretend play. How does it unfold, and how can this be recreated at your preschool, or even in your home?In a typical Tools classroom, the majority of the room is split up into several different centers, each decorated to look like a different location. Before the kids ever play in any one center, they spend a week learning about the location it represents. If the new location is a fire station, they read storybooks about life in a fire...