Education

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  • 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...
  • Does Labeling Bias as "Bullying" Hide the Real Problem?

    Yesterday, we were struck by Tony Dokoupil's piece on Alex Merritt, a young man bullied by his teachers. As Dokoupil movingly reported, the taunts were cruel, and the remarks were almost entirely based on the teachers' allegations that Merritt was a homosexual. Of course, the fact the bullying was spearheaded by teachers – then spread to the student-body – makes the situation seem all the more unforgivable. But it reminded us of the work of University of Arizona professor, Stephen T. Russell. Russell went to public and private schools in California, surveying 235,000 kids in 7th, 9th, and 11th grades. Russell asked each student if he had been bullied within the past 12 months, and if they answer was yes, to describe the incident. 37.4% of the kids said that they had been bullied. Then Russell broke that data down by category. 14% of the kids had been bullied because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin. 9.1% of the kids said they'd been bullied because of...
  • High School Grades vs. The SAT vs. Family Income

    My posts over the last two days compared how the SAT predicts college success against Emotional Intelligence scores. I received a lot of emails in response, and the vast majority of them were readers telling me their individual story through the statistics that defined their life. People would list their SAT score, name the college they attended, and then state their college GPA. Often their stories continued into their adult years, as their GPA rose over time, or jumped dramatically when they hit graduate school and were finally studying a subject of genuine interest. Sometimes, in place of grad school GPAs, people told me their annual income. I wasn't sure what to do with these stories, because they were sent to me as evidence of how the SAT does, or does not, predict the near future. However, while each anecdote is true and has integrity, no single anecdote proves or disproves the point. The statistics are cumulative of everyone's story. So this brings up an interesting...
  • In Defense of the SAT

    One of the most popular ideas of our time is the notion that in judging a young person’s future success, we’ve become imbalanced, giving too much credence to whether a child has learned the stuff of textbooks, and too little value to whether that child has learned the stuff of real life. The latter is a whole constellation of behaviors and skills, from creativity to emotional-intelligence to self-discipline to practical judgment. In this modern paradigm, the elements of real life success are characterized as highly generalizable, useful everywhere from the urban street corner to the boardroom. Meanwhile, the elements that go into book learning are characterized as being narrowly applicable, useful only for getting into college, at which point the other factors take over. No matter who is making this argument–whether it’s Daniel Goleman, Dan Pink, Robert Sternberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Stanley, or some college president–it always stands on a few key bricks. One of those bricks is...