Archive for the ‘School’ Category

Service of The Perfect Balance of Digital Technology for Kids in Schools & At Home

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Photo: mytechdecisions.com

What amount of screen time is best for children in school and at home? Some feel that being comfortable using internet-connected devices is the best way to stay current and be job-ready when the time comes. Others fear that too much screen time is a damaging distraction.

Photo: france24.com

As of this September, French children from three through 15 must turn off or leave at home their smartphones, tablets and other devices when in school. CNN’s Rory Smith reported that it’s up to each school whether older school children have the same restrictions. The French education minister said that the law, which passed by 62 votes to one, is to keep kids from the “phenomenon of screen addiction…. to protect children and adolescents.”

Lucille Grippo, who lives an hour and a half north of NYC, has three school aged children. She wrote me: “Our school district had a viewing of the movie ‘Screenagers.’ As a parent of teens it was eye-opening. I am one of the few that wish there was less tech in schools. It’s a double edged sword. It certainly makes life easier for teachers and students alike but I wonder about the affect on the brain of so much screen time.”

Photo: drbeurkens.com

Lucille has learned how fragile brains can be from firsthand experience. If her name is familiar it’s because in January I re-posted a blog she’d written, “Why a Calendar is so Important to Me” in my post, “Service of Calendars and Miracles.” This young mother had suffered cardiac arrest out of the blue. At first, due to cortical blindness, she couldn’t see numbers and days on a calendar. Aphasia blocked connections that deciphered what appeared to be strange symbols. She also couldn’t read emails and posts on a computer screen..

After fierce physical, occupational and speech therapies and ferocious determination, her eyesight returned and today she even drives. When circumstances beyond her control forced her away from the “screen” and “offline” she realized how easy it was to step away. Reluctantly returning to her iPhone, tablet and laptop she recognized how the world around her operates on a paperless, electronic, and digital way. Sometimes her brain still has screen time overload.

Back to the documentary. Filmmaker Delaney Ruston, MD’s “Screenagers” synopsis begins: “Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span?” She wonders about the impact and friction at home and in school over the some 6.5 hours/day children spend looking at screens. The film explores “struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction.” It includes “insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists and reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and offers solutions on how adults can empower kids to best navigate the digital world and find balance.”

Photo: independent.co.uk

Dr. Ruston writes the blog Tech Talk Tuesday. In a recent issue she reported: “Fact: Schools experience pressure to have tech on their campuses from tech companies, administration, and others. Schools want to do well by their students and tech has been sold as a quick fix. For example, schools keep hearing from tech and curriculum companies that ways to ‘personalize and customize learning’ is right around the corner.

“Unfortunately, it has been a very long corner with no impressive results yet,” she added referring to a New York Times article, “The Digital Gap Between the Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected.” The Times reported that Utah, with no funding for a traditional program, has 10 thousand children enrolled in an online preschool. “…one can see how the screen has stepped in,” she wrote.

Her research showed that grades and emotional well being were improved when schools had stringent policies restricting cell phones. The devices were permitted by 66 percent of public middle schools vs. 34 percent of private schools in her study.

Do you think a child restricted from free access to online devices will fall behind his/her peers? Will eliminating the distraction help children focus on school? Might there be less online bullying? Are you distracted by your phone and the siren call of checking what’s up on social media and your email box?

Photo: neonnettle.com

Service of While We Were Distracted by Stormy, Omarosa, a $15K Jacket & Michael Cohen…

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Photo: nationofchange.org

Cable and social media are obsessed with Stormy, Omarosa, the $15K Paul Manafort jacket, the Cohen admissions and other almost daily forehead-slapping bits that distract from and mask crucial changes by the current administration none of which are topics around the water cooler.

Daniel Nelson wrote in sciencetrends.com that the administration cut out the yearly budget for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System which measures greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and “will likely stymie efforts to combat global climate change.” The savings was $10 million/year. [By comparison, the Mexico wall is estimated to cost $70 billion to build and $150 million/year to maintain.]

Photo: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

According to Nelson, “Kelly Sims Gallagher, the director of the International Environment and Resource Policy Center at Tufts University says that the decision was ‘a grave mistake.’”

The program supported research big and small. It:

  • ensured that countries adhered to the Paris climate accord because it measured reductions in emissions
  • provided data for 65 projects to understand how forests keep carbon out of the air
  • prevented deforestation of tropical forest in developing nations
  • tracked dissolving carbon flowing from the mouth of the Mississippi River into the Pacific Ocean
  • helped Providence I. reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Meanwhile Betsy DeVos was busy unraveling consumer protections in another sector—for-profit colleges. [Examples: chains which train automotive mechanics, cosmetologists, cyber security techs and, like the now defunct Trump University, real estate investment specialists.]

Photo: economicdevelopment.org

According to Erica L. Green, DeVos “formally moved to scrap a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that the students they enroll are able to attain decent-paying jobs.” In her New York Times article, Green described the sector as “scandal-scarred” noting that the now rescinded gainful employment safeguard was made during the previous administration.

Photo: autotraining.edu

The rule under Obama “revoked federal funding and access to financial aid for poor-performing schools” where graduates were left drowning in debt with poor job prospects. Green reported that since 2010, when the Obama administration began to tighten the rules, almost half the career programs and schools have closed and the student population shrank by more than 1.6 million. The president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the industry’s trade group, admitted “The sector today is so much better.”

Who will be left holding the bag to pay defaulted loans under the DeVos change? Taxpayers.

“‘The Trump administration is once again choosing the interests of executives and shareholders of predatory for-profit higher education institutions over protecting students and taxpayers,’ said John King, the Obama-era education secretary charged with enforcing the rule, who called the move ‘outrageous and irresponsible.’”

Attorney generals of 18 states have sued to delay enforcement of the DeVos reversal.

Here are the reasons her department gives for rescinding the gainful employment rule:

  • Research ignored by the Obama administration “undermined the ‘validity of using the debt and earnings comparisons.’”
  • They found that “‘a troubling degree of inconsistency and potential error exists in job placement rates’ that ‘could mislead students in making an enrollment decision.’”
  • It was “burdensome” for schools to disclose their data.
  • “the Obama regulations ‘reinforce an inaccurate and outdated belief that career and vocational programs are less valuable to students and less valued by society, and that these programs should be held to a higher degree of accountability than traditional two- and four-year degree programs that may have less market value.’”

Maybe someone can explain these arguments to me.

Is there a chance that these reversals—and their negative impact–will be part of voter decisions at the November midterm elections? Do you think that they are widely known? Are the extraneous headline-grabbing distractions deliberate to keep our eyes off the many far bigger birdies? They sure are working, don’t you think?

Photo: pinterest

Service of Humiliating, Harmful Strategies to Get Paid: Lunch Shaming

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Photo: canadianfamily.ca

Photo: canadianfamily.ca

The headline alone of Bettina Elias Siegel’s article in The New York Times, “Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill,” is enough to sink hearts and for readers to scream: “What are they thinking?” To embarrass a child in front of others for something they have done is horror enough but to do this over something over which the young one has no control is unthinkable. Adding injury to insult is that it involves an essential life-sustaining activity, eating, and it is fomented by school administrators who, of all people, should know better. Further, there’s a huge element of waste involved.

I wrote about school lunches four years ago in a different context: Service of Equality: Free School Breakfast, Lunch and iPads.” In that post I wanted NYC to pay for breakfast and lunch for the children whose parents couldn’t afford to buy them but thought that giving free iPads was a bit much when there are viable, far less expensive tablet options.

Recently Siegel wrote: “On the first day of seventh grade last fall, Caitlin Dolan lined up for lunch at her school in Canonsburg, Pa. But when the cashier discovered she had an unpaid food bill from last year, the tray of pizza, cucumber slices, an apple and chocolate milk was thrown in the trash.”

What’s the strategy here: It’s better to toss good food than give it to a hungry child? That’ll teach a parent who isn’t there who may not have the money to pay in the first place.

Photo: thebalance.com

Photo: thebalance.com

News in the rest of the article doesn’t get much better. Siegel further described “lunch shaming,” as the nasty approach is called. “The practice is widespread — a 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.)” Instead of a real lunch some are given two pieces of bread with a thin slice of cheese.

Photo: money.usnews.com

Photo: money.usnews.com

Siegel described a cafeteria worker in Pa. who quit when forced to take away a child’s lunch. A child in Alabama went home with a stamp on her arm: “I need lunch money.”

There’s no free lunch and there’s the lunch bill to pay. What to do? Some qualify for a federal free meal program though others are afraid to apply because of their immigration status. Communities ask for “random acts of kindness” and organize fundraisers and GoFundMe pages. A Texas-based 4th grade mentor, Kenny Thompson, paid the bill when he saw the lunch lady refuse food to a child whose mother, he knew, was in the hospital. Next he founded “Feed the Future Forward,” and through fundraising events and donations hopes to wipe out over $50,000 in debt. To qualify for the refund money, however, Thompson makes schools sign a pledge that they won’t give children with unpaid bills a meal different from the other kids.

Lunch shaming is nothing new. Siegel quoted a mother whose son won’t eat peanut butter as the result of an incident two decades ago. How did it catch on and why do communities permit it? What gets into the minds of administrators who lose sight of their clients—children—when addressing a problem? How can parents permit such cruelty in a place they entrust their children?

Feed the Future Forward

Service of Nice

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

 

John Wyeth at Harlem Link School

John Wyeth at Harlem Link School

 

Telling someone that their blind date is “nice” was, in the day, code for the man/woman is either ugly, dumb, addicted to some substance or a combination. That was in my salad days.

Over the years, as the literal “nice” applies to increasingly fewer people, the word has come to mean what it should and is positive and precious to me.

Given my appreciation of all things nice, you’ll soon see why I jumped when I read a good friend Deirdre Wyeth’s Facebook post about the school at which her dear husband John had worked and the reason I asked if I might post what they did to remember him. John died last fall, far too soon.

Deirdre wrote on Facebook: “The wonderful people at Harlem Link Charter School, where John worked for almost 10 years, held a celebration this evening in memory of him. There were in-person and video tributes, a song by one of the students, and a buffet based on what he brought for lunch every day: pb&j, wheat thins and grapes in a brown bag.

“They also created a plaque for him [photo below]. And especially wonderful, they announced they will name an award for a graduating student in his honor – and the award is for niceness. How perfect is that? Such a moving and emotional evening. Thanks to all!”

On its website Harlem Link describes itself as a “Pre-K to 5 public charter school that has offered a high quality educational choice to families in Harlem since 2005. Our school attains high levels of academic achievement in a safe, nurturing environment through a well-rounded curriculum.” In another section I read: “We also pay attention to details that too many public schools ignore, such as the consistency with which teachers use language from grade to grade to build a common culture and the quiet tone of our hallways.”

Quiet hallways. Wow. What’s quiet in NYC and with children around?

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Being nice was just one of the wonderful and particular things about John. In addition to writing plays and being a topnotch school administrator, he loved ragtime and being a dad. Of the many children in his life his brilliant, lovely daughter May benefited most from his creativity, composure and his pride in her accomplishments.

The Nice Award caught my attention for another reason. I’ve mentioned before that I was designated “Best Camper” at my overnight camp at aged 8, a concept considered so yesterday in today’s competitive world. The tangible reward was a magnificent, special lollipop—I’d not tasted a more delicious one before nor have I since. I think the recognition was for similar reasons as the John Wyeth Nice Award. I relate and am pleased to see appreciation for such characteristics returning.

We mostly reward celebrity, financial success, physical beauty, the four star restaurant and the people who get all A’s. How many institutions recognize–and honor–the nicest person in the group?

John Wyeth Plaque

Service of Bullying on and off the Political Stage

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Photo: bully and the booger baby blog

Photo: bully and the booger baby blog

While the drastic impact and deadly repercussions of children bullying children is sadly so often in the news–a story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal advised what to do if your child is a target–bullies of all shapes, sizes and ages have always existed.

My father didn’t speak much about his military service or later war experiences but one of the few stories he shared was about a bully in his basic training squadron. The fellow lost his terrorist status the morning the troops were lined up to receive an injection. He fainted when it was his turn. Amen.

Photo: wikihow.com

Photo: wikihow.com

Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor, professor and author knows something about being bullied. In a September 9 Facebook posting he wrote: “Because I’m very short, I was always bullied as a kid. I discovered that the best defense against bullies was to taunt them into revealing the weaknesses and insecurities that had made them into bullies.”

Photo: National Bullying Hotline

Photo: National Bullying Hotline

He continued, “After watching him for the past year, I’d guess [Donald] Trump’s weakness and insecurities have to do with his not feeling very intelligent, not feeling respected in the circles in which he craves respect, and not feeling he’s the man his father wanted him to be.”

Reich admits to the guess—his degrees and experience are not in the area of psychiatry. However with on-the-job training as a target he goes on to suggest a way to deflate the presidential candidate who flummoxes even the most high profile, experienced news people to silence when confronted with his bombast. Reich wrote: “Trump isn’t basing his candidacy on policies or facts, which the media are trained to probe. Trump is selling alpha-male strength and power. It’s a hoax, of course. Trump is just a garden-variety bully. But the media aren’t trained to expose this kind of hoax. In fact, the more Trump can bulldoze and belittle his interviewers, as well as Hillary Clinton, the more he appears to show strength and power.”

The solution? Reich suggested: “So questions from the media (and comments from Hillary) that provoke him in these areas will, I believe, cause him to expose the sham of his alpha-male strength and power.”

I’m not sure where Reich came up with his guess about Trump’s relationship with his father but the other two insecurities seem to fit. Do you agree? Have you known/worked with/been to school or lived with bullies? How have you dealt with them?

 

Photo: drawception.com

Photo: drawception.com

Service of Internet Love: Security & Swindles

Monday, July 27th, 2015

 

Caveat emptor

 

While a third of couples who have married between 2005 and 2012 have met online, according to a National Academy of Sciences survey funded by eHarmony, Internet love isn’t always lovelier the second or 20th time around. This was made clear by two examples in the recent news.

Caveat Emptor I

I hadn’t heard of Ashley Madison, the online dating site for married people who want to cheat on their spouses and whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair,” until I read that its database had been hacked. The hackers warned that they might divulge personal information unless the website, which claims to have 37 million members, is shut down. According to cnn.com, “The hackers called themselves the ‘Impact Team,’ and the potential release includes ‘profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.’”

Apart from the fertile ground for profitable blackmailing, “The hackers — or hacker, perhaps — appear to be upset over the company’s ‘full delete’ service, which promises to completely erase a user’s profile, and all associated data, for a $19 fee.” The hackers claim that the most important information—names and addresses—are not removed. “Avid Life Media also said that it had hired ‘one of the world’s top IT security teams’ to work on the breach.” Between the leaky “full delete” service and the hacking, I doubt that Ashley Madison members are sleeping well at night.

Caveat Emptor II

Last week Elizabeth Olson wrote in The New York Times about women who were swindled by older couplemen they’d met on Internet dating sites. She was unable to report the total number of people pulled in but noted that according to the Federal Internet Crime Complaint Center in just six months–between last July and December 31–grievances representing $82.3 million were made by almost 6,000 people. In one case history in her story, “Swept Off Her Feet, Then Bilked Out of Thousands,” a woman sent nearly $300,000 to a fellow who claimed to be in Ghana on business and ran into snags. Another didn’t tell her family about the $292,000 she sent to another con-person.

Hacking into a dormant dating profile is how it generally starts, Olson learned from Vermont’s Attorney General office’s Public Protection Division. The fake lover alters age, gender, occupation and quickly asks the target to continue to communicate with them via email, phone or instant message. The swindler creates trust and then a sense of urgency/need of cash.

It’s become such a problem for women mostly in their 50s and 60s that AARP has asked dating sites to up their surveillance for romance cons wrote Olson. Its Fraud Watch Network suggests that users check Google’s “search by image” function to see if the new contact’s photo appears on other dating sites under different names. Google also has romance scam sites on which to confirm suspicious language.  The FBI’s Internal Crime Center also shared clues: Watch for someone who says they love you, asks for money so they can visit and then, if you refuse, reprimands that you don’t love them back; tells you that your “romance is destiny or fate;” or that they are from the US and are going overseas for business or to attend to family.

Given the high profile triumph of hackers are you amazed that so many would voluntarily put such intimate information about themselves—not to speak of their marriages–in such a potentially compromising situation? I know people under 40 who have met their life mates on dating sites and others who are older who haven’t. How might older people safely level the online playing field?  In addition to the Internet, local pub, through work or religious institution, where else might people meet once they’ve left school/college?

The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid

Service of a Mistake You Wish Hadn’t Happened

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

oops 2

My senior year in high school was one of the most stressful of my life. That’s why this mistake caught my attention. Someone in the admissions department of Johns Hopkins sent an email with the subject line, “Embrace the Yes,” to 294 students telling them that they had been accepted when, in fact, they had been rejected.

EraseAccording to coverage in thedailybeast.com, in an article by Jonathan Ernst for Reuters, the college immediately admitted its mistake and apologized. “Admissions decisions days are stressful enough. We very much regret having added to the disappointment felt by a group of very capable and hardworking students, especially ones who were so committed to the idea of attending Johns Hopkins that they applied early decision,” Ernst quoted David Phillips, vice provost for admissions and financial aid at the University.

Mistakes happen. The university did what it could to address the matter and with speed. But oh, gosh! In this discussion I’m not including fatal mistakes by physicians, surgeons or parachute folders. Have you made such an error, been the recipient of one or heard of slip-ups with no happy ending that make you slap your head and exclaim, “Oh no!”

slap head

Service of Equality: Free School Breakfast, Lunch and iPads

Monday, September 9th, 2013

 apple

I want my taxes to cover the breakfast and lunch of children whose parents can’t afford to feed them. Currently in NYC, according to Stan Brooks on 1010 WINS radio, NY:  “The free meals are only available in a quarter of city schools, and only one-third of eligible students are eating them. On Wednesday [August 21], the City Council passed two resolutions by a vote of 42-2, asking the state legislature to take action.”

WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb reported: “‘Currently, only 34 percent of New York City schoolchildren who qualify for free or reduced lunch eat breakfast at school. When compared with other big cities across the country, Newark, for example, at 87.2 percent or Houston at 79.1 percent, our performance in abysmal,’ City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) said at an education committee hearing on Wednesday.” Lamb quoted Levin as saying because we don’t spend it we return $50 million to Washington. He also wrote that NYC Mayoral candidate Christine Quinn reported that: “Only about 28% of elementary school students, 15% of middle school students and 12% of high school students participate in the school breakfast program.”

healthy breakfastWhile Mayor Bloomberg thinks all the children should have a free breakfast, the Mayor is concerned about overfeeding the some 40 percent of obese NYC children. Wouldn’t this be an opportunity to teach the children about eating healthy food by serving it to them?

However, I think that the children whose parents can afford to pay for breakfast and lunch should do so.

kids using iPadsSimilarly, I have a bone to pick with politicians such as NYC Mayoral candidate Christine Quinn who feel that every child in public school should be given an iPad. It’s happening in LA to help erase the divide between rich and poor. If it’s imperative for every child to own a tablet, there’s nothing wrong with a Nook or a Kindle both of which have access to email and apps, a savings of hundreds of dollars per child.

Should the adults who’d like a tablet and can’t afford even one of the cheaper ones pay taxes for kids to get the luxury version? Won’t there always be a colleague, team member, neighbor or relative who has more goodies than you? Is it up to the government to even up such inequities? Should we not spend tax money to teach kids so they can become the ones who can afford the equivalent of the iPad if they want one rather than giving them a fancy gadget and expect it to do the work?

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