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A Teachable Moment with “Gifted Hands”

If you are a teacher or a serious parent more concerned about his or her child’s future as a working adult than a child having fun and/or being entertained all of the time, then this may be a teachable moment.

But first, 43% of adults at the lowest level of literacy lived below the poverty line, as opposed to 4% of those with the highest levels of literacy.

In addition, in 2010, the unemployment rate for adults that did not have a high school diploma was almost 16%. However, for adults with a Bachelors degree or higher (that means a college education), that unemployed rate was 5%.

In addition, since 1992, the unemployment rate for workers with a BA or better averaged 3.31%, but for high school dropouts the average was 8.84%. The lowest unemployment rate for college graduates was in 2001 at 1.5%, but it was 6% for high school dropouts the same year.

After I bought a copy of “Gifted Hands” at Costco recently, we watched the Ben Carson story. It was a film based on the life of a real person and the mother that made a difference in his life. Not once in the film was it suggested that it was the responsibility of any of Carson’s teachers to turn off the TV in Carson’s home and for his mother to tell him he had to visit the library and read books instead of watching TV.

In fact, the teachable moment may be to watch the film “Gifted Hands” (the entire film is embedded—second video—in this post and it has Spanish subtitles), then discuss who and what made the difference in Ben Carson’s life. Then have the child write a one page essay about what he or she learned about the importance of reading instead of watching TV.

Ben Carson’s mother had a third grade education and she got married at age 14 to later discover that her husband was a bigamist. For me, the teachable moment was when Carson’s mother turned off the TV and told her two sons that they were going to check books out of the library, read them, and then write a report of each book to be read out loud to the mother. She could not read but she could listen.

 
Ben Carson: An extraordinary Life – Conversations from Penn State

In the previous embedded video, at 6:32 minutes, Carson says once he started doing a lot of reading, he stopped hating poverty and realized that he didn’t have to stay in that lifestyle.  He could change his life to anything he wanted it to be by working for it.

Note: I love using the word WORK to describe what we do as adults to earn money legally.

In one scene, Carson is being given an award for being the top student in his mostly white school and a teacher embarrasses him when she tells all of the white students in the room that they allowed themselves to be beaten by a fatherless black student living in poverty.

What that teacher did was uncalled for—it was cruel and racist. However, she told the white students they were lazy and could have easily beaten Carson for the academic honor he earned. She should have criticized the parents of those white students for letting their children watch too much TV.

The message I learned from this film pointed out exactly how to encourage students to learn to read and work hard in school to earn an education—not more laws that hold only public school teachers responsible for the education of a child.

Studies show that the average American child talks to his or her parents less than five minutes a day and spends more than 10 hours a day outside of school watching too much TV (on average three hours a day outside of school) in addition to playing video games, listening to music, social networking on the Internet, hanging out with friends, sending text messages, etc.

 
You may be able to watch the movie here. I found this link on You Tube, and it has Spanish subtitles.

There was another scene in the movie with a science teacher.  When Carson was the only student in the class to answer a question, the teacher kept Carson after school, because when most teachers see an opportunity to help a motivated student, he or she does help.  Teachers can only help students that help themselves and it is up to the parents to do the rest.

Carson’s mother had a third grade education but her son’s went to college. Today Benjamin S. Carson is the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Children’s Center. His brother is an engineer. Through reading and an education, this family left poverty and the high risk of unemployment behind.

Answer this question: If Carson’s mother had left that TV on, do you honestly believe he would be where he is today?

Discover What is the Matter with Parents these Days

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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To SPANK a child – that is the question

Sarah B. Weir, a Yahoo blogger, posted, “Spanking Linked to Mental Illness, Says Study.”

Weir reported, “Researchers examined data from more than 34,000 adults and found that being spanked significantly increased the risk of developing mental health issues as adults.”

However, a post at The Daily Beast written by Po Bronson reveals another side to this issue that people such as Sarah B. Weir may not want you to discover. It turns out that there has been very little research on children that were never spanked, because children who’ve never been spanked aren’t easy to find.

Bronson mentions a study that is still underway called Portraits of American Life. It involves interviews of 2,600 people and their adolescent children every three years for the next 20 years. Dr. Marjorie Gunnoe (see video) working with the first wave of data on teens found that almost a quarter of these teens report they were never spanked.

Dr. Gunnoe’s summary will upset many that are dead set against spanking. The good doctor reported that kids who were never spanked are not any better off in the long term. In addition, Gunnoe discovered those who’d been spanked just when they were young—ages 2 to 6—were doing a little better as teenagers than those who’d never been spanked.

Furthermore, John Weyenberg, writing for Ezine @rticles.com, says, “I believe that spanking children is a viable and sometimes necessary form of discipline. I do not believe in abusing children. I do not equate spanking with abuse. Spanking a child under the wrong conditions and too often can turn into a pattern of abuse. But spanking a child as a very last resort under the following conditions can prove to be beneficial and not harmful.”

I agree with Weyenberg and also suggest that angry parents should never spank a child. If a parent is calm, the odds are he or she will not lose control turning spanking into physical abuse. I spanked my son when he was a child, but I used a paddle and wrote the rules on the paddle that spelled out what earned a spanking such as lying about his homework, because he lied about his homework often. No matter how upset I was, those rules spelled out the exact punishment when all else failed. As a rule, he was also spanked with another adult watching as a witness.

In addition, many studies into the effects of spanking have proven to be highly unreliable because they are largely based on the researcher’s interpretation of children’s behavior. Study bias is a common phenomenon among behavioral studies in which the researchers have a committed position and are required to judge behavior. Source: Religious Tolerance.org

For this reason, Robert Larzelere and his colleagues wanted to see if the link between spanking and antisocial behavior was caused by the children themselves—some kids are more trouble, and they provoke more disciplinary action. The results of the Larzelere study, “In addition to a link between antisocial behavior and spanking, the researchers also found links between  antisocial behavior and ‘grounding,’ or punishing kids by taking away their privileges to go out, and antisocial behavior and psychotherapy.”

Then Arthur Whaley discovered that in countries where corporal punishment was commonplace, the link between physical discipline with increased child aggression and anxiety was weaker. Source: Parenting Science.com

This indicates that spanking children may not be harmful where the issue isn’t a controversial hot-button topic that creates an environment where children grow up feeling sorry for themselves because other children and parents send signals that spanking is wrong and abusive when in fact, it often is not.

Studies show that “early emotional experience knits long-lasting patterns into the very fabric of the brain’s neural networks leading to moodiness, irritability, clinical depression, increased negative thinking, negative perceptions of events, etc.” Source: Forgiving Parents: Breaking the Chain of Anger, Resentment and Pain

Does this mean that the loud and vocal anti-spanking lobby is responsible for planting the concept in children that are spanked that they are being abused leading to mental illness as adults? Hmm, if you are a parent that spanks, you may be able to sue that nosey next-door neighbor or teacher that criticizes your parenting methods that may include spanking. Think about it—it is called programming a response.

Discover Too Happy! To Perfect! Too Fragile!

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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The results of parenting gone wrong – Part 2/2

As a teacher, I used brainstorming activities in my classroom. After all, I was taught and told to use brainstorming. The concept was to accept what anyone said as correct and worthy of being written down, so we wouldn’t bruise or injure a child’s self-esteem.

However,  Lehrer writes, “Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: ‘Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.'”

In fact, in Does Brainstorming For New Ideas Really Work? (Business Insider, March 27, 2012), it was reported that experiments where it is okay to debate and criticize (constructive criticism no doubt) generated nearly 25 percent more ideas and findings show that debate and criticism do not inhibit ideas but, rather, stimulate them…

These results prove that the self-esteem’s brainstorming mantra of refraining from judging or negating ideas is wrong. In other words, brainstorming (a product of the self-esteem movement) did not unleash the potential of the group. Instead the technique suppressed it, making each individual less creative.

In addition, Stephanie Hallett writing for the Huffington Post reported, “Barely half of Americans over the age 18 are married, according to a new report from the Pew Research Institute. The number of couples married in 2010 dropped a startling 5 percent from the previous year, and the overall number of married couples has declined by more than 20 percentage points since 1960.”

Now, let’s look at the face in that mirror again. The self-esteem movement among parents gained serious momentum in the 1960s and by the late 1970s, it was a force in the public schools leading to grade inflation and a feel-good atmosphere for students. At the same time, marriages declined in addition to an increase in a weakening of parent-child relationships, while creativity in America isn’t what it could be.

In conclusion, it is obvious that self-esteem parenting led to the weakening of the parent-child relationship, is responsible in the decline of traditional marriage and has inhibited creativity, which will hurt the United States in the long run.

Is this an example of the domino theory in practice?

Return to The results of parenting gone wrong – Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

Learn more from  Recognizing Good Parenting

 

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 3/7

In the August 2011 Costco Connection, Norm Scott, the founding member of the Grassroots Education Movement and one of the producers of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman”, said, “The fact that I was able to develop long-term relationships with parents, siblings and even children of former students, who were in my class, created a stable and secure environment for many of these students.”

I found this to be true.  Several years before I retired from teaching in 2005, I started to receive the children of former students that were now parents. Some of those former students had been a challenge to control and teach but maturity comes with age and by the time they were parents, they understood the value of an education and dedicated teachers.

My experience with the children of former students was always rewarding.

As a teacher that taught for thirty years and more than 150 classes (between 5,000 to 6,000 students), I had only one class where every student passed because so many studied and did the homework—one of more than 150.

Often, in most of the classes, when I walked around the room to collect homework, which reinforces the lesson I taught, of thirty-four students maybe three to five would turn the work in.

In addition, I made phone calls to parents as my friend does. Each day after school, I’d spend an hour or more calling parents asking them to make sure their children did the work assigned and studied or talk about a behavior problem.

Even with the phone calls to parents, few of the challenging students did the work and the bad behavior often continued.

I am at a loss why this fact never seems to come up in media discussions of public education. It is as if the entire burden of education rests with the teacher while the role of students and parents in the educational process is ignored or doesn’t exist.

One other factor is the stress that teachers often face daily.  When I was a U.S. Marine serving in Vietnam in 1966, we did not see action daily.  In fact, days might go by before we would go into the field on patrol, on a recon, an ambush, a field operation, or our camp would be hit.

In fact, thousands of public school teachers are phyiscally assaulted by students each school year and some end up in the hospital.

During the thirty years I taught, not a day went by that there wasn’t a behavior problem with a student. I witnessed drive by shootings from one of my classroom doorways once as school was letting out. On another evening when I was working late with the editors of the school newspaper, the member of one teen gang was gunned down outside my class by a rival gang, and not a year went by that I wasn’t threatened by a member of a street gang that was also a student in my class.

He would say, “What would you do if we jumped you, Mr. Lofthouse?”  This was one of those times when it paid to stand at six foot four and weigh 180 pounds without much fat while being a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.  I also had this cold-eyed “killer” stare.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, doesn’t ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Continued on September 7, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 2/7

In the August 2011 Costco Connection, Norm Scott, the founding member of the Grassroots Education Movement and one of the producers of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman”, said, “The biggest danger to education is turnover. Fifty percent of teachers leave within the first six years… Removing seniority rights would create an even higher turnover rate, those cost of which would be devastating—not only financially, but for students.”

In fact, I suspect if it weren’t for seniority, I would have lost my teaching job long before I finished my 30th year, and I would have been fired not because of the quality of my teaching but because I taught by ignoring some of the popular fads that teachers are forced to follow such as boosting self-esteem by inflating grades and dummying down the curriculum, which has caused more students to learn less than any incompetent teacher.

What happens when an excellent veteran teacher ends up with a class full of students that do not study or do homework? During the thirty years I taught, I had many students like this and was often told by administration that I made more phone calls to parents than any teacher at the high school where I taught.

A teacher’s lessons may be excellent but if students do not pay attention, study or do the homework and there is little or no parental support, the chances are those students will not learn much.

A former colleague and friend still teaching in a public high school said in a recent e-mail that he is demoralized because the students and parents do not care or support what he does in his classroom.

For an idea of how bad it can be, the administration at the high school where he teaches requires that teachers spend so much time contacting parents in an attempt to gain support that my friend had to hire a retired teacher at $25 an hour (out of his pocket) to correct work his students turned in so he could free up time at home weeknights and on weekends to call about 200 different parents to tell them about the assignments and to virtually beg them to make sure their children study and do the work that was assigned.

What happens when a student doesn’t perform, which means he or she does not participate in class, does not ask questions when he or she is confused about a lesson [correct me if I’m wrong, but teachers cannot read minds], avoids class work, avoids homework, avoids reading assignments, will not read independently, will not study and/or misbehaves in class?

Is that the teachers fault?

Are there incompetent teachers?

Yes.

However, even “Waiting for Superman”, as propagandized and flawed as it is, admitted that studies show 7% of the teachers fit in this category (other studies say that number is only one percent). In the US, the average student probably has about 50 teachers from kindergarten to the end of high school.  Seven percent of fifty is less than 3.5, which leaves 46.5 teachers that were adequate or incredible.

Do we change the public education system and remove job security due to seven percent of the teachers?

Continued on September 6, 2011 in Dumping Teachers due to Standardized Test Results and Student Performance – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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The Reality of American Education – Part 3/3

MYTH: “American Universities Are Being Overtaken.” (concerning research and development)

Wildavsky’s ANSWER: “NOT SO FAST.

He says, Asia’s share of the world’s research and development (R&D) spending grew from 27 to 32% from 2002 to 2007, led mostly by China, India, and South Korea.

However, R&D spending worldwide massively surged in the last decade from $790 billion to $1.1 trillion, up 45 percent, and in 2007, the U.S. spent $373 billion (up from $277 billion in 2002) on R&D, which was very high by global standards totaling more than all Asian countries’ combined ($352 billion was spent on R&D in Asia).

MYTH: “THE WORLD WILL CATCH UP”

Wildavsky’s ANSWER: “Maybe, but don’t count on it anytime soon.”

While the global academic marketplace is without doubt growing more competitive, the United States doesn’t have just a few elite schools as most of its foreign competition does, and the U.S. spends about 2.9 percent of its GDP on postsecondary education, about twice the percentage spent in 2006 by China, the European Union, and Japan combined.

In fact, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), eight of the top ten universities are in the US and so are 54 of the top 100, while the US State Department recognizes 194 independent countries around the globe.

If this three part series of posts sparked a curiosity to learn more on this topic, I urge you to take the time and click over to Foreign Policy magazine‘s Website and read all of FP’s Think Again: Education written by Ben Wildavsky.

It’s always a good idea to discover the facts before you form an opinion or believe what someone writes in a Blog. In today’s Internet dominated world, opinions without reputable and reliable facts to support them are worth as much as sterile dirt, which is why I usually link to the sources I use for facts.

After reading Wildavsky’s piece in FP, it is obvious that America’s schools are not failing and have never been failing and are actually either holding steady or slowly improving.

That DOES NOT mean the US should stop working at improving the public education system.

Considering the handicaps and competition teachers in the U.S. public schools face to gain the attention and cooperation of the average child and/or adolescent, the facts says American teachers are doing an incredible job.

Imagine what would happen if the average American parent was actually involved with his or her child’s education as much as the average Asian-American parent (such as Amy Chua of Tiger Mother fame). If you are interested in learning more of Amy Chua, I recommend reading her oldest daughter’s Blog, a new tiger in town, who is now attending Harvard — ranked number one by the ARWU.

Return to The Reality of American Education – Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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Too Happy! Too Perfect! Too Fragile! – Part 4/4

Lori Gottlieb follows Amy Chua with Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University that has written extensively about narcissism and self-esteem.  Twenge is also the co-author of Epidemic. Twenge says, when ego-boosting parents exclaim “Great Job!”, the child learned to feel that everything he does is special … he never gets negative feedback on his performance … They grew up in a bubble, so they get out into the real world and they start to feel lost and helpless.


“Season 2 – Episode 9 – Does anyone let their kids play outside anymore? Cross the street? Do their own homework? Tie their own shoe? How do we prepare our kids for the real world while keeping them in a protective bubble? Jen and Barb talk to Dr. Wendy Mogel, nationally known clinical psychologist and author of the New York Times best selling parenting book, “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” about need to empower ourselves as Mothers to loosen the leash and let our kids fall, so they learn how to get up and are prepared for the future.”

Wendy Mogel told Gottlieb over the phone, “Please let them (kids) be devastated at age 6 and not have their first devastation be in college!” and “parents who protect their kids from accurate feedback teach them that they deserve special treatment.”

In fact, Twenge says, “Research shows that much better predictors of live fulfillment and success are perseverance, resiliency, and reality-testing—qualities that people need so they can navigate the day-to-day,” and many kids aren’t learning these skills anymore.

Near the conclusion of the Atlantic piece, Gottlieb said, “by trying  so hard to provide the perfectly happy childhood, we’re just making it harder for our kids to actually grow up.”

Return to Too Happy! Too Perfect! Too Fragile! – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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