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Building Better Kids

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posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 08:55 AM
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motherjones


We are obsessed with education in America. We are obsessed, in particular, with the notion that our schools are failing and have to be fixed. We need to test kids. We need to identify and fire bad teachers. We need merit pay. We need charter schools. We are all waiting for Superman. Philanthropists and the federal government spend billions of dollars per year on programs to promote better schools.

James Heckman doesn't quite say that this is all a waste of money. But he comes close. In a new essay summarizing his recent work on skill formation in children, he says the chart below tells you most of what you need to know about educating our kids:



The chart shows achievement test scores for children of mothers with different levels of education. Children of college graduates score about one standard deviation above the mean by the time they're three, and that never changes. Children of mothers with less than a high school education score about half a standard deviation below the mean by the time they're three, and that never changes either. Roughly speaking, nothing we do after age three has much effect:


This article posits that the most crucial time for developing learning skills in children is in the early years. That would suggest that parents and early childhood teachers have the best and most long-lasting effects.

I have in my family a young woman who had a child at the age of 15. She cared for her child's physical needs, but neglected educational skills. Her daughter was not read to, taught the letters of the alphabet, learned numbers or etc. Her mother decided those were the job of the schools.

Not surprisingly, her child did not adjust well in pre-school or the early grades. She had a short attention span, was easily frustrated, had tantrums, and struggled to learn what most of the other children in the class already knew. These behavior problems led to a later diagnosis of possible ADD.

Her mother, who had matured a lot during her child's early school years, later enrolled her daughter in a charter school. Here her child was benefited by frequent interventions on the part of the teachers and the administrators.

The story has a happy ending. Now, at the age of 16, the child is performing above average in school, does not exhibit the anger and outbursts of temper that were so apparent in her very early years, and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. This experience suggests that slightly older children can still be receptive to development of their learning ability.

This article argues that the most crucial time to develop learning skills is in the very .early years. This may be true, though my experience suggests that special attention even in the later years can still be effective. I do agree that middle school and high school are probably too late to have a lasting impact on a child's learning ability, though dedicated teachers on every level can still bring out the best in each child's potential.

One would be wise, though, to begin encouraging their child's learning skills as early as pre-school.

edit on 4-3-2011 by Sestias because: (no reason given)

edit on 4-3-2011 by Sestias because: polishing




posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 09:02 AM
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Thanks for posting.

Do you have anything to offer in the way of an opinion for your posting?

I'll give you mine after that.

Cheers.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 09:12 AM
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This is nothing more than the usual "your kids can't rise above you" attitude. Born in a poor neighborhood? That's where you'll always be. Uneducated parents? Guess, what....no hope of a diploma for you! I guess if the "Google guys" ever decide to have children they won't go to college OR be successful then either, right?

It's frankly ridiculous in my opinion. There are many people that didn't go to college for one reason or another but certainly had the ability to. Further, there are many that have managed to succeed despite their upbringing -- many rappers and musicians and actors come to mind.

Further, it should be the schools job to provide an equal education to all students regardless of their home life or the short comings of his/her parents. Obviously someone with a more troubled home life may not have it as easy, but to say it's nearly impossible or even that the possibility of success is minute is truly doing an injustice to all of the really good, smart kids that simply have crappy parents. Imagine: teachers staying for hours after school to provide homework assistance to those kids that will not get any at home. What a novel idea!

This is more of the same "someone else is to blame for my lot in life" excuse that is currently running rampant in this country.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 09:46 AM
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reply to post by lpowell0627
 


I agree, in that I believe educators at all levels of learning are still crucial to a child's ultimate development.

I also agree that the social conditions in which a child is born do not inevitably have to seal his fate.

There is a heated conversation going on now in philosophy, social science, education, history and other liberal arts about what, exactly, shapes our lives and experiences.

Some argue that we are completely the product of social conditioning, and that nothing in human behavior is innate. Change the social conditions and you change the way a child is shaped.

Others argue that the most significant impact on determining who we become has to do with hereditary and psychological factors.

I myself am somewhere in the middle. I do believe that the society we are surrounded by and grow up in does, indeed, have a mighty effect on us. I also believe that some factors are innate. It's not just a question of either/or but rather this AND this.

Certainly I would not give up on the development of a child who has not received adequate attention in their very early years. There are exceptions, like my niece, whom I described above. Never say never. I know very few teachers who would just throw in the towel because a particular student is difficult. As a group, we generally never stop trying.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 10:45 AM
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reply to post by Sestias
 


I agree with you. I am not so naive to think that a child's environment, genetics, etc., have no effect on the development of said child. However, I also think that collectively we can overcome at least some of those obstacles -- and owe it to every child to try and do just that!

I just get frustrated with studies like this that suggest a person's lot in life is sealed from birth. It's a rather defeating attitude in my opinion and serves no purpose other than in identifying those kids that we just shouldn't "bother" with.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 12:31 PM
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reply to post by lpowell0627
 

I am in agreement with you.

No parent, care-giver or teacher should ever resign themselves to the concept that any child is a failure or has no future because of their beginnings in life. "Where there is life there is hope."

I believe what this study is saying is that early experiences are important in a person's development, and we as a society should do everything we can to insure our children have these learning opportunities.

To me, that means greater investment in pre-school and early childhood education. Not just for those who are privileged at birth but every child. We need to get parents and lawmakers on board for this and as a society we need to devote more of our resources to it. I think most teachers are already there.

edit on 4-3-2011 by Sestias because: (no reason given)

edit on 4-3-2011 by Sestias because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 04:07 PM
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The Steiner educational philosophy of education is to not give children any contact with the written word or math until they turn seven. I've been friends with several "Steiner" families for many years, and watched as their children attended Steiner schools and my kids, and the kids of other friends, were taught to read and add up as early as possible.

Now these kids are in their thirties, and all the Steiner kids have been through uni with no trouble, despite being held back in their earliest years. The other kids have done well too, but not all been so interested in further studies.

I firmly believe, from what I've seen, the kids benefit from being happy, playing lots of different games, and knowing their parents love them and have time for them, much more than they benefit from particular educational programs. It also helps if they see their parents taking education seriously and doing some study themselves, because kids learn from example.

Games teach people to be able to learn, and are vital for people of all ages, but especially children.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 04:21 PM
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reply to post by Sestias
 

My daughter was born with all the external signs of Down Syndrome, before there were genetic tests, and I was told to put her in a home, "where properly trained people would know how to care for her".
I taught her word recognition at 4 and, despite learning disabilities, she stubbornly kept studying right through her 20s, and is now an exec in an advertising firm.
I'm not saying all Downs kids could do this, she's obviously not got it properly. One can just have a few symptoms.

One of my sons has an IQ of 60, and I was told he would only be "like a vegetable," and I should put him in a home. He loves computer games, and his brother keeps training him in new ones so he has someone to play against. He has the IQ of a preschooler, but he manages feats in games that I don't have a hope of doing. And these games seem to be making him more intelligent. He's gradually, in his thirties, learning to read, and can shop, cook and manage a job with responsibilities.

So I not only say never give up with kids, but never stop learning yourself, either. We can all keep learning and improving our brains for as long as we keep working on it.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 04:35 PM
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I don't know about anyone else - - but I am raising my grandson to be a kid first.

You know - - building blocks - - running toy cars up and down a plank of wood - - music - - kicking and throwing a ball - - jumping on a trampoline - - building forts with blankets and chairs. Read a book at bedtime.

He has had a computer since he was 2 - - that he does what he wants on. (recommendation: Boowa & Kwala uptoten.com)

He is a very happy outgoing kid at 3. I can't believe some people actually trying to get their kids to read at 6 months old.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 05:39 PM
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Originally posted by Annee
I can't believe some people actually trying to get their kids to read at 6 months old.

I tried that back in '74, when that idea first came out. I was minding a friend's child full time and he and my daughter were both 6 months old when I started.

Little Adam was a frighteningly obedient child, and would earnestly trace over the felt letters with his fingers and make the right noises, but my rebel of a daughter just laughed at me and laughed at the letters.

I ended up deciding she was right, and the whole exercise was too silly for words.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 06:00 PM
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Originally posted by Kailassa
Little Adam was a frighteningly obedient child, and would earnestly trace over the felt letters with his fingers and make the right noises, but my rebel of a daughter just laughed at me and laughed at the letters.

I ended up deciding she was right, and the whole exercise was too silly for words.


Gawd! I wouldn't know what to do with an obedient child. My first daughter was crawling out of her crib at six months old. Neither daughter played with dolls - colored - or puzzles. It was "open the door and let me run".

But as they say - - "kids don't come with a manual". I'm from the Dr. Spock era. You are NOT your kids friend.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 07:04 PM
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Originally posted by Annee

Gawd! I wouldn't know what to do with an obedient child. My first daughter was crawling out of her crib at six months old. Neither daughter played with dolls - colored - or puzzles. It was "open the door and let me run".

I don't think that sort of obedience is a good sign in a kid. Yours probably had too much intelligence and imagination to just quietly do what they were told.


But as they say - - "kids don't come with a manual". I'm from the Dr. Spock era. You are NOT your kids friend.

I was still a kid myself, and terribly naive, when I had my first. So I was a friend to her and have been with all my kids. That didn't stop me being firm though, and making sure they learned respect and consideration.
Being a friend never stopped me insisting on good behaviour. - and good etiquette, good diction and deportment, which used to annoy them no end.


Different styles work for different people. I'm sure yours knew they could talk to you about the things that mattered to them, and had a good example from you.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 07:24 PM
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The point of the article may be twofold: an educated (either early or after) mom influences the way her kids speak and learn. If she's not interested in learning and if her speech automatically puts her in the "practically uneducated" category, both she and her family end up at a disadvantage.

The bigger picture -- how much does the parent value education -- plays out across societies. Mothers in poor countries where women are not given education are starting to push their daughters to learn and go to school to gain the advantages that the daughters of educated mothers have.

I'm not sure who taught me to read, but I was reading by the time I was 3 (all the pictures of me as a toddler show me with a book in my hand.) Both my kids were reading by age 3, much to the astonishment of their daycare providers. We didn't actively teach them this but we read a lot of books to them.



posted on Mar, 4 2011 @ 07:50 PM
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Originally posted by Byrd
I'm not sure who taught me to read, but I was reading by the time I was 3 (all the pictures of me as a toddler show me with a book in my hand.) Both my kids were reading by age 3, much to the astonishment of their daycare providers. We didn't actively teach them this but we read a lot of books to them.


My brother was reading the newspaper by the time he was 4. My 3 year old grandson does read. He's had his own computer since 2. He knows all his upper and lower case letters and the letter sounds. Not from anything I've done - - but from Leap Frog DVDs and his favorite computer sites. However - I'm not sure he is using phonetics or memorizing words.

As I said - - I focus on him being a kid. Happy - outgoing - friendly - etc.

What is sad about my brother - - is he was so bored in public school he got in trouble. My mom tried to put him in a private school - - and they actually rejected him because of his intelligence.

This was 60 years ago - - - there were no special programs. But I'd bet this still goes on today.



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