Monday, April 30, 2012

Work Ethic

          KTMS Radio Commentary

            Author and child advocate Marian Wright Edelman wrote a book for her children, “The Measure of our Success,” outlining 25 lessons for life.
            In it, she states: “Don’t be afraid of hard work or of teaching your children to work. Work is dignity and caring and the foundation for a life with meaning.
            She writes that children of privilege, of the middle class, and of the poor are growing up without a strong work ethic, and too many are growing up without work at all.
It once was a given that children would work, sometimes after school, sometimes during weekends, always during the summer.
Though the goal was to earn money, working was also a way to instill the values of the work ethic, providing meaningful use of a young person’s time.
            Edelman said too many people today are obsessed with work for the sole purpose of “ensuring their ability to engage in limitless consumption.”
           She says: “An important reason much of my generation stayed out of trouble is that we had to help out at home and in the community and did not have time—or energy—to get into trouble.”
           This is not the case with many of our children today. Leisure pursuits are highly valued by young and old alike.
Recreation, sports, and entertainment have filled the space once reserved for employment. And many of the values learned in the workplace are finding no method for delivery in a society obsessed with fun and pleasure.
There is dignity in work, and it’s never too early to learn that lesson. We short-change our children if we imply that fulfillment can only be gained from activities that are fun

Friday, April 27, 2012


KTMS Radio Commentary

            It may seem obvious, but it is very important to talk with your children — really talk with them.
            In this fast-paced world it’s easy to fall into conversational patterns like, “Hi, how are you?” or “How was your day?” But it’s well worth the effort to stay more connected to your family.
            One of the most powerful conversation blockers is television. During meals, make no-TV a priority. That way you can get together and have a family conversation when all your schedules connect.
            There might be complaining if favorite shows have to be missed, but make sure children know that keeping up with other people’s lives, feelings, and concerns is important in every family.
            In fact, mealtime conversation can prove enlightening for all involved. You can provide direct attention, support, and advice.
            Lively discussions can prevail about current events. Whatever the topic, getting input from family members succeeds in bringing you all closer together. Real interaction helps prevent misconceptions and misunderstandings.
            It’s doubtful that anyone will miss the witty dialogue of a sit-com later in life, but they may well regret not knowing their children or parents as well as they could.
            Start when the children are really young and it will be easier. Whatever the ages of your children, remember that interacting with them is always worth the effort.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rosalina Macisco

Rosalina Macisco-

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Drug use

KTMS Radio Commentary

Sadly, drug use is too widespread to assume that it will never touch the life of your son or daughter.
It’s good to know that certain behaviors can serve as a warning. These include:
•  an abrupt change in mood or attitude
            •  a sudden decline in attendance or performance at school
•  impaired relationships with family
•  ignoring curfews
•  unusual flare-ups of temper
•  increased borrowing of money; stealing from home or work
•  heightened secrecy about actions and possessions
             •  associating with a new group of friends
But be careful:  several of these items also reflect normal teenage growing pains.
So what exactly is a parent to do? 
The best advice is to watch carefully, get to know your child’s friends, and talk about the problems of drug and alcohol abuse. 
Make sure your child hears from you that taking drugs is harmful to one’s physical, mental, and social well-being.  Make a clear statement that you are opposed to drug use and intend to enforce that position.
But also remember that if your child is using drugs, he or she needs your help. Seek support from other parents, ask a school counselor or teacher about available resources, and call the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse for help.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


KTMS Radio Commentary

We have made many strides in the area of tolerance and consideration for others, both in our communities and in our schoolyards.
But human nature and normal child development dictate that despite our best efforts, there will still be bullies and victims.
The world is full of them. Our schoolyards are no exception. That’s why teaching children to deal with bullying individuals is an important life lesson.
 The best way to safeguard your children from becoming a victim of a schoolyard bully is to teach them how to be assertive.
            Encourage children to express their feelings clearly and to say no when they feel pressured or uncomfortable in a situation. 
Show them how to stand up for themselves verbally without fighting. And make sure they know to walk away in dangerous situations. Bullies are less likely to intimidate children who are confident and resourceful.
            Here are some good ideas for parents:
•  Teach your children early on to recognize — and then steer clear of — children who are bullies.
•  Teach them to be assertive rather than aggressive or violent when confronted by a bully. They should say ‘no’ or state how they feel as a simple fact, with no ‘attitude’ attached. 
•  Make sure they know not to threaten in any way. And make especially sure they know how to walk away without hesitation when it seems that real danger might be present. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Marc DeBernardi

Marc DeBernardi-Local Leaders TV Show

Friday, April 20, 2012

Eating disorders

KTMS Radio Commentary

Media coverage of eating disorders has generally improved, but unrealistic body images continue to appear. The pressures to be thin are very great, especially for girls.
The state PTA warns that between five and 10 million Americans have eating disorders, mostly teens and young adults.
Anorexia is a fear of becoming fat, coupled with an unrealistic body image that leads people to restrict severely the amount of food they eat.
Bulimia involves bingeing and purging – eating excessive amounts of food and then forcing it out.
Eating disorders all involve preoccupations with weight and food. But they are often rooted in other issues, compensating for aspects of life that appear to be out of control.
Many young people who suffer from these disorders also have feelings of inadequacy, troubled relationships, or a history of being teased because of weight.
Parents should teach children positive and healthy attitudes toward their bodies.
            Media coverage of celebrity eating issues can offer a good chance to ask your children what they think. 
Be sure to point out that healthy, fit bodies don’t all look the same.
Experts say parents who are worried should communicate their concerns without judgment and without oversimplifying the issue. Express support and seek professional treatment if necessary. These issues can be serious.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TV as positive

            KTMS Radio Commentary
            Watching TV can be a positive activity for children if viewed in the right context.
            With your children, watch a program that takes place in another part of the United States, or another country, and locate the site on a map or globe. 
            Read a story from that area, learn about that place’s history, or cook a meal from that culture.
            Help your child develop an understanding of time by comparing lengths of TV shows.  Compare a half-hour show to a one-hour show, to a two-hour movie, etc.
            Teach your child how to tell time by looking at the clock and comparing it to when a specific show comes on. 
            You could teach a child the days of the week in the same fashion with a calendar.
            Develop simple word problems using television. For example: “If there are six commercials and each is 30 seconds long, how many minutes of commercials will you watch in all?”
            Watch the news with your children and follow a story. Watch the same story on different channels and discuss the differences and similarities. Find the same topic in the newspaper, a magazine, or on the Internet and compare the coverage.
            It is almost impossible to eliminate TV viewing. By talking about it, and making it a learning experience, you can help make television a positive part of your child’s life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lorin Cuthbert

Lorin Cuthbert on Talking with Teachers


KTMS Radio Commentary

Children use all their senses to learn about the world around them.
The objects that they can touch, see, smell, taste, and hear all help them understand the link between a model and the real thing that it represents. 
A good example is a map, which represents landmasses. Using information from maps and models can help guide your children to a better understanding of the concepts of geography.
For example: Find puzzles of the United States, the world, or even California. By touching and looking at the puzzle pieces, children can get a better understanding of where one place is located in relation to others.
Point out where your home is located and then point out where a distant relative or friend lives. Show how far away it is and what route you would travel to get there. 
  It also helps to use pictures to help your children associate geographic terms with visual images.
 A picture of a desert, for example, can stimulate conversation about the features of a desert — dry and barren. 
             Identifying lakes and rivers can start discussions about wildlife and early settlers.
 Talk about many different places with your children and help them imagine what it would be like to visit them.
 All these discussions help children get a solid concept of geography and why it is important.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Loving discipline

KTMS Radio Commentary

Punishment is a negative consequence of bad behavior that has already occurred.  Discipline is a positive way to focus future behavior. 
Here are some rules for loving discipline that have helped many parents.
1. Change misbehavior by setting positive goals to strive for, rather than negative ones to avoid.
2. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Children have an uncanny way of knowing the difference.
3. Involve your youngsters in solving problems. This will show them you value their judgment.
4. Talk less; do more.
5. Ask what happened to cause a certain misbehavior; don’t tell your child what you think happened. Listen carefully. The cause may surprise you.
6.Make clear what you want and praise children when they do it.
7. Impose logical consequences for any misbehavior. 
8.Give your children choices — but make sure you can live with them. If not, discuss the issue and explain why another choice might be better.
9.Focus on what’s good about your children, and expect their very best.
Always show your love.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Statement of Conscience

By the Santa Barbara County Board of Education

The concept of free and universal public education is the core of what makes our country exceptional, and continues to be the envy of the world. For generations, the adults did what was right for the generations that followed. Today, we see a clear abrogation of that duty.

In classrooms throughout our state and nation, children learn the skills essential to their contributions to the democratic society they will enter as adults. Young people today will fly the planes, repair the cars, staff the emergency rooms, and make the policies that affect the generation that follows. Their preparation and education are what will make the difference between our success or failure as a society. This is simple fact.

We are well aware that our state faces a true fiscal crisis that was years in the making and is staggering in its magnitude. There are no easy solutions. Programs will need to be cut. Revenues will need to be added. We are mindful that representatives at every level need to make extremely difficult and wrenching choices. Every program receiving state funds has fervent supporters who can argue persuasively that those programs are vital. We respectfully submit that not all institutions are equal. Public education is of a different magnitude and impact.

We submit that it is unacceptable and self-defeating for the state to abdicate its responsibility to fund public schools at an adequate level. Studies are unambiguous on the high correlation between a lack of education and much more costly consequences, including crime, poverty, the need for social services, incarcerations, law enforcement. and other expensive interventions. That is the practical need. There is also the moral need for societies to take care of their children.

We believe it is a moral imperative that those individuals who reaped the rewards from the state’s earlier investment in an exceptional education system do all they can to ensure that comparable opportunities are available to young people today. The investment gap is unconscionable.

While we do not presume to tell legislators how they will work the state’s budget to secure the funding necessary to ensure our children receive the education they need and deserve, we are stating emphatically that there is urgent need to do so.

The current situation is unsustainable. Pared down levels of educational services are not an option. The very fabric of our society is at stake. We cannot lose a generation of young people simply because the adults refused to act.

Flunking the Test

Flunking the Test
By Paul Farhi, Washington Post

Sparking Curiousity

        KTMS Radio Commentary

           Sparking a child’s curiosity can be one of the important keys to lifelong learning. Parents can play a vital role in this process.
            For example, parents can make up trivia games to play with children, even when you’re on the run.
You can also help children become active partners in the learning process by giving them a chance to experiment around the house with measuring, cooking, repairing broken items, and other activities that require finding and using information.
You’d be surprised at what your home yields if you look around with a curious eye.
Also, be sure to know what’s going on in your child’s school.
Attend school events and send notes to teachers to express your availability to help. Write teachers to ask if you may phone them if you have questions or concerns.
Get involved with your children by asking for detailed descriptions of what they’re studying at school. Have them teach you some parts of what they’re learning.
Be sure your children know that you consider schooling very, very important.
Even if you can only attend a few school events, your presence will show your children that you’re interested in their school life and value its importance.
That’s a crucial lesson for them to learn and it can only come from the home. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Earthquake month

Every year, April is designated California Earthquake Preparedness Month by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
            Though earthquakes can occur virtually anywhere, California is a more frequent site than other parts of the nation. 
For this reason, it’s important that California residents, young and old alike, know what to expect and are prepared to act quickly and effectively.
            “Beat the quake” is the theme of the statewide campaign, as it has been in the past. 
            The statewide preparedness project stresses awareness of the risks throughout California and urges people to make an earthquake safety plan at home and at work. 
Because schools must comply with the Field Act that requires more earthquake safety features than other structures, schools are often designated as evacuation sites for emergency purposes.  
            Throughout the month of April, special preparedness activities will be held for government and emergency services, business and industry, schools, and family and community groups.
            Our schools have always been an important part of this effort.
Knowing what to do and what not to do is the best defense in an emergency situation. It is the only effective way to minimize damage to property and individuals.
That’s the kind of information that will be spotlighted during Earthquake Preparedness Month. We urge all community members to get involved for the basic safety of all.Every year, April is designated California Earthquake Preparedness Month by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
           Though earthquakes can occur virtually anywhere, California is a more frequent site than other parts of the nation. 
For this reason, it’s important that California residents, young and old alike, know what to expect and are prepared to act quickly and effectively.
            “Beat the quake” is the theme of the statewide campaign, as it has been in the past. 
            The statewide preparedness project stresses awareness of the risks throughout California and urges people to make an earthquake safety plan at home and at work. 
Because schools must comply with the Field Act that requires more earthquake safety features than other structures, schools are often designated as evacuation sites for emergency purposes.  
            Throughout the month of April, special preparedness activities will be held for government and emergency services, business and industry, schools, and family and community groups.
            Our schools have always been an important part of this effort.
Knowing what to do and what not to do is the best defense in an emergency situation. It is the only effective way to minimize damage to property and individuals.
            That’s the kind of information that will be spotlighted during Earthquake Preparedness Month. We urge all community members to get involved for the basic safety of all.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Dissents

Best part of 'schools-threaten-national-security' report: The dissents
by Valerie Strauss

Public schools month

KTMS Radio Commentary

     For more than 85 years, the Free and Accepted Masons of California sponsored Public Schools Month in April. 
     The goal of the Masons has been to encourage communities to understand more about their public schools and to enlist their support in the cause of public education.
     As Frosty Troy, Oklahoma’s Pulitzer Prize winning editor and commentator said when he visited Santa Barbara some time ago, everything America is or ever hopes to be depends upon what happens in public school classrooms, where 70 million boys and girls will get their chance in life.
     In proclaiming Public Schools Month, the Masons always emphasize:
“It is crucial for America that the youth of our state and nation receive the finest and broadest based education available…so that our standard of living, technological advancement, and national destiny is maintained.”
     They see this as the ultimate public service.
     It is little wonder that PTA parents are the most ardent supporters of our local public schools—they see first-hand the good news that goes under-reported.
     They see close up the real challenges that are overcome and the successes that are achieved every day.
     With budget cuts continuing to loom it is more important than ever to support the children in our local classrooms.
     So during Public Schools Month, take a minute to visit a local school. You’ll be impressed at what greets you — enthusiasm, dedication, lots of hard work, and great results.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

United we work; divided we don't

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

Newspaper Column

We are all aware of the heated rhetoric and the ultra partisanship that seems to be driving our country apart right now. Simple things we all used to take for granted are being called into question — ‘politics as the art of compromise,’ for example, is no longer a working definition.
As the rhetoric gets more heated and extreme, it makes everyone less able to imagine middle ground as a positive place. We hear that government is excessive and needs to be stripped of its powers. In challenging economic times, it’s easy to forget how very essential government is not only to our society, but also to our economy.
A Harvard professor recently called out those who claim government has no business in business.
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” she said. “Nobody.”
She explained how the entrepreneurial spirit is supported in essential ways by our government:
“You build a factory out there – good for you.
“You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.
“You hired workers that the rest of us paid to educate.
“You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.
“You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”
She then underscored a view of community and society that I believe a great democracy should celebrate:
She said that if you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or you had a great idea, you should keep a big hunk of the money you were able to make doing it. But part of the underlying social contract in a democracy is that you also take a hunk of that and pay it forward for the next kid who comes along.
In our democracy, government provides the foundation, through services and support, that enables all of us to go about our lives in a free and open society. Simple civics reminds us that members of a democracy also have an obligation and responsibility to each other. United, we work. Divided, it all falls apart in the end.
In Santa Barbara County, the good news is we have innumerable examples of public private partnerships in education that are considered state and national models. Perhaps political leaders in Sacramento and Washington should take note of our models for collaboration.
Nationally it is also heartening that such a large portion of Americans tell pollsters they want our politicians to work together to find solutions. They are not pleased with the partisanship and with the tearing down of our government. Most Americans are truly patriotic and truly love their country. They want it to work. Fortunately, in a democracy, the will of the people eventually prevails. So there continues to be real hope for all.

The escalator is out of order

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

Newspaper Column

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote a column recently reminding readers that education was always considered the escalator to a better life for all of us.
No more.
He underscored the long-term destructiveness of undermining public education, pointing out that our country supports schools in Afghanistan “because we know that education is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to build a country.” He said we are turning a blind eye to that fact at home, and he’s right. School budgets are being decimated, teachers laid off in massive numbers, and educational programs laid waste.
School years have been reduced in many places from the standard 180 days per year to 167 or even fewer. Teaching staffs have been reduced by more than 10 percent across the land. Athletic teams have been pared, school newspapers discontinued, business and music classes eliminated. Class size is skyrocketing.
Writing of his own high school in Oregon, Kristof said: “This school was where I embraced sports, became a journalist, encountered intellectual worlds, and got in trouble. These days, the 430 students still have opportunities to get into trouble, but the rest is harder.
“American pre-eminence in mass education has eroded since the 1970s,” he wrote, “and now a number of countries have leapfrogged us in high school graduation rates, in student performance, in college attendance.”
And here’s his main point: “If you look for the classic American faith in the value of broad education to spread opportunity, you can still find it — in Asia,” wrote Kristof.
As he stated, data from throughout the world has proven that the best anti-poverty program, with the best record, is education. Yet people in our country continue to act as though education isn’t really for “other people’s children,” or that some young people don’t really need the escalator to a better life and wouldn’t take advantage of it if offered. “I can’t think of any view that is more un-American,” he concluded.
In the name of cutting, cutting, cutting, it’s time to ask what kind of a country, and what kind of local communities are we willing to settle for? When the only focus is what to eliminate it’s hard to believe that striving for excellence is on the radar. These are dangerous policies with consequences we can’t even begin to fathom. What has happened to our core values? When did the American dream alter so dramatically?
I don’t believe it has. I believe the American public still believes in equal opportunity and the value of a public education system open to all, striving for excellence, and continuing to be an escalator to a better life.
We hear some leaders talking about the need for our government to be “lean and mean.” Is that really what we want? It’s only a turn of phrase, but it reflects the literal truth of the policy. To be as lean as what is being sought by some, we need to cut the safety net for the least among us, and the services, like public education, that define us as a nation.
If we don’t want a government that is “mean,” and basically un-American, we need to strongly support those who agree with that view and insist their actions reflect that support. It’s the only way forward.

Effective families

KTMS Radio Commentary

     In a report titled “The Evidence Continues to Grow,” the National Committee for Citizens in Education made a strong case for parental involvement in education.
The report found that effective families have several identifiable characteristics. These included:

     • A feeling of control over their lives, individually, and as a group

     • Frequent communication of high expectations to the children

     • A family dream of success for the future for all members

     • Hard work seen as the key to success

     • An active lifestyle involving physical activities

     • The family viewed as a mutual support system and an effective problem-solving unit

     • Clearly understood household rules, that are consistently enforced, and

     • Frequent contact with teachers by at least one parent, and both if possible.

     The report maintained that this type of family lifestyle helps lead to a child’s increased self-confidence and self-control.
     These characteristics create a protective network that is an ongoing source of strength and support for young and old alike.
     Families who have these traits tell their children through their attitudes, examples, and encouragement that they can succeed in school and in life.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Birth to one

KTMS Radio Commentary

Babies grow and change dramatically during their first year.
They begin to develop some control over their bodies — they hold up their heads, roll over, sit up, crawl, and some even walk.
They also become aware of themselves as separate from others. They learn to look at their hands and toes and play with them. They may cry when parents leave, and they recognize their name.
Communication and language skills also begin to form. First babies cry and make throaty noises. Later they babble and make lots of sounds. Then they begin to name a few close people and objects.
Playing games becomes important.
They play with their hands and then show an interest in toys by banging them together. Eventually, they carry around dolls or stuffed toys.
They also respond to adults more than to other babies at first.
During this critical first year, babies require a loving caregiver who responds quickly to their cries and gurgles.
They need someone who gets to know their special qualities and can keep them safe and comfortable.
They also need opportunities to move about and practice new physical skills, along with safe objects to look at, grab, bang, pat, and roll.
They need safe play areas and the chance to hear talking and make sounds.
It’s a time of rapid growth, and loving caregivers make a real difference.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Car safety tips

KTMS Radio Commentary

When it comes to travel safety, there are two practices that could save a young life.

First, when traveling in a car, always secure an infant car seat in the back seat.

The rear of a car is a far safer place in the event of an accident. Above all, never use an infant seat in the front of a car that has a passenger-side air bag.
If the bag deploys, it can seriously hurt the infant by striking the back of the safety seat and causing injury.

In a case where an older car only has lap belts in the rear, or shoulder straps that cross over the neck or face of a toddler, it is still important to use a safety belt.

In fact, any belt is better than no belt. Use a booster seat for a young child who has outgrown an infant seat. This will raise the child so that the shoulder strap crosses the chest, not the neck.

If the rear seat has no shoulder straps, buy a booster seat with a harness or a shield. These devices have saved young lives in the event of an accident.

Of course preventive driving is always the best bet and drivers should take special precautions when traveling with young passengers.

But sometimes unforeseeable circumstances take over or other drivers are not exercising the same care as you are.

At those times, it is far better to be prepared and to make sure a child is adequately protected.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cyber Bullying

KTMS Radio Commentary

There is a very serious threat to the well-being of our children that many parents know little or nothing about: cyber bullying. Its effects can be devastating.

We have all read news reports of young suicide victims, bullied into believing life was no longer worth living because of relentless cyber attacks.

One can only imagine the ripple effect this has on the victims, their family, and their community, as well as that of the perpetrators.

Most young people who take part in cyber bullying do it as a joke, or don’t pause to consider the impacts. Throughout human history, young people have shown they can be mean to each other; but the Internet has provided them with the tools to be truly cruel.

Many parents are simply not up to speed when it comes to social network sites or the online places their own children visit. Each day new sites emerge.

Add in the presence of text messages and video messages, and it all means that parenting in the age of cyber crimes is more challenging than ever.

It might seem like a good idea to give a young child a cell phone with Internet access, but parents should consider the tradeoffs they are making when they do so.

Yes, they will be able to stay in touch; but the risk of danger is also present, especially in young children whose judgment and decision-making are not yet fully developed.

Our office continues to work in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to help prevent or eliminate cyber bullying. Parents need to be active in the efforts as well.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Preventing Violence

KTMS Radio Commentary

            Every school in Santa Barbara County has a school safety plan to help insure the protection of all young people.

            In addition, new programs are being used to help in the area of prevention: peace education, conflict resolution, anger management, and peer mediation. 

But clearly there are no guarantees and these programs can never erase all the concerns of educators, parents, and community members as they continue to monitor the safety of all of our students.

Fortunately, there are some basic steps that can help parents provide effective support to school and community programs.

First, the philosophy of a nonviolent lifestyle begins in the home, where children learn to model everyday behavior. For this reason, discipline at home should never be physically severe.

Local schools can provide information about effective alternative methods of child discipline, such as “time out” periods or suspension of privileges. These help children see that consequences for doing something wrong do not have to involve physical sanctions.

Be sure to talk things out with children if there are disagreements.

When there is a difference of opinion in the family, provide a good example by settling those differences with words. Don’t yell, interrupt, or threaten.

If your children see that disagreements can be settled by calmly talking things through, by being persuasive, and by being respectful, they will be far more likely to settle their own differences with peers in this manner.

These are not cure-alls for violence, but they help create a strong foundation for the values we hope all will follow.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Abstract Thinking

KTMS Radio Commentary

           Throughout childhood and adolescence, children’s brains are developing in important ways. One sign of this development is the ability to think about abstract concepts, such as “truth” and “justice.”

            Parents can help young people develop this ability by initiating activities and conversations that involve these skills. 

For example:

            •  Challenge accepted ideas.  Ask, “Why shouldn’t athletes cheat?” or “Why don’t children go to school on the weekends?”

Making young people support their accepted beliefs helps them understand the concept behind them.

            •  Talk with your child about imaginary situations. Ask: “What if you won the lottery?” or “What if eating ice cream became illegal?”

            •  Do science experiments. Have children guess what will happen. Ask: “If we shine a lamp on this plant, will it grow faster or slower?”

            •  Play games that require thinking ahead. “Battleship,” checkers, and chess are good examples of games that require some strategy.

            •  Let your children make choices. It’s OK if they make minor mistakes, such as spending allowance too quickly. They’ll soon learn to plan differently. 

All these strategies help critical thinking skills develop. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Safety Instruction

KTMS Radio Commentary

Concepts of trust and danger, which are virtually meaningless to a two-year-old, make perfect sense to older children. 

It is critical that parents use safety instructions appropriate to a child’s age if they want them to be followed.
For example, two-year-olds respond to rules and are old enough to know that certain actions bring their parents’ disapproval. Express strong disapproval if a child wanders away at the mall. Two is also a good age to plant the idea that some actions require permission. 
Three year olds begin to understand the concept of trust. Tell them exactly who they can turn to for specific kinds of help — the babysitter, a neighbor, etc.
Four-year-olds are risk takers, so it is an important time to reinforce safety rules and step up supervision. Children at this age can begin to understand that not every person they meet is trustworthy.

At five, children start school and interact with many new people, including older children who could be intimidating or unkind. It’s a good time for parents to reinforce positive perceptions of people.

By six, most children have begun to develop intuition. This is the time to encourage them to trust their own instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. 

Using age-appropriate instructions helps make sure they will be followed. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

About Averages

KTMS Radio Commentary

There is a tendency to overuse the word “average” and misunderstand what it actually means. 

Take, for example, “average” test scores. As we all know, to get an average, you add up all the scores and then divide by the total number of scores. It is often the case that no individual score actually falls at the average. 

An average isn’t a median or midpoint. It doesn’t mean that half the scores fall above and below that point. In fact, you could conceivably have a situation where ALL scores fall ABOVE the average, except for one score that is so very low, it pulls down the average.

This helps explain the seeming paradox with SAT scores. For many years the AVERAGE SAT scores were down. But scores were up for every subgroup that took the test.

That included Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Whites, etc. — and scores were up for every academic level represented — A students, B students, C students. 

How, then, could the overall average be down? 

Because although test scores rose for every academic level, far more C students are now taking part. And even though scores rose for students learning English, far more of those students have been taking the test. 

So when you dis-ag-gre-gate the tests and look at every group that took them, you see a success story. But when you aggregate the tests and look only at the overall average, the picture is very different.

This is a critical concept in assessing what needs to be “fixed” in our schools. Sadly, it is far easier to deal with simple rhetoric than with complicated facts.