The “Mystery Measure” That Lifts Children

The “Mystery Measure” That Lifts Children by Dr. Ned Holstein (This article first appeared in the commission newsletter, The Proposal.)
Despite the 50-year War on Poverty, the social safety net, and the War on Drugs, poverty and social dysfunction of various sorts appear undented.
Remarkably, there exists a simple “mystery measure” that could be implemented tomorrow, costs society nothing, improves the educational outcomes of children; decreases the number of children suffering from anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and attention deficit; decreases teen violence, gang involvement, and arrests; decreases teen pregnancy; increases child support payments; decreases childhood substance abuse; and improves the physical health of children.
Yet this “mystery measure” is barely on society’s radar screen.
To grasp the opportunity before us, we need to reassess the biases that may blind us to real opportunities. After all, if 50 years of sowing the same thing does not seem to be bearing sufficient fruit, perhaps it is time to reexamine our approach.
The “mystery measure” requires us to reassess our view of the family— in particular, how we value fathers and fathering. We have long acted as if fatherlessness is of little consequence to children so long as single mothers are adequately supported financially, either by child support payments or by the social safety net.
The evidence, however, supports the idea that we must explore means of restoring fathering to children, especially by reforming family court traditions that overwhelmingly favor the award of sole custody to one parent, usually the mother. Instead, courts should award shared parenting if both parents are fit and there has been an absence of significant domestic violence. Shared parenting is the “mystery measure” that will help all our children, both boys and girls, at no cost to society.
Despite enormous expenditures to support single-parent families, The Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Justice, the Census Bureau and numerous researchers have reported alarming outcomes for the 35% of children raised by single parents.

Despite the often-heroic efforts of these parents, their children account for:

  • 63% of teen suicides
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • 71% of high school drop-outs
  • 75% of children in chemical abuse centers
  • 85% of those in prison
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children

Three recent comprehensive reviews, based on 30 years of research, support shared parenting as the best arrangement for children after separation or divorce.

Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas authored one of the review papers and concluded, “…shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.” 110 experts around the world signed on to his conclusions.
The 2014 consensus statement of the First International Conference on Shared Parenting in Bonn, Germany reads, “There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents.”
And 32 experts with the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts concluded in 2014, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive…”
Many great ideas are simple. Shared parenting is a simple idea that will help boys and girls enormously.  It’s time has come, if only we can get past archaic gender stereotypes that place children exclusively with mothers after separation or divorce.
Ned Holstein, MD, MS Founder and Acting Executive Director National Parents Organization(https://nationalparentsorganization.org)
 
Dr. Holstein received his undergraduate degree from Harvard, a graduate degree in Psychology from M.I.T., and his M.D. degree from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, where he holds a voluntary appointment as clinical Assistant Professor. He is a recognized national authority in his field of medicine. He founded National Parents Organization in 1996. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Council on Shared Parenting. He is a Commissioner of the Coalition to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men. He is the father of three and the grandfather of four.

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The Gender Role & The Gender Brain in Education

The Gender Role & The Gender Brain in Education by Sean Kullman (This article first appeared in the commission newsletter, The Proposal.)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) does important work on civil rights, and the single-sex school debate continues to be an important social issue for them.  More often, the ACLU believes single sex schools encourage gender stereotypes that only alienate girls and boys and lead to discrimination and a violation of Title IX. The ACLU has filed lawsuits against districts to prevent single-sex school options.  “The adoption of single-sex education programs based on sex stereotypes has become widespread across the state of Florida, and should not be permitted to continue,’ said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.’” Referring to some of the gender science as “junk science,” the ACLU sees the single-sex classroom as a potentially discriminatory place.

Other nations have run public single-sex schools for decades, while single-sex public education in the United States is a recent phenomenon.  New Zealand provides co-educational as well as single-sex options for low and medium income families unable to afford private single-sex schools.  New Zealand’s system may provide some of the pros and cons of co-educational and single-sex education because of the sheer number of students and accessibility to data.

Experts cite that boys are struggling in our modern educational institutions and attending and graduating college at significantly lower rates.  (Today 57% of college attendees are women and 43% are male).  Other experts worry girls are not getting into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at comparable rates as boys. Federal data supports these concerns in math, technology, and engineering.

Dr. Joseph Cox, former Director of the International Boys School Coalition and father of a daughter who is an engineer, argues that “women who are the product of single-sex education are significantly more likely to study math and science, and in all-boys schools, young men tend to be less self-conscious about studying music, art or acting, and they are more open to sharing their feelings.”

Parents and educators are looking for solutions and new approaches. Gender and learning has its promoters and detractors, but the research around single-sex education has gathered promising data for new ways to educate, helping boys and girls succeed.  The ACLU worries this data could be misused and lead to discriminatory practices.

Sean Kullman is an educator and writer. He sits on the steering committee for the Coalition for a White House Council on Boys and Men

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The Primacy of Moderate Self-esteem

The Primacy of Moderate Self-esteem by Marty Nemko (This article first appeared in the commission newsletter, The Proposal)
Careers Tips for Boys’ Parents: Toward Moderate Self-Esteem

Part one of a four-part series that helps parents help set the stage for their boys’ career success. Some advice applies to girls.

    If a boy’s self-esteem is too low, he can’t envision a significant career goal let alone be motivated to do the work to achieve it. On the other hand, too-high self-esteem risks complacency or the unrealistic belief he could do anything—Not everyone has a realistic shot of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or astronaut. Self-esteem should be just high enough to engender the sense that, with effort, there’s a range of rewarding careers in which he could succeed.
Alas, it’s harder than in previous generations for boys to acquire even moderate self-esteem. When I started out as a career counselor 30 years ago, my male and female clients were equally confident in themselves. Today, my female clients are, on average, more confident.
That’s understandable. Disproportionately, today’s boys get messages that female is good, male is bad. For example, I just googled the terms “Girls Rock” and “Boys Rock.” There are 300% as many listings for “Girls Rock.” There even are books and posters that explicitly encourage girls to be violent against boys. For example, most books go out of print in a couple years but the book and poster, published by Workman, a major publisher, “Boys are Stupid. Throw Rocks at Them!” remains in print a decade after publication!  Even if the book were an attempt at humor, if it were “Girls are Stupid Throw Rocks at Them!,” a publisher would not even have agreed to publish it and if it did, groups would immediately demand it be pulled from the shelves.
Of course, books, posters, and tee-shirts in themselves won’t destroy a boy’s self-esteem. What increases the risk is a boy who is already vulnerable and then experiences a daily retinue of negative imagery and few male role models. Many boys already think they’re inferior. That mindset is unlikely to open them to a reasonable range of career opportunities. So parents might want to do one or more of the following:
Identify and frequently remind him of his strengths. Is he bold yet fair and only takes reasonable risks? Is he usually kind? Able to fix things?  Does he write well?  Stay alert for his latent as well as apparent strengths and point them out to your boy. Do it often.
Conversely, praising trivial accomplishments and excessively tolerating bad behavior leads to the aforementioned too-high self-esteem. Limit praise to legitimately praise-worthy behavior. Of course, do set limits and issue criticisms as appropriate, although corporal punishment  is a no-no. That teaches that an acceptable response to bad behavior is violence.
Keep on the lookout for boy-friendly teachers at your son’s school. Perhaps visit classrooms and ask parents of boys at your child’s school. 87 percent of elementary school teachers are women, among the highest percentage in the world, so you may not have a high-quality male teacher to vie for.
But female teachers vary in how well they treat boys: Do they allow for plenty of movement: Active boys have a harder time sitting all day than do many girls. They may prefer reading about insects and monsters more than do girls.  They may like plot-driven stories of adventure and heroism more than talky books about relationships between girls who are clearly superior to the male protagonist. Does the teacher accept a measure of “hyperactivity” or is she too quick to refer the child to the principal or to a physician for Ritalin
Encourage your child to pursue extracurricular activities that are respectful of boys’–especially your boy’s ways of being. Sure, for some boys, that’s sports  and rough-housing but if your boy is, for example, artistic or bookish, of course, respect that. After school, some boys would rather read a book, draw pictures, or yes, watch TV or play a video game. In moderation, there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, recent research finds that video games yield a surprising array of learning and personal development gains.
It’s long been argued that role models portrayed on TV and in movies affect kids. So boys need to see positive role models in the media, especially since their teachers will overwhelmingly be female

So…. Show your boy books with positive male protagonists. PBS has assembled this list, “Best Books for Boys.” It offers many types of model boys, not just athletes, soldiers, etc. nor just hyper-feminized types.

Do remember that even as boys get beyond the traditional age when parents read aloud to kids, your 6 to 10 year old may still enjoy it, and it’s a good parent-child bonding experience.
Similarly, encourage your child to watch TV shows and movies that present positive boy and men protagonists, who demonstrate heroism, prudent risk-taking and drive, used to admirable ends. Alas, there is a dearth of recent such movies so I’ve had to dig into the archive. Fortunately, all are available on NetFlix, Amazon Instant Video, etc:  Back to the Future, Home Alone, Dead Poets Society, ET, Field of Dreams, The Black Stallion, The Great Escape, James and the Giant Peach, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Lion King, Rocky, Big, The Red Balloon, Rudy, and the first Harry Potter movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Helping your child acquire reasonable but not excessive self-esteem lays the foundation for a thoughtful, fair-minded exploration of career options. How parents can facilitate that will be the subject of my next article, to appear in the next newsletter.

Marty Nemko is a career counselor and on the Coaltion for a White House Council on Boys and Men. His bio is in Wikipedia.

The Single Sex Classrooms Debate

The Single Sex Classrooms Debate by Michael Gurian (This article first appeared in the commission newsletter, The Proposal.)
When I began to develop nature-based theory more than 25 years ago, I did not know it would be used in all of the ways it has been.  I am proud of its application in our nation’s schools.  Our teachers are our heroes and they need all the tools they can get, especially to help struggling students.

Among my initial findings were the struggles both boys and girls experienced in schools and communities because the staff and parents were only learning about gender roles (which is indeed a very important topic) but not gender.  Gender, not gender roles, impacts every student’s learning curve.  My nature-based gender theory starts with gender brain science (the nature part of the human equation), then moves to nurture and culture; it gives teachers, parents and others a holistic way to create healthy social systems for both boys and girls.
Of course not everyone agrees with the gender lens.  The ACLU’s attack on single gender classrooms and schools is an example.  Utilizing “research” from a very small cadre of social thinkers that do not represent the ideas of most people in the field, they argue that differences between males and females are minimal, (i.e. the gender lens is unnecessary), and that allowing schools and parents to choose educational options is dangerous. These folks make their points by attacking schools, misquoting and misconstruing my work and the work of others in the field, and saying that they represent the gender science and the families of our era.
In an interesting twist to this ongoing debate, a recent New York Times story on single gender education included a number of schools the Gurian Institute has worked with. However, the paper chose not to report any of the information from the scientists I asked them to talk with, nor print any of the responses I and others gave them to the superficial and cherry-picked theory in ACLU lawsuits. They basically published the few people and superficial ideas that fit the ACLU ideology.
In order to understand this debate fully, I hope you’ll go deeper.  Please study the schools that are innovating with a gender lens, whether they are coed, single gender, Montessori, or other, and raise your voices in support of them.
We will leave a legacy of choice and educational excellence for all students no matter their zip code if we come together in support of options in education.
Michael Gurian is an internationally recognized author, family therapist, and child advocate. gurianinstitute.com
 
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