Saturday, November 30, 2013

How Europe Is Betraying Its Children

by Michael G. Jacobides | 9:00 AM November 28, 2013

A few days ago, I participated in a debate organized by the Economist on whether the new generation has the skills it needs to succeed in tomorrow’s world. I thought I had the easy job of arguing that, especially in countries like Greece (where the event took place), there is a serious skill gap, with the educational and vocational training being dangerously out of date and misdirected.

The argument in favour of the motion, I reckoned, was straightforward. First, schools in many of the Old World countries, and certainly in the European South, still prioritize memorizing over critical thought; we obsess with teaching technical skills as opposed to fostering the ability to adapt, add and capture value in a shifting economic landscape. Universities, in many a European country, are neglecting the realities that graduates will face, producing degrees better suited to a generation ago.

Of course, all this is perfectly understandable. These school systems were built at a time when information was scarce and valuable, and obtaining vast amounts of it through memorization, was a useful skill. And Universities had evolved to serve the needs of a different polity and economy: skilled professionals destined to work in highly structured societies.

A degree was often the license to practice a privileged profession such as law or medicine, and humanities training was the tool to propel young graduates into the white collar workforce. Vocational training was, by and large, linked to the system of professions, themselves a descendant of the guild system. In other words, education was based on offering the brightest (or most fortunate) in society access to the land of privilege, bestowed by excluding most while anointing some.

This world no longer exists. Professions have lost their monopoly, guilds’ privileges are on their way out, sectors have unbundled, competition has become global, and value creation is the name of the game. With China making a massive push in its academic system, and as the Asian scores in aptitude tests reveal the shifting geography of the talent pool, the Old World cannot afford its old habits.

On the corporate level, as careers shorten and the nature of work evolves, the skills to succeed become ever more complex. Sadly, today’s youth is still kept behind by an antiquated educational system, and a reluctance of corporates to invest in developing their workforce. And on top of that, in Europe, most school and Universities’ lack of financial independence has hit hard in a time of fiscal austerity, depriving them of the resources and agility to react and adapt.

They also face tough governance problems, shown most acutely in places like Greece, where the Rector and the association of administrative employees can literally shut the biggest and oldest university down, as a protest on the mere prospect of having their own jobs redesigned. Dinosaurs die hard, and can wreak havoc on their way out.

It isn’t just the educational system that’s at fault. A recent BusinessRoundtable study of employers found that most complain that they can’t find the right people. Not because they can’t read, or lack computer or job-specific skills but because they lack critical thinking, critical problem solving and teamwork. Perhaps worse, they also lack professionalism, adaptability, and personal accountability for work. These are skills that the educational system isn’t geared to deliver but they precisely what the new generation must necessarily develop.

Given this context, I was mesmerized by the fact that 51% of the audience in the Economist debate voted for the view that the young generation does have the skills needed. Now, this could be the result of debating prowess of my opponent, Steve Bainbridge, who played up the need to believe in the younger generation, and of the value of hope, in an auditorium of a crisis-striken country.

But it just might be something deeper: a reflection of just how hard it is to recognize some uncomfortable truths, especially when we have no ready solution to offer. Yet, what could happen if we keep confusing wishful thinking with optimism? Most probably, a wasted generation and, for sure, further loss of competitiveness. And, on the personal level, the biggest drama for parents in plighted countries, who sacrifice all they have for the education of their children, is the realization that they may be making a bad investment. Unwavering faith in their offspring and their future may be detrimental for their ability to succeed.

Perhaps worst of all is the likelihood that this trend will make an uneven society even worse. Those who can attend the best universities, or go to the best business schools, will be able to cope effectively. But this will exacerbate societal imbalances, helping the 1% “in the know”, while leaving the majority behind. Our lack of courage in dealing with the skill gaps risks hurting the Old World and making it more uneven.

This isn’t an easy fight. It takes courage to accept the problem, and even more courage to address it, with entrenched interests as well as skill gaps in the educational system. But it’s an important fight, if we want to regain both prosperity and balance.

How Europe Is Betraying Its Children
Michael G. Jacobides holds the Sir Donald Gordon Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the London Business School.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Truth About Homework

Needless Assignments Persist Because of Widespread Misconceptions About Learning
By Alfie Kohn

There’s something perversely fascinating about educational policies that are clearly at odds with the available data.  Huge schools are still being built even though we know that students tend to fare better in smaller places that lend themselves to the creation of democratic caring communities.  Many children who are failed by the academic status quo are forced to repeat a grade even though research shows that this is just about the worst course of action for them.  Homework continues to be assigned – in ever greater quantities – despite the absence of evidence that it’s necessary or even helpful in most cases.
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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Eleanor Longden: The voices in my head

To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn't know how to help her. Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive. Eleanor Longden overcame her diagnosis of schizophrenia to earn a master’s in psychology and demonstrate that the voices in her head were “a sane reaction to insane circumstances.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain

Cursive Writing Makes Kids Smarter
Ever try to read your physician’s prescriptions? Children increasingly print their writing because they don’t know cursive or theirs is unreadable. I have a middle-school grandson who has trouble reading his own cursive. Grandparents may find that their grandchildren can’t read the notes they send. Our new U.S. Secretary of the Treasury can’t (or won’t) write his own name on the new money being printed.
When we adults went to school, one of the first things we learned was how to write the alphabet, in caps and lower case, and then to hand-write words, sentences, paragraphs, and essays. Some of us were lucky enough to have penmanship class where we learned how to make our writing pretty and readable. Today, keyboarding is in, the Common Core Standards no longer require elementary students to learn cursive, and some schools are dropping the teaching of cursive, dismissing it as an “ancient skill.”[1]
 The primary schools that teach handwriting spend only just over an hour a week, according to Zaner-Bloser Inc., one of the nation's largest handwriting-curriculum publishers. Cursive is not generally taught after the third grade (my penmanship class was in the 7th grade; maybe its just coincidence, but the 7th grade was when I was magically transformed from a poor student into an exceptional student).

Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,”[2] that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.
There is spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing. To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. Students have to pay attention and think about what and how they are doing it. They have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.
Much of the benefit of hand writing in general comes simply from the self-generated mechanics of drawing letters. During one study at Indiana University to be published this year,[3] researchers conducted brain scans on pre-literate 5-year olds before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced self-generated printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters. The brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading was activated during hand writing, but not during typing. This lab has also demonstrated that writing letters in meaningful context, as opposed to just writing them as drawing objects, produced much more robust activation of many areas in both hemispheres.
In learning to write by hand, even if it is just printing, a child’s brain must:
  • Locate each stroke relative to other strokes.
  • Learn and remember appropriate size, slant of global form, and feature detail characteristic of each letter.
  • Develop categorization skills.
Cursive writing, compared to printing, is even more beneficial because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation. Cursive is also faster and more likely to engage students by providing a better sense of personal style and ownership.
Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.[4]
There is a whole field of research known as “haptics,” which includes the interactions of touch, hand movements, and brain function.[5] Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity. School systems, driven by ill-informed ideologues and federal mandate, are becoming obsessed with testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge.
The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument. Not everybody can afford music lessons, but everybody has access to pencil and paper. Not everybody can afford a computer for their kids−maybe such kids are not as deprived as we would think.
Take heart. Some schools just celebrated National Handwriting Day on Jan. 23. Cursive is not dead yet. Parents need to insist that cursive be maintained in their local school.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Coming to our Senses

A wonderful article from a wise man.

"As a graduate student I used to work with Head Start Schools, a program for underprivileged children.
The first day of school I would ask the room full of six-year-olds to draw a house. The children would come up with the most amazing images. Houses under water, inside a shoe, under the roots of trees. At the end of the school year I would ask them again to draw a house, and to the last child, they would draw a rectangle, with a triangle for a roof, with two windows, a door, and a chimney.

The shaman knows that we all carry maps of reality within us, and that these maps determine how we experience the world. These maps define the pathways available to us for creativity and problem solving. Shamans are cartographers of the emotional and spiritual landscape of an individual or an organization (village).. They know that most maps ordinarily describe only the most commonly traveled paths. Like the preschooler that learns there is only one way to draw a house, we sometimes forget the most creative and inspired solutions. We discover these solutions when we access our emotional and spiritual intelligence.

We learn a conceptual model of reality, where we all agree on the common definitions of things. We all learn to draw houses the same way. To gain access to our emotional and spiritual intelligence, we have to rediscover a sensory based model of the world. We have to come to our senses. We have to feel, taste, and experience the world through the senses. We do so by changing our vocabulary from “I think therefore I am” to “I think and I feel, therefore I am.”

The rational mind thinks conceptually. Yet the human brain is at heart emotional. Its primary operating programs are known to brain researchers as the 4 F’s. Fear, Feeding, Fighting, and Sex. These four instinctual drives, that include our fight or flight response, are in the drivers seat behind most human actions and experience. The business world, on the other hand, operates on guidelines established by our rational brain, which attempts to be logical, make sense, and have life be predictable and explainable. There is nothing wrong with that. We only get in trouble when we expect people to act rationally all the time, or even some of the time, at that. "

Alberto Villoldo
Coming to our Senses

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bridging Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference 2012 (playlist)

Hi, my name is Baruch Inbar and I’m an artist and a writer from Los Angeles. SNURTLE is my first children’s book that I’ve written and illustrated. I have been dreaming for a long time to publish my first children’s book, and now it’s time has come!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Study supports restricted diet for kids with ADHD

By Kate Kelland
LONDON | Thu Feb 3, 2011 7:56pm EST
(Reuters) -
Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be fed a special diet to help their carers determine whether certain foods are making their condition worse, Dutch scientists said on Friday.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learning Disabilities - EEG biofeedback for reading disability

By Kirtley E. Thornton, PhDa,*, Dennis P. Carmody, PhDb
Center for Health Psychology, Suite 2A, 2509 Park Avenue, South Plainfield, NJ 07080,
Institute for the Study of Child Development, Department of Pediatrics,
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ
› Edited/adapted from a longer article that also discussed traumatic brain injury, by David Dubin, MD

Reading disabilities

Prevalence and costs

Reading disabilities present major challenges to the educational system. The estimated prevalence rate for learning disabilities is 15% of the student population [1], with 6.5 million children requiring special education in 2002 [2]. The federal government spent $350 billion over a 20-year period on special education programs [4], and New York City spends $55,300 per year for each incarcerated youth [3].
Read more:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Essential Skill of Self-Control, By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Self-control is restraint practiced over one's own emotions, impulses, or desires. It is the ability to make positive choices, to think before acting. Without self-control, students say and do things impulsively which often leads to trouble. Children need to be taught to pause and think of the consequences that may result from their various behaviors.

It is critical for educators to model self-discipline. For example, if you feel yourself losing control of your class, you may want to take a deep breath and calmly say, "When you talk out-of-turn, I feel frustrated because I can't hear what each one of you has to say." By controlling your own words and actions, you are demonstrating to your students a healthy way to react to stress.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Most Important Book Ever Published on School Bullying. Bully Nation makes it crystal clear why we must end our anti-bully crusade.

Bully Nation
I am excited to inform you about a book that is hitting the market this month: Bully Nation: Why America's Approach to Childhood Aggression is Bad for Everyone, by Susan Eva Porter. Dr. Porter has also granted me an interview, which will be presented below.When I say Bully Nation is the most important book ever published on bullying, I am not exaggerating. Why is it so important? Not because it brings great new revelations about the evils of bullying and how we need to protect kids from bullies. There are countless books like that. It is important because it is the first published book wholly dedicated to fundamentally challenging the very basis of the anti-bully movement, explaining in the clearest of terms why it is a mistake and why we need to abandon it.
Read more:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD

Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD

French children don't need medications to control their behavior.
In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%. How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France?
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley

Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish -- and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational "death valley" we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility. Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Just Add Light and Stir: Clarity in motion

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