Blog Archives - February
Kids Who Can Think For Themselves Can Manage Themselves – February 17, 2012
Someone mentioned to me the other day that he and his
wife do not control their children’s thinking or their
learning, but they occasionally control their behavior, because of their duty to
nourish and protect. I always found that precisely because my husband and I
didn´t try to control our (now adult) daughters´ thinking, etc., we seldom
needed to control their behavior. They usually knew what was right for
them. Sure, when they were very young, they sometimes followed their curiosity
into potentially dangerous situations, but we made sure that we were there to
rescue if necessary – which is different than controlling their behavior. As
they got older, they learned to balance danger and risk...I think because they
were allowed that opportunity.
Learning to think for ourselves – and to act accordingly –
is supposedly a big component of education. But much of what passes for an
education works against that. The education industry promotes the thinking of
experts and doses out information from governments, corporations, and others who
often have their own interests at heart, rather than the children’s. That
training to pay attention to what others think or say – the internalizing of the
notion that others know best what is good for us – results in what sociologist
David Riesman has called “other-directed” people. Looking to one’s peers for
direction is an inauthentic way to live. But we accept peer pressure as an
inevitable part of modern living (except when our adolescent offspring follow us
into accepting peer pressure and we encourage them to think for themselves!).
Posted: 2012/02/16 3:20
Corporate Monster That's Eating the Book Business:
A Cautionary Tale – February 15, 2012
I’ve written often over the years about the economic benefits of shopping
ethically, which for many people means Fair Trade and organic food. It also
includes supporting small, local, and independent businesses. I’ve written an
article for Natural Life Magazine’s upcoming March/April issue
about how seemingly small decisions about our purchasing habits can makes us
part of a grassroots effort to fix what is wrong with our economy. I wrote, “By
choosing how and where we shop, we can channel money directly into the hands of
people and families like us, rather than into the bank accounts of corporations
that don’t care about our welfare and whose only interest is their
shareholders.” So I was pleased to see
this article in the New York Times today, which suggests
that artisanal businesses are the future of America.
In my own article, I also
describe an epic battle
that I have been watching between Amazon.com Inc. and
the rest of the book world. It is a good example of a large corporation that is
doing a lot of damage with its massive financial clout and predator mentality.
But few people seem to understand or accept the danger of its dominance,
or see it as a description of what is wrong with the world.
Instead, many good rebels continue to purchase books from them because the price
is right in the short term.
The company’s critics list a host of complaints including
human resource abuses; avoiding and opposing sales tax collection (which gives
it a price advantage over those that do collect sales taxes); anti-competitive
actions; predatory pricing; falsified or biased product reviews; and various
other decisions that are contemptuous of customers, suppliers, governments, and
the competition. A simple web search will provide you with
more detail than you probably want.
In December of 2011, Amazon faced
a backlash from small businesses for poaching customers right out of the aisles
their bricks-and-mortar stores. Shoppers who used their cell phones armed
with Amazon’s Price Check app in stores were offered a discount to purchase that
item from Amazon instead. That was the last straw for many who had been watching
the company steamroll small booksellers, who can’t compete with its low prices.
The company has, in fact, now
seemingly declared all-out war on the book industry. It’s been slowly eroding it
for years, but now appears intent on creating a monopoly for itself by
controlling or replacing all aspects of book publishing, sales, and even
lending. It remains to be seen how extensive the damage from this monopoly will
be. But experience in other industries shows us that eventually quality, price,
and choice can suffer along with the people whose livelihoods depend upon
the industry under attack.
Amazon’s domineering behavior is particularly alarming
because it threatens the marketplace of ideas that are
contained in book. That’s why neither my books, nor those published by
my company, are for sale there. (Oh, you’ll see a few used
print copies for sale on their website
by individuals – and they refuse to remove our
copyrighted covers that they cavalierly placed there without our permission.)
And I personally don’t shop there.
I hope you’ll join me in considering the effect that
purchasing from bullies like Amazon has on owner-operated businesses, our
communities, and the overall economy. We can be part of the solution. We can
help shift political and economic power from the greedy “corporatocracy” if we
put our money where our values (and hopes for the future) are.
Posted: 2012/02/15 5:45 PM
Posted: 2012/02/14 5:25 PM
Don't Teach Kids How to Learn – February 9, 2012
Stop the presses! All work and no play is bad for people. Especially kids. So
said developmental psychologist
Dr. Gordon Neufeld in a recent newspaper article – and that is
apparently a strange idea in some circles, where they think
being a kid is serious business and hard work.
Neufeld wrote in a 2004 book
Hold Onto Your Kids, co-authored with Dr. Gabor Mate, that
if kids go to school too early they fail to develop strong relationships with
their parents and thus come to depend upon their peers. He’s
also against early education (at least until age six or seven when
children’s brains have become properly wired); he doesn’t even like
daycare unless it’s all about play rather than academics. “You can get
incredible things out of them if you detach them from marks and rewards,” he
told the newspaper writer. That philosophy was part of his own family life,
where he says he never made his now-adult kids do homework.
The education experts
are apparently taken aback by Neufeld. “An
interesting idea” says one, perhaps ironically, about delayed academics.
(So-called “early learning,” has after all, been well used as a justification
for preschool, early and all-day kindergarten.)
But what had me tearing out my hair is this: “Education
officials counter by saying that play should be a central part of preschoolers’
learning, but that kids also need to be ready to learn when they start
(Italics are mine.) That’s right under a banner that
says, “The Early Years. Planting the Seeds For Learning.” What, on earth, do
these so-called “experts” think children do from the time they’re born until
schools get their hands on them? They learn, of course! All by themselves.
Chalk up another point for adult academic arrogance.
And three cheers for Neufeld for understanding the importance of keeping out of
the way of learning but being attached to our young children.
Posted: 2012/02/09 5:51 PM
In Praise of Simplicity...in Life and in Learning – February 3, 2012
These days, there are many smart people producing blogs, vlogs, Facebook and
other social networking commentaries about kids and learning. So you’ll pardon
me if I haven’t been writing on this blog much lately, in favor of tending to
some other important things…and taking a break from the look of my own words.
However, my cache of ideas to share and happenings about which I could react is
overflowing, so I will try to spend some more time on this little corner of the
Internet. Mostly, I’ll be pruning, discarding, and simplifying because, if you
haven’t noticed, I much prefer white space over clutter, a few well-chosen words
I am in the minority that way.
Simplicity is under-rated – even scorned – in our complicated culture. We
multi-task; we value the ability to engage in social small talk; complexity is
revered, even when it’s camouflage for emptiness; everyone and everything is
analyzed and explained ad nauseum, then it’s labeled. What we call “food” is
often nothing but a complicated mixture of chemicals and other non-food
materials. Simply sitting and enjoying the passing day is scorned as wasting
time (or worse, the activity of someone who has nothing “better” to do;
simple, unorganized play is seen to be nonproductive. Parenting is complicated;
learning is difficult…education is a complex industry.
So it’s no surprise that parents who want to separate their
families from that industry feel like they’ve jumped out of a plane into an
alien land without a parachute. Just being, rather than doing, is harder than it
looks! Trusting children to make life and learning choices is not easy in
a world where they are acceptably second-class citizens. So we have the
popularity of advice, opinions, methods, rules, and labels. I’ve written about
that many times, from many perspectives. (You can find those posts using the
“blog archives” and “articles” links in the sidebar.) But this morning I
read a blog post that captured the issue well. So, in the name of simplicity,
here it is.
Posted: 2012/02/11:35 AM