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Blog Archives - February 2012

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. And we did not intentionally put them into situations they were not able to handle. 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: 2012/02/17 4:48 PM

making the decision to have a child...
Posted: 2012/02/16 3:20 PM

Occupy (c) Daryl Lang/ShutterstockThe 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 of 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

wise words about learning from Paulo Freire
Posted: 2012/02/14 5:25 PM

baby learning to walkAdults 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 school.(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 over loquaciousness.

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. 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

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