As certain high school seniors work meticulously this month to finish their early applications to colleges, some may not realize that comments they casually make online could negatively affect their prospects. In fact, new research from Kaplan Test Prep, the service owned by the Washington Post Company, suggests that online scrutiny of college hopefuls is growing.
Very quickly, we've dipped into a pile of pressure-cooker topics: the pressure to succeed, educationally; the complicated series of hoops students have to leap through to attain admission to college; and the sometimes devastatingly fast and permanent ability of social media to change perceptions of a hasty and/or emotional user.
Like many New York Times trend pieces, it no sooner rolls out its thesis than it begins qualifying it due to lack of scientifically gathered evidence and college admissions officers who say, in a nutshell, "who has time to Google?" But the story does get to the core of one of our era's leading truths: the person you are online has a real impact on the life you lead everywhere else.
(See also: the National Security Council staffer canned for caustic anonymous tweets, the students who used Facebook to share confidential information about an upcoming test, and of course a whole pack of legislative aides and other public personalities who should have been deleting instead of tweeting.)
To take this into a context broader than mere online communication etiquette, the story points out one of the essential conflicts for all young people for all eras, ever: the brutal struggle between finding and being "yourself" (unpacking that term could take a lifetime's work) and fitting in and eventually earning a steady living.
All of this evokes the line of advice I have already cued up for my own son, likely to be delivered 12-14 years from now:
"Remember, son: anything you write or post anywhere is extremely likely to be read or seen by whomever you'd least like to see it... plus both your grandmas."
At last, women can find a Zen moment of truth in advertising as Lululemon’s sheer yoga pants return to shelves, bearing aptly phrased tags that read, “This is what celebrating failure looks like!"
When it comes to taking a good long look at failure, Lululemon Athletica and its founder Chip Wilson have given us an eye full, beginning with the unintentionally see-through pants and ending with Mr. Wilson’s choice to blame women’s thighs for some less than fabulous fabric choices made by the company.
First the $98 pants were recalled in March for being too sheer and then in July a reinforced version, dubbed “Full-On Luon,” replaced them only to be criticized by women for “pilling with wear,” according to Business Insider.
Wilson let fly the following comments during an interview on Bloomberg TV: "Quite frankly some women's bodies just don't actually work for it. They don't work for some women's bodies...it's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it."
Now a new incarnation of the pants are on shelves for $92, re-branded as “Second Chance” pants. A tag on the bottom reads: "These pants were inspired by a need to find functional and beautiful design solutions for our sheer pants. This is what celebrating failure looks like!"
However, after failing to take ownership of poor quality control not once but twice and insulting women’s bodies, it would seem that in calling them “Second Chance pants” Lululemon missed out on some basic math and parenting rules.
The rules: 1. A second chance comes after one error, not several. 2. You don’t turn Namaste into nasty unless you want a serious time out. 3. Never blame mommy’s thighs for anything, ever.
I am one of the many parents who does yoga with her children and, even if I could afford a pair of $98 pants, they wouldn’t come from a company that behaves as Lululemon has.
A while back it would have seemed impossible for any CEO to top the sheer arrogance and prejudice exhibited by Abercrombie and Fitch for its stance against big clothing sizes and yet Wilson has managed to attain Nirvana non grata by the seat of his pants.
While Lululemon didn’t get the pants or the apology right, in the end they produced an excellent example for our kids on just how bad things can get when you refuse to own up to mistakes and choose to blame and insult others instead.
Maybe Wilson never really learned about the five principles of yoga: relaxation, exercise, breathing, diet, and meditation.
Perhaps Wilson needs to relax his grip on his ego, exercise better judgment, breathe the scent of humility, go on a strict diet of high quality standards, and meditate on what he says for a long while before he says it on television.
Brace yourself for a couple of big numbers: $21,000 or $105,000. The former is the average cost of having a baby; the latter, the cost of having twins. (Or, if you'd prefer to look at it a different way, the former is the cost of a decent new car, and the latter is the cost of a small house in a loose real estate market.)
The boom in assisted reproductive technologies (like in vitro fertilization) makes the twins price tag increasingly relevant. As a CBS news story notes,
... With single births, 60 percent of medical expenses are tied to mom's care whereas with twins or multiple births, 70 percent to 85 percent of costs are for infant care respectively.
These numbers come from a study published Nov. 11 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and while they shouldn't be shocking to anyone who has followed the bloat of American healthcare, they're a particularly poignant reminder of how much the modern system costs society in general, and parents in particular.
Separate from (but certainly related to) baby birthing cost is the amount of money parents actually end up paying out of pocket once the "cost" side is figured out. The New York Times published a heartbreaking story on the seemingly random, occasionally crushing price of having a baby, wherein the potential swing in expense is, for lack of a more accurate word, ludicrous:
When she became pregnant, [Renée] Martin called her local hospital inquiring about the price of maternity care; the finance office at first said it did not know, and then gave her a range of $4,000 to $45,000. “It was unreal,” Ms. Martin said. “I was like, How could you not know this? You’re a hospital.”
Here in Minneapolis, my wife and I had a perfectly normal, healthy, happy pregnancy and by-the-book birth followed by a cascading series of complicated bills that mounted up into the high four figures. Other friends have paid similar amounts, or half, or around $1,000. Insurance is part of the story, but the whole story is opaque, hidden behind deductibles and consulting groups and "we-didn't-know-that-was-optional" services that render the whole process about as understandable as a wooden tablet written in Rongorongo.
And of course the "birth" thing is just a drop in a much, much wider and deeper bucket. If you can stomach the read, the Monitor wrote about how the average cost of $241,000 to raise a child "sounds low." Maybe it's about time that parents, for their own sanity, started putting a monetary value on milestones like a first step or a first good report card. If an "I love you, Daddy" is worth $15,000, it helps defray the expenses. A bit.
The announcement that the new batsuit in the “Batman vs. Superman” movie is “awesome” probably means more to adult comic book fans than kids who are much more invested in what cool new phrases their brooding hero will utter.
While fans of the classic “THWACK!” and “KAPOWIE!” days when Adam West played Batman on TV in a shiny cowl, tights and a chunky, yellow utility belt can rejoice at reports that Ben Affleck’s attire may hearken back to West and the actual Batman vs. Superman comic, kids walk around being Batman all day long in their jeans and Batman T-shirt.
Kids don’t need a new batsuit when they have their imaginations and can base their playtime more on the most memorable lines spoken and scenes enacted in films. All they need from the new Batman is good writing and a sense of ironic humor.
Sadly, comic book characters like the new Batman are transitioning from page to screen and are being clad to suit cosplay, role play fantasy by adults (short for "costume play") rather than kids. Remember when comic books were for kids?
Batman is a prime example of kid play turned cosplay, having transitioned over the years from the emotionally scarred son of billionaire parents, orphaned by a street thug during a robbery, turned to crimefighting wearing a utility belt with a “Batarang” (boomerang shaped like a bat) to a heavily armored, weaponized franchise.
According to Business Insider, “Comic book lord and filmmaker Kevin Smith spilled during his latest Hollywood Babble-On podcast that he has seen a picture of Affleck in the new costume straight from director Zack Snyder and its awesome.”
Two of my four sons, Ian, 18, and Quin, 9, stood before the computer this morning reading about the new, highly praised, batsuit and shared the same sentiment, “Meh.”
“It’s on Ben Affleck, so it really doesn’t matter,” said Ian. “Was Christian Bale not available?”
“Can he do the voice? The deep voice,” Quin asked, trying his best to sound like Bale, “I’m Batmaaaan.”
When it comes to super heroes and my boys, you can cast anyone as Superman, but you have to be careful with the bat.
I think that’s because Superman is from another planet. He’s pretty, perfect, and he has actual super powers like heat vision, flight, super strength, and so they can’t imagine being him.
Batman is human so they can relate to that, but above all he has great lines that they can deliver in daily life.
According to my boys Adam West was “awesome” because he had “the voice” and the fighting was funny.
Michael Keaton was “too goofy.” Val Kilmer was too pretty. Quin says, “He looked like Batwoman.” Ouch! George Clooney was in Batman and Robin, which the boys dismiss as having no memorable lines.
Christian Bale is “the real” Batman and everybody who comes after the Dark Knight had better have the haunted eyes and voice to carry off the role.
Note that nowhere in there was costume a factor.
The armored bat battle suits, weapons, and cars are all there for two reasons – toy sales and cosplay fans.
In reality, when it comes to super heroes, what it really takes to make a kid into a fan is justice, coolly delivered with a side dish of humor.
In the Avengers, it was The Hulk saying to Loki, “Puny god” after he slams the troublesome, allegedly all-powerful, Asgaardian villain into the ground.
In Batman, it’s the moment when criminal kingpin Carmine Falcone, who had earlier lectured on how insignificant and doomed the good guys are, is cornered in his car and frantically demands to know what the heck he, Batman, is.
Batman breaks open the limo's sunroof, pulls Falcone out, and Christian Bale growls the now classic line that kids everywhere now say in a moment of supreme self-confidence, “I'm Batman!”
When making the new batman I hope the filmmakers remember the best superhero line of all, from Spiderman, “With great power come great responsibility.”
The responsibility isn’t about the wardrobe, merchandising, or the toy sales, but fighting for truth, justice, and all the while empowering kids’ imaginations.
An unusual name can be a curse, but it can also be a blessing - hit a professional highpoint while sporting a memorable, unusual name, and you may attain the sort of immortality enjoyed by psychiatrist and Freudian psychoanalyst Hermann Rorschach.
Mr. Rorschach – probably best known in current culture as "that inkblot guy" – is the subject of today's Google Doodle, recognized for his contribution to the art of personality analysis. Rorschach's method, which has echoed down from his era (the early 20th Century) to our own, is simple enough in theory: show a subject a series of inkblots and see what, if anything, they project onto the images when prompted. In practice, the test is notoriously difficult to "score" – while there are guidelines for how to evaluate answers given for the various pictures, it takes skilled, well-trained interpreters to tease any kind of diagnostic value out of the experience.
Depending upon who you ask, Rorschach tests are either a clever (if somewhat subjective) tool for analysis and detection of underlying thought disorders, or generally a pseudoscientific waste of time akin to cold reading. The test is reasonably easy to administrate, and the fact that it revolves around 10 standard inkblots helps guide those who must interpret the test but can also give crafty subjects a chance to study the blots and the criteria and "cheat" the exam.)
It is, in fact, entirely likely that Rorschach himself would be skeptical of his test as it is often used and interpreted – he didn't intend his test to be a general gauge of personality – he was skeptical of such tests, and developed his inkblot test to diagnose schizophrenia specifically.
The Rorschach doodle puts the pioneering psychoanalyst in good standing among other intellectual honorees from the 20th Century – other Doodles have honored Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, and Erwin Schrödinger.
While Justin Bieber is in Brazil ignoring its many wonders – opting to spray paint graffiti on its walls and getting videotaped by girls while he’s sleeping – perhaps he should enroll in Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes where he can learn to live the phrase, “Respeito (Respect): Hard to earn. Easy to lose.”
My son Ian, 18, introduced me to the “Respeito” saying which he wears on a T-shirt and mumbles every time Justin Bieber’s Brazilian antics make the news.
Mr. Beiber, 19, is in Brazil as part of his ongoing South American tour and he’s making a typical teen spiral hash out of it.
“Police in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday said they were investigating whether Canadian teen singer Justin Bieber had illegally spray painted graffiti on an exterior wall of a beachside hotel,” according to the latest Reuters report today.
First video of a sleeping Bieber, appearing unclothed but for a thin blanket, shot by a young woman who turns the camera on herself and blows him a kiss appeared on YouTube, according to CNN.
Then, early Tuesday, the singer and members of his entourage, were caught painting the wall outside an upscale hotel in Rio's São Conrado neighborhood, Reuters reports.
As a dedicated student of Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Ian works, hopes, and dreams of the day he will make it to Brazil to witness the 2016 Olympic Summer Games.
Even though Brazilian jiu-jitsu isn’t an official competition sport in the games it will be a demonstration sport.
Brazil is Ian’s version of a sacred place, and here’s a guy, around his age, who is defiling and disrespecting it.
However, while Ian growls, I realize that he could have been a “bad boy” too if I hadn’t realized several years ago that parents of teens need to accept outside help in instilling respect and work ethic.
When my boys reached high school, I realized my parenting needed backup in many ways – from coping with bullies to instilling order in chaotic minds.
I enrolled all four of my sons (then ages 15, 14, 11, and six) in Gracie Bullyproof Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes at a local dojo here in Norfolk, Va.
For Ian in particular, his teacher Bill Odom and later Rener Gracie became just the backup parenting he needed.
When I lost my full-time job, Ian realized we couldn’t afford Ian’s classes in BJJ anymore. He solved that problem for me by taking a cleaning job at the dojo and instructing the PeeWees and other groups there.
Bieber’s bank account is loaded. He can go anywhere and apparently do anything, but he completely lacks the discipline, training, and understanding of respect that my son has had thanks to his martial arts mentors.
It’s not too late for Bieber to call on someone like Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt MMA star turned instructor Renzo Gracie, who divides his time between Brooklyn, NY and teaching in his hometown of Rio.
This teen has the unique opportunity to learn directly from the source.
He’s in Brazil, the perfect place to find some tough love from one of the BJJ dojos.
Who knows, if Justin learns to become proficient in BJJ he won’t need the bodyguards and if he applies himself his next trip to Brazil he could be welcomed with open arms.
The collection plate. The tithing. The special envelope. The Sunday school teacher stipend. The funds for the new heater, new roof, and new hymnals. The missions. The seminarians. The refugees. The homeless shelter, the cash for the hard-luck case who knocks on the parsonage door, the electric bill for the newly unemployed. Your church can, if nothing else, find you good ways to spend your money. But tithing and other forms of church giving are down of late – a victim, experts say, of the decline in church attendance, the economy, and, some say, a failure to teach that giving is an integral part of the spiritual life.
According to the Religion News Service, Open Tomb, a Christian research and service organization, reported last month that for 2011, the most recent data available, church giving was down for the fourth year in a row, to 2.3 percent of a member’s annual income, from 2.4 percent the year before. It was the first such prolonged decline since the Great Depression. Some 100,000 U.S. mainline, evangelical, and unaffiliated Protestant congregations were studied, and though Catholics weren’t included, previous data indicate their giving to be comparable, or slightly less, than the others. The drop affected not so much the local congregations, as the “benevolences,” mission, and ministries outside the local church.
How do believers approach that great question of “stewardship,” or, more plainly for today’s purposes, “money”? Matt Branaugh, of Christianity Today’s Church Law and Tax Group, sees giving theologically: “not a requirement, per se, but a response” to a loving God. In Christianity, at least, giving stems from and parallels the example of God, who sacrificed everything, including his son, for mankind. The believer, in turn, is moved to want to give back. The examples of this are all over scriptures: the poor widow who gave to the temple everything she had; the rich man condemned to hell for his years of ignoring the beggar Lazarus; the loathed tax collector Zacchaeus, who, affirmed by Jesus, was moved to give away half his fortune. And so on.
But today’s church headlines seem full of stories of fraud, scandal, and ineptitude. Then, too, professionalization of church fund-raising sometimes seems to manipulate the sacred in pursuit of the sell. Actual incidence of fraud and embezzlement within congregations is “very, very small,” says Branaugh, and can be averted through complete transparency, where the church books are open, the budget handled correctly, the planned ministries and activities are actually taking place. If you don’t see that, it’s cause for considering another congregation. For non-local contributions to the poor, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability accredits church charities worldwide. [Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.]
Speaking of the poor, how rich should your church be? How much cash ought conscience allow for things like stained glass, parking lot landscaping, and support staff? Some see property holdings of any kind as unnecessary wealth. Yet church architecture – be it Quaker austerity or cathedral splendor – traditionally has provided not just shelter for prayer but also a vehicle for directing human creativity for the honor of God. And critics of church holdings may not realize, says Branaugh, that the nation’s churches are a charity in and of themselves, given over – at little or no cost – to a weekly whirl of Girl Scouts and 12-step programs, elder exercise classes and such, serving as de facto community centers.
Each family’s giving decisions will differ, and the answer to “how much” is a matter for prayer, experts say. Some people tithe – give a tenth of their annual income. Some do more than that and some not as much. But in the big picture, giving is less a matter of dollar amount than of heart. No matter how seemingly insignificant the gift, “we’re acting as a matter of faith that God is going to show up and do something with that,” says Branaugh.
The popular consensus seems to be clear: helicopter parents are the worst. They hover constantly (thus the name), denying their children the space in which to define their own personalities and goals. They stick up for their children to the point of absurdity, interjecting themselves whenever their kids get bad grades, have an unpleasant social interaction at school, or even get turned down for a job.
But an intriguing new study suggests that the popular perception isn't quite right; first of all, it teases apart the difference between the term "helicopter parent" and a number of other parenting styles, and finds that "child-centric" parenting may have some positive outcomes for the moms and dads who practice it.
RECOMMENDED: Are you a Helicopter Parent? Take our quiz
The study, published in the peer reviewed academic journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, is entitled "Parents Reap What They Sow: Child-Centrism and Parental Well-Being."
A child-centric parenting style is defined as "the psychological mind-set in which parents are motivated to maximize their child’s well-being even at a cost to their own" and "are willing to prioritize the allocation of their emotional, temporal, financial, and attentional resources to their children rather than themselves."
Here's where the study gets a bit tricky: child-centrism is not one-for-one the overprotective helicopter parenting that we've been wrestling with as a culture. The study defines child-centrism as distinct from but positively correlated with protectiveness and overinvolvement in children’s academic affairs (helicopter parenting), but actually marginally inversely correlated with achievement-focused "Tiger Moms."
Child-centrism, in a nutshell, is a straightforward psychological drive to put our children's' needs ahead of our own, and it's fairly self-evident how this urge can create monsters and/or saints of parents who indulge it to the hilt.
But overall, the results seem to be encouraging – the study notes:
In our samples, while child-centrism was not strongly associated with differences in the well-being that parents experienced during non-parenting activities, it was associated with the well-being that parents experienced when taking care of their children, suggesting that child-centrism may be associated with benefits rather than costs for parents’ well-being.
"In short," concludes the study, "when it comes to parental well-being, you reap what you sow."
The study itself is short and clear, and worth reading – the way it teases apart the nuances of cause and effect (and labels like "helicopter parent" and "Tiger Mom") make it a profitable browse.
While a Florida teacher was suspended for physically forcing a fourth grader to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance, her greater misstep was in a total lack of respect and humility when it comes to the children in her care.
My kids have said the Pledge of Allegiance since they were old enough to mangle it into, “One station. Underground. Invisible. With liberty and juice sticks for all!”
However, there are kids whose parents have very strong religious beliefs – in this case Jehovah's Witnesses who are forbidden from worshiping objects, including the American flag – that allow them to love their country, but alter the traditional classroom practice.
According to a report by the Tampa Bay Times, Anne Daigle-McDonald, a teacher at Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill, Fla., didn’t just force a child, a Jehovah's Witness, to place his hand over his heart during the Sept. 11 pledge, but went to the extremes of publicly bullying, berating, and judging him and his family.
The teacher admitted that the boy’s mother had told her about their religious beliefs, but said she was not aware that included the pledge.
However, according to the Times, Ms. Daigle-McDonald not only “yanked his wrist” physically forcing him to take the pledge posture, but carried the issue over to the next day when she allegedly told the class: "In my classroom, everyone will do the pledge; no religion says that you can't do the pledge. If you can't put your hand on your heart, then you need to move out of the country."
In my humble opinion, as the mom of four boys who has met many teachers over the past 20 years, I believe this wasn’t a battle over allegiance to the flag.
This was about allegiance to the teacher and her word in the classroom.
Over the years, I have seen some teachers behave this way when they feel challenged by a child. Some teachers seem to feel that any breach in the normal pattern as a personal attack that cannot be tolerated.
It’s a response born of fear and a need for total control in order to maintain order.
Good teaching is about celebrating differences and learning about diversity together.
As singer Sara Bareilles might ask this educator, “Who died and made you king of anything?”
From our first children's first day of school, we as parents must walk a fine line between respect for authority and protecting their children from ill-treatment.
We are constantly hearing complaints about a teacher who’s “mean” or “unfair.”
As we field these kids’ issues, we do our fair share of judging who is telling the truth, and often we must explain to our children that certain things only seem unfair or unjust, and we must learn to cope. This is not one of those times.
According to Yahoo News, Hernando County School District officials investigated the incident, concluding that the teacher "violated a number of state education rules, professional conduct principles and the student's right to free speech and freedom of religion."
Daigle-McDonald was suspended for five days without pay and instructed to attend diversity training, said the newspaper.
I think this teacher needs something beyond diversity training because this is crossing the line into bullying.
Parents cannot allow any educator to: A. Resort to physically correcting young children in their care. B. Disrespect and ignore parental instructions regarding their child and C. Cast anyone who agrees with that child in the light of someone who doesn’t belong.
It’s not about the child’s pledge. It’s all about our communities pledging to treat all children with respect; preserving their dignity and making them feel safe and welcome in the classroom.
According to NASA, there’s a chance you or your child could become high tech versions of Chicken Little in the next couple of days when chunks of satellite falling from the sky plummet to Earth and into imaginations.
Technically it will just be a satellite falling, not the sky as Chicken Little famously assumed.
However, the European satellite that’s run out of fuel and is set to drop from orbit in an uncontrolled entry to earth is part of so much technological junk raining down on us you might say that little chicken had a valid point after all.
From spent rocket boosters to weather prediction and satellites that help us GPS our way over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s, humanity is producing new space junk faster than its predecessors can fall back to Earth, according to Space.com.
NASA even has an Orbital Debris Program Office, which shows projection models that look to me as if the “sky” is rapidly becoming nothing but space junk waiting to fall on our heads.
My nine-year-old finds this elating news because it means that he might be one of the lucky kids to find a piece of sky litter that he can take to school for the upcoming science fair.
According to The New York Times, “About 100 tons of debris will fall from the sky this year alone. There are, however, no known instances in which anyone has been injured by space debris.”
That quote is fun because it’s as reassuring to parents as it is disappointing to kids, who often love a little mayhem in their falling satellite action adventure stories.
While there won’t likely be any injuries resulting from a crash, parents in the area where it does fall will have an opportunity to go space-junk hunting with kids.
The Times also reports of the most immediate earthbound satellite, “About 25 to 45 fragments of the one-ton spacecraft are expected to survive all the way to the surface, with the largest perhaps weighing 200 pounds.”
Quin is already thinking of how we could best use a piece of fallen satellite to his advantage.
Since we have spent days pouring over possible project ideas for his school’s upcoming science fair (entrance is mandatory,) the solution was clear – pray for it to hit our yard so he can experiment on it for the fair.
“First thing I would do is call the scientists who told us about meteorites,” he schemed. “I think we’ll need like about 30 scientists on this.”
Quin and I spotted what we thought were meteorites falling over Norfolk two months back and called around to get some information.
I have tried to tell him that the odds of that happening are greater than those of winning the lottery and he said, “Well this isn’t gambling and people win the lottery every day.”
I asked him if he was worried that 100 tons of space garbage will fall on Earth this year and his eyes lit up.
He said, “So, the odds are actually not bad at all that something could fall on us in time for the science fair!”
This is what happens when you raise an optimistic scientist.
So, when should parents of young science fair hopefuls be scanning the skies and looking for falling pieces?
Rune Floberghagen, the mission manager for the European Space Agency’s Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, told the Times the agency's best guess is on Sunday (Nov. 10), with a possibility for early Monday (Nov. 11).
Oh good, Monday’s a holiday so the kids can be out Chicken Littleing their way to scientific glory all day long.
Meanwhile, I think governments around the globe could use some parenting on cleaning up their space messes. Because they can’t always rely on moms and dads to go out there to pick up after them when it all comes tumbling down.