When Princeton alum Susan Patton penned a letter to her alma mater's female students urging them to find a husband in college, she cancelled our appointment with the Love Doctor and scheduled one instead with the Inclination PhD. Aside from leaving many people feeling frustrated, she did get me to remind my sons that higher education isn’t a place to shop for a mate and love can’t be distilled into a formula of marriage-mind + Megamind = Pi in the sky happy ending.
“For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you,” Ms. Patton, the divorced mother of two sons, wrote in a letter specifically aimed at Princeton’s female students. “Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”
Trying my best to find something in her letter that will not make me want to fling crockery, I can say I like that Patton is empowering young women to value their intellect over their body image. It’s also good to tell a child of either sex to place value on intellectual connection above more transient, physical attractions.
After that I have to shake my head and walk away because Patton didn’t just twang the love and marriage chords, she set up an elitist paradigm that is at war with everything we believe about love and marriage.
It strikes down Disney princess and geekette alike.
The Disney version has a girl of humble but pretty origins marrying the man who owns the university, while the geekette script has the captain of the football team falling for the nerdy, unfashionable, smart girl. Both of these are Kizmet-based with nary a mention of anyone’s Mensa status.
In her letter, Patton references attending an event and how the “girls” of Princeton at the event took on “glazed looks” while they listened to academic issues discussed but changed dramatically into attentiveness when dishing about how to find the right mate. While this immediately explodes the perception of what an intellectual Princetonian woman might do, I am willing to roll with it.
To get intellectual on this issue I can say that college (at least undergraduate level) the statistics show marriage is happening post-graduation no matter where you meet your mate. According to the Census bureau in a 2013 online posting,the median age at first marriage in 2012 was 28.6 years for men and 26.6 years for women.
Before the princesses and geekettes become collateral damage, however, Patton’s letter lays waste to the love lives and apparently future happiness of any non-Ivy Leaguer while simultaneously bashing them as “unworthy.”
I don’t like the elitist side of the letter at all. My eldest son currently attends a state school because Ivy League isn’t affordable. However, having met many young women from Virginia Commonwealth University I can say the gene pool there is quite wealthy in intellectual young women and men. Anyone would be wise not to exclude them from the romantic running unless the plan is to breed a Princeton Tigers-only populace.
I’ll look on the bright side and hope that maybe Patton meant her letter to apply to any “intellectual” at any university.
After the letter made the lightning round of critics, Patton told The Huffington Post, “The extreme reaction to my letter is astonishing. Honestly, it was intended as little more than honest advice from a Jewish mother. And, yes, this is exactly the advice I would give my daughters.”
While Patton has no daughters, only sons, like me, I am not holding that against her. As a woman who has experienced marriage, divorce and Princeton (not necessarily in that order) she has some experience and possibly regret as a basis for her advice.
My advice to my sons after having read Patton’s opinions is that they should find someone who makes them happy. Fall in love, not with your eyes or ears, but with your nature and hers.
There are so many things in life that look good or bad on paper, and I can tell my sons that love is not something you can bind with ink and paper, or on a computer screen via ones and zeroes.
I have read and re-read the letter all morning and shared it with my spouse of 25 years. We met in college and married three months after my graduation.
We met when I was a college senior and he a recent graduate of the same institution, Monmouth College in New Jersey and instantly disliked each other. On paper, even after 25 years of marriage and four sons we don’t look like we’re possible or likely.
My father-in-law, God rest his soul, was so horrified when he heard we were to be married after knowing each other only three months bellowed, “Hell can be fun for three months!”
What’s the secret to 25 years of door slamming, heart hammering, crazy love?
Neither of us thinks we’re smarter than the other and we deeply appreciate the skill sets we each bring to the table that are non-degree or Mensa measurable.
He can repair anything and turn trash into treasure. He makes old bike wheels into giant pinwheels using colorful Duck Tape to ornament my garden. When he’s over-thinking life and getting angry I make him laugh at something totally absurd.
As the lisping Sid the Sloth tells Manny the mammoth in "Ice Age 2: The Melt Down" about Ellie the girl mammoth who drives him crazy, “She’s tons of fun and you’re no fun at all. She completes you.”
I tell my sons and anyone who’s interested, all it takes to live happily ever after is finding someone who is not your equal, but who helps you complete the sum.
There may indeed be 50 shades of gray, but Target made a mistake as big as a herd of sea cows when it chose to switch the name of a dress color from “Dark Heather Grey” to the more mass-representative “Manatee Gray,” when the dress was sold as a Plus Size. In this case, a major manufacturer played-into social bullying. And while “sorry” is expected, it’s not really going to get this job done for consumers who shouldn’t have to be the common sense police for an entire industry.
If a manufacturer or seller wants our hard-earned dollars in this economy it’s not about what they do for us as much as what they should never do to us as female consumers. They should never be so insensitive as to humiliate us or our kids in public by cluelessly naming things that will make a chubby kid’s life worse with bullies than it already is.
The Examiner reports that Target customer Susan Clemens was browsing through Target.com when she saw a grey, plus-sized garment labeled "Manatee Grey." The same exact dress was on the screen listed with the more appealing name, “Dark Heather Gray.” Clemens called out the retailer on Twitter. Target, admitting it had really missed the bulls-eye on this one, issued a public apology.
My mother, Glen Kristi, of New Jersey, a Parsons School of Design graduate who later taught there, spent decades as a fashion designer in New York City. One of her clients was the plus-size clothing firm Lane Bryant, so this morning the parenting blogger goes back to Mom for wisdom and insight into how this kind of error happens.
“Oh Lord! What were they thinking?” was mom’s reaction when I e-mailed her the photos from the Target website showing the two dresses and color descriptions. “They’re lovely animals, I swam with them once you know, but they’re called ‘Sea Cows!’ "
Once mom was over the shock she explained to me that colors for fabrics and other design trends are not something that the industry takes at all lightly.
“Every year when I was in New York, the Fashion Color Association council met to name all the news colors for the season,” she said. “Then I would go to meetings as a designer to spend hours learning all the names of the new hot colors before I worked on my line.” She added that manufacturers also choose their own color names, outside the council.
Mom added, “I do feel sorry for the people who have to come up with a new name for yellow every season: citron, sunshine, lemon.”
The color “Manatee Gray” had to at least get approved by the manufacturer first, then the marketing people before the raft of people at Target like their buyer, merchandiser, sale staff, and web team. All those eyes on that name and nobody thought, “Wow, that’s a bad idea.”
Mom was quick to point out that “manatee” as a general color name isn’t so bad; it’s the application, “but you never single-out a color for a size and never applied strictly to products worn by large-size women.”
Last Christmas I got the gift of nail polish from a friend in California who gave me one of those get-a-box-every-month-for-a-year gifts via a company I’d never heard of called Julep.com in Seattle, WA. This was funny to my kids because I am so low maintenance I barely remember I have nails let alone polish them. But I was struck by the color names like: Rebel (a super silver for plus-size Rebel Wilson who is in my favorite new film Pitch Perfect).
The Julep website states: “There’s a reason our nail colors are named for women who inspire us – women who are strong and smart and funny and gorgeous and different. Because everything we do as a company is grounded in the power of women emboldening other women to be their most vital, beautiful, confident and happy…and to have a lot of fun along the way. A part of the proceeds from the sale of every Julep Nail Color goes to organizations that empower women.”
No matter what the shade, it’s going to be a lemon with customers if a seller segregates us by our shape, size and their color choices. If you target someone for their weight your new name will be Mud with moms.
Two engineers are at my door, their neatly rolled blueprint in hand and two rubber bands keeping it neat and tidy (“Todd! Don’t lose those rubber bands. We’re going to need them at the end.”) These are carefully laid plans for a rocket ship, part of their class “Not a Box” project. In other words, it’s not a box, it’s a rocket ship. They are here on business: getting their plans passed by their principal and then by Dan, the head of buildings and grounds. We are high-ranking officials. These two Very Big Deal appointments, the culmination of a long process of planning, drawing, describing, coloring, imagining, and constructing, will earn them the Seal of Approval. It is tantamount to Planning Board Approval and license to build, the dispensation for a lot of cardboard and duct tape work. The financing has already been arranged.
More importantly, this is a test of another kind of flight.
The engineers speak. “Todd, we’re building a rocket ship. Do you have time to talk with us?” That introduction alone is a major feat.
Actually, the It’s Not a Box project is Not a Project! It’s a conversation. Yes, our 4-year-old engineers have a detailed, colorful and imaginative plan to be executed in three-dimensional glory. However, the launching pad of this rocket ship is the conversation that ensues around my office table. I will ask questions, seek clarification of various aspects of the drawing, and engage the engineers. It is a conversation that has required a great deal of negotiation already. It’s part of a day in the life of an unusual childhood.
Here at the learning-to-communicate onramp, preschool teachers Maureen and Sunday are asking good questions of their young charges. “Can the children communicate effectively with others?” they ask in their Friday e-mail to parents. “Can they recognize conflict, let alone try to resolve conflict? In order to do the above, one must first notice that others count too, as much as oneself. But can children manage their own thoughts? Can they make sense of the constant bombardment of stimulus (noise, etc.)?” They continue, “We think that these are some of the areas that need addressing with children in today’s world? Therefore, we have begun to incorporate the following practices into our classroom time: Silence. What did you notice, what did you hear? Was it easy (comfortable) or challenging? Why? Breaking down communication into specific steps: Slowing down to give time to consider how and what you want to communicate.” Like saving those rubber bands…. or an explanation of the big red squares colored into the rocket blueprint with crayon.
Consider the ancient wisdom at work in these questions and observations. Socrates said the following: “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” “To find yourself, think for yourself.” “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Examination can be complicated. There’s trouble ahead. Other forces have set in, thanks to their visit to my office. In the larger cultural context, conversations aren’t what they used to be. In fact, we seem to be retreating from some standard received wisdom of the Western intellectual tradition.
A recent commentary by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sherry Turkle suggests we are enamored of connection, but not always the depth of the kind of communication we are heir to. “We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection,” she writes. “Technology, she says, “is taking us places we don’t want to go.” Though hyper-connected through our digital devices, we may in fact hide our real selves from one another. We are too busy on our email! We can’t get enough of each other — if we can have each other at a distance, in amounts they can control. Think Facebook and texting and tweeting…. just right. How about face to face? Sounds like a job made for preschool to me! It’s messy, noisy, exuberant, chaotic…. just like enriched learning. This is not to condescend to preschool, but to elevate the skills taught there to their proper level: the soft and hard skills of the workplace and life of the future.
What would Socrates, the father of Western dialogue, discourse, and critical thinking, say about the current state of communication, conversation, probing argument, comfort level with disparate points of view, and tolerance levels of ambiguity? He would probably agree with Ms. Turkle about the larger culture, and feel pretty comfortable with the kind of talking, listening, and eye contact embedded in an elementary school education. He would enjoy asking Caleb and Ethan questions about their rocket ship — whatever that is. He would see that we are giving our students something that they will need, and that they may not be getting anywhere else. Won’t the future have a great need of critical thinkers and communicators, not just connectors? What happens to these engineers in middle school and high school? Does tweeting take over?
Back to the blueprint. One of my questions has posed a problem. “What if you used tin foil to make it look metallic?”
It’s a curve ball. Not in the plans. How will they adapt their drawings and materials list? Time to wonder, think, and examine their options.
“Ethan! I know! We can have a conversation about this,” says Caleb, rocket ship engineer and conversation starter. He and his engineering partner analyze the situation. I have recommended an external part to their ship. The problem is, it’s a late-entry building material and causing consternation for their partnership. But a very precise, rational dialogue ensues and a new plan is ratified based on sound management and aeronautical engineering principles (Preschool division). The project is still on track for an on-time, on-budget delivery. I get out the special stamp and and my Very Big Deal signing pen.
The rubber bands go back on the carefully rolled blueprint. The rocket men go back to their factory. Socrates exhales.
I’ve always loved the point of view of an old friend of mind, a former school head. Jonathan Slater told his faculty, one September, “Watching and listening are the greatest of the teaching skills — the most difficult to master truly, the most demanding to sustain over time…. By and large, children go about as far as the adults in their lives invite them to go, and truth to tell, most children are not invited to go very far. They are not invited to be curious, to be informed, to discriminate — except in the best of homes and in the best of schools.” But my school is not a box. It’s a school. Permission to rocket to the moon?
Granted. Signed and sealed. Fasten your seatbelts for take-off. Vertical lift. Warp factor nine, Mr. Socrates.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Todd R. Nelson is head of school at The School in Rose Valley. He and Joan Blanusa (ABetterConversation.com) presented at the recent National Association of Independent Schools convention in Philadelphia: If Socrates were on Facebook, would he friend you?
This weekend at Super Nationals in Nashville, Tenn., the biggest event of the year for scholastic chess competitors, parents there will be offered something that’s never been discussed at the event before: how to be good sport parents and coaches. The free seminar will not only address the ins and outs of raising a good competitor, but also how to choose a coach that’s best for your child.
Super Nationals, a quadrennial event like the Olympics, will host more than 5,000 kids from 47 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, coming from a total of 1,541 schools, according to Robert McLellan, a spokesman for the US Chess Federation based in Nashville. Those children will attend with either an anxiety-ridden parent or professional chess coach by their side.
Even Alexandra Kosteniuk, the 12th Women’s World Chess Champion who herself began a chess career at age 5 admits that parenting her daughter Francesca, 6, through the process is very daunting.
“It’s a rollercoaster to see her play,” Ms. Kosteniuk said during a phone conversation from Nashville as she prepared her little girl to compete in what will be the child’s first Super Nationals. “It’s very hard for me to stop myself, not to intervene because at that age children don’t always play pieces correctly or remember all the rules.”
I now have this wonderful mental picture of the absolutely runway model-worthy Women’s World Champion pacing a few yards away from the tables, destroying her manicure, much in the way I do when one of my own sons compete at anything.
That makes me feel better as a sport parent because it tells me that becoming a parent levels the playing field between the famous and the average sport parent. Technically, chess is classified as a sport, covered by ESPN, and subject to the same kind of governance as other sporting bodies because it’s played in teams. Chess has coaches both good and atrocious, too.
The Chess in the Olympics Campaign says that there are at least 605 to 700 million people worldwide who play chess — that's more than the entire population of US, Russia, Mexico, and Japan combined, or 8.6 percent of all humans inhabiting the Earth. There are 8 million registered chess players representing over 160 countries. On the Internet, there are as many as 200 million people playing chess.
The thing that’s really important with chess is not the trophy but the win-win educationally for a child.
“I run a school in Russian and I can say without hesitation that you take a child, any child, and teach them chess and I promise you one year later this is a completely different child in many ways,” Kosteniuk says. “You see a child learn critical thinking, better overall life judgments, and confidence. It is that prize we should want as parents for our children most of all.”
Speaking of what sports parents want, Chess parents are just as notorious for outbursts as those in soccer, Pee Wee football, and any other sports where the worst in us emerges as the parental protective mechanism kicks in and merges with the thrill of battle haze.
“In seven years of Super Nationals we have had three physical fights break out,” says Bill Hall, executive director of the US Chess Federation. Only one was between children, the others were parent on parent. “Sometimes parents live a bit vicariously through children, and of course there’s a certain level of emotion when someone is talking about your child. Parents reach a heightened emotional state, to say the least.”
Mr. Hall himself was a chess player and is the parent of players as well and said he’s very glad to see the seminar that’s being given for the first time in the event’s history by Daniel Rensch of Tonto Village, Ariz. Mr. Rensch is a parent, former Individual National Scholastic Chess Champion twice over, and creator of the world’s most highly trafficked chess websites: ChessKid.com and Chess.com. According to Rensch, “ChessKid.com has just shy of 7 million members and is ranked No. 1 in the world for traffic by Google and Wikipedia.”
“I am going to talk about the importance of focusing on the student and getting results versus being results-oriented,” he explains of his seminar approach. “In chess it’s common for a child’s coach to be their parent, but whether you are the coach or are choosing one, you’re looking for the same basic approach.”
The same theme emerges when speaking with Kosteniuk, Hall, and Rensch, and that is that a child needs a coach who doesn’t tear the child down emotionally, berate, verbally, and in so doing kill their confidence and passion for the game.
“Choose a coach or choose to be the coach who finds tools that make a great player,” Rensch says. “Don’t focus on game results because we can’t change results.”
Rensch offers chess parents and coaches the same basic points:
- No more “Winning is everything” because it isn’t.
- Don’t replay a lost game immediately afterward or at the tournament.
- No critical growth teaching while a child/player is in an emotionally charged state. It may be taken as criticism even if it isn’t intended that way.
- Do focus on making sure the child has eaten, rested and is focused.
When it comes to tips on choosing the best chess coach for your child, Rensch’s rule of thumb is: For players with a rating under 1,300 or 1,400, find someone who will simply stimulate a child’s love of the game. For higher ranked players he says it’s a harder call, “There are people who know the game and people who can teach the game. Finding one who can teach chess can be difficult.”
Hall adds, “I recommend you go and observe a coach teaching a child who is relatively the same age and level as you child. See the interaction for yourself because ultimately, you will know who you feel good about for your child.”
Ultimately, Rensh says parents should review the relationship between child and any sports coach via regular discussions between parent and child about how that coach makes them feel.
“If you start early and get your child into the habit of talking regularly about the coach and how they feel then as they get older it will become natural for the child to share feelings and concerns with you,” Rensch says.
So when you’re out there in the chess field the moral is play nice and your kids will too. It’s not about us, but them — and no matter who we hire to coach them in a game, we are their life coaches leading by example.
What do early radar images of hurricanes, handwritten ship logs, and backyard rain gauges all have in common? More than you might think.
Each of these types of meteorological records represents one small piece of our global climate history. They all hold clues as to how our climate might be (or might not be) changing. And each one offers an opportunity for average citizens of all ages to make meaningful contributions to science.
For many kids, science class means slogging through textbooks, memorizing the discoveries of others, and performing pretested experiments that come with preconceived answers. On the other hand, citizen science projects can offer kids the chance to not just study science but also actually participate in and make a real contribution to science outside the constraints of the classroom.
Citizen science is certainly not new. The Audubon Society has called on amateur birders to conduct its annual Christmas Bird Count since 1900. For centuries, backyard astronomers have recorded their observations of the night sky, helping astronomers map the galaxy.
Today, many scientists are calling on everyday citizens to help understand the scientific issue of the century, global climate change.
When trying to develop a solid picture of the current climate, climatologists have to look at not just large weather patterns, but at individual microclimates. As the old saying goes, “Rain doesn’t fall the same on all.” Farmers and skiers can testify that hail and snow do not either. Piecing together detailed precipitation maps takes an extensive array of data, far beyond the existing weather monitoring infrastructure. So, rain networks around the country have turned to everyday citizens, families, and classrooms to collect and report rainfall measurements.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, (CoCoRaHS) coordinates local volunteer groups in every state and parts of Canada with sponsorship from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
CoCoRaHS participants commit to spending a few minutes each day recording measurements taken from rain gauges, or plastic cylinders used for measuring inches of rainfall, placed outside their homes. Volunteers later upload their data to the CoCoRaHS website. The tasks are simple enough that even children can participate with minimal adult assistance.
In the process, kids get practical experience that reinforces several concepts taught in science class, including taking precise volumetric measurements, following consistent protocols, and organizing data.
Unraveling climate change requires not just an understanding of what is happening right now, but also of historic climate data. Fortunately, citizen scientists have collected weather statistics for centuries. However, much of that information must first be teased out of some unlikely places.
Researchers at Boston University recently plotted observations made in flower journals by Henry David Thoreau, the famed existentialist writer, philosopher, and naturalist, against temperature records to reveal the correlation between the onset of spring and bloom time. The researchers published their findings in the scientific journal PLOS One earlier this year.
Not all of these kinds of records are as manageable.
The British Royal Navy holds extensive daily records that date back to the middle of the 19th century. These detailed logs include wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure, and wave height around the world and across two centuries. Researchers at OldWeather.org have acquired millions of pages of handwritten logs and need help processing them.
This data holds valuable information about oceanic and arctic weather patterns. However, before climatologists can properly analyze these records, someone has to transcribe them into a digital format that computer modeling programs can read.
That’s where everyday citizen scientists can help.
Volunteers can sign up with OldWeather.org and pour through scanned images of ship logs. Since the site’s initial launch in 2010, citizen scientists have helped to transcribe over 20,000 log pages, an impressive number but still only 14 percent of the pages waiting to be recorded.
To help break up the tedium of data transcription, OldWeather.org has made the project something of a game. Volunteers can join a specific vessel, focusing on logs from a particular journey. Volunteers sign on at the rank of cadet. As they complete additional pages, they earn promotions. The volunteer who completes the most pages for that vessel becomes the captain of the ship. Those who continue with the project consistently soon find additional rewards hidden within the logs.
Sailors recorded much more than weather data in these log books. As volunteers sift through several pages, stories begin to emerge. Some logs detail the effects of the Spanish flu. Others talk about new pathways opening up in the Arctic as ice formations changed. Many detail happenings of the ship’s daily life, from reprimands for drunken sailors, to the tragic loss of a ship’s chocolate stores that were swept overboard. For kids and adults, these kind of stories help bring history to life.
These are just a couple of the many projects searching for citizen scientists. Meteorologists at the Cyclone Center need volunteers to help classify early infrared and satellite images of hurricanes in order to help understand if current storms are more intense than historic storms. Biologists at Nature’s Notebook need amateur naturalists to submit observations of phonological data, such as first leaf out, bloom time, bird migration, and insect emergence. Many more projects can be found on the Citizen Science Alliance website.
When Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice made the decision to be a violent, verbally abusive bully to his players, he got fired and in doing so blew a big hole in the wall of coaching to let some badly needed sunshine in on behavior our kids think they need to suffer in silence. Parents are ready to put coaches in the same glass housing we keep our teachers in and by doing so, make them stop throwing stones at our kids.
ESPN released a now viral video showing Mr. Rice at practice throwing one Class-A tantrum after another: shoving, grabbing, and kicking players, hurling balls at their heads, using profanity, and demeaning players’ sexuality with homophobic slurs.
At first, according to ESPN, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti suspended the coach for three games and fined him $50,000 after he first saw the video in November. He said he chose suspension rather than termination even though both options were on the table. Today the coach was fired and others in the profession are openly tagging the coach as a bully.
Eric Murdock, who worked with Rice told ESPN, "What this guy did the last two years is criminal -- it was criminal." During the two years he worked for Rice, Murdock said he and the assistant coaches repeatedly urged the coach to try to control his anger with players. "Bullying players made him feel better," Murdock said. "If he made a kid feel miserable, he was able to sleep at night better, even though the kid is going the other way and he's not going to be as productive.… He has real anger-management issues. He can't control his temper.… I can't believe that anywhere else in the country it is worse than this -- it's the absolute worst."
Rice reminded parents that coaches should be viewed through the lens of teachers and limited in their actions in the exact same way. Since we don’t stop being parents when our kids turn 18, we should not stop being outraged and taking action when an influencer like Rice teaches them to be bullies in sport.
I say this as a sport parent whose son, 19, is on the varsity crew team at Virginia Commonwealth University with some great coaches. He works like a man possessed to be an asset to his team because they are his “second family.” He knows the difference between a coach barking orders, a harsh criticism on his time or stroke versus bullying and physical abuse. The reason he knows these differences is because we have been through other sports, like swimming and soccer, where coaches took to bullying players and we took to another sport when the behavior remained unchecked.
Apparently we were not alone in our bully coach experiences, as Steve Horan, a girls’ basketball coach of 20 years and founder of The Sports Parent Network in Richmond, Va., told me in a phone interview this morning.
Mr. Horan had just seen the Rice video 45 minutes before my call and said that he was horrified but not surprised at all by the coach’s behavior.
“Coaches in our schools and at the college level get away with doing things to our kids inside the locker room and on the court that no teacher would ever be allowed to get away with,” Horan says. “It’s clearly a bullying relationship, physical and emotional abuse. A teacher would be fired. In the professional environment, you would be sued for behavior like that in the workplace.”
Horan ultimately believes in forgiving a coach's sins, but only when they come with something more than a hand slap like Rice's suspension. He agrees with Pernetti’s decision to fire Rice.
“We need a paradigm shift in coaching in our schools across the board need to re-examine how they choose and evaluate their coaching staffs,” Horan explains. “We need teaching and coaching programs for coaches. We have a lot of coaches who are just not emotionally equipped to handle their competition anger.”
Looking at Rice, I see someone who cannot distinguish between what it takes to lead a team versus the need to feel as if he is in control of the players.
Horan has a guideline for making that determination and it’s the TLC Rule. In Horan’s case TLC does not mean “Tender Loving Care” but “Teach, Lead, and Compete.”
“If we are teaching life lessons through sport, then as coaches we must stop and look at the bullying relationships we are creating with players and what lesson or message that is sending to everyone not only on the team but out in the stands,” Horan explains.\
Tell your young athlete this: A verbal push is fair game, but character assassination is a deal breaker. No coach or teacher has the right to verbally attack a player’s: character, sexuality, appearance, race, religion, nationality, or physical appearance (i.e. mocking unalterable features like a birthmark, not physical fitness level).
“Also, anything physical, hitting, kicking etc., is completely out of the question,” Horan says. “No way is a coach ever to lay hands on an athlete in either an abusive or sexual way. No way. Never.”
We didn’t stop being parents the day our kids turned 18, and anyone at a college or university sport program who tells us to shut up because our kids are now legally grown-ups is making a bad call. When our kids are out of college and in the “real world” we can stop calling plays, take that step off the field and just cheer them on.
The life of Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th century German-born naturalist, entomologist, botanical illustrator, and divorced mother of two, paints a vivid picture for today’s parents on how to get kids into science using art. Ms. Merian, the subject of today’s Google Doodle, makes the process of engaging kids in science as simple as stopping to sketch the roses, and the aphids as well.
Today we call involving children in science via art a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) program. Merian was probably the very first STEAM-powered parent and others in her field today still emulate her parenting as well as artistic and scientific techniques.
“What made her work unique and important is that she not only illustrated the plants, but the insects as well,” says Wendy Hollender, who once headed up the New York Botanical Gardens’ Botanical Art Program and still teaches there. “Technically her [Merian’s] work was beautiful, but more important, she was really the first to include the insects and their relationship to the plants.”
Born April 2, 1647 in Frankfurt to a family of Swiss heritage, she was encouraged by her stepfather to take up the genteel art of painting. However, in 1660 she began to paint images of insects and plants from specimens she had captured. She kept specimens and studied their life cycles becoming one of the first archivists of the natural world. She did not quietly sit and paint pretty pictures as was expected of a woman in her era, but rather turned painting into a passion that paid the bills and served to educate her and her daughters.
After getting married and later divorced from Johann Andreas Graff, according to the J. Paul Getty Museum website, Merian continued to paint and teach painting. The Getty site states, “By 1686 Merian had left her husband and moved with her two daughters and elderly mother to a religious community north of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.”
As a mother, Merian brought her daughters Johanna Helena and Dorothea Maria into science via art, taking them out to her garden to collect specimens for study and as subjects for their art. Eventually their collective work was displayed at The Getty under the heading, “Maria Sibylla Merian & Daughters: Women of Art and Science.”
“Enterprising and adventurous, these women raised the artistic standards of natural history illustration and helped transform the field of entomology, the study of insects,” says the Getty website.
I love the fact that this woman back in the 17th century altered the image of women who fainted at the sight of a spider, redrew the boundaries for her children, and continues to inspire moms to do the same things with kids today.
Years ago, my mother-in-law, an artist and fan of Merian’s work, gave me the book “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots,” by Sharon Lovejoy to encourage me to share my passion for gardening and botany with my boys. She included sketch pads and charcoal pencils with the gift.
Our perennial family favorite is to grow moonflowers and on summer nights to draw the blooms and, more importantly, the hummingbird-size moths that come out to feed on the nectar in the moonlight.
Hollender, recalls her own uphill battle as a mom trying to replicate Merian’s parenting success by trying to get her son and daughter, now in their late 20s, interested in botanical art. “I took them out on nature hikes, collecting flowers, and we all drew them afterwards," Hollander recalls. Now her daughter, Abby Goldfarb, teaches gardening and farming in an elementary school in New Mexico in a program funded by Americorps. Her son Jesse Goldfarb works for One Acre Fund in Rwanda.
Her parenting achievements, Hollender says, had roots in her role model, Maria Sibylla Merian. “In the end everything we did together actually did get them into careers in science, art, and botany in one form or another,” Hollender adds.
Despite the advent of high resolution photography, the skill of the botanical artist is in high demand, according to Hollender who just surpassed her Kickstarter goal of $25,000 to put out a volume on foraging and feasting: a field guide to natural food, with a final sum raised of $115,026.
Hollender says the details Merian pioneered in her work, like detailing how a leaf attached to its stem, became standards relied upon by those trying to correctly identify plants.
“What that told us was that when people need to identify a plant, they would much rather turn to a detailed and architecturally correct drawing than a photograph,” Hollender explained.
What the story of Merian and her daughters tells me is that with April showers come May flowers and all the bloom-seeking bugs that can bring modern parents back in time to an old school way of connecting our kids to a STEAMy future.
As parents we strive to be great at the job, but seeing a flawless, sun bronzed Heidi Klum wade into the surf in a bikini and save her son, plus two nannies from a riptide would give David Hasselhoff an inferiority complex. How often do we believe we need to be supermodel supermoms and is being a good mother ever good enough?
Vundermom just made lifting a bus off your kid — via hysterical strength (that supposed superhuman strength rush parents get when offspring are in mortal peril) — passé by lifting an ocean off her child.
"We got pulled into the ocean by a big wave. Of course, as a mother, I was very scared for my child and everyone else in the water,” Ms. Klum told ET. “Henry is a strong swimmer and was able to swim back to land. We were able to get everyone out safely."
I love it. It’s the most inspiring story of the day, but then I had a look in the mirror, at the unfolded pile of laundry and the fact that last time I took the kids to the beach I ended up in the hospital after being hit by a longboard.
I was able to find some solace in little paperback I’ve been reading called “Good Enough Mothering,” by Elaine Heffner, a psychotherapist and parent educator in New York City and senior lecturer of education in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Her blog is full of answers.
“I see mothers trying to be perfect. ‘Good enough’ doesn’t feel good enough. How did that happen?” Heffner writes. “Perhaps, deep down inside we all wish life could have been perfect for us as children, and so we are too ready to agree with our children that we should be able to make life perfect for them. But we can’t — and that makes us feel guilty.”
I am pretty certain that the day I first became a parent, along with those magical mommy instincts that hit my system like a freight train, came a bigger freight train, loaded with guilt.
“Feeling guilty seems to be a normal condition of motherhood. So let me assure you that feeling guilty does not mean you are guilty,” Heffner writes. “Those feelings do not mean you are not doing a good enough job.”
I wish I could have gotten this woman on the phone because I suspect I could talk to her all day. I know I’m gonna have to sit down and finish her book.
Although, I admit, seeing all the books out there on how to do what’s “right” as a parent can make us feel like the ways to do something “wrong” have us beaten before we start.
I think that Klum and I actually have a lot in common, none of it in the bikini department. We both adore our children and want the best for them. OK, her best is Oahu and mine is the lawn sprinkler, but I would battle the most savage hose leak to save my son.
Being a great parent isn’t about how you look while saving your child, or even your ability to do so, but the fact that you would, without hesitation, do all you were able to make that save. Sometimes our “all” entails watching our child like a hawk and shouting for the Baywatch look-alike to run into the riptide.
I’m fine with that because ultimately parenting is not at all about me, or how I feel about it. Parenting, good parenting, is about raising a child who feels loved, safe, provided for to the best of our ability, and is educated.
A perfect example of a parent with nothing at all tangible to give is the mother of Chess Phenom Phiona Mutesi who is raising her kids in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, with no running water or electricity.
She is an amazing mom because she is doing all she can for her kids. While her daughter walks three miles to school daily with her few books in a blue plastic bag and has missed years of primary school education due to lack of money, this is still a great mom. Why? Because this mom, despite all odds against her, has continued to give her kids hope and spiritual support — and she has fed their ambitions.
My name is Judy and I am a praise junkie. That is, I blanket my children with lavish compliments like, “You are the smartest, you are the best, you are second to none.” It turns out that I haven’t been doing my kids any favors with these endearments. In fact, there’s a raft of research over the past couple of decades that shows that unfocused praising of children puts a significant dent in their self-esteem.
Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, has been at the vanguard of studies about kids and praise. Dweck’s research grew out of a pattern that has been tracked for over 20 years — gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) were very unsure of their academic abilities. This perceived lack of competence caused them to lower their standards for success and to underestimate the importance of putting in effort towards a goal.
But I’m not the only parent out there praising away. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s crucial to tell their kids how smart they are. My highly unscientific poll puts the number of fellow parental praise junkies out there at closer to 100 percent.
Why the constant praising and what do we do about it? I suppose we praise to reassure our kids and ourselves that they are not only wonderful, but also resilient — able to handle any challenge that comes their way. But in truth constant assurance has the opposite effect. The proof is on the ground. Ten years ago Dweck sent four research assistants into fifth-grade classrooms throughout New York City. The assistants administered a series of puzzles to two control groups randomly divided. The children in one group were praised for their intelligence as in “You must be smart at this.” The other group was lauded for their efforts as in, “You must have worked really hard.”
In the next round, the two groups were asked to choose between a difficult or easy test. The results were astounding. Ninety percent of the children who were praised for their efforts chose the harder test. The majority of kids praised for their intelligence chose the easier test. Commending a kid for his intelligence not only made him shy away from exerting effort, it also made him risk-averse.
The phenomenon of praising a child too often goes back to the 1969 publication of thePsychology of Self-Esteem. That landmark book asserted that high self-esteem was essential to a person’s well being. The notion trickled down to our kids; criticism was out and praise, even if it was undeserved, was now in vogue. I can remember soccer games that my children played when they were little where goals were not counted and every kid got a trophy. I was thrilled for my children, but was I and the other well-meaning adults around them doing the right thing by eliminating competition?
Dweck doesn’t think so. Her research has uncovered that high self-esteem is not necessarily connected to good grades or career success. It doesn’t reduce alcohol abuse or reduce violence. But Dweck isn’t advocating to jettison praise altogether. She found that fine-tuning praise, so that it’s specific and sincere, was very effective. To that end, her research further demonstrated that kids over 12 were suspicious of general praise from a teacher and took it as a sign that they weren’t doing well in class.
Fear of failure is another conundrum that results from overpraising. A well-meaning parent may gloss over a child’s failure by encouraging her to do better next time. The subtext of that message is that failure is so unacceptable it can’t be acknowledged. A lot of the psychology literature shows that responding to failure by trying harder instead of walking away from it suggests that there is more than willpower at work. Encouraging a child to do better next time can rewire a brain to respond more positively to failure. And a brain that learns to try harder instead of giving up is not as dependent on instant gratification. Nothing will short circuit the brain’s response to failure faster than frequent rewards—it’s a sure fire way to set up a kid’s brain for an actual addiction to constant incentives.
So what have I done about my own praise addiction? It seems to be less toxic than I thought. My praise and criticism of my children’s performances in school has always been nuanced. But yes, in the long run I think almost everything they do is great. For example, the other day Anna asked me what I thought of an article she wrote for her college newspaper. I told her what I specifically liked about the piece. But I’m not completely cured. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she forgot to insert a couple of commas.
Society encourages wicked little untruths to make fools of others on April Fools' Day for the sake of a laugh, but attacks comedian Joan Rivers for telling the unvarnished truth and hurting the feelings of wealthy public figures. Today is a good day to take a moment to examine the mixed messages we send children about truth, it’s temporary suspension, and when jokes go too far.
This is the day, April Fools' Day, when little kids try to pass off Cheerios as “Donut Seeds” and foolish employees lose their jobs because they thought it hilarious to advertise the boss’ job in the local newspaper. It’s what I like to call Judgment Day, as in good or bad, your judgment is put to the test. It’s also an important day to fine tune parenting on truth, lies, and what’s not funny and why.
For Ms. Rivers, and comedians in general, Judgment Day is every day because they judge the world and their remarks either make us laugh, or want to throttle them. Dealing with very young kids isn’t so very different from working with comedians because kids are straight shooters and hilarity often is the result.
I recently stumbled across three vital questions, first asked by comedian Craig Ferguson, that I now ask myself regularly in order to keep out of trouble. I keep a printed copy taped beside my computer, by the phone, and on the white board in the kitchen. Yes, I need it that much and so do my kids.
Does this need to be said?
Does this need to be said by me?
Does this need to be said by me, right now?”
For comedians, the answer is always a resounding “Yes!” to all three questions. For kids, we need to tell them that the answer will generally be, “Nope.” Now I’ll tell you why that is.
Art Linkletter made his early career by asking children basic questions and getting funny, honest, politically incorrect answers on the show “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Yet, we really don’t celebrate honesty when a child tells grandma on the phone, “I really don’t feel like talking to you right now because I’d rather play with the cat.”
I was raised in New York City under the code of, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” However, I now live in the South where you can verbally kill someone with kindness and a smile. As author Isaac Goldberg once said, “Diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest things in the nicest way.”
Of course, the vital difference here is the intent of what’s said. Is it mean, or does it mean well? Rivers has always claimed her japes are well intentioned and that the celebrity victims aren’t bothered by the attacks. That seems unlikely. Maybe they’re just telling that socially correct little white lie and need to tell the truth about how celebrity bullying makes them feel.
It really does become a vicious social lie-cycle as people hide the truth about hurt feelings in order to avoid further conflict with the one inflicting the emotional pain. If you are a celebrity and someone says you’re “fat” and justifies it by adding that your wealth and celebrity make you “fair game,” perhaps it’s time to let the truth set you and others free. What is the real tangible difference between a kid in the school yard calling a girl “fatso” versus one wealthy celebrity doing so to another?
When my neighbor, also my doctor, sees me out jogging and says, “Good to see you finally addressing the weight issue. Good for you!” she gets points for honesty, but now I jog in the other direction, away from her house. That actually happened. Ultimately though, I know the doc means well and since I’m her sole audience, I take it in stride. In fact I stride a bit harder, and it makes it that much easier to avoid the next donut.
I love Adele and wince every time Rivers skewers her or anyone else on weight issues. I’m not laughing, but I must admit she’s telling the truth, even if it is with what feels like a malevolent spin.
Rivers is called “mean,” but when you take a closer look, she’s being just as shockingly, flatly rational, and straight in her observations as any child.
“Mom, that kid on TV told his mom she’s fat,” My son Quin, 9, said with indignation. “I would never tell you that even if you are fat now because it would hurt your feelings. That’s why I never tell you.” That little feel-good moment happened over a month ago, but it was both unforgettable and motivational.
Quin, while unintentionally funny, is not seeking a career on the stage and needs the three question guide so people outside our home don’t think he’s being intentionally unpleasant.
On the one hand, I like it that comics don’t have a three-question axiom, because I think there's a place for honest people who annoy us with their candor, keep it real, and get us to lighten up. While we may dislike honesty about our body image, it is necessary in small doses.
Just watching Rivers and her daughter Melissa, on their We TV reality show “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows best?” gives insight into a no-holds-barred approach to parenting, grand parenting, and life in general. Rivers is true to her own unvarnished style with her own family.
We get angry at Rivers and those like her because they tell us the Emperor has no clothes, or that the ones they’re wearing make them look like something the cat dragged in. And in doing so they remind us just how much we like to fool ourselves and others.
What Rivers really does is work toward freeing us of our lying addiction with a spoonful of lemon rather than sugar. Hearing the truth isn't always sweet, yet it does make others laugh when we make a face at the bitter taste.
Rivers forces us to recognize and deal with that truth through the lens of humor. Reality check: That’s what comedians do, but perhaps as society has evolved, we are outgrowing the pleasure we once took in meanness.
When the host of HLN’s Showbiz Tonight took her to task about making a Holocaust joke about an Oscar night dress worn by Heidi Klum, Rivers, who is of Jewish ancestry as was her late husband, answered, “That’s how we get through life. If you laugh you can deal with it. Done!”
In the final analysis we get the same conclusion that comedian Steve Martin came to in the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen" when his daughter pulls a nasty prank on Ashton Kutcher’s character by soaking his underwear in meat and then releasing the dog on him. “Funny, but wrong!”