Archive for November, 2013

November 29, 2013

Call it helicoptering or snowplowing, coddling kids stunts their growth

by Grace

Helicopter parents have graduated to become “snowplow” parents to their college children.

Everyone has heard of parents who do their grade schooler’s science project or are overly involved in their kids’ social lives. But the infamous helicopter parents, hovering over their younger children, are now transitioning into so-called snowplow parents, trying to smooth a path for their kids even after they’ve started college.

Aided by technology, some parents are overly involved in the lives of their college children, who “are not developing the skills they need to become fully functioning adults”.

“Teacup” students have never been allowed to fail.

“Parents have the delusion that what they’re doing is helping,” she said, “but it’s okay to let your kid fail in safe circumstances.”

College has always been, in part, an education in separation, a time of transitioning from adolescent to adult. But some administrators say they see greater parental involvement postponing that.

“It’s to the point where some of our students not only have never experienced adversity before, but they have no idea how to deal with it when they do face it,” says Chebator. “What to most people might be a relatively minor issue becomes a major life crisis.”

Such students are referred to as “teacups.” “They’re so fragile, they break easily,” he says.

Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being is a study that examined over-controlling parenting of college students.

…  Students who reported having over-controlling parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction with life. Furthermore, the negative effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being were largely explained by the perceived violation of students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence.

 Are Kids Too Coddled? is the question asked by Frank Bruni in the New York Times.  Given the “Bubble-Wrapped” environment parents have created for their children, he believes we may be “paying the price of having insulated kids from blows to their egos and from the realization that not everyone’s a winner in every activity on every day“.

“Our students have an inflated sense of their academic prowess,” wrote Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in Education Week. “They don’t expect to spend much time studying, but they confidently expect good grades and marketable degrees.”

Doing well in school can be stressful and often requires hard work.

Aren’t aspects of school supposed to be relatively mirthless? Isn’t stress an acceptable byproduct of reaching higher and digging deeper? Aren’t certain fixed judgments inevitable? And isn’t mettle established through hard work?

Doing well or even simply surviving in life often requires hard work.  Whether we label it helicoptering or snowplowing, failing to teach that lesson does no favors for our children.

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November 28, 2013

Should tax policy encourage two-parent families?

by Grace

Tax policy has often been used as an incentive for certain desired behaviors, and now it’s being considered as a way to strengthen two-parent families.

“The problem of poverty is linked to family breakdown and the erosion of marriage among low-income families and communities.”

Those are the words of Utah Senator Mike Lee in a speech to the Heritage Foundation.

Lee is careful not to cast opprobrium on single or divorced parents. But he insists on pointing to the uncomfortable but undeniable fact that economic outcomes for their children have been far worse than those of children raised in two-parent families.

That produces many personal tragedies. And in cold economic terms, it means that society is losing gross domestic product because of less than optimal development of human capital.

Government policy can’t force people to get or stay married. But it may be able to encourage them to do so.

That happened in the years after World War II. A steeply progressive income tax combined with generous dependent deductions ($500 originally, later raised to $600) played some unquantifiable part in stimulating the Baby Boom and family stability for a generation after the war.

Over the years, more tax policies have been implemented to encourage retirement savings, home ownership, energy savings, and other behaviors.  In addition, a profusion of tax incentives exist on a corporate level.  Would tax incentives actually work in encouraging parents to marry?

Lee proposes a $2,500 child tax credit — less in real dollars than the postwar deduction — applied to both payroll and income taxes.

He also proposes allowing employees to claim flex time when they have worked overtime, as federal employees can do. He wants Congress to hack away at the marriage penalties embedded in various benefits programs and Obamacare.

Would it work?

While I am a strong advocate of two-parent families, I’m not convinced these proposed changes would encourage marriage.  Additionally, with the tax code already burdened by complicated rules and regulations that often promote inequity, I tend to favor simplifying the process.  Social engineering through government intervention has too many unintended consequences for me to place much faith in ideas like Lee’s.

Related:  Missing fathers are at the core of a ‘vicious cycle’ of poverty (Cost of College)


Thank you for reading my blog!  I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.

November 27, 2013

College graduates who majored in fine arts are not doomed to a life of poverty

by Grace

Most fine-arts college graduates are doing fine.

There’s a widely held conception that people who earn degrees in the fine arts — painting, sculpture, dance, music, theater, among others — are throwing money away on a degree that can reap no long-term benefits. But the fact is that a fine-arts degree is no real hindrance to making a decent living in the real world.

Maybe most won’t be rich, but they can enjoy a middle-class life.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a 2011 study from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in which it found that the median income of recent fine-arts graduates was a respectable $42,000 and that the unemployment rate for those recent graduates was a better than average 7.8%.

A happy middle-class life.

“Artists can have good careers, earning a middle-class income,” says the Center’s director. “And, just as important and maybe more, artists tend to be happy with their choices and lives.”

According to that report, former fine-arts majors are making about the same living as all those people who have a liberal arts degree. In some cases, those with a fine-arts background are actually doing better.

Other college majors may be worse choices.

“They do a little better than psychology majors, since counseling and social work is a very low-wage occupation,” explains the director.

Related:  Art Makes You Smart (New York Times)

November 26, 2013

Will the millennial generation be skipped over in its quest for prosperity?

by Grace
20131125.COCEuropeYoungUnemployment2

CLICK IMAGE TO SEE DETAILS

College-educated young Europeans are asking themselves what went wrong in their quest for a lifestyle at least as prosperous as that of their parents.

The question is being asked by millions of young Europeans. Five years after the economic crisis struck the Continent, youth unemployment has climbed to staggering levels in many countries: in September, 56 percent in Spain for those 24 and younger, 57 percent in Greece, 40 percent in Italy, 37 percent in Portugal and 28 percent in Ireland. For people 25 to 30, the rates are half to two-thirds as high and rising.

Those are Great Depression-like rates of unemployment, and there is no sign that European economies, still barely emerging from recession, are about to generate the jobs necessary to bring those Europeans into the work force soon, perhaps in their lifetimes.

Dozens of interviews with young people around the Continent reveal a creeping realization that the European dream their parents enjoyed is out of reach. It is not that Europe will never recover, but that the era of recession and austerity has persisted for so long that new growth, when it comes, will be enjoyed by the next generation, leaving this one out.


Meanwhile, in the United States:

For the first time in memory, adults in the United States under age forty are now expected to be poorer than their parents. This is the kind of grim reality that in other times and places spurred young people to look abroad for opportunity. Indeed, it is similar to the factors that once pushed millions of people to emigrate from their home countries to make their home in America. Our nation of immigrants is, tautologically, a nation of emigrants.

November 25, 2013

MOOCs have not lived up to expectations, at least so far.

by Grace

Online education continues to evolve after first-generation MOOCs falter.

After a year of setback after setback, the hype around MOOCs is settling down a bit. The latest evidence of this comes courtesy of an interesting profile piece at Fast Company of Udacidy CEO Sebastian Thrun, a man who is in many ways the godfather of the MOOC concept.

Instead of his original goal of offering a “Stanford-quality education to millions of students around the world”, Thrun is shifting to “more vocational-focused learning”.

MOOCs have been a “lousy product“.

… Thrun highlights his disappointments with MOOCs’ record: 90 percent drop-out rates with only half of the remaining 10 percent actually earning a passing grade; the student demographic overwhelmingly populated by well-educated, college-degreed professionals rather than the underprivileged students he had hoped to reach; the San Jose State University debacle, in which San Jose students taking Udacity-delivered MOOCs performed significantly worse than their peers in physical classrooms; and the unexpected failure of Thrun’s interventions intended to raise passing rates. Thrun tried adding mentors and TAs to provide personalized attention and interaction with students, incorporating immediate feedback and rewards in the forms of badges and progress meters, and partnering with schools such as San Jose to provide college credit, which Thrun expected to ramp up student interest. “We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished,” Thrun remarked. “We have a lousy product.

Online education will clearly continue to change higher education, and the first wave of MOOCs were only part of this evolution according to Walter Russell Mead.

Thrun’s change of focus may not be as big a shift as it appears on its face. It’s been apparent from the beginning that the format is better suited for some subjects than others. Math, science and business are easier to teach online than liberal-arts subjects like English and philosophy that rely more heavily on in-class discussions. And while a liberal arts education remains a good option for many people, the vast majority of American college students are choosing majors that are tightly linked to future careers: only 7 percent of all students major in the humanities. On the other hand, subjects like business, science, nursing and computer science are among the most common majors in the country. Even if MOOCs only impact the “vocational” side of the higher-ed world, this still amounts to a pretty sizable chunk of the industry.

Furthermore, while MOOCs as they’re currently offered may not be enough to upend the higher-ed system on their own, there’s lots of promise for “blended” courses in which the online material is supplemented by regular meetings with teachers or tutors who lead discussions and proctor exams. These meetings could be handled remotely using teleconferencing technology, or they could be done in person at local testing centers, in either case adding that human component that remains the weakest link in how these courses are offered today.

Related:

November 22, 2013

Do students get too much homework, or too little feedback?

by Grace

… Tales of the homework-burdened American student have become common, but are these stories the exception or the rule?

How much homework do high school students really do?  Here are some numbers.

… The National Center for Educational Statistics found that high school students who do homework outside of school average 6.8 hours of homework per week.

The 2007 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found that 50% of students in grades 7-12 reported doing one hour or more of homework on weekdays.

20131117.COCHomeworkTimeStudents2

There appears to have been little change in homework time for 17 year-olds over the last 35 years, as shown by this U.S. Employment and Training Administration (ETA) chart based on NAEP data.

20131118.COCNAEPHomeworkOverTime2


The reality is that a heavy homework load is unusual.

Based on National Education Association guidelines that homework should increase by ten minutes each school year, a high school senior should average two hours per night.  A teacher told me she believes local high school students average about three hours per night, and based on other information this sounds about right.  This puts local teens among the fewer than ten percent of American high school students who are doing three hours or more of homework each night.  Keep this in mind when you read stories like the one Karl Taro Greenfield wrote about his middle school daughter’s burdensome homework load averaging about three hours per night.

A ten-hour work day is probably fine for some teens.

Three or more hours of homework is fine for some students, those who are highly motivated and can maintain their focus on school work over a long time.  But it’s overly burdensome for most.  It seems wrongheaded and harsh to expect teens to put in ten-hour work days when many adults would find that same schedule to be onerous.  Under that scenario (7 hours of school + 3 hours of homework + 9 hours of recommended sleep = 19 hours) only five hours are left all other activities.  Meals, grooming, extracurricular activities, commuting, chores, jobs, and relaxing must all be fitted into those few hours left.  Given that sports, theater, and other activities often take up two to three hours after school, it begins to look even tighter for many kids.  And when a doctor’s appointment or other non-routine event comes up, such a schedule can be thrown all out of whack.  Yeah, three hours is too much for most kids.

My strongest objection to the hours of homework is the failure of some teachers to grade or otherwise provide meaningful feedback.

… Effective learning depends on the receipt of timely and useful feedback from teachers so that students can come to a better understanding of what they have learnt and, where appropriate, correct misunderstandings. Sometimes teachers do not provide this feedback to students; in the absence of effective teacher feedback homework is likely to be of little value to students. 

Two important ways that homework can enhance learning are by offering deliberate practice and formative assessment.  But when a student’s work is not evaluated by the teacher, neither is likely to occur.  Students quoted in Fires in the Mind by Kathleen Cushman shed more light on this.

Without an explicit teacher response, Kristian said, her homework did not seem like deliberate practice.
I really want the teacher to evaluate it, so I can know what I’m doing wrong. From there, she can go over what we need, and maybe create another homework assignment to explore something that we didn’t get. – kristian

And unless a teacher intervened, said Christina, practicing something wrong in a homework assignment could be worse than not practicing it at all.
Until you understand what you’re doing wrong and how you can change it, you’re just going to continually do it wrong and think that you’re doing it right. – christina

One reason for hiring a tutor is to grade homework when teachers “don’t have time” to do it.  That just seems wrong to me.

Related:  The Homework Wars:  How much is too much?  (The Atlantic)

November 21, 2013

The Obamacare debacle is not helping the Common Core roll-out

by Grace

Implementation challenges have made the Common Core look more and more like Obamacare.

… States that raced to adopt the standards in 2010, including Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, have expressed second thoughts on participating. In New York, Common Core critics have called for the resignation of education commissioner John King after he threatened to cancel a series of town halls on the topic. At a convening hosted by the Education Writers Association earlier this week, the president of the American Federation of Teachers declared that the implementation of the Common Core is “far worse” than the troubled launch of Obamacare.

Glenn Reynolds finds it interesting “that the opposition comes from a broad political spectrum”.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan probably regrets injecting race into the debate with this clumsy declaration.

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,”

He later “apologized” by basically slapping “himself on the wrist for calling out one group instead of everybody who objects to top-down standardization”.

The reality is that education standards have fallen.

As a “suburban mom”, I agree with Duncan in feeling frustrated at “the educational reality” of low standards that falsely show our children are achieving at high levels.  At the same time, I sympathize with the opponents of the top-down, heavy-handed design and implementation of Common Core.

Its similarities to Obamacare leave Common Core more open to criticism.

In his blog post about problems with Common Core implementation, Andy Smarick writes about the federal government’s promise that “If you like your federal education policy, you can keep it!”  At one point the Department of Education found itself “offering states a waiver from their waivers“.

Related:

November 20, 2013

A different kind of scholarship

by Grace

“We’re lending money we don’t have, to students who can’t pay it back, to educate them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.”

Mike Rowe, former host of TV show Dirty Jobs and known as “the dirtiest man on TV.” has seen too many young people taking out student loans that do not lead to well-paying, satisfying careers.  This prompted him to establish a scholarship for trade and technical training.

Personally, I think it’s insane to start a career thirty grand in the hole, especially when there are no jobs in your chosen field. The fact is, the vast majority of jobs today do NOT require a four-year degree. They require training, and a truly useful skill. I think we’ve confused the cost of an education with the price of a diploma. That’s why I started The mikeroweWORKS Scholarship Fund. I want to challenge the idea that an expensive four-year degree is the best path for the most people, and call attention to thousands of real opportunities in the real world that real companies are struggling to fill.

So far about half a dozen technical schools are participating in the scholarship program.  Application requirements include an essay, attendance records, and references.  Applicants must also sign the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge (Skills & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo), an affirmation expressing a strong work ethic and self-reliance.  Here’s one statement from the pledge.

12. I believe that all people are created equal. I also believe that all people make choices. Some choose to be lazy. Some choose to sleep in. I choose to work my butt off.

Back in the 1970s, Rowe saw a poster in his high school guidance office that gave what he thought was horrible advice.  It urged students to“work smart, not hard”.

… The picture of the person working “smart” was holding a diploma, and the person working “hard” looked miserable performing some form of manual labor.

Rowe created an alternative poster with a new message.

20131113.COCMikeRowePoster1

Rowe is not anti-college.

“I’m not against a college education. I’m against debt,” …

What he’s against, Rowe added, is that we started promoting college “at the expense” of the vocational training that, in many cases, is what’s actually needed for the career.

“It’s not about, this is good or this is bad,” Rowe said. “It’s about, when did it make sense to say one size fits everybody? It never ever made sense to do that, and yet we’re still selling education the same way we sold it when you and I were in high school.”

Of the roughly three million jobs that companies are struggling to fill, Rowe said only 8 to 12 percent require a college degree.

It’s true that too many college graduates are chasing too few college-level jobs.

20130206.COCJobsVsDegrees3

Related:

November 19, 2013

Private colleges see declining enrollment

by Grace

Enrollment in private colleges plummets as fewer families are willing to pay $200,000 for a second-tier school.

From 2010 through 2012, freshman enrollment at more than a quarter of U.S. private four-year schools declined 10% or more, according to federal data The Wall Street Journal analyzed. From 2006 through 2009, fewer than one in five experienced a similar decline.

Ivy League enrollments are flourishing, but less selective schools are suffering.

The trajectory reflects demographic and technological changes, along with questions about a college degree’s value that are challenging centuries-old business models. The impact is uneven: Some wealthy, selective private colleges are flourishing, while many others suffer.

A “shakeout’ in higher education

Schools on the losing end are responding with closures, layoffs, cutbacks, mergers and new recruitment strategies. Many see these as the first signs of a shakeout that will reorder the industry.

Some schools will close.

“I think it’s fair to say 30% of these private schools won’t exist in a decade,” said Jonathan Henry, vice president for enrollment at Husson University, a private school in Bangor, Maine, whose 2013 first-year enrollment was 17% lower than in 2009. “A lot of these schools will have to learn to live with less.” Husson has built graduate programs to offset the declines, he said.

A toxic combination of trends is hitting hard.

20131114.COCPrivateCollegesClosing1

… long-term trends are buffeting these schools, including a national decline in the number of graduating high-school seniors, a swarm of technologies driving down costs and profit margins, rising student debt, a soft job market for college graduates and stagnant household incomes. Meanwhile, college costs have climbed at more than triple the inflation rate.

Online alternatives are gaining ground.

That stagnation coincides with new lower-cost online alternatives. The number of college students taking at least one online course nearly doubled to 45% between 2008 and 2013, according to a survey by Crux Research, a market-research firm.

What will happen to second-tier private colleges that charge premium prices?  They may become extinct.

November 18, 2013

College students think they’re ready for the workplace, but employers disagree

by Grace

College students consider themselves well prepared for the workplace, but hiring managers disagree.

Nearly 80% of current college students say they’re “very” or “completely” prepared to put their organization skills to work, just 54% of hiring managers who’ve interviewed recent grads would agree, according to a survey of 2,001 U.S. college students and 1,000 hiring managers, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of education company Chegg. …

Some of the biggest disagreements are about the students’ ability to prioritize, write well, collaborate, persuade, manage projects, and communicate.

… The biggest mismatch came in students’ ability to communicate with bosses and clients—70% of students thought they were primed for the challenge; only 44% of recruiters agreed.

Schools don’t seem to be doing a good job of teaching critical thinking.

“The notion that college graduates exit universities and lack the ability to clearly organize and communicate information suggests institutions are failing to meet their mandate of forming critical thinkers,” according to the report’s author….

Ruth Brothers, consultant and former human-resources executive, believes students need “more hands-on, applied learning” and coaching on interview skills.

How about if schools focus more on teaching “factual knowledge”, which is “intimately intertwined” with critical thinking skills, as a way to close this job skills gap.

… Dan Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, is a leading expert on how students learn. “Data from the last thirty years leads to a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts, and that’s true not only because you need something to think about,” Willingham has written. “The very processes that teachers care about most — critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving — are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is stored in long-term memory (not just found in the environment).”

Interviewing skills may be the least of these students’ problems.

Related:  Five skills that will help you find and keep a job after college (Cost of College)

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