Archive for the ‘Education’ category

PUTTING STEAM BACK INTO STEM EDUCATION

November 13, 2011

Recent media reports express concern over the number of college students who are deciding not to continue their science based studies. The major reasons are the unanticipated difficulty of both the math and science courses. Analysts state that the decline in solid elementary and secondary education in math and science are major contributing factors. Considering the national goals of expanding and invigorating instruction and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), this is a discouraging development.

IT’S THE TEACHERS, RIGHT? This is the motivator for all of the local, state and national efforts to tighten the methods and extent of teacher evaluations. In my opinion, with minor exceptions, we should not thump the teachers. The classic barriers of over-populated classes, curriculum goals that seek to satisfy national testing rather than student learning, and dreadfully fickle administrative guidelines that undergo school-board opinionated revisions, all turn the education process upside down. By the time all of this descends upon and around the teacher, student education has become a locked-stepped march into confusion. In spite of this, most teachers strive to teach and to inspire each student to learn. This turns a regular school day for teachers into an average 12 to 15 hour day when they really work to make learning successful and joyful.

JOYFUL LEARNING? There is an inherent stress for most youngsters during the education process; even for the super-bright ones. Making the process joyful, when suitable, reduces the stress, opens the mind and makes learning pleasurable instead of either deadly dull or frightening. In most cases, this approach is the product of highly motivated teachers who dress up their presentations (art, videos, student demonstrations, visiting heroes, etc) that far exceed the dry-as-toast curriculum dictated by the national test score mantra. All of these extra efforts are variables and in many cases difficult to consistently sustain so overall the education process FAILS with respect to future STEM success.

SO WHAT’S TO BE DONE? As and example let’s take five critical areas for consideration. These examples all presume a standardized education concept that enhances both STEM and HAMLIT education. This combination imposes a considerable demand on teachers through all elementary and secondary grades. Right now both are cut short because of the imposition of that national testing mantra. Yes, we do need to evaluate the system and how well it is serving the education of our young, but under no circumstances should that evaluation debilitate a sound and well structured curriculum. Broadly speaking the White House does not seem to recognize this educational impediment built into its mandates.

The five critical areas are as follows (The emphasis on items 1-3 are for elementary education, K-3):

  1. STEM and HAMLIT should be specifically present at the Kindergarten level, but in a most innovative way. Here the joy of learning is most important. Simple math concepts and delightful literature and music experiences should be presented in a most memorable and enjoyable way.  Young minds grab at these concepts when presented in this manner. Additionally, parents must be more actively recruited to support what is happening in Kindergarten. They should be fully aware of the program and the variety of supportive things they can do to enhance their children’s early learning experiences.
  2. STEM and HAMLIT follow the youngsters out of Kindergarten into the first stages of elementary school.  Now all children don’t learn at the same rate and not all will be serious STEM learners, but all of them will be at ease with HAMLIT when creatively presented. Yes, creative presentations. Most teachers, particularly elementary level teachers do this automatically and usually very creatively. These efforts must be extended to STEM as well. Math can be so dreadfully dull if presented in that way, but when creatively presented (using a variety of teaching aids) it can win over children that appeared not to be good STEM candidates.
  3. ENTER THE COMPUTER: Although the students may have already had some exposure (home or school) to computers, the Third Grade is the key place to begin using the computer to enhance STEM learning. Right now, there is some concerns about how effective this will be, but as the article in the foregoing link points out there are steps that, if taken, can make the computer a vital and highly productive instrument for enhancing the learning process; particularly for STEM. Teachers must be directly involved in the choice of software programs to be used. A misfit of program and teacher methods will produce a zero learning result with both frustrated students and teachers. Administrators and school-board officials must recognize this and insist on teacher input in the software selection process.
  4. ELEMENTARY LEVEL EDUCATION is critical to the full success of the youngsters through their Middle and High School experiences. A poor foundation in this area coupled with the greater student independence and learning responsibilities in these advanced grade levels can lead to a student drop-out. This is quite simply a tragedy whether the student was a good STEM candidate or more HAMLIT oriented. Dropping out is like shooting curiosity and imagination on the spot. Again, teacher instructional latitude, even with heavy computer participation, is critical. Impositions of the standard testing mantra, worrisome and severe teacher evaluations and often bumbling administrative processes can severely cripple these advanced learning experiences. So again, before harping, its the teachers, we need to carefully examine the teaching environment, the available tools and the level of administrative imposition that distracts teacher productivity.
  5. COLLEGE/CAREER PREP should actually start in Middle School and increase in supportive ways through the remainder of secondary education. Right now the push is for college from everywhere and everyone, and yet many students are either not ready or are just not interested in that direction for their future. Sound counseling on alternatives that continue to bolster the students opportunity profile should be included along with the standard college pep talks. There are a host of technical training opportunities, including the military services, that provide a student with some promising career alternatives. These should not be ignored. Additionally joint sessions with the non-college oriented students and their parents should be conducted to help prevent the forceful persuasiveness of parents fixated on college for the kids.
ALL of the above requires extensive time and effort on the part of both teachers and counselors. Again, the extremely tight schedules, mandated curriculum and standards test preparation along with the complexity of both STEM and HAMLIT subject matter demand more from teachers than neither time nor class size permit.  Yes, computers will help somewhat, but under no circumstances should they become tools to free up a teacher to perform those distracting administrative tasks. Computers are good, but they cannot sense all the nuances of each student’s learning method. Only a teacher can do that, and when he or she is intensely distracted by non-academic endeavors that alertness is muted. Guess who suffers?
Well, it is obvious that things must change, and the responsibility rests with every one of us, not just parents, teachers and board-members. All levels of government that interact with our education system must hear from us, and what we say must be in full concert with making sure that there is an ample supply of steam in the STEM program and also lots of bright words, art and stunning music in the HAMLIT program. We can then begin to bask again in the aura of bright, highly creative and dedicated young people and adults whom we so desperately need to keep us moving forward.
Well, it really all comes down to this (See video)>
About the Author: XiNeutrino (Waddell Robey) after leaving the high-tech aerospace and health science fields, he devoted a little over seven years working as both a TSS (Therapeutic Staff Support) and Therapist in Children and Family Services. Most of his time was spent in school settings with his young clients and this has given him a unique and highly informative perspective on our education system, its teachers, and the varying success of its students. Those experiences along with his independent observations and discussion with teachers and administrators have formed the opinions and recommendations expressed in this blog article.

IMAGE CREDIT: Cartoon depiction of STEM at work. Courtesy: eidmladenkaraman.com

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Exploring The Digital Classroom

September 29, 2011


Digitizing the classroom, especially, in elementary education is on its way to becoming a standard. It is possible that youngsters intent on their laptops and digital subject-matter will rarely interact with their teacher or with each other. How good is this, and how bad could it be? A former New York city schools chancellor and education professor, Rudy Crew, states that. “the best of technology is never proxy for the best of instruction.”   Similarly, in an elementary school in Arizona that has a digital classroom curriculum, records show that although digital learning is exciting, test scores are not reflecting the same level of exciting progress.

Good, Bad or Indifferent: Considering the above, both many parents and teachers have reservations about the efficacy of a totally digital curriculum. As professor Crew exclaims the absence of direct personal instruction by a teacher cannot be as effective as parents should expect in their children’s education. So is technology-based education leading our future in the wrong direction?

A direct yes or no answer would be misleading in either case. The ideal, of course, is a mix of direct teacher instruction and computer instruction/exercises.  There is incredible potential in digital programs that can expand on a teacher’s efforts and increase individual student participation in the learning process. The key is an integrated curriculum that applies the very best of both methodologies. Let’s examine how that might be accomplished.

Curriculum Breakthroughs: The ideal mix will require a great deal of planning, teacher training and orientation, programming magic, and full-scale administrative and school board support. Most importantly, it is essential to understand that the digital classroom is not just the simple act of placing a laptop at the desk of every student. The teacher then is relied upon to bridge the gap between standard instructional methods and the new technology. This will spell F A I L.  Here are five key milestones that must be fully accomplished before a successful digital classroom enhances the education process.

  1. Teacher Readiness: This is a process of blending technology and curriculum with new presentation methods that link the teacher’s personal instruction with digitized course material. Separating the two will defeat all of the potential benefits of a digital classroom. System programming is a vital element of this process. The desired interactive instruction just won’t happen without an effective and efficient technology linkage that binds program, teacher and student into a fully interactive learning relationship.
  2. Student Readiness: Today’s youngsters are born almost computer literate. They take to the digital quickly and with great skill. With this realization, preparation of students for the digital classroom should start at the very beginning of their school experience – kindergarten. At this start-up level it is just introductory, but strictly within the context they will experience when they enter the digital classroom. This exposure increases in each successive grade with the student participating fully in a digital learning environment by the third grade.  Are we ready for this? Not right now, but adopting this concept insures that digital learning gets fully integrated into the curriculum and quickly loses its uniqueness. This latter phasing out of the “oooh ahhh” effect is vital to achieving full implementation of the technology into the curriculum.
  3. Programming Innovations: Some of the most creative people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing are computer programmers. Their ability to envision topic areas and then convert them to attractive, compelling digital presentations is a powerful combination of art and science. This is exactly what must be the pattern for digital learning systems in a school classroom setting. As stated above in the item on Teacher Readiness there must be a direct and essentially unnoticeable linkage between whats on the computer screen and what is being presented by the teacher. They must be mutually supportive. This will be a huge creative challenge for the programmers, but that is also a guarantee of some absolutely innovative programs. These efforts are expected to produce breakthrough technology in this new instructional methodology.
  4. Curriculum Development: Reading, writing and arithmetic are still essential regardless of the method of presentation. Additionally, presentations on the arts, history, and broader areas of science are also vital, especially in today’s high sci-tech society. Cramming all of this into an elementary school program is very demanding. Digital instruction directly linked to teacher presentations can better facilitate these efforts and also more vividly present the information to students. The key requirement is for the entire educational system to work with teachers and programmers to produce well integrated material. Patchwork, quick digital presentations will be forgotten two seconds after the laptop is shut down.  What you want is the youngster to go home and excitedly exclaim, “you know what we learned today?” This incident is very rare right now. In most cases parents have to pry from the youngster what was learned today, and some parents are too busy or stressed to do that.
  5. Bring In The Parents: There is nothing new here. Parent involvement remains an essential that is an extreme variable from a reality standpoint. There are a host of reasons or excuses for limited to poor parent involvement in the entire educational process of their children. Where there is direct involvement the overall benefit to the school, the teachers, the students and, most importantly, the parents is awesome. It moves the entire system smoothly forward. With digital learning, it must be stressed that the computer does not replace parent involvement with the school or at home. In fact, it should increase that involvement with a host of specific rewards for the parents. Parent-child interactive homework on a laptop can be structured so that the parent’s participation is recorded, acknowledged and rewarded. A unique bond begins to be created that reaches all the way back into the classroom. Now there can be an open dialog, almost daily, between parent and child on school lessons. It could even evolve into an exclamation by both parent and child stating, “look what WE learned today.”
Summary: Yes, I understand the above five key items are generalities that include many important details that will require creative efforts by all parties. This in itself poses a major evolution in our education system and its structure. To implant digital learning without going the full course of this evolution will at most present a fractured and frustrating learning system. The importance of increasing STEM instruction is an added demand that if the new system is only a haphazard effort then STEM staggers. In addition to STEM there must be both a renewed and expanded presentation of the arts, literature and history. This can be both highly challenging and exciting. Suddenly imparting knowledge to young minds reaches across to teachers, programmers, administrators, parents and even you and I as we welcome our future with both open arms and minds.
  • The video below is a very simple example of a combination of techniques to produce a memorable instruction, in this case on the importance of Zero. Certainly digital learning systems will be more sophisticated, but should not overlook or intentionally exclude fantasy or cartoon style presentations to make an important point. The grade level, the age of the students are key factors in the development of such presentations. Memorable, enjoyable are important factors, silly and forgetful are obviously to be avoided.
IMAGE CREDIT:
School children in a digital classroom: Courtesy   morrisworldnews.com

IT’S ALL ABOUT MASTERY:Practical Expertise

June 17, 2011

Literally, with the first humans, there quickly arose members who became recognized as experts. College degrees and/or graduate degrees were not around yet so expertise grew from both experience and its careful application. Has this been supplanted by academic credentials? In my opinion, absolutely not. In fact, but sadly, it continues to play a key, but less publicized role, in our sci-tech progress.

Yes, successful academic achievement is important in many areas, but is essentially competence-in-waiting. This is true all the way up to the doctoral degrees. Until we can actually work with and experience the specific domains of art, science, and pure craftsmanship we are just newbies.

Been there, done that (btdt) is not a gasp of boredom it is, in my opinion, an acknowledgement of experience either by accident or by intent. In either case, that experience produces a heightened awareness that normally enables the person to avoid new mistakes and to perform more effectively. Revered artisans in both art and technology have years of btdt under their belts that gives them the power of expertise.

In the medical sciences, doctors must complete their apprenticeships as interns and residents before they are really ready for the independent delivery of health care to you or I. Labor unions for years have used apprenticeships to build a labor force empowered by highly experienced and competent artisans. Yes I use artisan to describe all the various competencies, from bricklayer to master machinist, that a union apprentice ultimately achieves. Post-doctoral apprenticeships for new PhD graduates is another example of the careful process of inserting experience into the mastery equation.

Yes, things have changed in some ways, but the required expertise must still be in the forefront of what we design, develop, build, repair and actually operate. Today a master machinist may sit at a computer terminal creating the code to tell an automatic milling machine how to carefully carve part of the wing of giant jet aircraft. What is important is that the code carries with it all the years of expertise when that milling was done carefully and beautifully by hand.

Deep blue ocean sailing today is supported by a host of electronics that make sure we get to our destination. Let all those electronics fail, and hopefully our navigator quickly pulls out his sextant, and like the earliest of sailors looks to the stars to guide us on our way.

Bottom line is that the experiential ingredient in all that we profess is essential. We should keep that in mind when we hear some snobbish comments that put down what they term the uneducated workers. This is a horrible outcome of our stumbles away from actually making things and into trading paper. Those nations who still both revere, honor and promote craftsman skills will eventually prevail in the world economy. No house has ever stood when made from paper or cards.

Many PhDs quickly call an artisan plumber to unclog their overflowing sinks or other facilities. Most ace pilots warmly greet every master mechanic that cares for their aircraft. For certain they do not demand to know their academic credentials.

Parents, educators, industry leaders, political leaders need to understand this vital element and both promote and support it in all of our youth. Yes, some kids will become expert plumbers others will become expert physicians or scientists and we need to honor all equally and appreciatively. Hopefully we can MASTER this behavior to hold our place in the evolution of humankind.

IMAGE CREDITS:

The Handy Craftsman – The PC Gamer http://tinyurl.com/3l4pu92

THE INSEPARABLES: SciTech and Government

May 4, 2011

Yes, this is a highly prejudicial blog article. It is pro-science and definitely proposes new ways to both strengthen America‘s SciTech prowess and at the same time elevate the general well-being of humankind globally. Some, kindly, would term this as a solicitous appeal while others would…well?

In a rampage of proposed budget slashes a deficit threatened government reacts instead of carefully enacting. Yes, enacting would address the deficit, but in a manner that sustains the core strengths of America. One of those most important core strengths is our scientific and technological prowess. Put simply, can this government sustain itself and this nation without progressive science and technology? Similarly, is there much hope for this progressive and vital core without an equally progressive government? Truly, these are inseparable partners with a desperate interdependence.

So, what do we do?

President Obama in his 2012 budget proposal increases Federal spending on SciTech by 13%. On the surface this appears good and progressive. What is not clear is where that increase, if approved, will be applied. Additionally, one must wonder where the justifications came for that increase. In other words what SciTech advice was used to make that determination?

The White House and the Congress have many resources, but there are also strong inputs backed more by whimsy and illogic that solid justifications. Most of this kind of response seeks to degrade SciTech and in doing so pushes the nation backwards. On the positive side input from strong sources, including the Congressional Budget Office, the White House budget staff, the National Academies of Science, the National Science Foundation and a host of private and university research organizations all submit supporting data for their fiscal needs.

As critically important as full funding support for SciTech is, an exclusive focus just on that issue is dangerously and terminally myopic. Yes we need to finance a full spectrum of research, including space exploration, but for this to become a fully acceptable and supported standard we must pull down the walls of scientific exclusivity. At the same time we must break through the barriers of suspicion, superstition and theological extremism that blockade SciTech progress. These are false adversaries promoted mostly by political opportunism. That’s right it comes far less from the pulpit and more from wild-card politics. The common ground is the deep spirituality that comes from new discoveries and explanations that enrich and elevate humankind and all that surrounds us. Science does not defy us, it continue to define us and in doing that we grow and evolve and glorify our place in the Cosmos.

Regardless how you chose to justify it, humankind has a mission and now we spend more time denying it and its rewards than we do in seeing the light of discovery that is shining in our faces. There is so much astounding beauty and exciting revelations out there that our SciTech selves help us to see and appreciate. It is only the unexplained that imposes fear and suspicion. With each new revelation provided by SciTech, humankind moves forward, but also closer together.

Here is the essential connection. Government must be of and by the people, and science promotes an ever-expanding environment that enhances our surroundings and thereby improves human life. Stop science, and life then diminishes and thus governance – thus extinction  Shall we vote for extinction through both poor financial management, and even poorer use of our ability to explore, discover, and thereby explain? Good governance that promotes assertive SciTech, unifies humankind with the Cosmos. SciTech and governance together from now on work to forever protect and espouse this unity. Is it mystical? No, there is no mystery. Is it spiritual? Absolutely, each new revelation strengthens us and provides an incredibly deeply spiritual sensitivity for each other and for all that surrounds us.

SciTech is vital and governance is its essential promoter and protector. They are truly inseparable. Banish either and we banish humankind.

IMAGE CREDIT: I was born into Einstein’s and Roosevelt’s age and learned to value their commitment to progress and the well-being of all humankind. The image above is courtesy of “Time Line” http://tinyurl.com/3tal7g4

READER REFERENCE: For more about scitech and the funding crises you may wish to read Parts I and II of this blog: Tag-Along Science: (1) http://tinyurl.com/3d6ez8c and (2) http://tinyurl.com/3e5txtq

WE WILL GO THERE, But First….!

April 8, 2011

The “October Sky” style youthful achievement shown in the above video is a clear statement of the deep commitment to space exploration that we must achieve to again venture forth. Human spaceflight will evolve as a combination of government, private industry and both human and robotic astronauts. Right now, in this year 2011, it all looks only slightly brighter than dim. Most importantly, real and awesome success will come from the unity of effort of government and industry as well as with our international partners. We must work as one if we are to successfully go into deep space.

The following are five critical accomplishments that must become active reality if we are going to take humankind to our solar system and then out into our newest frontier – our galaxy. We must also realize that it is not a “final frontier”. We have an entire Cosmos to explore. Let’s get started.

  1. To ensure that we support a growing population of bright, young minds like those in the above video, we must both standardize and diversify our education system. This must start at the elementary level and progressively move all the way to graduate level studies. Diversification calls for strong science education, but also equally strong and inspiring education in the arts. Humankind is motivated both by dreams and by the arts (music, art, writing) that spread the word and the glory of those dreams. In all cases imagination and innovation dominate. Education cultivates and insures that domination.
  2. Solid, progressive governance is a vital ingredient of a space faring civilization. To insure both national and international political sanity we-the-people in all nations, must strive to achieve and sustain real democratic governance. To do this we must make sure that people shall prevail, and not greed and the addiction to power. The people must not let those dangers erode or even destroy that system. Not an easy task, and without an alert and devoted electorate, any nation can easily slip into pseudo-democracies dominated by only a select few. It is easy to snarl and complain, but that simply signifies a nation of people who have let things slip. Citizens committed to both democracy and to global unity have no time to snarl and complain, they are too busy and too involved in making governance work.
  3. Anyone who chooses to look up and behold the awesome glory of the night sky, or breathtaking dawns, or sunsets is easily mystified by all that overpowering beauty. Earliest humans translated those mystifying moments into expressed and treasured celebrations. These revered practices expanded and now seek to relate human morality and behavior to that mysticism. When all of those practices induce widespread compassion and a global sense of community among humankind they become strengthening and unifying. At the same time, science, equally mystified by all it sees and explores, diligently seeks to explain fully and truthfully. In both practices there are many moments of deep spirituality as we humans strengthen the bond between ourselves and all that surrounds us. For us to proceed across the cosmic seas we must achieve mutual respect and eschew distrust, suspicion and fear. We are enriched and made whole by all we come to learn. Lastly we come to accept all that proves to be true and to see it as a bond between humankind and the Cosmos. When we achieve this, we then joyfully join the cosmic community.
  4. We are not exclusive to all that is around us. We are in unity with it. Yes, all life-forms share resources and that give and take process is life-sustaining for the entire community. In this relationship, there is no malice or evil or chicanery only interdependence. When we nurture this interdependence we enrich both our lives and the community of  life that comprises this planet. If we fail in this respect we threaten the community and cause a decline in those vital resources and weaken that essential interdependence. Science calls this the process of extinction. If we seek to explore the Cosmos we must first stabilize and sustain the resource that supports that exploration. For now, for decades or maybe even for centuries to come, planet Earth (our community of life) must be protected to enable us to seek those cosmic revelations.
  5. We are not alone in the Cosmos. Yes, we have not yet made direct contact with other life-forms, but science on almost a daily basis is uncovering many clues that support the presence of life across the Cosmos. Life, in all its forms is, as stated above, interdependent and when we succeed in both respecting and protecting that reality then we are philosophically and sociologically reaching the stage where we can successfully meet other life in the Cosmos in a peaceable manner. Unlike those who first came from afar to this continent, we must not arrive to conquer, but to rejoice in our reunion with other members of the cosmic community. We must shed our warrior complex and sail that glorious cosmic sea as ambassadors of unity and peace. Remember, we are all interdependent.

Each of those five goals include within them long lists of responsibilities that we must fully exercise to meet each criterion to the fullest. In other words, we are facing an evolutionary life change. Hey, this is as it should be; otherwise, we stumble down the extinction pathway. There are a bounty of rewards as we exercise those responsibilities. Those rewards enrich us and inspire us to continue to move forward as a community of life. All of this, in my mind at least, restores and embeds hope in each of our hearts.

Lastly, the following video is a repeat, but says more eloquently than anything else who we are and why we are here and the glory that awaits us. Welcome to spaceship Earth.

MOM,DAD,TEACHER: Help Me Achieve Me!

March 19, 2011

The music the teacher is playing was written by one of the students.

A Preamble: There is so much criticism and outright political abuse of our education system and teachers that this author wishes to assure prospective readers that this is NOT another one of those mindless and highly prejudiced attacks. This author has spent a good part of his life as a children and family therapy worker with considerable time in both classrooms and homes. So what is written below comes from first-hand knowledge and exposure. It’s about a lot of wonderful resources that are either misapplied or overstressed (teachers, parents and CHILDREN).

Every child is unique, and by the time they arrive for their first day of school they have added to their genetic profile their individual family imprint. Both their educational and social experiences in their elementary school years will further define their intellectual and behavioral profiles, but not exclusively. What the child’s home-life is like can either enrich and encourage that blossoming intelligence or actually discourage, even undermine it.

Regarding a child’s home-life experiences the above is not implying that if his or her intellectual development regresses that it is due to intentional acts by parents or older siblings. In most cases it results from poor encouragement or the total absence thereof. Commanding, “do your homework, now” is not encouragement. It is actually a dismissal of parental involvement.

Yes, the above comes across as overly simplified opinions that seem to ignore the complexity of family life in today’s culture. Therein resides a major cause that affects a child’s intellectual growth and maturity. How can we address it?

The Critical Venue: The life venue of a child is never standard. Like the child, it is unique and remains such despite efforts by parents and others (teachers and friends) to seek to mold a child to fit a certain pattern. The challenge is to encourage the child’s individual development while providing good behavioral and intellectual support. This is a process that begins with just the family and expands to include the array of human influence. The support that is provided by the parents is critical because it provides the child with both self-confidence and a set of rules that help the child move forward while resisting misleading distractions from outsiders. This is not an easy task for parents, particularly if there are more children in the household.

To be supportive while encouraging a child’s growing independence and self-confidence takes a lot of individual effort by the parents (sometimes older siblings too). In today’s working family environment this is even more demanding and difficult. As a result there is the spillover effect where teachers are faced with providing some of the normal parental support. This latter situation is untenable. Teachers just cannot pick up the slack despite their desire to try to help. In many instances this produces an atmosphere of mutual resentment between frustrated parents and even more frustrated teachers. Most serious, is the effect it can have upon the child’s intellectual and behavioral development.

The Family Partnership: Both parents are vital in the process of rearing a child, but the role of the mother is both emotionally and biologically stronger. Regardless, the child should feel secure in that both parents are equal and trusted resources. This is strengthened by the very manner in which the parents work as a team in the child rearing process. Yes, single parent families or families where a supportive partnership does not exist gravely reduces the effectiveness of parental support and guidance. This is not to say that many single parent families do manage well, but this is often due to outside supportive resources. The child responds behaviorally and intellectually (good or poor school performance). When stresses across the family increase there is  a parallel decrease in the child’s developmental progress. Problems, intellectual and behavioral, crop up in school; adding a new element of stress between teacher, child and parents.

  • Note: If you feel a knot growing in your stomach as you read the two paragraphs above, then you know exactly what this is all about. Be assured, that as I write and read the above, I also get knots in my stomach.  If we are parents, then to varying degrees, we have experienced some of what is cited above.

As stated above, in most families today, both parents work full-time. Regardless of their motivations to work as partners in rearing their offspring, there is both extreme daily time limitations and the simple ability of the parents to put the utmost into their relationships with their child or children after a demanding and tiring work day. If the partnership is active and strong then alternating which parent gives full attention to the child can help both alleviate fatigue stress and give full support to the child. There is no hard and fast rules here. How such a plan works depends on the unique partnership plan the parents have established. Such plans are very specific with regard to each parents work regimen and hours. They can only deal with variances in work schedules if they are a fully committed parental partnership.

A major factor that can reduce stress and increase the effectiveness of a given family plan, is the inclusion of the child. Children are very sensitive to the emotional environment around them and when they are excluded, they worry and their stress levels increase. Insuring that the child feels included has a tremendous benefit in his or her cooperativeness and strengthens their sense of membership in the family. Encouraging them to speak up on family issues, even those involving only the parents, may seem to invite distractions, but actually enriches the entire child-rearing process. We should never underestimate the observational powers of children and the often amazing and highly relevant comments and suggestions they can make. As they become participants, they more strongly feel the parents love because they are encouraged to openly express their concerns and love. It is a powerful family adhesive.  In this regard, when a parent exclaims to a child, I need you, or I need you to do this for us, the child that is an included member of the family team responds positively and cooperatively.

Creative Spark: There is a great deal of both information and speculation about the creative spark and how to detect and nurture it. Unfortunately it is quite often presented in such a way that it seems to exclude children that seem  intellectually challenged (more crudely termed: dumb).Yes, there are definite variations in a child’s intellectual strengths, but that does not rule out the creative spark. The problem is, if the child is classed by both family and teachers as”slow”, then that spark is never even looked for, much less nurtured. The bright child’s creative spark is loud and noticeable so-to-speak. Parents and teachers will not be able to ignore it. In fact, the adults often tend to downplay those sparks as being too aggressive (noisy, insistent, etc). The change then must come as a universal attention and support of this creative energy from ALL children. The creative spark is vital. It is the cognitive expressway that helps accelerate the learning process; especially in the case of special needs children. In ALL children this expressway optimizes how a child processes new information because it leads to a highly receptive cognitive area of the brain. Nurturing this expressway also empowers the child to begin to enhance their inherent curiosity and to then begin independent exploration: self-learning.

Ancient Prejudices vs Active Listening: Most parents have dreams for their children’s future and those dreams are a strong motivation to nurture the creative spark. Unfortunately many parents project some of their own “missed opportunities” into their plans for their offspring’s future.  When the child’s interests and exploratory behaviors are in conflict with those parental goals there can be direct discouragement by the parents. This discouragement is rarely negative. It is more often expressed as advocacy for the child’s future that fits the parents unfulfilled dreams. In many cases the child adheres to parental advice and follows a described course (education, sports, art, music, etc). Often this is in direct conflict with the creative spark the child has displayed. These parental influences, based upon the parents unfulfilled goals, are regarded as prejudices against a child’s expressed interests.

None of the above is intended to criticize wise counsel from parents where the child has confused on unattainable goals. Wise counsel, however, is most effective where there is active listening by the parent. This allows them to detect that creative spark, and begin to actively nurture it. In this arrangement, the child becomes the explorer with support from parents. In many cases this involves both parent and child jointly investigating the child’s expressed interests and goals. Furthermore, engaging teachers in this process further insures a growing support for the child’s successful and essentially independent development. WARNING! Some teachers and some education systems are so forcefully structured by regulations (vs theory and practice) that a new barrier presents itself. Here is where the parent is vital. They must not let a distorted system discourage their child’s potential.

The Learning and Inspiration Team: Ideally the process of nurturing and supporting a child’s intellectual and behavioral development is accomplished by what can be regarded as a learning and inspiration team. The team’s key members are the child, the parents and the teachers. Because it is a team, there is no independent actions, even by the child. All are focused on fulfilling the child’s potential and creative spark. Unfortunately, now, these teams rarely exists for a variety of combinations of the problems presented above.

Change is vital and despite the best efforts of the parents in advocating for and supporting their offspring, the education system simply cannot work as a fully committed team member. This is because of the aforementioned regulatory misdirection of the education process. Committed parents often resort to “home-schooling” which has strong benefits from a nurturing standpoint, but deprives the child of the social contacts essential for full development. Additionally, most parents, despite dedication, do not have the total experience necessary to fully ensure the support of their offspring’s creative spark. Similarly, the education system, seeking standardization, rarely on its own will meet the desired level of support and nurturing.

A balanced compromise by the team that acknowledges the necessary rigidity of the educational system, while preserving the overall goals of the team, can produce a successful nurturing of the child’s intellectual  and behavioral development. Engaging the teachers within this compromise structure can be effective and highly supported by the teacher. This is particularly true where the parents and the teachers arrive at a common goal in which they share joint responsibilities. In those cases where this is put in place, the entire attitude and performance of the child is both astounding and mutually rewarding. This is true especially in the case of special needs children. Suddenly the adversarial relationship between parents, teachers and the child disappears. So does the stress on all the team members. Unfortunately this is not a common practice, but where it happens an entire school is both inspired and enhanced. The concentration by the team to fully support the independent development of the child keeps the child an active team member and enforces active listening and wise counseling by all parties. Yes, even the child will actively listen and give astounding wise counseling to the adult team members.

At last, elementary education of a child ceases to be an ordeal for all parties and instead becomes an environment of mutual progress and reward. The future has become more secure and humankind all the richer.

There are many ways to sing the praises of the joyful benefits of a unity of child, parents and teacher in nurturing our future, but the following video link says it simply and from the heart to all who seek to ….!

RAISE A CHILD

CREDIT:

To all those youngsters I had the pleasure and honor of working with. Each of them “raised me up beyond all I could be.

TAG-ALONG SCIENCE – PART II: Taking The Lead

November 22, 2010

It is our opinion, and we emphasize opinion, that humankind is on the cusp of an evolutionary leap. Key words are cusp and leap. Cusp in our context means turning point, and we use leap because we see the transition as abrupt and significant and not gradual and possibly insignificant.

The cusp is at the intersection of our scientific and technological (S&T) progress, and the steady decline in humankind’s support of S&T. This diminishing public interest in S&T and its benefits to human society is expressed through political policy decisions that rarely give priority to S&T goals and benefits.

The leap constitutes the direction and benefits, or the lack thereof, depending upon which way humankind moves in the next several centuries. Wait! Wait, don’t let the time factor turn you away with shrugs of indifference. Humankind has reached the level where time increments have accelerated so that when we speak about centuries we are literally talking about immediate concerns. What we start or stop today has an accelerated impact that extends well into mega-millenniums.

Turning the leap into a long-jump: Yes, we are following our opinion and are turning forward not backward.  Most importantly, we envision a series of both policy and program changes that begin the process of bringing S&T into the daily lives of humankind in very obvious and tangible ways. Regardless, none of this is will be a flash-bang magic show. It is envisioned as an orderly and very dedicated process. The following represents the key preparations we must make for that long-jump.

A new S&T model: Right now the majority of our science and technology programs have tight links to political policy. As a result many very important programs suffer: (a) see-saw levels of importance and (b) funding cycles that range from affluence to total poverty. A twist in political party power often puts an S&T program in jeopardy. Usually the threat is preceded by deflated funding or the lack thereof. This lack of consistent and long-term political and policy support short-changes both research and its beneficiaries; the citizens of this nation and usually the world.

A new and different Office of Science and Technology Policy. Exclusive of those specialized programs associated with defense and national security, S&T policies should be established by public referendum and are mandated to persist regardless of changes in the current political party controlling the  government. This means that the current Executive Branch’s  Office of Science and Technology Policy is replaced by a very open, and broad-based S&T policy administration program. This program forms the core of the public S&T referendum.

A new governing body: Key members of the science and technology community come together under a Federal mandate to draft the structure and initial program definitions that the public will consider and approve or disapprove. Participation is by all divisions of the National Academy of Sciences, by leading private research institutions, by major university science and technology departments, and by all Federal agencies and departments that have S&T functions and responsibilities.

The National Institute for Science and Technology Policy (NISTP): We have boldly stepped forward to prepare a preliminary definition document for the NISTP and how it can work. You may get access to it here, as a download, in PDF format.  We have done it this way to avoid producing a very, very long blog page, and to give you ample time to review our document. We sincerely hope you will take the time to consider it and hopefully comment here.  Please remember, what we are proposing here is a system whereby S&T research and development is for and by the people and not just the product of political or special interests. Our document gives attention to this transition and how it can be both developed and sustained.

Reflections and Conclusion: In many pages of this blog as well as in others we have written, we emphasize that we must become a spacefaring nation. Actually we extend this to include a spacefaring world as an important evolutionary step for humankind. Well, to achieve this highly essential state we must first become a nation and a world community where science and technology are in the forefront of our daily lives. No, we are not talking about a civilization that is dominated by S&T, we are talking about a civilization that is universally enriched by S&T research and development. Enrichment in this case is both economic and sociological.

Most importantly humankind, as we have consistently maintained, is here not to fail but to move forward in time and space.

We are now pretty certain that we are not alone in this universe and although we have never met ET, they are out there and in time we will meet, and, in our opinion, peaceably. None of this will come to pass without our immediate involvement in the growth and spread of S&T as humankind’s vital evolutionary resource.

As we have proposed here, S&T growth should be essentially in the hands of we-the-people and not at the whim of politicians and/or special interests. We also believe that what is coming will be the most exciting, the most fulfilling moment in our evolution since that time when we rose up from the sea and stepped upon this land. In all of this, time never waits, and we believe neither should we. It is time, now, to take the lead.

REFERENCES:

Scientific regress: When science goes backward

Planning for the Future of American Science

CREDITS:

Clip-Art Cartoon, modified by Waddell Robey to include the letters “S&T” on a cartoon figure.