Weekly Roundup 5-31-14

School: A powerful case for why drawing should be a part of every school’s curriculum. “As a primary visual language, essential for communication and expression, drawing is as important as the development of written and verbal skills. The need to understand the world through visual means would seem more acute than ever; images transcend the barriers of language, and enhance communications in an increasingly globalised world.”

Psychology: If you want to win an argument, you need to change your paradigm. Rather than view the argument as a war you need to win, try to keep sight of your goal. In essence, stop trying to win. To cite one statistic, “69% of married couples problems are perpetual. Leaving those arguments unfought does not end the relationship. Vicious must-win tactics do.”

Scholarship: A recent study by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that being ostracized at work is more harmful than being bullied. “[P]eople who claimed to have experienced ostracism were significantly more likely to report a degraded sense of workplace belonging and commitment, a stronger intention to quit their job, and a larger proportion of health problems.”


Mind the Gap


“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough….” Stuart Smalley, a.k.a. Al Franken.

A recent article in The Atlantic Magazine has been the topic of lots of “water cooler” chat at work lately. Titled The Confidence Gapthe article was written by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, both news reporters and co-authors of the book Womenomics. In their piece for The Atlantic, Shipman and Kay explore the persistence of a significant confidence gap between men and women. The overarching idea is that confidence matters as much, if not more, than competence in the world of work, and that women are having difficulty keeping up with their male co-workers in that regard.

It’s a lengthy piece, and well worth reading when you have the time. But what struck me the most were the statistics surrounding what happens in the workplace. For example, men are promoted more frequently than women and often paid more (a national topic currently, but differences in pay aren’t the main focus of this particular article). One of the reasons men seem to be promoted more frequently and more readily is that men ask for promotions more than women do. The authors cite research conducted by Hewlett-Packard that showed men apply for a promotion when they felt they could meet 60% of the new job’s requirements. Women didn’t apply for promotions until they felt they could meet 100% of the new job’s requirements!

Contributing to this dynamic is the tendency for men to overestimate their abilities on a variety of tasks, and for women to underestimate their abilities…even though their actual performance does not differ in quality. Another contributing factor is that women are much harder on themselves when they make a mistake in a work setting; women tend to ruminate on their mistakes, which in turn erodes confidence. In contrast, when men feel self-doubt they move forward anyway; they don’t let it stop them from doing what they want to do. And in studies with groups of undergraduate students, those who displayed the most confidence were rated more highly by their peers than those who displayed the most competence. In other words, it’s not the smartest person in the room who is admired, it’s the person who is most confident.

This made me think of Al Franken, the comedian who became a politician. For roughly 30 years, Franken worked as a writer, performer, and comedian. Then, at some point he decided he wanted to serve in public office so he ran for the senate race in his home state of Minnesota and won. If he had waited until he felt 100% qualified to run for public office (i.e. to ask for that promotion), do you think he would ever have taken that chance? Probably not. Mr. Franken is just one example, but he’s the man who brought us Stuart Smalley’s self-affirmations and it sounds like some women could use more self-affirmation in the workplace.

Smalley’s mantra was: I’m good enough,  I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me. According to Shipman and Kay, worrying too much if people like you is a potential pitfall for women. So I’m going to revise the mantra just a little bit to I’m good enough and I’m smart enough. If more women simply told themselves that, perhaps the confidence gap would be on its way to closing.


Weekly Round Up 5-17-14

Schooling: With graduation just around the corner for Ed.S. candidates nationwide, here’s a Beginner’s Guide to Repaying Student Loans.

Psychology: A report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nationally, approximately 10,000 toddlers aged 2 to 3 years old are being diagnosed with A.D.H.D. and subsequently prescribed powerful medications to treat it. The CDC, along with many doctors, say this is a big problem for many reasons. One reason is that A.D.H.D. medications are not approved for children under 4, and another is that hyperactivity and impulsivity are developmentally normal for that age group. Additionally, there are “very few” studies documenting the long-term effects of using such medications in very young children.

Scholarship: An educational intervention is tested and comes up short. Phonomena, an academic intervention that is supposed to help children “identify word sounds,” says it has research that proves its effectiveness. Lorna Halliday of the University College of London tried to replicate the successful results and found she could not. Putting aside the fact that the initial (successful) research was conducted by the man who developed Phonomena, David Moore of The University of Oxford UK, it seems that how a study structures its control group has a huge effect on results.

If we are to understand the true “evidence-based” effectiveness of the academic interventions we use as school psychologists, we should pay close attention to how the studies backing the interventions were conducted.

Children’s Choice Book Awards Announced

This year’s winners of the annual Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards were announced at the seventh annual Children’s Book Council gala in New York last night. What I like about these awards are that the children vote for their favorites themselves, so this list is truly a reflection of what our nation’s kids like to read!

“The Children’s Book Council’s vetting process ensures that voting is done by children and teens, or submitted from classroom ballot boxes, they said.”

Here are the top winners in each category (click on thumbnails for more information):

K-2nd grade Book of the Year:
The Day The Crayons Quit
by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.






3rd-4th grade Book of the Year:
Bugs in My Hair!
by David Shannon.

Bugs in Hair





5th-6th grade Book of the Year:
National Geographic Kids Myths Busted!
by Emily Krieger, illustrated by Tom Nick Cocotos.

Myths Busted





Teens Book of the Year:
by Veronica Roth.






Illustrator of the Year:
Grace Lee
Sofia the First: The Floating Palace.

Sofia First





Author of the Year:
Rush Limbaugh
Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans.

Rush Revere

The Problem of Perpetual Cynicism

Drawing by Henry Marks.

But what is it? Drawing by Henry Marks.

A recent opinion piece in the New York Times, written by the president of Wesleyan University Michael S. Roth, points out something disturbing that seems to have infected our youth: A type of perpetual cynicism born of teaching students to think critically about their world, but not following up with teaching them to also find meaning in it.

Mr. Roth suggests that the traditional liberal arts goal of teaching critical thinking has devolved into something focused too much on the critical, and not enough on the thinking. It starts when professors teach students how to tear apart written texts, as if being critical (i.e. cynical) were the sole purpose and pursuit of education.

Yes, there’s a certain satisfaction in being critical of our authors, but isn’t it more interesting to put ourselves in a frame of mind to find inspiration in them?…Our best college students are very good at being critical. In fact being smart, for many, means being critical. 

And it continues when students assume the role of distant and disdainful commentator, one step removed from the object of their scrutiny. The sad result is that these students have come to believe intelligence reveals itself in their ability to describe everything that is wrong with a written work, but nothing that is right.

The inquirer has taken the guise of the sophisticated (often ironic) spectator, rather than the messy participant in continuing experiments or even the reverent beholder of great cultural achievements.

Mr. Roth gives the example of having to ask his students to “put their devices away” when he shows them movies in class. As a former film studies major, I find this especially distressing. When I was in school, we read essay upon essay about film’s transformative power, largely related to the obvious analogies between dreaming and watching a movie. But to feel cinema’s power in that way, you have to give yourself over to the experience. In other words, you have to take emotional and intellectual risks. From what Mr. Roth describes, today’s students prefer their culture served cold, and at arm’s length.

As debunkers, [today’s students] contribute to a cultural climate that has little tolerance for finding or making meaning — a culture whose intellectuals and cultural commentators get “liked” by showing that somebody else just can’t be believed. But this cynicism is no achievement.

I agree with Mr. Roth that cynicism is no achievement. And, if his assertions about modern-day students’ lack of interest in being inspired by art and culture and thought are true, then my next question would be, where did they learn to take such a cynical view of their world? Is this an effect of our modern culture, which some call corrosive (although, really, don’t those voices erupt in every generation)? The inevitable aftermath of postmodernism? The result of education trends going back to the 1960’s, when nearly everything about higher education was called into question? Maybe Mr. Roth will write a follow-up piece in which he teases apart the roots of the problem he has identified. I’d be interested in his thoughts.

Further exploration:


FlowFlow. “Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famous investigations of “optimal experience” have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. In this new edition of his groundbreaking classic work, Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.”

100 ObjectsA History of the World in 100 Objects. “When did people first start to wear jewelry or play music? When were cows domesticated and why do we feed their milk to our children? Where were the first cities and what made them succeed? Who invented math-or came up with money? The history of humanity is a history of invention and innovation, as we have continually created new items to use, to admire, or to leave our mark on the world. In this original and thought-provoking book, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, has selected one hundred man-made artifacts, each of which gives us an intimate glimpse of an unexpected turning point in human civilization. A History of the World in 100 Objects stretches back two million years and covers the globe. From the very first hand axe to the ubiquitous credit card, each item has a story to tell; together they relate the larger history of mankind-revealing who we are by looking at what we have made.”


Technology: Myth of Multitasking.  “[T]here is no such thing as multitasking —  at least not the way you may think of it. The fact is that multitasking, as most people understand it, is a myth that has been promulgated by the “technological-industrial complex” to make overly scheduled and stressed-out people feel productive and efficient. 


Positive Connections

Here is a story about a wonderful use of technology to bring people together from across the world. A pilot project started by a CNA language school in Brazil linked their students with older Americans living in a retirement home outside Chicago:

“It’s such a great, simple idea: Young Brazilians want to learn English. Elderly Americans living in retirement homes just want someone to talk to. Why not connect them?”

The students conducted live chats with the residents of the retirement home in order to practice conversational English. The chats were recorded, and the videos then uploaded to a private YouTube account for the CNA teachers to review. The students get the opportunity to practice their English, and the retirement home residents essentially receive a beneficial (even therapeutic?) intervention – all with little-to-no-cost for all involved. That’s what I call upside!

Census data tells us that in 2010, the United States recorded the greatest number and proportion of people age 65 or older “in all of decennial census history.” By 2050, a full 20% of the U.S. population will be comprised of people 65 or older. Considering some of the risk factors for the elderly, including suicide, abuse & neglect, and loneliness, the possibility of linking older people with younger people seems to have great potential. The cost is so low, and the reward is potentially so high. Score one for modern technology, and the Internet that connects us all.