Overconfident, underperforming

Don’t Think Too Highly of Yourself, warns Mark Bauerlein on the Education Next blog.  Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, he writes, “higher confidence does not go with better math scores.”   The Brown Center’s How Well Are American Students Learning? report used TIMSS data to compare eighth-grade students in different countries.

“Countries with more confident students who enjoy the subject matter–and with teachers who strive to make mathematics relevant to students’ daily lives–do not do as well as countries that rank lower on indices of confidence, enjoyment, and relevance.”

. . .  U.S. students rated themselves much more highly than did students in Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Chinese Taipei, but they scored well behind that insecure group.  While 93 percent of U.S. eighth-graders failed to achieve an advanced score on the test, only 5 percent of them “disagreed a lot” with the statement that they “do well in math.”

A new report in the September issue of Learning and Individual Difference compares 15-year-olds’ reading skills in 34 countries, Bauerlein writes.  Students who lacked confidence in their skills tended to perform better than their classmates, while the overconfident performed worse.

Overconfidence “can be a sign not of prior superior achievement, but of inferior achievement, a defense mechanism against poor performance and skill level,” Bauerlein writes.

Via 11D, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry make fun of self-esteem on the not-Oprah Show.

And see the self-esteem section of It ain’t necessarily so.

Is marriage obsolete?

Sandra Tsing Loh is getting divorced after 20 years of marriage and two children, she writes in The Atlantic. In Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, she suggests that most of us should give up on lifelong marriage too.  Keeping romance alive is too much work for the modern woman.

Given my staggering working mother’s to-do list, I cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance. Sobered by this failure as a mother—which is to say, my failure as a wife—I’ve since begun a journey of reading, thinking, and listening to what’s going on in other 21st-century American families. And along the way, I’ve begun to wonder, what with all the abject and swallowed misery: Why do we still insist on marriage? Sure, it made sense to agrarian families before 1900, when to farm the land, one needed two spouses, grandparents, and a raft of children. But now that we have white-collar work and washing machines, and our life expectancy has shot from 47 to 77, isn’t the idea of lifelong marriage obsolete?

Tsing Loh, who wrote two years ago that women prefer food to sex, also shares the details of her friends’ sexless marriages. The hubbies cook, remodel the kitchen and chauffeur the kids but prefer internet porn or cooking magazines to sex with their wives. The wives are inspired by Tsing Loh’s divorce to consider dumping their “male kitchen bitches.”

The kids will do almost as well raised by a single parent as in a two-parent family, Tsing Loh argues, as long as there’s “domestic stability,” i.e., no new boyfriends and girlfriends moving in and out. Divorce is OK if you stay single?

Laura at 11D says Loh lacks credibility on the subject of marriage.

She breaks up her marriage and then writes a magazine article about why people weren’t really meant to be married. Hello! Credibility problems here!

Loh explains that she had an affair, which ended their marriage. However, people weren’t really meant to be married for so long. Her kids wouldn’t really miss having both parents at home anyway. . . . Her husband and her friends’ husbands weren’t so great in the sack. And the husbands are kind of girlie in the way they help out around the house. Why should a marriage be work? She fishes around for any explanation that will save her.

Those of us who enjoy being married never seem to get space in The Atlantic. Perhaps it’s because we don’t wish to share the details with a national audience. Too little information.

Once a performance artist, Tsing Loh has no such scruples. Nonetheless, in a few years, her children will be able to read about her boredom with their father in The Atlantic archives. However disguised, her friends will guess the identities of the pathetic Rachel and Ian and Ellen and Ron. Who may now be her ex-friends.

Against breast feeding

Breast-feeding may be a little bit healthier, concedes Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic’s The Case Against Breast-Feeding. But it’s not so wonderful that “breast-feeding fascists” should make formula-using mothers feel like trailer trash.

While thousands of studies link “breast-feeding with healthier, happier, smarter children,” they share a flaw, writes Rosin.

. . .  breast-fed infants are typically brought up in very different families from those raised on the bottle. In the U.S., breast-feeding is on the rise — 69 percent of mothers initiate the practice at the hospital, and 17 percent nurse exclusively for at least six months. But the numbers are much higher among women who are white, older, and educated; a woman who attended college, for instance, is roughly twice as likely to nurse for six months.

Rosin thinks breast feeding makes life too difficult for working women and should be seen as nice but not essential.

I thought it was easy, free and healthy, but I had a six-month maternity leave.

Of course, I also had a baby who spent 12 days in neonatal intensive care, while I frantically pumped in hopes that someday I’d be able to feed my baby.  And hold her and watch her grow up. I did a lot of pumping and crying. Then my husband rented an electric breast pump attached to a container big enough to milk Elsie the Cow. I actually laughed when I sat it, and those were not laughing days. Fastening that to my breast was an act of courage. So, once I could breast-feed a healthy baby it was a piece of cake — and a victory.

See 11D for more.