Old tech

Today’s kids learn to use 1980′s technology, via YouTube.

Harris-Perry: Our kids aren’t just ours

Under attack for her MSNBC promo, which said “we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities,”  commentator Melissa Harris-Perry has issued a statement. She meant that “our children, all of our children, are part of more than our households, they are part of our communities and deserve to have the care, attention, resources, respect and opportunities of those communities.”

I get it. Children are our future.

When the promo hit the fan, she was grading papers and thought “since these children were not my responsibility, I could simply mail the students’ papers to their moms and dads to grade!”

But of course, that is a ridiculous notion. As a teacher, I have unique responsibilities to the students in my classroom at Tulane University, and I embrace those responsibilities.

It’s ridiculous because Harris-Perry, a political science professor, is paid by Tulane, an elite private university, to grade papers. Her students — surely very few are children — and their parents pay a great deal of money to have those papers graded. If she volunteered to tutor kids whose parents couldn’t help them with schoolwork, she could congratulate herself on her service to the collective.

Instead, she mentions various people in her life who’ve taught her about “our collective responsibility to children,” starting with her parents, who did volunteer to help others.

Then there’s this bizarro logic paragraph:

I’ll even admit that despite being an unwavering advocate for women’s reproductive rights, I have learned this lesson from some of my most sincere, ethically motivated, pro-life colleagues. Those people who truly believe that the potential life inherent in a fetus is equivalent to the actualized life of an infant have argued that the community has a distinct interest in children no matter what the mother’s and father’s interests or needs. So while we come down on different sides of the choice issue, we agree that kids are not the property of their parents. Their lives matter to all of us.

If Harris-Perry listened more carefully, she’d discover her pro-life colleagues believe a fetus, which they would call an unborn child, has individual rights as a human being. They don’t think the community’s interests are relevant any more than they think the parents’ interests are relevant. And few parents see their children — born or unborn — as “property.”

Harris-Perry concludes:

I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to the children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them. Of course, parents can and should raise their children with their own values. But they should be able to do so in a community that provides safe places to play, quality food to eat, terrific schools to attend, and economic opportunities to support them. No individual household can do that alone. We have to build that world together.

It takes a village to raise a child!

I was an op-ed columnist for many years. If I wrote a column and one or two people read it wrong, I blamed them. If lots of people read it in a way that I hadn’t intended, I figured it was my fault.

I’m sure Harris-Perry intended to say that we should spend more money on schools, parks, day care, health care and other social programs because children are our future, it takes a village to raise a child, as the twig is bent so grows the tree, etc. But she said “kids belong to whole communities” rather than to their parents or families. Nobody at MSNBC caught it. And she still doesn’t get that this one’s on her.

AllahPundit includes a tweet by Sarah Palin, which I thought was funny:  ”Dear MSNBC, if our kids belong to you, do your kids belong to us too? If so, can we take them hunting after church in our big pickup truck?”

All your children belong to us

Is This the Creepiest Show Promo MSNBC Has Ever Run? asks Mike Riggs on Reason’s Hit & Run. Host Melissa Harris-Perry said:

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.

So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s we start making better investments.

Hillary Clinton “made this same point more digestible for the public by ladling on warm-fuzzy sauce about a “village” raising a child,” writes Riggs.

Here’s your counterpoint, from 2011, on whether the U.S. is “investing” enough in education. Another half-trillion or so ought to turn things around, I think. No wonder Ron Paul’s getting into home-schooling.

Harris-Perry, a political science professor at Tulane, has a daughter. Or, I guess you could say that a female child with some of Harris-Perry’s genes belongs to the New Orleans collective.

The 10 best TV shows for young kids

It’s OK for preschoolers to watch an hour a day of high-quality television, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. But what’s high quality? Mike Petrilli lists The 10 Best Television Shows for Young Children.

Best Television Shows for Two- and Three-Year-Olds

1.   Kipper (available on Sprout and Netflix)
2.   Wonder Pets! (available on Nick Jr. and Netflix)
3.   Blue’s Clues (available on Nick Jr. and Netflix)
4.   Doc McStuffins (available on Disney Junior)
5.   Curious George (available on PBS Kids and Netflix)

Best Television Shows for Four- and Five-Year-Olds

1.   Backyardigans (availalbe on Nick Jr. and Netflix)
2.   Wild Kratts (available on PBS Kids)
3.   Dinosaur Train (available on PBS Kids and Netflix)
4.   Arthur (available on PBS Kids and Netflix)
5.   Super Why! (available on PBS Kids and Netflix)

Sesame Street isn’t what it used to be, writes Petrilli.

Must-read-aloud books for little kids and parents

Mike Petrilli suggests the kindergarten canon, must-read-aloud books for little kids.

One of the great joys of parenthood is reading to my two young sons. Partly it’s the visceral experience: Little guys curled up on my lap, in their PJ’s, soft light overhead, the day winding down, sleep coming (well, one can hope). But it’s also about the books: An endless treasure trove of stories to share, pictures to enjoy, traditions to pass along.

Here’s his full list, which includes some of my old favorites: Goodnight Moon (I read this every night or recited it from memory), Corduroy and, from my childhood, Caps for Sale and Blueberries for Sal. And lots of others, of course.

China and India rising

The Competition that Really Matters comes from China and India, argues the Center for American Progress.

While “the state of America’s children has improved dramatically in the last century,”  the U.S. advantage is eroding, the report warns.  ”Educational attainment and achievement gaps that track income and race groups have become more entrenched— and more worrisome.”

Meanwhile, China and India are investing in the next-gen workforce.

Judges redefine parenthood

California courts are redefining who counts as a parent, reports the Sacramento Bee. A woman who never adopted her ex-girlfriend’s children was declared a co-parent by a Sacramento appeals court because she “acted like one – providing for them financially, cleaning up after them when they got sick, and volunteering at their school.”

As a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, the woman couldn’t have adopted the children without risking expulsion from the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the court ruled.

In recent years, courts have assigned parental rights and responsibilities to adults who aren’t biological or adoptive parents, said McGeorge School of Law Professor Larry Levine.

“The state has a great interest in having those who want the benefits of parenthood to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go with parenthood,” he said. “That’s true for straight and gay couples.”

“Now the courts are starting to ask, ‘Who do these children think their parents are?’” said Deborah Wald, who handled S.Y.’s case at the appellate level. “Courts aren’t willing to take children away from people whom they rely upon.”

S.B.’s lawyer, Elizabeth Niemi warned single parents to “be careful about who you allow to have a relationship with your kids.”

F as in fat

One third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to a new report titled F as in Fat 2011.  The childhood pudge percentage has nearly tripled in the past 10 years.

Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia had childhood obesity rates above 20 percent; Illinois was the only non-Southern state above 20 percent (along with the District of Columbia). In 2003, when the last NSCH was conducted, only D.C., Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia were above 20 percent.

Nationwide, the report found that less than one-third of all children ages 6-17 engaged in at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity on a day-to-day basis.

Very obese children should be placed with foster families till they slim down, argue Harvard researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Bad idea, responds bioethicist Art Caplan. After all, 12 percent of U.S. kids are extremely obese.

Ludicrous,” responds Megan McArdle in The Atlantic.

. . . the foster system is already overstretched without adding obesity to catalogue of child abuse and neglect.  It’s also kind of creepy–the sort of thing that gives paternalism a very, very bad name.

Racist, adds Instapundit. African-American children are more likely to be obese.

Adults are getting fatter too.

And it’s not just Americans. As part of a British campaign against obesity, new health guidlines call for children under the age of five — including infants – to exercise daily for at least three hours.

Perfect parents, fragile children

If parents could engineer the perfect child, would he grow up to be unbearable? Katie Roiphe takes on overparenting — familiar ground but always good for a rant — in Slate.

You know the child I am talking about: precious, wide-eyed, over-cared-for, fussy, in a beautiful sweater, or a carefully hipsterish T-shirt. Have we done him a favor by protecting him from everything, from dirt and dust and violence and sugar and boredom and egg whites and mean children who steal his plastic dinosaurs, from, in short, the everyday banging-up of the universe? The wooden toys that tastefully surround him, the all-sacrificing, well-meaning parents, with a library of books on how to make him turn out correctly— is all of it actually harming or denaturing him?

Someone I know tells me that in the mornings, while making breakfast, packing lunches and laying out clothes, she organises an art project for her children. An art project! This sounds impossibly idyllic – imaginative, engaged, laudable. And yet, is it just the slightest bit mad as well? Will the world, with its long lines in the passport office and traffic jams, be able to live up to quite this standard of exquisite stimulation?

It is more than slightly mad. It’s nuts.

It’s good for children to know “that your parents have busy, mysterious lives of their own, in which they sometimes do things that are not entirely dedicated to your entertainment or improvement,” Roiphe writes.

I decided when my child was very young that the greatest gift I could give her was a sane mother. So I didn’t let her do things likely to drive me crazy.  It worked for both of us.

Kids teach each other to use computers

Without adult supervision, children can teach each other to use computers to learn, Professor Sugata Mitra told the TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference. From the BBC:

In 1999, Mitra embedded a computer a computer in the wall of a Delhi building facing a slum. The poorly educated children, who didn’t know English, quickly learned how to access the Internet.

“I repeated the experiment across India and noticed that children will learn to do what they want to learn to do.”

In Rajasthan, children learned “how to record and play music on the computer within four hours of it arriving in their village”

In Cambodia,  he left a computer loaded with a simple math game.

“No child would play with it inside the classroom. If you leave it on the pavement and all the adults go away then they will show off to one another about what they can do,” said Prof Mitra, who now works at Newcastle University in the UK.

He gave computers loaded with biotechnology information (in English) to 26 Tamil-speaking 12-year-olds in south India.  Two months later, children said they hadn’t learned anything, despite using the computers every day.

“Then a 12-year-old girl raised her hand and said ‘apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA contributes to genetic disease — we’ve understood nothing else’.”

Mitra has designed SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments), which consist of a computer with a bench big enough to let four children sit around the screen. “It doesn’t work if you give them each a computer individually,” he said.  He also created a “granny cloud” — 200 volunteers who will video chat with students.

SOLE is being tested in Britain and Italy.