How to praise a child

Instead of praising kids for good grades or athletic achievements, parents and teachers should praise children for acting ethically, says Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

Learning by teaching

Student work can illuminate teaching, writes Diana Senechal, who presents three students’ philosophy papers on Gotham Schools. She teaches at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering, a selective public school in New York City partnered with Columbia University. In the school’s Philosophy for Thinking program, “ninth-graders study rhetoric and logic; the 10th-graders, ethics and aesthetics; and the 11th-graders, political philosophy.”

She asked students to write about an ethical dilemma in their own lives or in a work of literature. A 10th-grade boy began:

While I was about to start this assignment, I spent about twenty minutes stressing over the fact that I couldn’t think of anything that made me question ethics. I complained to my mother that I couldn’t think of anything to say. I then asked her whether I should ask Professor Senechal whether I could make it up. Mom raised her eyebrow. “Is that ethical?” she asked.

He turned his dilemma about the assignment into the topic of the assignment, Senechal writes. He went on to analyze philosophical positions on lying, such as “Kant’s argument that any lying results in loss of dignity; utilitarian arguments that lying may be acceptable if it is used to a good end” and more.

He concludes that he is somewhere between Kant and utilitarians. Implicit in the discussion is his decision, for this particular occasion, not to lie.

“Real-life applications of philosophy need not be shallow, if the philosophical thought is strong,” Senechal decided.

College cheaters become adult cheaters

Students who cheat and lie in college are likely to behave dishonestly in the workforce, according to a University of Minnesota study, which relied on self reporting.

Among the types of cheating examined were increasing the margins or typeface to make a paper seem longer, telling an instructor a false reason for missing a class or exam, obtaining questions to an exam from an unauthorized person before a test, writing a paper for someone else and preparing cheat sheets.

Those types of unethical actions in college were found to carry over into the workplace in the forms of taking long lunches, telling an employer a fake reason for missing work, writing a report for a co-worker, filling out a false expense report and presenting the ideas of co-workers as their own.

Dishonesty “tends to carry over” from college to adult life, Nathan Kuncel, the study’s co-author, told BusinessNewsDaily.

Making classroom rules

Who Makes the Rules in a Classroom? asks Nancy Flanagan on Teacher in a Strange Land. According to the latest dogma,  good teachers get students to collectively write their own classroom rules.

It seems democratic and encourages “buy-in,” teachers believe, even if students are just as likely to break their own rules as ones set by teachers.

When Flanagan tried it in her own music classroom, students came up with a list of “don’ts” — as in don’t empty your spit valve on someone else’s chair — but “it never felt as if we were wrestling with the really important issues: Building a functioning community. Safety. Personal dignity. Kindness. Order. Academic integrity. Democracy.”

She offers ideas about creating classroom rules, such as:

 •You’re shooting for influence, not control. Fact is, teachers never have absolute control over kids, even using techniques like fear, punishment, isolation and intimidation. (In edu-speak, “consequences.”) You want kids to behave appropriately because they understand that there are rewards for everyone in a civil classroom.

•No matter what rules you put on paper, your most important job is role-modeling those practices, not enforcing them. Behave the way you want kids to behave: Ignore minor, brainless bids for attention. Make eye contact with speakers. Don’t be an attention hog–your stories aren’t more important than theirs. Don’t be rude to kids. Apologize publicly when you’re wrong. Remember that you’re the adult in the room. It’s your calm presence that institutes order, not rules.

Don’t restate the obvious or load up on “don’ts,” she advises. But do give clear instructions when needed.  ”Stress: order facilitates learning, makes the class a pleasant place to be.”

 •Integrity helps build community. The most important directives in democratic classrooms are around ethical practices: A clear definition of cheating, understood by all students, in the digital age. Why trust and personal best are more important than winning. Why substandard work isn’t ever OK. How true leadership–kids want to be leaders, too– is a function of respect.

“Carrots and sticks” can be counter-productive, Flanagan writes. Students’ good behavior is its own reward: They get to attend a “civil, well-managed” school.

Cheater prospers

I Used to Think … and Now I Think, reflections by education reformers, includes an essay by recently departed Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall, writes John Merrow.

In eight largely self-serving pages, Dr. Hall celebrates her accomplishments. She tells us that it took her three years to bring the school system under her direct control and “to institutionalize strong ethics requirements limiting the school board’s direct involvement with the day-to-day operations of the system.” . . .  Since the Georgia Bureau of Investigation report traces the cheating right to the superintendent’s desk, the sentence resonates with irony.

Hall received nearly $600,000 in bonuses during her time in Atlanta, Merrow notes. “How much of that was for raising test scores (fraudulently) is unclear, but the Board wants to ‘claw back’ those dollars.”

 

Once a cheater, always a cheater

High school cheaters “are far more likely than non-cheaters to lie to their spouses, bosses, and employees when they grow up,” writes Debbie Viadero of Inside School Research.  In a Josephson Institute study, 64 percent of high school students said they’d cheated on an exam in 2008, 42 percent said they’d lied to save money and 30 percent admitted stealing from a store. The study also talked to older people.

The study also found that, regardless of how old they are now, people who cheated in high school were three times more likely to lie to a customer (20% vs. 6%) or inflate an insurance claim (6% vs. 2%) and more than twice as likely to inflate an expense claim (10% vs. 4%) than people who never cheated in high school. The high school cheaters were also twice as likely to lie to or deceive their boss (20% vs. 10%) or lie about their address to get a child into a better school (29% vs. 15%) and one-and-a-half times more likely to lie to spouse or significant other (35% vs. 22%) or cheat on taxes (18% vs. 13%).

Viadero thinks character education would help. I’m dubious.