Say, You Look Familiar…

by Robert Pondiscio
December 2nd, 2008

Did you hear the one about the porn star who went to work as a teacher’s aide in an elementary school?  It’s no joke.  (HT: Eduwonk)

The New Jersey paper which breaks the story reports the aide’s past was “recently discovered,” without saying exactly how.   The best quote, from the school superintendent:  “We have no real legal stance or legal right to do anything for two reasons — one, it’s not illegal, and two, it’s not on school time.”

Media Overconsumption Linked to Childhood Problems

by Robert Pondiscio
December 2nd, 2008

A sobering report from the National Institutes of Health and Yale University  links media consumption with a laundry list of childhood problems, including obesity; drug, alcohol and tobacco use; early sexuality and low academic achievement.

The review of nearly 200 research efforts spanning 30 years examined how television, music, movies and other media affect the lives of children and adolescents.  It found ”strong connections” between media exposure and problems of childhood obesity, tobacco use and early sexual behavior.  About 80 percent of the studies showed a link between a negative health outcome and media hours or content, the Washington Post reports. 

The average modern child spends nearly 45 hours a week with television, movies, magazines, music, the Internet, cellphones and video games, the study reported. By comparison, children spend 17 hours a week with their parents on average and 30 hours a week in school, the study said.

“Our kids are sponges, and we really need to remember they learn from their environment,” Cary P. Gross, a Yale professor tells the Post, noting that researchers found it notable how much content mattered; it was not only the sheer number of hours of screen time. Children “pick up character traits and behaviors” from those they watch or hear, he said.

A show of hands, please.  Anyone surprised?  Yeah, me neither.

Making Bad Choices

by Robert Pondiscio
December 2nd, 2008

A colleague of mine, a kindergarten teacher, has an arch and winning way of describing bad or questionable behavior or just plain stupidity by people who should know better.  Using the language and tone of her classroom, she will point out how someone “is making a bad choice.”

It seems lots of people, as Ms. Pearson would say, are making bad choices.  A national survey of nearly 30,000 high school students shows that 30 percent admit to stealing from a store in the past year, while two-thirds have cheated on a test.  Against the available evidence, “93 percent were satisfied with their personal ethics and character,” as Joanne Jacobs notes.

Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham says as Americans, we’re not shocked by the survey results because “it’s impossible to be shocked without first being judgmental. And in contemporary America, the only remaining universal sin is to declare anyone else’s behavior sinful.”

When the bullets fly in Dorchester or the blood spills at Wal-Mart, we crank up the Great American Excuse Machine and let fly: Dorchester is violent because of poverty. Scared Americans trample each other at Wal-Mart because of the terrible “Bush economy.” Our kids cheat because academic standards are too high, etc., etc.

“Here’s an idea,” says Graham.  “Let’s try holding someone responsible for his own actions for a change. It wouldn’t be a shock. It would be a revolution.” 

Maybe fewer of us would make bad choices.