Advice: Society at Large

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Magic Inside and Outside the Classroom: What Harry Potter Teaches Us
Article by Dr. Rao, Excerpt

I recently visited a school where very young Muggles have this experience. There's a new preschool, Drumlin Farm Community Preschool, at Audubon's Wildlife Sanctuary in Massachusetts. The children learn by doing, and their day is spent mostly outside. Even in winter, three to six year olds arrive bundled up. They begin each session outdoors, ready to explore snowy fields, and interact with a dynamic, living ecosystem. The children have purpose, are empowered to participate in chores, and help run a real farm.

. . . These preschoolers are learning basic concepts of biology, chemistry, geography, and developing their math and language skills, but without the usual moans and foot dragging that we see in many American classrooms. These kids aren't stuck indoors, required to sit and keep quiet all day, and they aren't led through standard study guides or told to complete daily worksheets. Read More.

Our Lives Out of Balance
Article by Dr. Rao, Excerpt

Researchers at UCLA have accomplished the near impossible. They tracked and caught on video the real, day-to-day lives of an elusive and enigmatic subject: The American Family.

Near impossible because no one has taken the time and energy to record 24 hours per day, regular families doing regular things in such thorough and minute detail.

While not as entertaining as Jersey Wives or The Apprentice, the miles of video elucidate important trends affecting us all, and paint the best picture to date of who we are as Americans and how our lives are imbalanced and stressed. The families studied were middle class, ethnically varied, straight and gay, had both parents working, and had multiple kids — this is a study that gives us a true snapshot of real America.

Here are a couple of small, but interesting findings that really impact families:

Wait Your Turn!
Article by Dr. Rao, Excerpt

Yesterday at Starbucks, I wanted to yell at the woman standing in line ahead of me. She retrieved her change purse slowly, only after the amount rang up, and counted out coins like they were rare museum relics. She was no rookie. This wasn't her first time buying coffee. I know, because I get often stuck behind her when I go for my afternoon coffee break. She's slow and methodical. That's just the way she is.
All day long we encounter situations like this, but we don't push or shove. Instead, we hit our personal pause buttons. We wait, delay our needs or gratification, and let others have equal share of resources. We'd prefer it was different, that we could always maximize our pleasure and avoid pain, but we've come to understand that that can't be the default setting. It's taken us a lifetime to push back these natural instincts and we're always working at it. We can't be lone wolfs or behave like alpha dogs when it suits us. It's harder for boys to suppress these urges. They are naturally grabby, in your face, powerful, and physically active. Read More.

"The Way of Boys"
Book by Dr. Rao and Michelle Seaton, Excerpt (pp. 8-9)

We're rushing kids through their childhood, as the pace to keep up and compete with one another increases. The world is moving faster, and we all feel it. The stress of our high expectations trickles down, and our young boys often feel it the most. They are not always ready for longer days in school and the higher demands that go along with them. We're expecting too much from them, to sit, listen, and use social skills that won't be fully up and running until they reach the second grade. Even then, many boys have difficulties well into second and third grade. They are struggling to learn in larger classrooms. They are stuck indoors and not moving around, as they are hardwired to do.

. . . What can we do? We should be hiring more male teachers for early grades. Research shows male teachers create a more boy-friendly learning environment. They rely less on language-only techniques and use more hands-on, real-life exploration for learning. Male teachers are also less likely to see active boy behavior negatively, or pathologically, and don't as often refer boys for evaluations. Along these lines, we need to increase physical movement and free play for all children, especially young boys, who are more sedentary than ever. We need to give boys more developmental breathing room, regardless of the pressures and forces trying to move all children ahead faster.

There is another trend we need to address. We need to stop medicalizing our problems and stop turning only to drugs to face our life struggles. The diagnostic criteria for many psychiatric disorders are getting broader and more inclusive of behaviors that a generation ago would have been considered odd or challenging but basically normal, such as social shyness, aggressive behavior, restlessness, bed-wetting, and slight delays in learning to read and write. The good news is that most boys do grow out of these problems, sometimes on their own, and sometimes with only a little help form their parents or a professional to guide their development. Book Info.