Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!! Here’s hoping that 2012 brings good health and happiness to parents and children everywhere!!!
Monthly Archives: December 2011
The Opportunity Agenda, a non-profit organization focused on building the national will to expand opportunity in America, has just released a report examining national perceptions of African American men and boys, and the relationship of these perceptions to mass media. This extensive research project was designed to determine how to better and more effectively communicate the need to improve opportunities for Black males around the country.
To create this report, The Opportunity Agenda commissioned studies of media representations and their impact on Black men and boys; a survey of public opinion research related to Black male achievement; and a study of media consumption trends among Black men. The executive summary of this research can be found here.
As the Opportunity Agenda notes, the studies shed light on and explain patterns they thought to be true, and also reveal new ones. For example, one of the best-documented themes in the research is the distortion of reality in the overall presentation of Black men and boys in a variety of ways. Research shows that distorted media representations can impact perceptions and attitudes toward African-American males and affect many aspects of their lives, from receiving harsher sentencing by judges to having a lower likelihood than whites of being hired for a job and admitted to school. This will probably not surprise many of us. But the report goes on to posit that distorted media depictions can also affect African-American males’ self-perceptions and lead to diminished self-esteem and lower performance in cognitive contexts, among other detrimental effects. In the end, it suggests, Black men are among their own harshest critics.
The report concludes that one of the most important avenues for changing these perceptions within and without the Black community is the mass media, with its significant power to shape popular ideas and attitudes. It suggests a number of ways to help create social change in this arena, including actively promoting fuller and more accurate portrayals of Black men and boys in media, embedding more African-Americans in all links of the media production chain, and drawing attention to changing structures and systems, versus focusing on the effects of “personal racism”. The report promotes using its research to help understand how to reframe public conversations about expanding opportunities for Black men and boys, and thus determine ways to promote change most effectively.
Rather than just report the relatively sorry state of media perceptions of Black men and boys, the Opportunity Agenda’s research offers ways to figure out what can be done about it. This report is a very interesting and informative read.
Today’s New York Times has a full-page ad courtesy of Baylor University celebrating Robert Griffin III’s winning the 2011 Heisman Trophy. (For those of you without access to a hard copy of the Times, here is a link to a not so great shot of the ad).
Above a large picture of Griffin in uniform, smiling as he holds a football, the first paragraph begins:
“He has studied Latin, rhetoric in society, and international law. He graduated in just three years and will earn his master’s degree this spring. His future interests include law school.”
The next paragraph continues: “He is also an exceptional athlete. In fact, Robert Griffin III has been awarded this year’s Heisman Trophy…”
The tagline is “Excellence. This is Baylor University”. And below Griffin’s picture are the words: “Robert Griffin III, Student and Athlete”.
Our hearty congratulations to Robert Griffin III for this well deserved honor. Makes us all so proud to see this young man with such superb academic accomplishments and such amazing athletic abilities. His future is blindingly bright.
And two thumbs up for Baylor University, for getting its priorities right in heralding his academics over his athletic honors!!!
In an earlier post, GCP covered New Jersey Police Detective Sergeant Thomas Rich’s presentation on sexting (Texting, Sexting: What You and Your Children Should Know, November 22, 2011). Today’s focus is cyberbullying, featuring perspectives from Sgt. Rich and others.
Cyberbullying, says Sgt. Rich, is “the next generation of hate”. He recommends that we teach our children that their words are like bullets; once you pull the trigger on a comment you can’t get it back. Saying “I was only joking” or “I’m sorry” after the fact doesn’t change anything. Children feel empowered to write mean comments when they are far from their target; Rich calls this “keyboard courage”. Tell your child that if he wouldn’t say something to someone in person, don’t say it on-line. Be clear that if he receives negative comments about someone else, he should delete them, don’t comment and don’t forward them on.
Some of the newer websites that enable you to talk to strangers (e.g., http://www.ChatRoulette.com) make it easier for children to be anonymously mean, and expose them to incredibly inappropriate behavior. A good way to ask your child if he knows about these sites (without inadvertently encouraging him to visit them) is to ask if any of his friends have mentioned these sites (e.g., ChatRoulette) and if so, what he has heard about them. Don’t be surprised if even your middle schooler knows about them. Without pushing the panic button, explain how dangerous these sites can be.
The Cyberbullying Research Center (
)is filled with resources to uncover and combat cyberbullying. Their factsheet, “Cyberbullying Identification, Prevention and Response”, which is available on their site and found here, is a very informative series of questions and answers about the effects of cyberbullying and how to stop it. Warning signs that a child may be a victim of cyberbullying include: if the child abruptly and unexpectedly stops using his computer or cell phone for long periods of time, appears nervous when an instant message, text or email appears, is uneasy about going to school or outside in general, or becomes abnormally withdrawn from friends and family members.
What can you do if your child is cyberbullied? According to the Center, the most important thing to do is to make sure your child feels (and is) safe and secure, and provide him with unconditional support. Let him know through your words and actions that you want what he wants, which is for the cyberbullying to stop, in a way that does not make his life even more difficult. Your child needs to know that any intervention on your part will be rational and logical, and that you are completely on his side. If it makes sense to do so, you should seek his input on how the situation can improve. You should explain to him the importance of meeting with school administrators (or a teacher you and your son trust) to discuss the matter, and you may also want to contact the father or mother of the offender. It is very important that you cultivate and maintain an open and candid line of communication with your son, so that he is willing to come to you if he is being victimized.
What if your child is the cyberbully? The Cyberbully Research Center says this could be the case if your child is acting in ways that are inconsistent with his usual behavior when using the computer or cell phone. Suspicious behavior can include: quickly switching screens or closing programs when you walk by, avoiding discussions about what he is doing on the computer or cell phone, using multiple online accounts or an account that is not his own. How can you help a cyberbully change his ways? We’ve combined recommendations from the Center and Olweus, a national bullying prevention training program, to offer the following suggestions:
Acknowledge the problem. Let your child know that you are aware of the bullying, that you take it seriously and that you will not tolerate it. Explain to him how that behavior inflicts harm and causes pain in the real world as well as in cyberspace.
Teach your child the consequences of his actions. Depending on the level of seriousness of the incident, and whether it seems that the child has realized the hurtful nature of his behavior, consequences should be firmly applied, and escalated if the behavior continues. If the incident was particularly severe, parents may want to consider installing tracking or filtering software, or removing technology privileges altogether for a period of time.
Be an involved, hands-on parent. Monitor your child’s activities, especially the time spent on the computer and phone to make sure that he has internalized the lesson and is acting in responsible ways. If the school is involved, keep the lines of communication open with school officials and teachers. Know who your child’s friends are.
Teach and model positive behavior. Reinforce kind, compassionate behavior, and make sure you demonstrate these behaviors yourself.
Seek professional help for your child if needed. Bullying can be a sign of other serious antisocial behavior, which may require more help than parents are qualified to give.
Here’s a “Letter from a Parent to His Son’s Teacher” which has made the rounds on the Internet. While it is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, this attribution has been sufficiently disputed by historians to render it weak at best and probably false. Regardless of its authorship, the thoughtful advice in this passage is worth reprinting here. While it is billed as advice to a teacher, consider it advice for parents as well, as we think about how to help our sons grow from boys to men.
* * *
My son will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true.
But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader.
Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.
It will take time, I know; but teach him if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found.
Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning, steer him away from envy, if you can.
Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Let him learn early that bullies are easiest to lick.
Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books…but also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hillside.
In school, teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat…
Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong.
Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough.
Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the bandwagon.
Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad.
Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness.
Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders, but never to put a price on his heart and soul.
Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob…and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right.
Treat him gently; but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.
Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave.
Teach him always to have sublime faith in humankind.
This is a big order, but see what you can do. He is such a fine little fellow my son!”
* * *
Thanks, Jemina Bernard, for sending this our way!
Back in March, GCP told you about Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.com) and its math and science tutorials online. (“GCP Sidebar: Homework Helpers”, March 3, 2011) This semester, 36 schools nationwide are incorporating Khan Academy tutorials and software in their classroom instruction. Teachers across the country are combining their in-class lessons with computer based lectures and exercises devised by Salman Khan’s Khan Academy.
What differentiates Khan Academy’s classroom materials from the many other software offerings from companies trying to get a piece of the educational market is that Khan Academy’s materials, like their online tutorials, are free. As Khan, a math whiz who was raised by a single mother and attended public schools in Louisiana, explains in an article in today’s New York Times, found here, “The core of our mission is to give material to people who need it…[W]hy shouldn’t it be free?” Khan Academy is supported by grants from Bill Gates and other Silicon Valley giants, but their future fund-raising plans include establishing an endowment and developing educational summer camp programs.
The Khan Academy classroom materials, like the online tutorials, focus on math and science. Teachers are finding them helpful for their students who need to master fundamentals before moving on to higher level concepts. The materials allow students to measure their progress through exercises and quizzes, and the students are not able to move on to the next concept until they have mastered the one before them. Teachers can monitor students working with these materials from a central laptop, and can determine when the class is fully ready to move on to the next lesson.
“Math is a language for thinking”, says Salman Khan. Bravo to Khan and Khan Academy for creating ways to help students master this language, and for making their materials free and accessible to all.
Encourage your sons (and your daughters) to check out the tutorials on Khan Academy.
It’s parent teacher conference season! What’s the best way to ensure that you get the most out of your limited time with your son’s teachers during the conference? Check out these links for some helpful tips and ideas:
“Acing Parent Teacher Conferences”, published last year in the Wall Street Journal;
A To-Do List for Parent Teacher Conferences from Education.com;
A guide to parent teacher conferences offered by the NYC Department of Education;
A tip sheet for parents (and one for principals and teachers, too) from the Harvard Family Research Project.
As you prepare for the conference, it is important to remember that this process is not easy for the teachers either. It can be difficult to talk with a parent about his or her child’s weaknesses, and parents can be quite intimidating in this situation. If you are meeting with a teacher in whose class your son is having trouble, try to avoid being defensive. Suggest ways for the teacher to better reach your child, and share information about what has worked in the past.
Most importantly, make opportunities to connect with teachers outside of the conference period. Establishing regular communication with your son’s teachers makes it much easier to discuss any issues with them.