Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Latest Lesson from Hip-Hop…Science!

Today’s news item, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal, will impress even the most anti-hip-hop parent: GZA, founding member of the renowned and revered rap group The Wu-Tang Clan, is busily working on his next album “Dark Matter”, which is designed to get his fans as excited as he is about science. Yes, science. According to the article, found here, GZA has been meeting with top physicists and cosmologists at MIT and Cornell University, and been hanging out at the Hayden Plantarium with its director, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, researching principles of physics and the origin and development of the universe. GZA marvels at how science is involved in so much of our daily experience, from the creation of an ice cube to the structure of a soccer ball, and how little people know about it. He hopes to change this with “Dark Matter”, and plans to package it with an illustrated book which may also include lyrics and a glossary, his version of “an epic textbook”.

“Dark Matter” is just the first of a series of science related albums GZA is planning. Next on his list is an album about the science of the sea. He has already started his research on that project, meeting with marine biologists and environmental scientists. The scientists appreciate the attention and the mission. MIT professor Penny Chisholm, who met with GZA last year, noted, “He could play an important role in getting various messages out through his art form–about the earth, and science. That’s why I’ve become a fan”. GZA hopes his long time fans will be excited about this new project as well. While he acknowledges that some of them will think an album about physics is “boring”, he believes that they will put aside this prejudice and allow his album to spark their curiosity. “I don’t think people have ever really been in touch with science” he notes, but that could change with “Dark Matter”.

Parents who are wary of letting their younger children listen to hip-hop can rest easy with respect to “Dark Matter”. As GZA explains, “There’s no parental advisory, no profanity, no nudity,” he said. “The only thing that’s going to be stripped bare is the planets.”

Way to go GZA!! If this gets our children and their parents thinking and learning about physics and the cosmos while bopping to a funky beat, we are all for it!! Can’t wait to hear it. What do you think? Will you buy or download “Dark Matter” when it comes out in the fall?

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For the Tucks, Reading is Fundamental and Fun

Take a look at this charming NY Times story, found here, about how Giants leading defensive end Justin Tuck and his wife Lauran’s commitment to children’s literacy is evident in their charitable organization, R.U.S.H. for Literacy, and in their parenting of their adorable two-year old son.

This is a great story on so many levels. It is lovely to see a family focused on parenting their son well, good to see a professional athlete who is a college graduate (Notre Dame ’05) and appreciates the value of his off-the-field education, and heartening to see that Justin and Lauran (who was at Notre Dame with him and was just awarded a graduate degree this year from the University of Pennsylvania) understand the importance of being philanthropic, giving back and helping others. Good stuff.

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Reading Matters!

Interesting article in the Huffington Post by Lisa Bloom, who has written a book called , “Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture”. (Provocative title, no?) Bloom, a lawyer and television journalist, focuses on the national under achievement of boys across racial and economic lines, and “the cultural forces which are dumbing down our boys”.

In this article, found here, she highlights the importance of encouraging boys to read, by making your home “a reading mecca”, and modeling for your son that reading is “your default pleasure activity”. Her research has indicated that many boys believe reading to be a “girlie” activity, in part because they are more accustomed to seeing Mom reading than they are to seeing Dad buried in a book. “Time to turn that ship around”, says Bloom, and let these boys see both parents and other role models (male and female) regularly reading. Not just reading, but talking about books, raving about books they’ve read, recommending books, reading to them, reading with them, side by side.

Sounds good to me. How do you encourage your sons to read? One of my sons is an avid reader, the other loves his English classes but is unlikely to pick up a book he hasn’t been assigned in his spare time. I am always looking for ways to encourage them both to read more. Would love to hear what works for you, especially as we approach the season of summer reading. Gotta keep those skills sharp for next September!!!

Thanks to Oliver C. Sutton III, proud father of two young sons, for the heads up on this article!

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Financial Literacy for Children

Today’s Wall Street Journal includes a story of how one family has started their son on the road to financial literacy using his allowance. The article, found here, features adorable Ryan Emah, a 7 year old second grader, who gets $3.00 a week from his parents for fufilling “basic expectations ” like emptying the dishwasher and folding clothes. He and his mother use the website threejars.com to help him manage his money. He divides his weekly allotment among three “jars”: saving, spending and charitable giving. In a wise move, his mother set up the virtual savings account with a high interest rate–she used 28 percent–so that Ryan can see and understand how interest builds on even a small amount of savings. Ryan dips into his spending jar to buy a new Beyblade as often as he can, and is considering where he will donate the funds from his charitable account.

It is very important for our sons (and daughters) to learn financial literacy. How are you working with your children to make sure they become responsible money managers? As this article demonstrates, you can start when they are young, and there are websites available to help you. GCP will be researching and sharing tips for helping your children understand the value of money and the benefits of saving and investing it. Stay tuned!

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Math, Resources

Boy Books!

Here’s a list of “Boy Books”, courtesy of the Eagle Academy Foundation, who hosted its third annual “Saving Our Sons” Professional Development Institute Conference this week in New York City. The Foundation has established and runs a series of all male, grades 6 through 12, college-preparatory schools in challenged, urban communities. They’ve opened three schools in New York City and are preparing to open its fourth in Newark, NJ this fall.

These books could be appealing summer reading for your middle school or older sons. Here at GCP we know and love some of these books, but others are new to us. We will continue to add to this list. Let us know what your boys think of these books, and send us info on their favorites.

The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie

Junior, a 14 year old boy growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, makes the tough decision to leave his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. He struggles through the consequences of this choice when his new classmates shun him and his old friends and tribe turn against him.

Flight
by Sherman Alexie

“Call me Zits” begins the story of an orphaned 15 year old Irish/ Native American boy with a bad attitude who is constantly in trouble with the law. When he is shot while randomly shooting people in a bank he becomes a time traveler, going back and forth through time in a charged search for his true identity. Flight follows the troubled teenager as he learns that violence is not the answer.

Twisted
Laurie Halse Anderson

High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got arrested for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who is his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. That sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.

Letters to a Young Brother
Hill Harper

Harper, a young black actor and graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, offers young men inspirational advice in a down-to-earth style. This unique compilation of letters provides wisdom, guidance, and heartfelt insight to help the reader chart their own path to success. to young men clamoring for advice and encouragement at a time when popular culture offers little positive direction.

The First Part Last
by Angela Johnson

16 year old Bobby has to struggle through the responsibilities of single fatherhood after his girlfriend Nia has a baby while they are in high school, and he has to deal with raising their daughter alone.


Heat

Mike Lupica

12 year old Michael Arroyo has talent and ambition on the baseball field. But Michael and his brother, 17-year-old Carlos, have a problem: their father, who was their only living relative, has died, and the boys are hoping to avoid a foster home by pretending Papi is visiting a sick relative in Miami. When a rival accuses him of being older than the Little League limit, with no parents and a birth certificate stuck in his native Cuba, Michael’s secret world is blown wide open, and he discovers that family can come from the most unexpected sources.

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Top Universities Offering Free Online Classes

We at GCP are keenly focused on the advances in online education, and they are coming fast and furiously. MIT and Harvard recently announced a new nonprofit partnership known as EdX which will offer free online courses from both universities. EdX, which is expected to offer its first five courses this fall, will be overseen by a nonprofit organization governed equally by the two universities, each of which has committed $30 million to the project.

M.I.T. and Harvard officials said they would use the new online platform not just to build a global community of online learners, but also to research teaching methods and technologies. In a Boston Globe article about this project found here, Alan Garber, Harvard’s provost who is leading this effort on Harvard’s behalf, said that the venture gives both schools a chance to “collect data that simply hasn’t existed. How much time do students spend with different elements? Do people who go back and repeat a video segment learn better, or worse?’’

Harvard and MIT aren’t the only elite colleges teaming up to offer courses online. This month, Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan announced their partnership with a new commercial company, Coursera. Coursera now offers 40 courses online, taught by professors from these schools, in a variety of subjects areas, including “Humanities and Social Sciences”, “Mathematics and Statistics”, “Economics, Finance and Business”, and “Society, Networks and Information”.

The online class world is exploding. We should encourage our sons (and daughters) in high school and beyond to explore these learning opportunities, and we should check them out ourselves. Maybe you and your son can take a class together!

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Filed under Academics, Ages 16-18, College Bound Students

It’s Teacher Appreciation Day!

Take a minute to stop and think about how a teacher improved your life or the life of your son. What power they have to open eyes to new ways of thinking! They deserve our appreciation and respect for their important work in a very challenging profession.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, here are a few quotes which celebrate teachers. Think about passing one or two on to a deserving teacher.

“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well”
Alexander the Great

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
Henry Adams

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.”
Dan Rather

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”
Donald Quinn

”Often, when I am reading a good book, I stop and thank my teacher.”
Anonymous

“Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.”
Colleen Wilcox

“What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state than that of the man who instructs the rising generation.”
–Marcus Tullius Cicero

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist, and that there are as few as there are other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”
–John Steinbeck

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The Great Debates 2012

You may have known that the film “The Great Debaters”, in which historically Black Wiley College’s debate team beat Harvard University’s debaters, was based upon the true story of the Wiley College debate coach and his team. But did you know that actual Great Debates are being held annually, and that you and your children may be able to attend one?

The Connecticut NAACP recently hosted its fourth annual formal parliamentary debate between teams from one of the historically Black colleges and an Ivy League university. This year’s matchup was between Morehouse College and Yale University, both of whom have very strong debate teams. Moderated by news commentator Marc Lamont Hill, the debate was held in front of a packed house in New Haven’s Schubert Theater. One of the topics debated was the validity of the “Stand Your Ground” laws that have been in the forefront of the news after the Trayvon Martin killing.

The theater was filled with an attentive and enthusiastic audience which included many students from the tri-state area. In the New Haven Register’s article about the debate, found here, moderator Hill was very impressed to see young people in the audience “excited not just about sports, not what someone did on Twitter or Facebook, not just some celebrity gossip, but to see people excited about ideas.” In an exchange with GCP about the Yale event, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous noted, “It is quite something to see 1600 6-12 graders on the edge of their seats for hours of debate. Most had never seen a debate before, many had never visited a college campus before, and the entire audience was thoroughly engaged.”

Building upon the big success of the Connecticut debates, which are the brainchild of Connecticut NAACP State Conference President Scot Esdaile, the NAACP national office is expanding this program across the country. They hosted a debate in Washington, D.C. last year between Yale and Howard and are currently planning the next debate, which will be held in early July in Houston. If you will be in the Houston area at that time and would like to attend this debate, you can contact NAACP South Western Regional Director Carmen Watkins at cwatkins@naacpnet.org.

Kudos to the NAACP for reviving this great tradition! If you’d like to support them in these efforts, you can contact Moneese DeLara, Senior Vice President for Development, at mdelara@naacpnet.org.

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Lose Your Inner Ostrich!

Last week GCP attended a Common Sense Media lunch where a panel of experts discussed the impact of media on the self-esteem and body image of boys and girls. Expertly moderated by Nightline co-anchor Cynthia McFadden, the panel featured Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire magazine, Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and school consultant specializing in children’s social and emotional development, Mitch Marrow, a former NFL player turned businessman who is focused on young athletes’ issues with gaining and losing weight, and Amy Guggenheim Shenkan, President and COO of Common Sense Media. After a lively discussion of how images in all forms of media, especially social media, impact our children’s self-esteem and body image, the panelists concluded that parents should:

*teach their children to be critical consumers of media by watching videos, etc. with them and using what they see as a basis for discussion.

*talk to their kids about how to interpret and understand the many messages they are getting from their regular interaction with television, music, video games, and websites, especially social media sites;

*get smart about how to access and operate in their children’s digital world. The Common Sense Media curriculum available on its website (www.commonsensemedia.org) is a helpful tool for smart media consumption.

This last bit of advice needs repeating: Parents need to be aware of and savvy about the various sites their children use to communicate with each other and the outside world. So often I hear parents dismiss the concept of getting a Facebook page or taking the time to understand Twitter and Tumblr and why their children are using them. “I can barely figure out the apps on my cell phone” they complain. “I’m just not a technical person”. Or “My children would never friend me, they’d kill me if I followed them on Twitter, and I really don’t want to know what they are doing and saying anyway.” Or “I want them to have the freedom to have their own space; they need to have their privacy”. These parents are succumbing to their inner ostriches, burying their heads in the sand so that they don’t have to deal with what they don’t want to know or understand. With all the unfiltered stuff that is floating around in cyberspace, we can’t afford not to know what our children are encountering. Even if you consider yourself an old dog, you’re still in charge of puppies, so you have to learn new tricks to keep up with them.

How do you get smart about the fast changing social media landscape? As noted above, Common Sense Media’s site can be very helpful to give you some basic information. Their “Review and Advice” section explains and rates a variety of popular social networking sites. What else can you do? Look around the web for sites which explain the latest social media sites; there are plenty “social media 101″ sites on the web. Once you have a sense of what’s out there, ask your son or daughter what sites they like to use. Be curious, not critical, and you might be surprised by how willing they are to allow you to peek into their digital world.

To be clear, it is not necessary or even advisable to stalk your son or daughter on Facebook or Twitter every day. Nor should you feel compelled to regularly chat with them about the mundane stuff you see there. Just check in from time to time. Unless your child is eager to engage with you about what’s posted on his page, try to avoid weighing in on anything unless you see something potentially harmful. And if you do, try to avoid a judgmental tone in your discussion. Your son is more likely to hear and understand how something could be harmful if he is not feeling defensive about your having found it on his page.

Be sure to focus on the pictures as well. It is astonishing how naïve even the most sophisticated young social networker can be about the accessibility of the photos and posts on these sites. Schools, recruiters and employers can and often do manage to gain access to them, even without knowing the passwords. See GCP’s earlier post, “Parent’s Guide to Social Networking” (March 28, 2011) for some additional tips.

The bottom line is that like it or not, we need to get smart about the various sites our children are regularly visiting and communicating through. Pull your head out of the sand and make the effort to research what you don’t know.

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