Where The Smart Kids Are

The Brilliant Blog, by Annie Murphy Paul

Friday, August 23, 2013

Note to Brilliant readers: What follows is my review of a new book by journalist Amanda Ripley, “The Smartest Kids In The World: And How They Got That Way.” The review will appear on the cover of this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. I found Ripley’s book to be powerful and persuasive reading, and thought I’d share my take on it with you.—Annie

“If you want the American dream, go to Finland.” These blunt words from a British politician, quoted by Amanda Ripley in “The Smartest Kids in the World,” may lead readers to imagine that her book belongs to a very particular and popular genre. We love to read about how other cultures do it better (stay slim, have sex, raise children). In this case, Ripley is offering to show how other nations educate students so much more effectively than we do, and her opening pages hold out a promising suggestion of masochistic satisfaction. “American educators described Finland as a silky paradise,” she writes, “a place where all the teachers were admired and all the children beloved.”

The appeal of these books, which include “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” “Bringing Up Bébé” and “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (excerpted in The Wall Street Journal under the headline “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”), comes from the opportunity to wallow enjoyably in envy and self-loathing — and then to close the cover, having changed nothing. We’re Americans, after all. We’re not really going to do it the Chinese way or the French way, superior as they may be.

But Ripley, a contributor to Time magazine and The Atlantic and an Emerson fellow at the New America Foundation (where I am also a fellow), has a more challenging, and more interesting, project in mind. Yes, she travels to Finland to observe the “Nordic robots” who achieve such remarkably high scores on international tests — and to South Korea and Poland, two other nations where students handily surpass Americans’ mediocre performance. In the best tradition of travel writing, however, she gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures, and manages to make our own culture look newly strange.

In reporting her book, Ripley made the canny choice to enlist “field agents” who could penetrate other countries’ schools far more fully than she: three American students, each studying abroad for a year. Kim, a restless 15-year-old from rural Oklahoma, heads off to Finland, a place she had only read about, “a snow-castle country with white nights and strong coffee.” Instead, what she finds is a trudge through the cold dark, to a dingy school with desks in rows and an old-fashioned chalkboard — not an iPad or interactive whiteboard in sight. What Kim’s school in the small town of Pietarsaari does have is bright, talented teachers who are well trained and love their jobs.

This is the first hint of how Finland does it: rather than “trying to reverse engineer a high-performance teaching culture through dazzlingly complex performance evaluations and value-added data analysis,” as we do, they ensure high-quality teaching from the beginning, allowing only top students to enroll in teacher-training programs, which are themselves far more demanding than such programs in America. A virtuous cycle is thus initiated: better-prepared, better-trained teachers can be given more autonomy, leading to more satisfied teachers who are also more likely to stay on.

Kim soon notices something else that’s different about her school in Pietarsaari, and one day she works up the courage to ask her classmates about it. “Why do you guys care so much?” Kim inquires of two Finnish girls. “I mean, what makes you work hard in school?” The students look baffled by her question. “It’s school,” one of them says. “How else will I graduate and go to university and get a good job?” It’s the only sensible answer, of course, but its irrefutable logic still eludes many American students, a quarter of whom fail to graduate from high school. Ripley explains why: Historically, Americans “hadn’t needed a very rigorous education, and they hadn’t gotten it. Wealth had made rigor optional.” But now, she points out, “everything had changed. In an automated, global economy, kids needed to be driven; they need to know how to adapt, since they would be doing it all their lives. They needed a culture of rigor.”

Rigor on steroids is what Ripley finds in South Korea, the destination of another of her field agents. Eric, who attended an excellent public school back home in Minnesota, is shocked at first to see his classmates in the South Korean city of Busan dozing through class. Some wear small pillows that slip over their wrists, the better to sleep with their heads on their desks. Only later does he realize why they are so tired — they spend all night studying at hagwons, the cram schools where Korean kids get their real education.

Ripley introduces us to Andrew Kim, “the $4 million teacher,” who makes a fortune as one of South Korea’s most in-demand hagwon instructors, and takes us on a ride-along with Korean authorities as they raid hagwons in Seoul, attempting to enforce a 10 p.m. study curfew. Academic pressure there is out of control, and government officials and school administrators know it — but they are no match for ambitious students and their parents, who understand that passing the country’s stringent graduation exam is the key to a successful, prosperous life.

Ripley is cleareyed about the serious drawbacks of this system: “In Korea, the hamster wheel created as many problems as it solved.” Still, if she had to choose between “the hamster wheel and the moon bounce that characterized many schools in the United States,” she would reluctantly pick the hamster wheel: “It was relentless and excessive, yes, but it also felt more honest. Kids in hamster-wheel countries knew what it felt like to grapple with complex ideas and think outside their comfort zone; they understood the value of persistence. They knew what it felt like to fail, work harder and do better. They were prepared for the modern world.” Not so American students, who are eased through high school only to discover, too late, that they lack the knowledge and skill to compete in the global economy.

The author’s third stop is Poland, a country that has scaled the heights of international test-score rankings in record time by following the formula common to Finland and South Korea: well-trained teachers, a rigorous curriculum and a challenging exam required of all graduating seniors. In the city of Wroclaw, Ripley meets up with Tom, a bookish teenager from Pennsylvania, and discovers yet another difference between the schools in top-performing countries and those in the United States. In Tom’s hometown high school, Ripley observes, sports were “the core culture.” Four local reporters show up to each football game. In Wroclaw, “sports simply did not figure into the school day; why would they? Plenty of kids played pickup soccer or basketball games on their own after school, but there was no confusion about what school was for — or what mattered to kids’ life chances.”

It’s in moments like these that Ripley succeeds in making our own culture and our own choices seem alien — quite a feat for an institution as familiar and fiercely defended as high school. The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes. For all our griping about American education, Ripley notes, we’ve got the schools we want.

Parent Summer Reading Books

Summer reading suggestions from Independent School Management and from NAIS President Pat Bassett:

The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck—101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers
by Ron Clark
In his New York Times bestseller The End of Molasses Classes, renowned educator Ron Clark challenged parents, teachers, and communities everywhere to make a real difference in the lives of our kids, offering revolutionary and classroom-tested ways to uplift, educate, and empower our children. Read this book to find out why so many across the country have embraced these powerful rules.How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
by Paul Tough
How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators, who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough reveals how this new knowledge can transform young people’s lives. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. This provocative and profoundly hopeful book will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

• Susan Eva Porter’s Bully Nation: Why America’s Approach to Childhood Aggression Is Bad for Everyone is far from just another “little shop of horrors” accounting of the deleterious effects of bullying and the stern discipline and strictures adults should apply to stem it. In fact, it’s just the opposite: a contrarian view of the universal and timeless realities of childhood aggression, the damage adults do by overreacting to run-of-the-mill social tussles and micro-aggressions that are normal, and the deleterious impact of reducing admittedly painful playground conflicts into just three blanket categories: bully, victim, and bystander (the latter now instantly guilty by association, or by inaction to intervene).

Filled with scores of revealing case studies she has witnessed, or counseled about as a child and school psychologist, Porter’s huge contribution is an attempt to reverse the dangerous trend she sees that oversimplifies, misreads, and over-amplifies much of what is now called bullying — such as exclusion at the lunch table in the school cafeteria, or from the pick-up dodge ball game on the playground, or the smarmy cuts on social media. Moreover, when parents of kids who are the target of teasing, unkind remarks, social exclusion, or more serious bullying want a black and white “crime” with capital punishment (“throw them out of school”), and schools adopt inflexible and unrealistic “zero tolerance” policies, we now teach some kids that they are incorrigibly bad to the core and others that they are helpless victims, lessons that are both over-reactions and examples of unhealthy adult “fixed” mindsets rather than “growth” mindsets.

What truly hurts, social pain, is just another in a long list of what seems, at the time, cataclysmic challenges pre-adolescents and adolescents face, and for which they need the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop the “grittiness” necessary to survive the turbulence of life. For those who truly want to understand the subtleties of what bullying is about, Bully Nation is an important contribution to the canon. Reading the book to learn how the parable of Buddha, the suffering woman, and the mustard seed apply is worth the time and effort alone. And considering that the new and wildly expanded definition of bullying “is more about today’s parenting than about child aggression” is a worthy counterpoint to conventional wisdom on the subject, because adults now “conflate desire for children to behave well with children’s ability to do so.” This book is a must-read for parents and educators, who will learn the truth of Mark Twain’s observation that “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

• Catherine Steiner-Adair, school and family psychologist and clinical instructor at the Department of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, offers in her new book, The Big Disconnect, a compelling accounting of how technology has become for families “our new home page,” the central organizing factor of our lives, focus, and relationships (or lack thereof). While Steiner-Adair acknowledges the advantages of the wired world, she develops convincingly the observation by psychiatrist Gene Cohen that technology’s powerful stimulation, hyper-connectivity, and interactivity are, for children and adolescents, like “chocolate to the brain,” and argues that parents unwittingly have accepted technology not just as the digital babysitter, but more disturbingly, allowed it to become “the third parent.” This book would be a great assignment for faculty/parent book clubs.

• Abigail James’ The Parents’ Guide to Boys: Help Your Son Get the Most Out of School and Life is yet another tour de force entry in her pantheon of books on gender-specific insights on parenting and teaching, this one on boys, revealing that, to quote Plato, ” Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable.” James’ work is Scout-handbook, chock-full of good guidance for parents of boys at all ages, “from 18 months to 90 years of age.” Given that boys are increasingly struggling at home and at school, this book arrives just in the nick of time for us to do something about the crisis. Nuggets include teaching your son that…

  • Failure is the first step towards success.
  • Getting your own way comes at a high cost — making others unhappy or angry.
  • Extrinsic motivation, like money, is temporary.
  • You are your son’s life teacher, not his academic coach.
  • You won’t do your son’s homework — since, like Tom Sawyer, if he can get someone else to do his work, he will.

James’ List of 10 Things to Do for Your Sons:

  • Read to your son every night.
  • Turn off the TV and computer (or at least limit the amount of access).
  • Talk and sing with your son.
  • Play games with him.
  • Let him play by himself or with others without adult interference.
  • Allow him to take risks.
  • Give him chores.
  • Teach him the value of money.
  • Teach him to respect others.
  • Make no threats, only promises.

 

Notable Children’s Books of 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas From the Children’s Book Review Editor of The New York Times

Illustration by Julia Rothman

This year’s notable children’s books — the best in picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction, selected by the children’s book editor of The New York Times Book Review.

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YOUNG ADULT

BITTERBLUE. By Kristin Cashore. (Dial, $19.99.) The companion to “Graceling” and “Fire,” this beautiful, haunting and thrilling high fantasy about a young queen and her troubled kingdom stands on its own.

CODE NAME VERITY. By Elizabeth Wein. (Hyperion, $16.99.) This tale of a spy and a fighter pilot during World War II is at heart a story about female ­friendship.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. By John Green. (Dutton, $17.99.) An improbable but predictably wrenching love story about two teenage cancer patients, written in Green’s signature tone, humorous yet heart-filled.

JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS. By Katherine Marsh. (Hyperion, $16.99.) A dwarf at court in 16th-century Denmark is the surprising hero in this novel, which also features the real-life astronomer Tycho Brahe, an eccentric Danish nobleman.

NEVER FALL DOWN. By Patricia McCormick. (Balzer & Bray/Harper­Collins, $17.99.) This novelized memoir tells the tragic but inspiring life story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a boy who was 9 years old when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia.

SON. By Lois Lowry. (Houghton Mifflin, $17.99.) In the conclusion to the dystopian “Giver” quartet, Lowry returns to the story of a mother searching for her lost son. “A quiet, sorrowful, deeply moving exploration of the powers of empathy and the obligations of love,” our reviewer said.

MIDDLE GRADE

BEYOND COURAGE: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust. By Doreen Rappaport. (Candlewick, $22.99.) This book about the Holocaust dwells on the choice to fight and resist rather than the road to death. A lively, absorbing and eye-opening history for young readers.

THE FALSE PRINCE. By Jennifer A. Nielsen. (Scholastic, $17.99.) Four orphaned boys and would-be princes are captured in a treacherous medieval kingdom in the first book of a new series. Adam Gopnik, our reviewer, called it a “page turner” and praised its “persuasively surly and defiant character, and a realistic vein of violence.”

HAND IN HAND: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. (Disney-Jump at the Sun, $19.99.) Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Barack Obama feature in this collection.

THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM. By Christopher Healy. Illustrated by Todd Harris. (Walden Pond/HarperCollins, $16.99.) The enchanting premise of this story is that four Princes Charming, carried over from their fairy tales of origin, must band together to track down Cinderella and restore harmony to their kingdom.

THE LAST DRAGONSLAYER. By Jasper Fforde. (Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99.) A 15-year-old orphan, indentured to magicians, in a world where dragons are dying out. Fforde’s first book for young readers.

LIAR & SPY. By Rebecca Stead. (Wendy Lamb, $15.99.) A bunch of misfits star in this contemporary tale, Stead’s follow-up to her Newbery Medal-winning “When You Reach Me.”

THE SECRET TREE. By Natalie Standiford. (Scholastic, $16.99.) Two children, a summer and a tree that tells secrets in this story about neighborhood kids.

SEE YOU AT HARRY’S. By Jo Knowles. (Candlewick, $16.99.) With four siblings at its center, Knowles’s story is about a family who run a restaurant and the commonplace and serious traumas they face.

SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS. By Laura Amy Schlitz. (Candlewick, $17.99.) A Gothic novel, from the Newbery-winning author, about three children and a master puppeteer in Dickensian London.

“WHO COULD THAT BE AT THIS HOUR?” By Lemony Snicket. Illustrated by Seth. (Little, Brown, $15.99.) A prequel of sorts to “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” this humorous riddle of a book is the start of a mock-autobiographical series.

WONDER. By R. J. Palacio. (Knopf, $15.99.) This novel tells the moving story of August Pullman, a 10-year-old boy born with severe facial malformations, and the bullying he endures when he attends school for the first time.

PICTURE BOOKS

BROTHERS AT BAT: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team. By Audrey Vernick. Illustrated by Steven Salerno. (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99.) The true story of the longest-running all-brother baseball team, 12 Acerra siblings who played together during the 1930s. A captivating story, impeccable layout and glorious illustrations make this historical account an unqualified winner.

THE DAY LOUIS GOT EATEN. Written and illustrated by John Fardell. (Andersen Press, $16.95.) A boy is eaten by a Gulper, which is eaten in turn by a Grabular, an Undersnatch, a Spiney-Backed Guzzler and a Saber-Toothed Yumper. His intrepid sister, traveling by bicycle and other hand-jiggered contraptions, comes to the rescue. Hilarious and sweet, both. “I love this book so much I want to eat it up,” our reviewer said.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS. By Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. (Dial, $16.99.) Rubin and Salmieri, the team behind the equally hilarious “Those Darn Squirrels!,” bring their kooky sensibility to this irresistible story about what can go wrong at a taco party for dragons. Salmieri’s drawings are not only a wacky delight, they’re also strangely beautiful.

A GOLD STAR FOR ZOG. By Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $16.99.) A school for dragons and a dragon-loving princess (who really wants to be a doctor) are at the center of this rhyming tale from the team behind “The Gruffalo” and “Room on the Broom.” Humor, heart and a worthy heroine earn this story its own star.

HELLO! HELLO! Written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. (Disney-­Hyperion, $16.99.) In this ode to nature and the palpable joys of pre-technology days, a girl runs wild on a horse while her screen-­addicted family members tap away indoors. The book’s “art is gloriously old-style,” our reviewer, David Small, said. Its message is loud, clear and important.

I’M BORED. By Michael Ian Black. Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. (Simon & Schuster, $16.99.) Black, a comedian, has become a fine children’s book storyteller (“A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea”). This original story features a bored child, a bored potato and a bored flamingo. Readers will not be bored.

KING ARTHUR’S VERY GREAT GRANDSON. Written and illustrated by Kenneth Kraegel. (Candlewick, $15.99.) On the day of his sixth birthday, Henry Alfred Grummorson, the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of King Arthur, sets out for peril and conquest. Alas, all he finds are peaceable beasts. There are still dragons in this clever story by a first-time author and illustrator.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. (Candlewick, $15.99.) The hat is back, but this time it belongs to a fish, not a bear. It belongs to a big fish, to be precise, but a small fish has stolen it. You will probably guess what happens in this delightfully dark, comic follow-up to “I Want My Hat Back.”

Why ‘Little Bear’ Made Me Burst Into Tears

Why ‘Little Bear’ Made Me Burst Into Tears

By GRETCHEN RUBIN
Harper Collins

“What kind of story would you like to hear?” said Mother Bear.
“Tell me about me,” said Little Bear. “Tell me about things I once did.”
–Else Holmelund Minarik, “Little Bear”

I’m not a particularly sentimental parent. In fact, I’ve sometimes felt guilty about my lack of emotional response to preschool graduation or a first haircut — so I was astonished to find myself weeping as I read these lines from “Little Bear” to my daughter.

What was it about this particular passage that pierced me to the heart?

Well, the utter trust, for one thing, and the unselfconscious self-centeredness of childhood. “Tell me about me.” As adults, we don’t get to ask for that kind of attention, no matter how much we’d like it (just for 5 or 10 minutes, of course).

But what really got me was the reminder about the passage of time. Little Bear is still Little, but already, he’s bigger than he was. So much is already past: his unnecessary attempt to dress warmly for the snow, his trip to the moon, his sixth birthday party. Childhood passes so quickly. In my own mind, I summarize this bittersweet truth: the days are long, but the years are short.

Little Bear asks his mother to tell him about himself. As parents, we play an important role in shaping and preserving our children’s memories of their own brief history. One of my happiness-project resolutions is to “be a storehouse of happy memories,” because remembering happy times in the past is an important way to boost happiness in the present, and children need parents’ help to sustain happy memories.

The responsibility to be the custodian of the art projects, class portraits and endless anecdotes about The Time You Got Locked in the Bathroom and The Time You Threw Up on the Way to the Airport can feel burdensome, but it’s an important obligation. Even though I almost suffered a nervous collapse when I finally buckled down to organize my enormous cache of photos into albums, I know that such records are a key way that my daughters and my husband and I hang on to memories.

We need the pictures and, like Little Bear, the stories, to show us the “things we once did.” It’s more comfortable not to be reminded that time is passing, but it’s also comforting to remember that those not-so-long-ago things remain a part of who we are now.

Watch Gretchen and KJ talk “Little Bear” and other picture books in their video introduction to the series here.

Original article

“Has Motherhood Replaced Sexism?”

A NY Times article:

Has Motherhood Replaced Sexism?

By KJ DELL’ANTONIA
 
Motherlode Book Club
 
THE CONFLICT

Elisabeth Badinter’s “The Conflict” argues that the modern natural-parenting movement undermines women.

Officially conceded, after the commentary on yesterday’s post regarding Hilary Rosen’s description of Ann Romney as “never having worked a day in her life:” the “mommy wars” between (some) stay-at-home mothers and (some) mothers who work outside the home are still raging.

Most agreed it was a linguistic distinction, and a Twitstorm not worth the pixels it flickered so quickly through. But what seems like a distinction without a difference to so many still has the power to fan the defensive flames of women who know, or suspect, that their fellow mothers question their choice to work or to stay home.

Elisabeth Badinter’s book, “The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women,” is guaranteed to feed that fire. Not only does she believe that the best course of action for any woman, no matter what her maternal status, is to stay in the work force, but she also argues that the women who have chosen to do otherwise have essentially been sold a bill of goods.

Influenced and deceived by the modern natural-parenting movement — with its labor-intensive breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and requirement that infants be properly stimulated and nurtured at all times — mothers “choose” to stay home because if they do not, they cannot meet the standards of this new ideal.

Read more

“The Power of Young Adult Fiction”

A New York Times “Room For Debate” article and discussion:

The remarkable box office success of “The Hunger Games,” based on the first of a trilogy of books that have sold 23 million copies, demonstrates the power of young adult fiction and its passionate fans. The number of young adult titles published last year was up nearly a third since 2008, to almost 10,000, according to Bowker Books In Print. The genre’s appeal has spread beyond teenage readers. Why has young adult fiction become such a phenomenon — even with older adults?

For the rest of the article and discussion, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/28/the-power-of-young-adult-fiction

“The Drama Years”

Here’s an article about Haley Kilpatrick’s new book, “The Drama Years,” about the challenges of being a middle school aged girl.

Why is tweenhood so fraught with “drama”?

Technology has transformed the process of growing up. An expert explains how to help girls in their “drama years”

They’re not the carefree years. They’re not the everything-is-awesome years. They are, as Haley Kilpatrick explains, the drama years. It’s that uniquely turbulent time in a girl’s life between childhood and adolescence, when friends become frenemies, when hormones run amok, when the pressures of school and activities ramp up, and Mom and Dad suddenly just don’t get it anymore. Welcome to middle school, kid.

Kilpatrick understands. While still in high school in her small town in Georgia, she founded the national peer mentoring organization Girl Talk, mostly as a means of helping her younger sister navigate the social minefield she herself had only just departed. With its emphasis on helping tween girls learn from teens who’ve survived their own drama years, Girl Talk now has chapters in 43 states and six countries.

But after a decade in the tween trenches, Kilpatrick (with the help of co-writer and former Salon.com contributor Whitney Joiner) is sharing the secret life of girls with the people who often seem the most blindsided by it – their parents and educators. “The Drama Years,” published this week by the Free Press, is a plainspoken set of dispatches from the front lines of tweenhood, culled from three years of interviews with girls around the country and framed in their own quirky, authentic voices.

For the rest of the article, go to: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/04/why_is_tweenhood_so_fraught_with_drama/ 

“In The Water, They Can’t See You Cry”

Interesting thoughts from Amanda Beard, a 7 time Olympic swimming medalist.  The article, an excerpt from her book, chronicles Amanda’s successes and failures as a world-class child athlete.

A year after the 1996 Olympics, I ranked twenty-third in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke and twenty-sixth in the 200-meter.

My parents did their best to shelter me from the unanimous criticism of public opinion. I didn’t need anyone to tell me how bad I stunk; I knew that already. The harsh numbers of my ranking told the whole story. At least that’s what I thought until I got acquainted with a whole new kind of low.

I had come into the living room of our house to find the newspaper because I wanted the movie listings; I needed to find a flick I could lose myself in. After looking on the couches and coffee table, I sat on the recliner chair where my dad read the newspaper and all of his books. I saw a piece of newsprint sticking out from in between a stack of books. Thinking it might be the paper, I lifted up the four or five volumes on top. Instead I found a hidden stash of clippings and knew immediately they were about me.

Since the start of my career, my dad was my own personal archivist, clipping any and all articles about me so that I could have them later on in life. But after carefully cutting them out, he always put them into the big red scrapbook he kept in his room.

Reading the dozen or so articles in my lap, I saw clearly why these hadn’t made it into the book. Sportswriters called me fat, washed-up, and finished. I’d never do anything good in swimming again, they wrote. There it was in black and white, a complete validation of the negative voice playing on a loop in my head. It was true, I was a fat loser. The words I attacked myself with stared out at me from the page, causing a kind of sweet dread. I had suspected that everyone was talking about me, and they were. The shame — this wasn’t just a couple of mean girls at school but the whole world — hurt so much it almost veered 180 degrees into pleasure. I wrapped myself up in sadness like a martyr, then tucked the clips back in their hiding spot so my dad wouldn’t know I had found them.

For the rest of the article, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-beard/amanda-beard-in-the-water-they-cant-see-you-cry-memoir_b_1397581.html?page=1

The ADHD Medication Debate

Here’s a New York Times article by Dr. L. Alan Sroufe questioning the effectiveness of ADHD medications: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/opinion/sunday/childrens-add-drugs-dont-work-long-term.html?pagewanted=all

The article caused a great deal of debate as many parents believe their child has benefitted from ADHD medication, such as Ritalin: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/opinion/ritalin-and-the-hyperactive-child.html

Here’s a link to an excellent book, “Driven To Distraction…” by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey, for parents of children with attention Deficit Disorder: http://www.amazon.com/Driven-Distraction-Recognizing-Attention-Childhood/dp/0684801280

Free-Range Kids, Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

Free-Range Kids…a book by Lenore Skenazey

http://www.amazon.com/Free-Range-Giving-Children-Freedom-Without/dp/0470471948

Amazon.com book description:

FREE RANGE KIDS has become a national movement, sparked by the incredible response to Lenore Skenazy?s piece about allowing her 9-year-old ride the subway alone in NYC. Parent groups argued about it, bloggers, blogged, spouses became uncivil with each other, and the media jumped all over it. A lot of parents today, Skenazy says, see no difference between letting their kids walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range. Any risk is seen as too much risk. But if you try to prevent every possible danger or difficult in your child?s everyday life, that child never gets a chance to grow up. We parents have to realize that the greatest risk of all just might be trying to raise a child who never encounters choice or independence.