Friday, April 08, 2011

Weekend Reading: The Short Edition

Since I posted a bunch of science articles on Wednesday, I don't have that many things to post today. That's probably a good thing, since Hubby and I need to figure out the logistics for Pumpkin's "day care birthday party" tomorrow.

Still, I have a couple of things to recommend:

One of my many roles at work is to be a project manager. This is something I started doing quite early in my career, and my stint as a contractor/consultant included some formal training in project management, some of which I actually do use (although managing scientific informatics projects is a lot different from managing the big government contract projects that the training was aimed at). Anyway, I have finally made peace with the fact that I am a project manager, and have even started to read on the topic much like I read on the science and tech fields I'm interested in. So I was pleased when I stumbled across a blog written by a tech project manager, called Rands in Repose. His posts are usually though-provoking. I really liked his recent post about how hard it is to start a new project. I particularly like his points about how sometimes doing the creative work that it takes to start a project looks an awful lot like goofing off. I personally find that I often need to "clear my brain" by reading random blogs and things online so that the shy good idea hiding in the dusty back corner can sneak out and show itself. Luckily, I've mostly worked for bosses and with colleagues who understand this sort of thing.

On a totally unrelated topic, I really liked a recent post by Gwen Dewar, who maintains the Parenting Science blog I referred to in yesterday's post: It is about a trend I had not heard of- the use of recess coaches at some schools. She makes an excellent point about how the "free range kids" movement is really a movement for fairly well off kids living in safe neighborhoods. I agree with a lot of the arguments from the free range kids folks- I do think we (as a society) exaggerate some relatively unlikely risks, to the detriment of our kids. But I also went to college in a neighborhood that, thanks to the campus police force, was a little island of safety in a much more crime-ridden area. I saw first hand how not exaggerated risks such as being shot were for kids in the surrounding areas. We have failed those kids, no question about it. I guess I agree with Dr. Dewar- if recess coaches treat some of the symptoms of that failure and make life better for some kids, that is great. But like her, I really think we should tackle the underlying causes, too, because the loss of childhood games is not even close to being the worse thing that is happening in some of our neighborhoods.


  1. Funny, I wrote about the same thing last night, too.

    Since I moved into this neighborhood, at least 2 innocent kids were shot while hanging out in their own front yard. At least one died from the wound.

    I sometimes read scholarship applications from the HS serving that neighborhood. One applicant broke my heart. He said that he knows that his grades were not the best, but there were six of them in a 1-bedroom apartment and there was no quiet place for him to study.

    If there was no one around to drive him to the library, he had to stay inside. I understand why his parents kept him inside; his address puts him right in the middle of the cross-fire.

    His teacher wrote a statement that this was a smart and good kid, whose family went into economic free fall in the middle of 10th grade when his dad was hurt in a workplace accident. He urged us to consider the applicant's grades before the accident rather than recent grades.

    It all breaks my heart. So much of the need here flies under the radar.

  2. Hmm... about the Baby Center article you linked to re: the trend of recess coaches. I take issue with the accuracy of their reporting regarding this paragraph from their article:

    '“Free range” parenting sounds cool if you live in an affluent, suburban neighborhood or low-crime small town. But “free-ranging” isn’t such a great option if you live in other places.'

    Where? Other places like, say, the big bad city? Actually, Lenore Skenazy, who coined the phrase "free range kids," caught hell for allowing her 9-year-old son to ride the Lex Ave subway and 34th St. crosstown bus in Manhattan - NOT in Greenwich or some Mayberry-esque utopia. Yes, New York City, and the same subway system that Bernie Goetz once rode. New York City is where free ranging actually took root, so I'm not sure where the unsupported premise that this is a phenomenon only for suburbia and small towns is proven. I guess "free range parents" are an easy target - the writer didn't want to let the truth get in the way of a good example! ;)

    I think the real issues at play are twofold: 1) the de facto residentially segregated society that America is today, and 2) childhood bullying seems to be happening everywhere and yet there is a lot more awareness of it amongst adults than there probably ever has been.

    To me, they totally buried the lede on that story. "Bornstein (from the NYT article) quotes an Oakland, California principal who says “Recess is meaner than it used to be.” That's the story! WHY is recess meaner than it used to be? Forget about free ranging - I think that's a total red herring.

  3. @hush, I don't think even Lenore Skenazy would let her kid roam through the public housing projects in the Bronx. Manhattan is actually a pretty wealthy place these days, for the most part. I used to ride the subways around almost all of it even in the middle of the night. I wouldn't have gotten on the El train in the neighborhoods near where I went to college even in broad daylight.

    I agree that there are a lot of places in cities that are safe for kids to roam. But there are also some neighborhoods where keeping your kid inside is really the only safe thing to do, because the risks aren't the ones we all exaggerate (e.g., stranger kidnapping) but the risks that most of us never have to think about (e.g., gang violence and cross fire). And the fact that such places exist is an indictment on all of us.

    But I agree, I would like to know more about why recess has gotten "mean". And also why they are only getting 15 minutes of recess!


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