Sunday, April 20, 2014

in the wind | tweets in the space ending 04.19.14

27% of US kids 15-17 report ever having sex; 83% of them report no sex ed before 1st sex

Common Sense Media | 6 Messaging Apps That Let Teens Share  Secrets 

If your child is obese at age 10 | anticipating additional direct medical costs

this may not be what you heard | what the Journal of Neuroscience said about a new study on occasional marijuana use

in adults 25+, more education sharply lowers smoking + at least moderately raises drinking

sophisticated innocents ii | a small idea from Raising Adults

waiting for the end | a poem before Easter  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

waiting for the end | a poem before Easter

If they wait for anything
It is a pounding at the door
when the authorities come

There is no expectant hypervigilance here
No anticipation
No eagerness
No hope


They are no longer thirteen
The strongest fled
The cleverest melted into the night
The best
is dead and buried now
They are ten

There is no way this ends well
They are not waiting for good news
They have no way of knowing
No grounds for conceiving
No frame for seeing
how this day will be called
Holy Saturday

Thursday, April 17, 2014

sophisticated innocents ii | a small idea from Raising Adults

Content is transparent.
Content comes at us—young and old—all day every day across multiple channels from sources known and unknown. Not thinking about content is easier by far than thinking about it. Not thinking about content can be hazardous in a world where ideas are peddled like soft drinks. 
Thinking about content is learned. Winnowing the wheat from the ideological chaff is another mature skill learned by contact with mature thinkers.
The media themselves are by definition neutral delivery platforms. There’s nothing inherently moral about a computer or a movie projector. It’s the content that makes the difference. A lot of adults pay too much attention to the platforms and too little attention to the content they deliver. Kids tend to take adult cues on this and, since the tech is already transparent to them, they often encounter content without assessing its value.
When it comes to violent, sexual and linguistic content, most kids are sophisticated in ways that would have made their great-grandfathers turn away and their great-mothers swoon. We’d be hard-pressed to find a media culture that exposes it’s children to more, or protects them less. There’s almost nothing they won’t see or hear sooner or later. 
By the time he’s seven, the average American child has seen more shocking sexual images than his great grandparents saw in a lifetime. 
—H. Stephen Glenn, in a live presentation circa 1990 (well before the internet became a conduit for photographs and videos)
There’s no point in pretending this isn’t true. There’s also no point in blaming the media—the computers and broadband and digital video players. There is a point—and a challenge and an opportunity—to teach kids to understand the content those media transmit. Because, when it comes to choosing content most kids are as unsophisticated as a two-year-old toddling about putting things in his mouth. He doesn’t yet know that just because it fits doesn’t mean it belongs there.
Don’t blame the kids. Children don’t create much content. I’ve never known a child pornographer*—just as there are no grade school drug lords or gun runners. Kids consume what adults generate and they tend to acquire their consumption habits by observing significant adults.
Given our cultural conversation on the subject of financial gain, I expect adults will keep selling what children and other people buy. And given our bent toward self-indulgence I expect children will continue buying what’s available... This is not a virtuous circle.
Our society, at the present time, is so caught up by the admiration of success that anything people get away with is admired. We’re a sick society in that respect. 
—George Soros, Rolling Stone, 12.98-1.99, page 137

Our job as parents, youth workers, teachers and the like, includes training kids to make mature choices about content.
— from Raising Adults 

I suppose it’s possible that wide access to mobile phone cameras may call this assessment into question. I imagine it’s just a matter of time till a grade school child is accused of obscenity.

Monday, April 07, 2014

in the wind | tweets in the space ending 04.05.14

interesting arc | editorial staff discuss NYT piece on talking with kids about porn

Stop right there | a soul-killing special tax on dark-skinned Americans 

Social Combat | a challenging new study on peer victimization at school 

What actually happened | Sinner90 asked: "Teens of Reddit what's cool nowadays?" 

sophisticated innocents | a small idea from Raising Adults

Thursday, April 03, 2014

sophisticated innocents part i | a small idea from Raising Adults

Can you imagine a generation of children with greater access to technology, information and experience? 
Most of our children never knew a day without personal digital music players, video gaming, personal computers, mobile phones and video cameras, recorders and players—often all combined in a single device. Kids rely on technology, no questions asked. Digital media are in their blood. As a class, kids are as comfortable on the internet as adults are with the channel changer and telephone—and just about as uncomfortable without it. Kids hardly think about technology. They don’t have to; it’s transparent; it just is.
And isn’t transparency what sophistication is about? When something is so ordinary I don’t have to think about it, I don’t. And if I don’t think about it, it really is a no-brainer. Sometimes that’s good (breathing comes to mind). Other times, not so much. Culture comes to mind.
Most kids grow up multicultural in ways that just a generation ago would have shocked everyone but the children of missionaries, soldiers, spies and diplomats. I think that’s good. There’s no turning back from globalization and I don’t want to backtrack. One Planet, One People and all that.
By the mid-90s Douglas Coupland was writing about “global teens” for whom passports and clearing customs were no big deal. Our youngsters travel farther and more frequently than any generation before them. They can afford to, because travel is so cheap compared to prior generations. The craziness of terrorism and America’s fall from international grace may have slowed all that somewhat but nothing, apparently, can stop it. The internet certainly plays its part—kids connecting with kids around the globe on a 24-hour clock. And digital media make it possible for anyone to follow the news from anywhere—good or bad—in a matter of hours...if not minutes...if not live.
Even if our children don’t go to the world, the world comes to our children—and not just Europeans (that is so 19th century). These days North American kids meet Asians, Central and South Americans, Africans, Islanders—people from everywhere. And they very likely have classmates born on this continent of parents who were born elsewhere. Not that there are no ethnic ghettos left but for the most part ghetto populations are aging, and everywhere from city centers to suburbs our children are exposed to a great feast of world music, clothing, food and cultural mashups. 
All this exposure makes our children the most sophisticated lot in the history of humankind.
It follows that the more exposure kids have to people in the subcultures that border their own, and the earlier that exposure begins, the more naturally they build relationships across boundaries that once seemed clear and permanent to their grandparents. This does not mean kids understand other cultures. There’s every indication they don’t and that they take their friends’ cultural identities for granted. Unexamined relationships across subcultures can be fragile. Xenophobia lurks just below the surface of the relational grid, and racism is not dead (though it’s certainly sick). 
Learning to observe and understand and value other cultures and subcultures has a great deal to do with possessing the skills to perceive, understand and value one’s own culture. Developing that skill set is not a transparent no-brainer; it’s a process best learned in the company of personally and culturally mature adults. This of course raises the question: Does my child have access to such people? and, If not, how can we connect with such people and learn together?
All of which is to say it’s possible to be very sophisticated in terms of exposure and yet remain quite innocent—meaning, quite naive—about the significance of what we’ve observed and experienced but not yet understood. 
— from Raising Adults 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

in the wind | tweets in the space ending 03.29.14

  • > what do you think? 185 movies for kids 2-6, 7-12 + 13-17 from Common Sense Media 
  • > not yet | kids haven't given up on TV sets or paper magazines + books - but you knew that
  • > a thought-provoking examination of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case from the pages of Religion & Politics
  • > measles, mumps + other bumps | another heartfelt "thanks a lot" from a pediatrician to anti-vaxxer #parents
  • > Common Sense Media's 2014 Learning Awards for children's digital media (age 3-13+)

Friday, March 28, 2014

culture soup | a small idea from Raising Adults

If parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, employers, youth workers—all of us who nurture kids—learn to really, really listen,  those kids will tell us most of what we need to know to understand them. And raise them better.
What they’ll describe, and what we can see if we look hard enough, is the cultural soup we’re all in. It’s our soup in the sense that it’s derived from the distinctive flavors each living generation contributes to the mix…thus it’s everyone’s soup. You may like it or not; you may find it too salty for your taste, or too pungent. I haven’t bumped into many adults of my generation who think it’s too sweet.
Be that as it may. It’s not just our soup. It's created by all of us together...crowdsourced if anything ever was.
In my years as a youth worker, writer and visual storyteller I’ve had the good fortune to sample quite a mix of youth cultures across North America—from Florida to Alaska; Long Island to Long Beach; rich, poor, middle-class; majority, minority; mainstream, fringe—and for all the differences, I am struck by how much common experience there is across the board. I wouldn't call it a monoculture but the similarities between kids growing up in wildly different geographic, ethnic and socioeconomic settings; people who on the face of it appear to share little in common, is really something. There are massive forces at work, some hidden, some in plain sight. I think learning to understand and even appreciate that leads to a deeper, more generous appreciation of individuals who are both seasoned by and contribute to the the flavor of the current culture  soup.
Or not. Some adults are so uncomfortable with their offspring, they would just as soon skip a generation…or two. It’s shocking to me how often it’s turned that the question behind the questions I heard from someone in business or the Church (or both) was: Do you think we can survive if we skip a generation? Can we just ignore them and hope they’ll go away? 
To which my answer is: Believe me, ignore them and they will go away...from you at least.
— from Raising Adults 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

...and that's when it occurred to him... | the Bible

Wikimedia Commons

And that's when it occurred to him that the people he was talking with didn't believe the Bible so much as they believed what they believed about the Bible.
And lo, he was not surprised. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

encouraging | a small idea from Raising Adults

Instead of taming our children’s dreams and aspirations, why not encourage them? The verb to encourage means to put courage in. There’s a line in the Bible that says we ought to encourage each other to love and good deeds.
I really like that. There’s so much that discourages children—taking courage out of them. That’s why I like Junior Achievement, the economic education agency that puts ordinary businesspeople in classrooms to help kids learn how to find (or even make) their place in the economy.
And it’s why I like Compassion, the child development agency that creates hope for kids by training them to live well and to make a living wherever they are in the world.
I place high value on teachers who are in a position to encourage kids; and youth workers, mentors, coaches, service industry employers, grandparents, law enforcement officers, entertainers, neighbors...we’re all in positions to encourage kids to attempt great things; to learn from both succeeding and falling short; to be wise in assessing what can and can’t—and what should and shouldn’t—be changed; to change what can and should be changed for the better; to gracefully accept what can’t or shouldn’t be changed; to live productively and generously.
We’re well positioned to encourage kids that way. The Big Question is: Do we have a surplus of courage—not pandering rah-rah but real courage—to share with them? And if not, can we get it?
What this comes down to on a practical level can be framed in learning and teaching an uncomplicated skill that helps children understand where to look for encouragement when they need it. I don’t know whose metaphor this is (I first heard it from Max Paul Franklin). Each person we encounter is a fueler or a drainer
Drainers take energy from us either because they are empty and have nothing to give or because they are selfish. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

taming | a small idea from Raising Adults

As a kid I was taught to believe that any boy could grow up to be president—and any girl could grow up to be that president’s mistress. Don’t hit me; that’s the America where I grew up. To make any sense of that, it helps to recall that just a hundred years ago, women were excluded from voting in U.S. elections—and they weren’t the only ones. Incredible. It also helps to reflect that, following 1920, quite a few baby women grew up to prove that a woman’s worth does not end in the House but extends to the Senate (and the Courthouse, and the Statehouse). That said, women in the U.S. still make considerable less than men who do the same work, so…
From just after the second world war to roughly the start of the Second Gulf War (with short breaks for mild to medium recessions), American children were taught to believe they could have it all—or certainly a large part of it—as wage earners in the planet’s largest economic middle class.* These days children are taught to believe they’ll be lucky to get a job that pays enough to afford food, housing and transportation. 
This scenario is complicated by the fact that on a global scale our kids are lucky—or fortunate if you prefer...or blessed. All children are born poor. We tumble into this space empty-handed. Our parents either do or don’t have the resources to support us comfortably. There’s a range of opinion about what’s comfortable. In a recent election cycle, $250,000 a year was identified by some as scraping by, and $7.25 an hour was declared to be an exorbitant wage. Both of these cannot be true (and in fact I’m reasonably sure neither is). Setting that aside for the moment, it’s probably fair to say that compared to most people who ever lived, we and our offspring were born into relative abundance. Most earthlings have never expected to own the roof that sheltered them nor travel in anything like their own private automobile. But things have been somewhat different on the continent I call home.
For most of the last century, North Americans surfed the global economy like long board riders—wiping out in the 1930s, then catching a succession of big waves in nearly every decade since. The first edition of this book was written as Wall Street dragged itself to the beach after a bone-crunching face plant. As I write today, the financial industry celebrates a banner year reflected in a Dow Jones average that climbed past 16,000. Who knows? As you read this the Dow may have passed 20,000. Or it may have retreated to 8,000. What seems clear is that another set of waves is always forming, then breaking. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

respect | a small idea from Raising Adults

Guilt is the appropriate blush response that says I did something wrong, I should make it right. Shame is a deeper blush that says I am something wrong and I can never be made right. I was well into my 30’s before I started to recognize shaming for what it is. Shaming is a lie. It’s a damned lie.

It turns out that, as satisfying as shaming can be, it’s not nearly as satisfying as mutual respect. My uncle Bryant Kendall…my coach Verlyn Giles…a youth worker named Shuford Davis…a campus worker named Bob Norwood…more  school teachers than I can name… All these folks treated me with extraordinary respect. They listened to me and took my ideas seriously. They asked good questions. They talked straight. They gave me training and responsibility. My uncle helped me learn to mow lawns well before I was allowed to touch anything with a motor at home. Teachers encouraged me to think outside the box and helped me learn to sort my thoughts and express them directly and economically. Verlyn Giles helped me learn to think and communicate under pressure. Bob Norwood asked questions that encouraged me choose between good and better. Shuford Davis asked questions that caused me to address spirituality with my mind as well as my heart.
Respect for kids isn’t a free pass on anything and everything; in fact, it can be very challenging in the best, most realistic sense. Respect springs from the knowledge that all of us are works in progress. None of us knows anything we didn’t learn and every one of us has a lot more ground to cover before we’re done for the day. Unless, of course, we decide to call it quits and live off what we learned in the past—unless we choose to embrace irrelevance. 
Shaming is a monologue. Respect is a dialogue. The surest way for me to show respect is to ask honest questions and listen carefully until the other person is pretty sure I’ve done my best to understand.
Respect is a learning posture that grants the possibility that what’s obvious to one person may not be a bit obvious to someone else. And that’s a pretty good place to begin any conversation. 
And isn’t that what life is all about, the ability to go around back and come up inside other people’s heads to look out at the damned fool miracle and say: oh so that’s how you see it!? Well, now, I must remember that.
—Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, William Morrow, 2001, page xiii 
— from Raising Adults 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

shaming | a small idea from Raising Adults

No one knows anything he didn’t learn.
That’s not a theological statement, if you’re looking for offenses against that form of correctness (I will be happy to discuss innocence and depravity in another forum). What I’m saying is that adults are acting unreasonably if they humiliate children because the youngsters haven’t yet learned adult things.
And not just unreasonable; mean. The message kids get is, “If you don’t know what I know, there’s something wrong with you.” 
Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelson called this adultism in their book, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World:

The language of adultisms is, “Why can’t you ever? How come you never? Surely you realize! How many times do I have to tell you? Why are you so childish? When will you ever grow up? Did you? Can you? Will you? Won’t you? Are you? Aren’t you?

I have been that guy. Most notably (though, not exclusively) in my own home. When our daughter Kate stood at the threshold of adolescence, she sometimes seemed a bit, let us say...irrational. It didn’t last long, but the hormone bath her body gave her brain turned Kate inside out for a few weeks. Almost overnight she went from pleasant and engaging to surly and sarcastic (I have no idea where she saw that sort of behavior modeled). One night—I no longer remember the provocation—I marched into Kate’s bedroom and with language I don’t use against anybody told her we wouldn’t be putting up with her…um, nonsense.
The shock and pain in Kate’s eyes broke my heart because I saw I had just broken hers. I fled her room in a fit of self-loathing. I was particularly ashamed because my day job at the time was working with adolescents in a church. 
I knew plenty about puberty. But I forgot everything I knew when my own daughter got a little cranky. I viewed her with contempt for not being able to surf the hormonal tide surging through her body. I should’ve been flogged.