Camouflage Off

“I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I can not imagine how knowing one’s history would not urge one to be an activist.” — John Hope Franklin, one of most important historians of 20th century.

Introduction

I love my community too much to just sit back and say nothing. I feel obligated to speak out.  After all, one of my first cousins who is the father of an eight months old baby girl just died December 2017 due to an accidental drug overdose. His overdose has put a huge burden on the family. Now there is an eight months old girl without her father and mother who is hanging on the edge of depression.  Therefore, this is personal for me. I have nothing against others. Nonetheless, I am saying we need to speak out against things that harm our well-being and overall progress.  When we hit music industries and others in their pockets, they listen. Think of the Bus Boycott during the Civil Rights struggle. Why did the City of Alabama reconsider bus discrimination? Money

One day while sitting in the barbershop, I became intrigued, distraught, fraught, ashamed and embarrassed all at the same time. I was not sure of what I heard blaring out of the speakers. Nevertheless, clearly derogative for any public establishment. I started to listen with more focus for the purpose of attempting to decipher the lyrics. I still had no idea of the mumbling or lack of clarity on the part of the artist. Despite my difficulty of trying to make out what the artist was saying, it was clear the young black boys, teenage boys, and African American men had no problem. After all, they were singing the song with gestures and dance. I needed to know more about the craze. Some of the lyrics became apparent enough for me to google the lyrics and follow the song on YouTube. To my surprise, the song had an astonishing 228 million hits. The video and lyrics were simply deplorable and ruining. This type of song can be categorized as a modern day form of Jim Crow and oppression no matter how the record industry, critics, or other artists are trying to spin the meaning. Even more disturbing were the young black minds that were being shaped and molded by this image of life and perception of females.  As a trained sociologist, I started to think like a sociologist. I wondered how habitual exposure to such adverse events which flirts with glorifying violence and drugs manifest in school and do they contribute to the demise of family institutions and school achievement. The words that come to mind are learning, behavior, and socialization.  In the next section of this article I will define socialization as well as the different agents of socialization and how these agents impact our individual behavior as well as their impact on social groups at the micro level and macro level.

Agents of Socialization

On our journey to becoming teenagers, young adults, and eventually mature adults, how do we come to be? What impacts our thoughts, personality, behaviors, likes, dislikes and our decisions? Why do we like certain music, certain foods, and certain clothes that we wear? Who told us it was appropriate? How do kids know to sag their clothing in Seattle, Washington and clear across the country in Teaneck New Jersey? Why have tattoos taken our country by storm?  Why do females now call each other bitches and laugh about it (Reality TV)? Finally, despite how we feel while growing up, why do we more than not, eventually start to behave like our parents? The answers to all of these questions lie inside of what is known as socialization.

Socialization is known as the process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group (or society) and behave in a manner approved by the group (or society). According to most social scientists, socialization essentially represents the whole process of learning throughout the life course and is a central influence on the behavior, beliefs, and actions of adults as well as of children ( Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017). However, it is much deeper than just socialization.

There are Five Agents of Socialization and these agents have a profound impact on who we are or become as time progresses. These agents are known as family, peers, school, mass or social media, and religion. Some sociologist omit religion and instead focus on culture.

FAMILY

Family is the first agent of socialization. Mothers and fathers, siblings and grandparents, including members of an extended family, all teach the child. Many social factors affect the way a family raises its children. Sociologists recognize that race, social class, religion, and other societal factors play an important role in socialization (National Opinion Research Center 2008). A person may pick up traits from elsewhere in the world, but they also seem to always carry the unique traits that were initiated by their family.

PEERS

A peer group is made up of people who are identical in age and social stature and who have things in common. Peer group socialization begins in the earliest years, such as when kids on a playground teach younger children the norms about taking turns. Peers tend to play a bigger role and influence as the child becomes older.

SCHOOL

Most U.S. children spend a great deal of their day in school, 180 days a year, which makes it hard to deny the importance school has on their socialization (U.S. Department of Education 2004). Schools build a sense of competition into the way grades are awarded and the way teachers evaluate students (Bowles and Gintis 1976).

RELIGION

The United States is full of synagogues, worship sites, and similar religious communities where people gather to worship and learn. Like other institutions, these places teach participants how to interact with the religion’s material culture. Many religious institutions also uphold gender norms and contribute to their enforcement through socialization.

The many Facets of MEDIA

The media distribute impersonal information to a wide audience, via television, newspapers, radio, internet/cell phones, iTunes, social media such as Facebook, Snap Chat, Instagram and music industry like Epic Records. With the average person spending over four hours a day in front of the television (and children averaging even more screen time), media greatly influences social norms (Roberts, Foehr, and Rideout, 2005). People learn about objects of material culture (like new technology and transportation options), as well as nonmaterial culture—what is true (beliefs), what is important (values), and what are expected norms (Lumen Learning, 2017).

“Children learn through watching television. Some of the things they learn are beneficial; others are not. They learn about the world and the ways of the society. Children learn more than facts from television; they also get a good daily dose of stereotypes and a lot of misleading information about their world. Most of all, they get a big helping of violence” (Gonzalez-Mena, 2010).  Of the five agents of socialization, the one that enter all homes across the globe is media (Lumen Learning, 2017).

The Impact of Media and how it Shapes our Lives

The media is my main area of concern. The impact of media has grown significantly in the last seven to ten years. Media comes into our homes through multiple channels such as social media, television, internet, and cell phones. Parents purchase cell phones for their child. In many cases, students receive their first cell device as young as first grade. From that moment forward, parents are left in the dark in regards to what their children are exposed to on their hand held device. Young people are exposed to rated “X” porn to “X” rated music. These exposures can very well have a positive or negative impact in regards to who we eventually become, how we treat one another, as well as ones’ outlook on societal topics and life.

Now it’s important for me to disclose what I witnessed in the barbershop which had me acutely despondent and discouraged. The song “Mask Off” (2017). A tune that seems to consistently reference a mixer of Molly and Percocet drugs. Urban dictionary (2017) defines Molly Percocet as Molly is a pure form of MDMA also found in some ecstasy pills. Gives you warm butterfly feelings , bliss, euphoria and more intense sexual experiences. Makes you want to dance, grind your teeth and dehydrated. An additional definition from another source states, Percocet contains a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. Oxycodone is an opioid pain medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Acetaminophen is a less potent pain reliever that increases the effects of oxycodone (Drugs.com, 2017). Now this is alarming because throughout 2016 and 2017, one could not turn on their television, radio, or internet and not hear how opioids had destroyed an entire family or neighborhood such as neighborhoods in Ohio and Missouri.

I am not saying the artist is promoting the use of drugs. Nonetheless, one thing is true across the country.  There has been a definite increase in accidental drug overdose. I am saying the audiences who listen and watch through media outlets are young and impressionable children, adolescents, and young adults. Can we assume young audiences are NOT trying to determine if the artist is promoting or not promoting the use of drugs? I am saying young people are being exposed to these events during happy and motivating moments  when they attend bars, clubs, family reunions, on social media, and other social events.  As a result, young minds may associate these types of songs as acceptable because adults are idolizing certain types of songs. Therefore, act upon them by living these events out which ultimately may lead to devastation to them and their families.

 Drug Epidemic on America

“In August, President Trump declared America’s opioid epidemic a national emergency two days after vowing the U.S. would “win” the fight against it. About a month earlier, the Department of Justice charged more than 400 people who officials said were preying on addicts to shell out money for unnecessary treatments that only worsened their condition, and doctors who were allegedly prescribing unnecessary opioids (NBC News, 2017).

The White House Council of Economic Advisers recently reported that the epidemic’s true cost in 2015 was $504 billion — more than six times the most recent estimate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in late October that illegal, lab-made fentanyl contributed to the death of at least half of fatal opioid overdoses in 2016, underscoring how deadly the epidemic has become in recent years” (NBC News, 2017).

As a community, do we sit and absolutely do nothing about what we know could potentially be detrimental to young lives and the community? Do we continue to allow Epic records and others within the music industry sell us snake oil? Do we continue to provide paid critics a platform to say certain songs are the best ever even though the songs may degrade our black women and undermine our community? Do you believe the owners of the music industry have no clue as to what drugs do to individuals and a community at large? Do you think the music industry doesn’t realize there has been a spike in drug overdoses? Money is at the root of our children demise. The next section addresses one of young children’s idols and models.  This leads me to ask, will you as parents allow your boy or girl to hang out with people who just talk about illicit drugs? Do you desire your child to have such role models? As responsible parents or leaders of the community, would you allow your daughter or son to go for sleep overs in such environments?

Yes, it is understood people change but before they change will you allow your child to be exposed to such horrific environments that glorify violence and drug use? I know critics will say I am hating, but nothing could be further from the truth. There were people who told Rosa Parks to get up because they were scared and she was going to make things worse for all African Americans. There are those who say Colin Kaepernick shouldn’t kneel due to him giving the NFL a deplorable name. These status quo humans have always been around. I am simply trying to point out how the media is allowing such deplorable songs not rap music but horrifying songs which are only beneficial to the artist(s) and owners of record labels.  However, at the expense of so much more such as our children, families, and communities.

 Product of your Environment

Have we ever wondered who some of these people are and their origin? To be clear, this is not to be judgmental, but instead to disclose the facts. Who have these strong grips on our young children and in some cases communities? Though I am pointing out one person thats hot right now, he is by no means the only one. There are too many spreading lyrics that are alarming. Some communities suffer more than others.

Born Nayvadius Wilburn into a family of street hustlers going back at least two generations. Future has four children with four different women: Jessica Smith, Brittni Mealy, India J, and singer Ciara. He was engaged to Ciara in October 2013, but Ciara called off the engagement in August 2014 due to his infidelity (Wikipedia, 2017). Their son, Future Zahir Wilburn, was born on May 19, 2014. As of 2016, Future is being sued by both Jessica Smith and Ciara. Smith is suing him for failing to pay child support, and stated that their son “suffers from emotional and behavioral issues stemming from Future’s neglect as a father” (thejasminebrand, 2016). So how many of our school age students are experiencing the same negative adverse events? Events that negatively impact academic performance, but yet society is expecting school systems to be miracle workers, but never point out the short comings of many parents. Ciara is suing him for defamation, slander, and libel (Wikipedia, 2017).

Future is also known to drink a drink called “Dirty Sprite”.  This drink is a drug infused concoction that contains cough syrup among other ingredients. Despite rumors of the drink having negative side-effects, the rapper is a fan (Capitalxtra.com, 2017). Finally, while a teenager and running the streets, the young artist was shot (Capitalxtra.com, 2017).

In closing, this argument I am presenting is not new. During the 1920s, it was Jazz. During the 50s it was Blues and Rock and Roll. During the 60s it was long hair and the Beatles. However, I am not sure if Jazz and long hair increased death by 30% across the country. I dig rap music, but not songs which flirts with taking opioids that paralyze the country.  We cannot continue to normalize these types of songs. I did not say rap music.  We can not normalize opioid use. 

Lyrics to the Song

Full Lyrics:   https://genius.com/11364239

Call it how it is
Hendrix
I promise, I swear, I swear
You heard, spit it, yo

[Chorus]

Percocets, molly, Percocets
Percocets, molly, Percocets Rep the set, gotta rep the set

Chase a check, never chase a b—h, Mask on, f— it, mask off (Future, 2017).

References

Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis. 1976. Schooling in Capitalistic America: Educational Reforms and the Contradictions of Economic Life. New York: Basic Books.

Encyclopedia Britannica (2017): Retrieved December 30, 2017

Future Facts: 20 Things you need to Know about Mask Off Rapper: Retrieved December 30, 2017 from http://www.capitalxtra.com/features/lists/future-facts/where-from/

Genius Lyrics Retrieved December 28, 2017 from https://genius.com/11364239

Family, and Community: Family-Centered Early Care and Education, by J. Gonzalez-Mena, 2009 edition, p. 335-336. Retrieve December 28, 2017 from https://www.education.com/reference/article/media-as-influence-socialization/

Lumen Introductory to Sociology: Retrieved December 24, 2017 from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/sociology/chapter/agents-of-socialization/

National Opinion Research Center. 2007. General Social Surveys, 1972–2006: Cumulative Codebook. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center.

Percocet Drug: Retrieved December 30, 2017 from https://www.drugs.com/search.php?searchterm=Percocet&a=1

Roberts, Donald F., Ulla G. Foehr, and Victoria Rideout. 2005. “Parents, Children, and Media: A Kaiser Family Foundation Survey.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved December 30, 2017 from (http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/7638.pdf).

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2004. “Average Length of School Year and Average Length of School Day, by Selected Characteristics: United States, 2003-04.” Private School Universe Survey (PSS). Retrieved December 30, 2017 (http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/tables/table_2004_06.asp).

Urban Dictionary 2017

“I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I can not imagine how knowing one’s history would not urge one to be an activist.” — John Hope Franklin, one of most important historians of 20th century.

 

Racial Differences in Mobility Rates in the United States by Educational Attainment

Filed in Racial Gap, Research & Studies on November 20, 2017
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau documents the number of citizens who moved from one residence to another between 2016 and 2017.

Blacks in the United States are more likely to move than Whites. In the 2016-to-2017 period, about 5.4 million African Americans, nearly 13 percent of the entire Black population of the United States changed their residence. For non-Hispanic White Americans, 10 percent changed their residence during the period.

Most of these moves for African Americans were local. About two thirds of African Americans who moved went to different residences in the same county. More than 13 percent of all African Americans who moved went to a different state and 2.4 percent moved abroad.

When we factor in educational attainment, we discover some interesting differences between Blacks and Whites. For those who did not finish high school moving rates were similar; 8.8 percent of Whites and 9.3 percent of Blacks. A much larger gap in mobility was apparent for high school graduates. About 12 percent of Black adults who graduated from high school but had no college experience moved between 2016 and 2017. For Whites with only a high school education, 7.7 percent moved.

For college graduates, 9.4 percent of all African Americans changed residences between 2016 and 2017. For White college graduates the figure was slightly lower at 9.2 percent. But for those with a graduate or professional degree 14.5 percent of Blacks and 8.7 percent of Whites moved between 2015 and 2016.

Grambling State University to Establish Louisiana’s First Undergraduate Cybersecurity Program

This is fantastic news because is shows GSU is evolving in order to remain  relevant! I am so proud to have graduated from GSU!

Filed in HBCUs on December 22, 2017

The Louisiana Board of Regents has approved planning for the establishment of a new bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity at historically Black Grambling State University. The new degree offering will be the first undergraduate program in cybersecurity in Louisiana.

Now the university will get to work to develop curriculum. Once this is completed, the university will return to the Regents for final approval of the new degree program.

“We have everything we need to launch this as a full degree program, including significant student interest, four tenure track professors already teaching computer science, nine related courses already a part of the curriculum and 12 courses moving through our university academics committee process,” said Rick Gallot, president of Grambling State University. “Two more faculty members are scheduled to be hired.”

Why White Working Class Americans Are Dying “Deaths of Despair”

As an educator for all students, I find this article amazingly alarming. Why? Many of our students are having to face these challenging factors.  As I noted in prior article, these challenging factors equate to Adverse Childhood Events. Our school counselors, administrators, and teachers should be in the know about this alarming research so that we can do a better job of dealing with all students despite their origin.  All of our students are counting on us.

BY STEPHEN FRANKLIN
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Behind the death spiral are growing rates of suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning, liver diseases and cirrhosis. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)

He was alone and miserable, cleaning up a strike station in Peoria, Illinois, where members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) had lived in the heat and the cold.

The UAW had just folded its standoff against Caterpillar after years of strikes and was returning to work largely on the terms the company had first laid down.

“We were losers when we came back from Vietnam,” the muscular, middle-aged worker told me nearly two decades ago. “We were losers when we put up this battle and now we’ve lost the American dream.”

Workers like him have been losing more than their American dream. They’ve been losing their lives.

In 2015, Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton pointed out that the death rate of middle-aged white Americans had changed direction and spurted upward, reversing years of steady decline. The “turnaround” was mostly driven by the deaths of those with a high school degree or less.

Delving into questions raised by that study, the economists’ latest analysis finds that the grim reality has continued to touch working class white Americans with limited educations. And they predict that these middle-aged Americans are likely “to do much worse in old age than those currently older than 65.”

Behind the death spiral are growing rates of suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning, liver diseases and cirrhosis, the economists say. They liken the trend to the sudden emergence of an iceberg rising up out the water.

Why?

What makes these middle-aged white workers different from black or Latino workers in the United States in the same economic straits, or from workers in similarly rich nations—all of whom show declining death rates?

Indeed, as Deaton explained in a recent NPR interview, these white Americans’ death rate now exceeds the rate for black Americans “as a whole.”

“It’s as if poorly educated whites have now taken over from blacks as the lowest rung in terms of mortality rates,” he said in the interview.

Without pinpointing a specific reason, Deaton and Case suggest that the cycle of “deaths of despair” comes from the collapse of jobs and benefits for these workers who then tumble into heart-breaking problems of physical and emotional health, family difficulties, drugs and just plain survival. It is a portrait of cascading hopelessness, where workers go from stagnating wages to joblessness to dropping out of the job market.

If you’ve spent any time listening to workers’ heartbreak for the last few decades as I have, however, it is saddening to hear the shock and controversy among experts over the economists’ last two reports.

They could have heard the cries for help building.

All they needed to do was spend some time in a union hall, hang out at an unemployment office, kill an afternoon in a bar or the gloomy living room of a worker on the decline to hear the despair that fills workers’ hearts. But this is an especially American tragedy rooted in our workaday DNA.

An American dilemma because when good-paying jobs began to vanish for workers with a strong back, grit to do a tough or mindless job and little education besides high school, it’s like somebody stole their soul.

Many blue-collar workers, who once earned decent wages, thought they owned their jobs and what comes with it. But most American companies don’t agree.

Many American workers once thought that their tire factory, steel plant, paper mill or garment mill would never shut down and would be there for their children. But fate dealt a different hand for workers and their families in Akron, Gary, Youngstown and across the South, where the garment industry vanished in a huff.

Traveling to these places and more, I realized that the most lethal wound from the hollowing out of blue-collar jobs for American workers is the psychic one. Seeking out local union officials in the 1980s at places where the jobs had disappeared, I found that some had died suddenly or sunk into solemn silence. They had tried to stand tall, to help their rank and file move on, but there was little help from their union or their government and the future kept on darkening all around them.

Helping these workers hasn’t been easy because so many blame themselves and not the companies or the American way of doing business for the misfortune that suddenly enveloped them. One day I talked a young worker out of suicide. He’d failed to get back on his feet after his small auto parts plant in southern Michigan had shut down and blamed himself.

I’ve met with wives of striking workers in Decatur, Illinois, who came together to help each other because their husbands had slipped into silence or were numbing themselves with alcohol. I spent time with a grief-stricken husband, whose union was on strike, and whose wife died during a demonstration. I spoke often with a labor-friendly priest in Decatur, who was stunned by the last words a wife gave her husband. He had returned unhappily to work after a long-term lockout and had been fatally injured in a car accident. She told her dying husband that at least he would not have to go back to the job.

Not long ago, I met with a middle-aged worker in Chicago, the sole source of income for her family, who fell into a deep depression when Mondelez International said it was moving a large chunk of workers’ jobs at its Nabisco bakery to Mexico.

Soon after she was laid off, a job opened up and she was called back. But her fears about her future had already taken a powerful toll.

After hearing news of the layoffs, the woman had begun losing her hair until she was totally bald. The bakery workers union is fighting the move with a boycott of the firm’s Mexican-made products.

Unaware of her mother’s situation, her teenage daughter was stunned when she returned home from college and saw her mother. “I was scared,” she said. “I thought she had cancer.”

She didn’t have cancer. But she had, indeed, succumbed to an illness—heartbreak.

New research identifies a ‘sea of despair’ among white, working-class Americans

Princeton economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case continue to report on sickness and early death among white, middle-aged, working-class Americans. (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)

For the first time, research findings are showing that white people are not living as long as they once did. This is alarming information to disclose to all in education.  Many times we overlook rural white families and students. We cannot afford to overlook the challenges these families encounter.  This article below sheds information about why white families life expectancy is shorter and some possible contributing factors.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/new-research-identifies-a-sea-of-despair-among-white-working-class-americans/2017/03/22/c777ab6e-0da6-11e7-9b0d-d27c98455440_story.html?utm_term=.212ff692014c

Sickness and early death in the white working class could be rooted in poor job prospects for less-educated young people as they first enter the labor market, a situation that compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other pathologies, according to a study published Thursday by two prominent economists.

Anne Case and Angus Deaton garnered national headlines in 2015 when they reported that the death rate of midlife non-Hispanic white Americans had risen steadily since 1999 in contrast with the death rates of blacks, Hispanics and Europeans. Their new study extends the data by two years and shows that whatever is driving the mortality spike is not easing up.

The two Princeton professors say the trend affects whites of both sexes and is happening nearly everywhere in the country. Education level is significant: People with a college degree report better health and happiness than those with only some college, who in turn are doing much better than those who never went.

Offering what they call a tentative but “plausible” explanation, they write that less-educated white Americans who struggle in the job market in early adulthood are likely to experience a “cumulative disadvantage” over time, with health and personal problems that often lead to drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease and suicide.

“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high-school-educated working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they conclude.

The study comes as Congress debates how to dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act. Case and Deaton report that poor health is becoming more common for each new generation of middle-aged, less-educated white Americans. And they are going downhill faster.

In a teleconference with reporters this week, Case said the new research found a “sea of despair” across America. A striking feature is the rise in physical pain. The pattern does not follow short-term economic cycles but reflects a long-term disintegration of job prospects.

“You used to be able to get a really good job with a high school diploma. A job with on-the-job training, a job with benefits. You could expect to move up,” she said.

The nation’s obesity epidemic may be another sign of stress and physical pain, she continued: “People may want to soothe the beast. They may do that with alcohol, they may do that with drugs, they may do that with food.”

Similarly, Deaton cited suicide as an action that could be triggered not by a single event but by a cumulative series of disappointments: “Your family life has fallen apart, you don’t know your kids anymore, all the things you expected when you started out your life just haven’t happened at all.”

The economists say that there is no obvious solution but that a starting point would be limiting the overuse of opioids, which killed more than 30,000 Americans in 2015.

The two will present their study on Friday at the Brookings Institution.

“Their paper documents some facts. What is the story behind those facts is a matter of speculation,” said Adriana Lleras-Muney, a University of California at Los Angeles economics professor, who will also speak at Brookings.

She noted that less-educated white Americans tend to be strikingly pessimistic when interviewed about their prospects.

“It’s just a background of continuous decline. You’re worse off than your parents,” Lleras-Muney said. “Whereas for Hispanics, or immigrants like myself” — she is from Colombia — “or blacks, yes, circumstances are bad, but they’ve been getting better.”

David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard who also will be discussing the paper at Brookings, said the declining health of white, working-class Americans suggests that Republican plans to replace the Affordable Care Act are akin to bleeding a sick patient. As he put it, “Treat the fever by causing an even bigger fever.”

Whites continue to have longer life expectancy than African Americans and lower death rates, but that gap has narrowed since the late 1990s. The picture may have shifted again around the Great Recession, however: Graphs accompanying the new paper suggest that death rates for blacks with only a high school education began rising around 2010 in many age groups, as if following the trend that began about a decade earlier among whites.

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White men continue to die at higher rates than white women in every age group. But because women started with lower death rates, the recent mortality increase reflects a greater change in their likelihood of dying early. The numbers reported by Case and Deaton suggest that white men today are about twice as likely as they were in 1999 to die from one of the “diseases of despair,” while women are about four times as likely.

Case and Deaton play down geography as a factor in the epidemic. Yet they note that white mortality rates fell in the biggest cities, were constant in big-city suburbs and rose in all other areas. The Washington Post’s analysis published last year highlighted the same geographical signature, with a break in death rates between the two most urban classifications (big cities and big-city suburbs) and the four less urban classifications, which The Post described as an urban-rural divide.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report on U.S. suicides by level of urbanization between 1999 and 2015, a period in which 600,000 Americans took their own lives. The report showed rising rates in each of the six urbanization classifications but found “a geographic disparity” in which rates increased as urbanization decreased. That urban-rural divide appears to have widened, particularly in recent years, the CDC reported.

A correlation between the Achievement Gap and Adverse Childhood Experiences

What exactly is an achievement gap?

The term “achievement gap” refers to disparities in the academic achievement of specific groups of students (Coleman et al., 1966). The achievement gap now measures four years: by the end of high school, African American and Latino students have skills in literacy (reading) and numeracy (mathematics) that are virtually identical to those of White students at the end of middle school (Lyman & Villani, 2004; Scherer, 2002-2003).

 What about the Achievement Gap once school years are over?

The achievement gap exists during school years, but when the school years are over the achievement gap becomes an opportunity gap. In other words, students become adults. In many cases, adults who will not be able to pay for everyday essentials such as food, purchase a home, have access to health, vision, or dental insurance.  The achievement gap can very well impact one’s life time earnings. Lower life time earnings can have a direct impact on where people live and what kids are exposed to as they grow up. Lower life time earnings can very well impact one’s credit score and put up barriers that prevent home ownership and sometimes prevent the opportunity to rent. Consequently, most are forced to live in low credit score neighborhoods. Low credit score neighborhoods can breed a host of negative exposures such as violence and childhood stressors. Low score neighborhoods are inundated with liquor stores, cigarette ads, and corner stores that sell nothing but unhealthy processed food. All of these factors add to negative childhood experiences.

Definition of Adverse Childhood Experiences/Trauma 

Psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions, in which: The individual experiences (subjectively) an existential threat to life, bodily integrity, or sanity, such that the individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed. (Saakvitne, 1995). Reactions to Traumatic Stress are as follow:  (Cormier, 2012 at NABSE Conference)

  • Re-experiencing symptoms: intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, re-living, dissociating, high reactivity to reminders
  • Arousal symptoms: Hypervigilance, hyperarousal (heightened emotional experiencing and slow return to baseline), feeling edgy, difficulty falling asleep, midnight or early morning awakenings, heightened irritability and aggression (Cormier, 2012 NABSE)
  • Avoiding symptoms: refusal to talk about event, avoiding traumatic reminders, social withdrawal, detachment, numbing (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition).
  • The person experiencing traumatic stress never gets a break from it. They feel as though they are always “on.”
  • The combination of always being on, of re-experiencing and of trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid re-experiencing contribute to the person’s feeling as though they are coming apart or going crazy(Cormier, 2012 NABSE Conference).
  • To others, the person’s inability to control their emotions, withdrawal from normal social interchange, and active distrust of everything, make that person very difficult to engage. Thus, the very people who could become a source of support become a source of antagonism (Cormier, 2012 NABSE conference Nashville, Tennessee)
  • This combination of the inability to regulate emotions, the inability to trust others and the inability to attend to the present moment is quite destructive of the kind of executive and integrative functioning necessary for academic success.

When students come up in high violence areas they are more than not exposed to adverse childhood experiences. Adverse Childhood experiences such as drugs, child abuse, sexual abuse, incarceration of love ones, drug use by caretakers, and gun violence. When a child is habitually exposed to these kind of stressors, they can become traumatized prior to entering kindergarten. This traumatization has a colossal impact on the child’s behavior and the ability to learn.  Some researchers would say the child is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The same PTSD soldiers experience due to combat from serving in the military during wartime.  Researchers admit the PTSD suffered by students never turns off. As a result, all adults such as the school system should be in the know and have established a plan that effectively addresses the trauma or unwanted behavior.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (Presented by Matthew A. Munich, PhD, LCSW Trauma Clinician Family Service of Rhode Island, 2012 at NABSE Conference Nashville, Tennessee)

  • A study commissioned by Kaiser Permanente involving 17,000 patients surveyed by their primary care physician to make a connection between health outcomes and “Adverse Child Events” (A.C.E.). 12,000 patients responded. These were people who were predominately middle to upper middle class Caucasian. 74% had attended college, with an average age of 57.
  • Responders were given 1 point for every childhood adverse experience: physical, emotional or sexual abuse, absent or addicted caregiver, parental divorce, domestic violence, mentally ill caregiver.

ACE SCORE

  • Score of 4 or higher: twice as likely to smoke, seven times as likely to become alcoholics, six times as likely to have had sex before 15.
  • 4 or higher: One is twice as likely to have cancer, twice as likely to have heart disease, and four times as likely to suffer from emphysema or chronic bronchitis. 12 times as likely to have attempted suicide than those with an ACE score of 0.
  • Men with an ACE score of 6 or higher were 46 times as likely to have injected drugs than men who had no history of ACEs (acestudy.org; Tough, 2011).

Nadine Burke & The ACE Study

  • Bayview Health Clinic, a San Francisco public health clinic, Nadine Burke administers a modified version of the ACE study questionnaire to her patients at every yearly exam. This time, the median age was 7, rather than 57.  700 patients were surveyed.
  • 69% had an ACE score of 1.  12% have an ace of 4 or higher.
  • In addition to health outcomes being more negative already for this population, Burke saw a correlation between children’s ACE score and school performance.
  • The conclusion being drawn from this is that the glucocorticoids that flood the young brain as a result of adverse childhood events adversely affect its normal development. These findings mirror studies from the late 60s and early 70s  led to the great literacy movement, with government programs like Head Start.  (Tough, 2011)

As the author of this article, my purpose is to provide information that is beneficial for teachers, districts, families and most of all the information is helpful for improving students’ quality of life both academically and socially.  It is essential for all educators to understand their students’ life experiences. By doing so, immensely improves the opportunity for students to be successful.

Wheatley, Margaret J. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future

 

This is a fascinating article by one of my all time favorites, Margaret Wheatley.

As we grapple with social and educational issues that plague our school systems and country,  I find it extremely necessary to read this article. This article continues to make the case 15 years later. We must turn to one another. We cannot do the necessary things in isolation.  We must challenge our mental models (Senge, 1993) and continue to enhance our thoughts and actions through Personal Mastery (Senge, 1993).  Read this article over and over. More importantly, I hope this read motives action steps for change that impacts social justice.

 

Wheatley, Margaret J. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future San Francisco: Berrett-Koshler Publishers, Inc., 2002

“Willing to Be Disturbed”

As we work together to restore hope to the future, we need to include a new and strange ally—our willingness to be disturbed. Our willingness to have our beliefs and ideas challenged by what others think. No one person or perspective can give us the answers we need to the problems of today. Paradoxically, we can only find those answers by admitting we don’t know. We have to be willing to let go of our certainty and expect ourselves to be confused for a time.

We weren’t trained to admit we don’t know. Most of us were taught to sound certain and confident, to state our opinion as if it were true. We haven’t been rewarded for being confused. Or for asking more questions rather than giving quick answers. We’ve also spent many years listening to others mainly to determine whether we agree with them or not. We don’t have time or interest to sit and listen to those who think differently than we do.

But the world now is quite perplexing. We no longer live in those sweet, slow days when life felt predictable, when we actually knew what to do next. We live in a complex world, we often don’t know what’s going on, and we won’t be able to understand its complexity unless we spend more time in not knowing.

It is very difficult to give up our certainties—our positions, our beliefs, our explanations. These help define us; they lie at the heart of our personal identity. Yet I believe we will succeed in changing this world only if we can think and work together in new ways. Curiosity is what we need. We don’t have to let go of what we believe, but we don need to be curious about what someone else believes. We do need to acknowledge that their way of interpreting the world might be essential to our survival.

We live in a dense and tangled global system. Because we live in different parts of this complexity, and because no two people are physically identical, we each experience life differently. It’s impossible for any two people to ever see things exactly the same. You can test this out for yourself. Take

any event that you’ve shared with others (a speech, a movie, a current event, a major problem) and ask your colleagues and friends to describe their interpretation of that event. I think you’ll be amazed at how many different explanations you’ll hear. Once you get a sense of diversity, try asking even more colleagues. You’ll end up with a rich tapestry of interpretations that are much more interesting than any single one.

To be curious about how someone else interprets things, we have to be willing to admit that we’re not capable of figuring things out alone. If our solutions don’t work as well as we want them to, if our explanations of why something happened don’t feel sufficient, it’s time to begin asking others about what they see and think. When so many interpretations are available, I can’t understand why we would be satisfied with superficial conversations where we pretend to agree with one another.

There are many ways to sit and listen for the differences. Lately, I’ve been listening for what surprises me. What did I just hear that startled me? This isn’t easy – I’m accustomed to sitting there nodding my head to those saying things I agree with. But when I notice what surprises me, I’m able to see my own views more dearly, including my beliefs and assumptions.

Noticing what surprises and disturbs me has been a very useful way to see invisible beliefs. If what you say surprises me, I must have been assuming something else was true. If what you say disturbs me, I must believe something contrary to you. My shock at your position exposes my own position. When I hear myself saying, “How could anyone believe something like that?” a light comes on for me to see my own beliefs. These moments are great gifts. If I can see my beliefs and assumptions, I can decide whether I still value them.

I hope you’ll begin a conversation, listening for what’s new. Listen as best you can for what’s different, for what surprises you. See if this practice helps you learn something new. Notice whether you develop a better relationship with the person you’re talking with. If you try this with several people, you might find yourself laughing in delight as you realize how many unique ways there are to be human.

We have the opportunity many times a day, everyday, to be the one who listens to others, curious rather than certain. But the greatest benefit of all is that listening moves us closer. When we listen with less judgment, we

always develop better relationships with each other. It’s not differences that divide us. It’s our judgments about each other that do curiosity and good listening bring us back together.

Sometimes we hesitate to listen for differences because we don’t want to change. We’re comfortable with our lives, and if we listened to anyone who raised questions, we’d have to get engaged in changing things. If we don’t listen, things can stay as they are and we won’t have to expend any energy. But most of us do see things in our life or in the world that we would like to be different. If that’s true, we have to listen more, not less. And we have to be willing to move into the very uncomfortable place of uncertainty.

We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course it’s scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing. If we can move through the fear and enter the abyss, we are rewarded greatly. We rediscover we’re creative.

As the world grows more strange and puzzling and difficult, I don’t believe most of us want to keep struggling through it alone, I can’t know what to do from my own narrow perspective. I know I need a better understanding of what’s going on. I want to sit down with you and talk about all the frightening and hopeful things I observe, and listen to what frightens you and gives you hope. I need new ideas and solutions for the problems I care about. I know I need to talk to you to discover those. I need to learn to value your perspective, and I want you to value mine. I expect to be disturbed by what I hear from you. I know we don’t have to agree with each other in order to think well together. There is no need for us to be joined at the head. We are joined by our human hearts.

Hands down, Numeric Literacy is the Global Language

Algebra: Gateway to College Success Starts in Middle School

Nearly every school district across the United States has a phrase in its school’s vision statement or related to preparation of students to compete on the Global Stage or to prepare for a Global Society.  When considering mathematics, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, results indicate American students are lagging behind other industrial countries’ students.  American students will have to compete with these same students in the future. When considering STEM jobs, much of the competition will take place on computer keyboards.  Many companies compete  across the globe and the employee is at home, in their office, or in some facility that has  wireless connection. To truly compete on a global stage, we have to do a significantly better job of educating our youth with numeric literacy.   “Numeracy is defined as the ability to access, use and interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of various situations in adult years. To be numerate is to confidently and effectively use mathematics to meet the everyday demands of life.” (Bendigo Kangan Institute, 2017).

Middle school and high school are absolutely necessary times for early postsecondary planning, and many educational institutions and the U.S. Department of Education suggest that students begin considering and planning for college as early as sixth grade (National Association for College Admission Counseling, 1999). Early planning gives students the opportunity to take the necessary middle and high school courses to ensure preparedness for postsecondary education, and align their educational benchmarks with their current course taking and educational planning. Schools can play a vital role in guiding early preparation for college or careers through fostering academic preparation and achievement, supporting parent involvement, providing college and career planning essentials, and aiding students through the multiple steps in college and career planning. Early postsecondary planning may not be the case for all students. Too many students are failing to engage in the early planning activities that can be extremely beneficial in getting ready for college. It could be considered too late to start preparing for college in the 11th or 12th grade. By this time, students have missed opportunities to take rigorous courses as well as all the math high schools have to offer.  Rigorous mathematics provide students with leverage to meet the challenges of college.

Middle school students who take rigorous courses such as Algebra I can obtain information about college opportunities and are likely to apply to a four-year university (Atanda, 1999; National Commission on the High School Senior Year, 2001). This is especially true among minority and first-generation college students.  Those who take higher-level math courses are more likely to attend college (Horn & Nuñez, 2000). As it relates to equity and Civil Rights, Kaupt (1998) suggests all should have the right to algebra. Having taken algebra by 8th grade allow students to take high school course sequences including calculus by senior year. Therefore, it is imperative students take algebra by 8th grade (Kaput, 1998).

Algebra is considered the gateway to taking advanced mathematics offered by high schools, which leads to knowledge and skills needed to meet Geometry, Algebra II, and Calculus rigor (Gaertner, Kim, DesJardins, & McClarity, 2013). The completion of these higher math courses aid students for success in college, technically skilled jobs, as well as more lifetime career earnings. Math Pathways and Pitfalls (2013) suggest students who complete challenging math courses double their chances of graduating from college compared to students who do not. “Failure in algebra is the #1 trigger of dropouts in high school” (Helfand, 2007).

The Importance of Algebra II

“The mathematics courses students take in high school affect their academic achievement and their admission to competitive postsecondary schools and professional programs” (Schiller & Muller, 2003, p. 300). Adelman (2006) states, when students complete high-level mathematic courses such as Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, and Calculus these are the most significant predictors of achieving in postsecondary systems.

DesJardins, Gaertner, Kim, and McClarity (2013), Preparing Students for College & Careers: The Causal Role of Algebra II looked at the impacts of taking Algebra II in high school.

Research findings suggest completing Algebra II is necessary for college outcomes for all post-secondary institutions, but not necessarily for career outcomes. Students who completed Algebra II in high school were more likely to be accepted to college, sustain higher grade point averages, remain in college, and most of all graduate from college. Moreover,  students who did not complete Algebra II do not achieve the same outcomes. Students who did not apply to college after high school, completing Algebra II was not essential to finding a job immediately after high school, earning occupational prestige, earnings, or career advancement (Gaertner, Kim, DesJardins, & McClarty, 2013).              Fong, Huang, and Goel, (2008) state students who complete Algebra II increase their opportunity for not needing remedial courses once enrolled in college. In fact, completing Algebra II was essential for improving college preparedness as it relates to minority students (Evan, Gray, and Olchefske, 2006).

In summary, the data provides evidence regarding Algebra and the importance of algebra beyond the walls of school.  The importance of Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II and other advanced math courses are extremely important and significant predictors for college admission and sustainability beyond a student’s freshman year of college.

Advanced Placement Math

High schools throughout the country, now offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses in mathematics and science. These courses are known as pre-college readiness subjects. Adelman (2006) urges students to complete at least two years of AP courses in math. High school students who perform well on AP examinations triple their chances of obtaining a four-year college degree as opposed to students who do not pass the AP test (National Science Foundation, 2007). Subsequently, the percentage for completing a four-year degree is even higher for African American students. Many students, especially low-income students, misjudge what essential classes they must enroll to properly prepare themselves for two and four-year colleges. It is severely important for guidance counselors to ensure they are providing all students with valid information regarding the importance of Algebra’s impact on college preparedness.  Rigorous math course completion also improve students’ ACT scores (ACT, 2010; 2012).

Advanced Math Courses and the Minority Student

What is true for the high school population in general is true for African American and Hispanic students whose college graduation rates are more positively impacted than any other group through by having a rigorous curriculum and teachers competent in their subject area (Wimberly & Noeth, 2005). Students who complete Algebra II, double their chances of graduating from a four-year college as opposed to those students do not (Wimberly & Noeth, 2005). Furthermore, failure or less than mediocre achievement in minimum college ready courses such as Algebra is a major problem impacting urban secondary education, which also negatively impacts African Americans, Hispanics, and other students of color.

Stein, Kaufman, Sherman, and Hillen (2011), research findings suggest there are inequities regarding those who take  Algebra in 8th or 9th grade. This is common for minority students, lower income students, and students whose parents have minimum education (Filer & Chang, 2008; Gamoran & Hannigan, 2000; McCoy, 2005; Shakrani, 1996; Walston & McCarroll, 2010). According to research by Stone (1998), these demographic inequities in Algebra have been evident since the early 1990s in large urban school districts. The data disclosed a couple of reason for this imbalance, including under-preparedness and subjective placement factors. Not taking rigorous math courses in high school can have substantial ramifications for a student’s future job earnings and social success. If students do not take advanced math courses in high school, and they plan on going to college, “a student is effectively frozen out of the highly compensated, highly sought after fields of science, technology, engineering, and math known as STEM” (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013, p. 2).

Some studies revealed when students are selected to take advanced math courses, a host of minority and low-income students are excluded from taking Algebra, even if their test scores are proficient or advanced. Stone’s (1998) research shows that students of upper financial status are more likely to be enrolled in Algebra I and Geometry as opposed to their lower income peers who scored proficient or advanced with their test scores (Stein, Kaufman, Sherman, & Hillen, 2011; Walston & McCaroll, 2010). Horn and Bobbitt (2000) disclosed “fewer first-generation college students are taking eighth grade Algebra compared to students with parents who were college graduates” (Stein, Kaufman, Sherman, & Hillen, 2011, p. 461).

California considers taking Algebra a civil right for students. To ensure students are not being overlooked or misplaced due to origin or social economic status, the state of California educators may face substantial legal liability for misplacement of students in math courses. This is due to California based universities require college eligible math courses such as Advanced Placement Statistics or Calculus. “Purposeful placement decisions that disproportionately impact minority students violate state and federal laws” (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013, p. 4).

The opportunity to take these advanced math courses can only be achieved if students complete algebra by 8th grade and enters high school enrolled Geometry. Students not having the opportunity to complete advanced math courses can negatively impact college success and long-term opportunities forever (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013). The most alarming concerns California has with misplacing students in advanced math courses due to social economic status (SES) or race occurs when a student has adequately “completed Algebra I in middle school and is forced to repeat Algebra I in 9th grade. When this happens, the student is immediately made less competitive for college admission” (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013, p. 4). The research study conducted by the state of California for nine districts between San Mateo and Santa Clara counties research findings revealed 65% of students who completed Algebra 1 in 8th grade were mandated to take the same Algebra 1 course again in the ninth grade. The same study revealed more than 42% of students mandated to take Algebra I again in 9th grade earned a B- grade or higher while in 8th grade. The students were more often than not minority and low-income students (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013). In order for United States of America to remain an elite figure on the global platform, it must be a priority to ensure a larger percentage of our secondary students enroll in college and complete a degree in an adequate time period.

National Assessment of Educational Progress states the “overwhelming number of low-achieving students in Algebra are black and Hispanic and attend big urban high-poverty schools where they are more likely to fall through the cracks” (Loveless, 2008, p. 8). More often than not, low-income and minority students tend to be the least likely to engage in early and timely educational planning. Low-income communities may lack educational planning information (Freeman, 1999). Schools serving low-income districts have an urgent role and moral imperative to prepare students and help them plan for the future and narrow the opportunity gap.

STEM and Future Careers

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) require a strong foundation in math. Society moved from an agricultural society to an industrial society and people moving to the city from the countryside for better paying industry jobs realized they needed postsecondary training for the purpose of obtaining the newly created industry jobs.  Today, we are living in the information age.  An era which has created a host of STEM careers and require a healthy dose of numeric literacy. “We are all required to be numerate to maximize our potential and to make a positive contribution to society. In our exceedingly technical world, numeracy skills, in particular the ability to interpret data, are becoming increasingly more significant and are hugely sought after by employers. An absence of mathematical confidence and poor numeracy skills are obstructions to employment as numeracy tests are increasingly becoming a routine part of the recruitment process” (Bendigo Kangan Institute, 2017).  Math is the most important course in every country, Hands down.

References

ACT, Inc. (2010). Mind the gaps: How college readiness narrows achievement gaps in college success. Retrieved from http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/ pdf/MindTheGaps.pdf

ACT, Inc. (2010). The condition of college and career readiness. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.www.libproxy.wvu.edu/ehost/

ACT, Inc. (2012). Creating your explore and plan: Road map to student success. Retrieved from http://www.act.org/education/benchmarks.html

Adelman, C. (1999). Answers in the tool box: Academic intensity, attendance patterns, and bachelor’s degree attainment. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/Toolbox/index.html

Adelman, C. (2006). The toolbox revisited: Paths to degree completion from high school through college. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http:/www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/toolboxrevisit/index.html

Atanda, R. (1999). Do gatekeeper courses expand education options? Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs99/1999303.pdf

Bendigo Kangan Institute (2017). The importance of literacy and numeric skills. Retrieved November 28, 2017 from https://www.kangan.edu.au/students/blog/importance-literacy-and-numeracy-skills

Brown, G., Hardimarkos, S., & Rogers, A. (2013). Held back: Addressing misplacement of 9th grade students in Bay Area School math classes. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from http://www.lccr.com/?s=held+back

Evan, A., Gray, T., & Olchesfke, J. (2006). The gateway to student success in mathematics and science. Washington, DC: American Institutes of Research.

Filer, K. L., & Chang, M. (2008). Peer and parent encouragement of early algebra enrollment and mathematics achievement. Middle Grades Research Journal, 3(1), 23–34.

Fong, A. B., Huang, M., & Goel, A. M. (2008). Examining the links between grade 12 mathematics coursework and mathematics remediation in Nevada public colleges and universities. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Freeman, K. (1999). The race factor in African Americans’ college choice. Urban Education, 34, 4–25.

Gaertner, M., Kim, J., DesJardins, S., & McClarity, K. (2013). Preparing students for college and careers: The casual role of algebra II. Research in Higher Education, 55(2), 143-165

Gamoran, A., & Hannigan, E. C. (2000). Algebra for everyone? Benefits of college-preparatory mathematics for students with diverse abilities in early secondary school. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22(3), 241-254.

Helfand, D. (2007, January 26). Formula for failure in L.A. schools. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-medropout30jan30,0,405044,full.story?coll=la-news-learning

Horn, L., & Nuñez, A. (2000). Mapping the road to college: First-generation students’ math track, planning strategies, and context of support. (NCES 2000–153). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Kaput, J. J. (1998). Transforming algebra from an engine of inequity to an engine of mathematical power by “algebraifying” the K–12 curriculum. In The nature and role of algebra in the K–14 curriculum: Proceedings of a national symposium. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/ PDFS/ED441664.pdf

Loveless, T. (2008, September). The misplaced math student: Lost in eighth-grade algebra. Washington, DC: Brown Center on Education Policy at The Brookings Institution. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/ rc/reports/2008/0922_education_loveless/0922_education_loveless.pdf

McCoy, L. P. (2005). Effect of demographic and personal variables on achievement in eighth-grade algebra. Journal of Educational Research, 98(3), 131–135. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27548070

National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2011; 2015). The nation’s report card: Science, grade 12 national results. Retrieved from http://nationsreportcard.gov/ science_2009/g12_nat.asp?tab_id=tab2&subtab_id=tab_1#tabscontainer

National Association for College Admission Counseling. (1999). PACT: Parents and counselors together program. Alexandria, VA: Author.

National Commission on the High School Senior Year. (2001). The lost opportunity of the senior year: Finding a better way. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Programme for International Student Assessment. (2015). Results in focus. Retrieved November 28, 2017 from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf

Schiller, K. S., & Muller, C. (2003). Raising the bar and equity? Effects of state high school graduation requirements and accountability policies on students’ mathematics course taking. Educational Evaluation and Policy Studies, 25(3), 299-318. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3699497

Shakrani, S. (1996). Eighth-grade algebra coursetaking and mathematics proficiency (NAEP FACTS Vol. 1, No. 2). Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED396915.pdf

Stein, M., Kaufman, J., Sherman, M., & Hillen, A. (2011). Algebra: A challenge at the crossroads of policy and practice. Review of Educational Research, 81(4), 453–492.

Stone, C. (1998). Leveling the playing field: An urban school system examines equity in access to mathematics curriculum. Urban Review, 30, 295–307.

Walston, J., & McCarroll, J. (2010). Eighth-grade algebra: Findings form the eighth grade round of the early childhood longitudinal study, kindergarten class of 1998–99 (NCES-2010–016). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Wimberly, G. L., & Noeth, R. J. (2005). College readiness begins in middle school. ACT policy report. Ames, IA: ACT, Inc.

Executive Functioning Skills, College, and Career Readiness

Learning

For the purpose of making the case, it is helpful to open this article by presenting a biological perspective. Sociologist find it important to define Nature (biological) and Nurture (environmental). The Nature versus Nurture perspectives of human development have been an unrelenting debate between natural and social scientists for decades.  Even though there will be comparing and contrasting as it relates to the differing points of view of nature/nurture, the purpose of this article is not to defend either side.  Instead, an attempt to simply describe and explain several dimensions of learning and intelligence will be the focus. Each one of the dimensions will be defined before elaborating on the two dimensions of interest.  The six dimensions are as follows:

  1. Physiological process: Having the ability to acquire information and achieve operates on a biological stage of cells, circuits, and chemical in the brain (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).  The brain has infinite ability for processing new and old information.  The human brain and body are the same.  One does not exist without the other.  The brain craves plenty of valuable nutritional care and exposure to social experiences (Dickman & Standford-Blair, 2009).
  2. Social process: As millions of years passed, human’s brain became rich in social experiences and instincts.  The human brain demands attention and belonging to other socialized brains. Social nature allows for memory, language, empathy, sympathy, collaboration, and reasoning. The social component of the brain is expectant, dependent, extended, and oriented to virtue (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  3. Emotional Process: This part of the brain focuses on attention, judgment, motivation, and reasoning. These are considered changes in the mind and body. Additional changes to be considered are fear, madness, happiness, and enjoyment are all associated with the emotional process (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  4. Constructive process: the ability to take in new information and use it to your advantage.  The brain embraces patterns for assembling meaning to the incoming information.  The constructed information is habitually and emotionally assessed to see if it is valuable (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  5. Reflective process: this is a very interesting makeup of the brain.  The brain has the ability to be manipulative, authoritative, collaborative or unifying, as well as promising.  Reflection manipulates information and check choices prior to taking action. Having the ability to be reflective allows the brain to problem solve, socially interact, and make decisions (Dickman & Standford-Blair, 2004).
  6. Dispositional process: the ever amazing brain has the capacity to display its intelligence abilities in a way that is macro, mandatory, and maximizing or minimizing.  The brain is capable of taking on macro patterns of thinking.  Thinking dispositions are biological in nature but advance through social experiences or environmental factors.  Man ability to think, acquire new information, and make new advances is realized to the level to which there is a productive disposition in the driver’s seat (Dickman, Blair, & Bojar, 2004).

The six dimensions described above are all important as it relates to intelligence and learning, nevertheless, I will focus on Physiological and Social nature of learning.  These particular processes of intelligence motivate me to learn more just as the brain intended, always in search of additional knowledge.  The more the brain adsorbs the more the brain is driven to absorb.

There is another part of the hemisphere I am concerned about known as the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is of importance due to the executive functioning of the frontal  lobe which is able to anticipate future consequences resulting from current actions, to choose between good, bad, better, best, deny inappropriate social actions, as well as, measure similarities and differences.  The frontal lobe impacts critical thinking, problem solving, and complex reasoning (Dickman, Blair, & Bojar, 2004).  Now that I have described the functions of the frontal lobes, I will focus my attention on Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and weak Executive Functioning Skills.

Executive Functioning Skills

First, it is important for me to point out, my wife and I are educated parents of two young men. Educated parents who do not believe in snake oil remedies. Though both of our boys are great young men ages 17 and 21, one of our boys was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors.  Research shows that those with ADHD have abnormalities in how the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine work to facilitate communication between neurons and activation of various brain functions. Differences in the communication route related to reward and consequence, a pathway involving dopamine activity (Volkow, et al, 2009) have been found to be particularly problematic in the brains of individuals with ADHD, as have brain networks involved in the engagement and regulation of attention. Disruptions in serotonin levels and activity may also play a role, particularly in affecting the modulation and regulation of the dopamine system.  There are skeptics who say ADHD does not exist. If ADHD does not exist, well I have no idea as to what my son and family have dealt with starting from kindergarten through grade 15th and most of all I guess Dobermans fly. Not only does it exist, its functions are in the frontal lobe of the brain. It is important for me to point out we are educated parents and have a more than average educational status with health care, dental, and vision insurance. I mentioned my status for the purpose of providing clarity. In other words, we have been blessed to provide the very best as parents and provide them with the best supports when needed. When we did not have the answers or concerns, we sought help. Skeptics also say ADD & ADHD are all due to poor parenting or uneducated parents. Well, we are not uneducated and though not perfect I would like to think our parenting skills were/are pretty good.

An exceptionally large portion of school age children suffer from poor executive functioning skills. Executive functions are found in the frontal lobe of the brain.  This is valuable information for all educators to understand. Understanding students’ disorders which may impact students’ academic performance and overall behavior, mandate teachers to know the readiness levels of their students for the purpose of differentiating classwork, homework, and understanding the whole child. Executive Functional Skills are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal.  “It is an umbrella term for the neurologically based skills involving mental control and self-regulation” (Kahn, & Dietzel, 2008, p. 10).

Dr. Gioia (2002), has identified and defined eight executive functioning skills that are essential to everyone, everyday, and every working moment.  Executive Functioning Skills are as follows:

  1. Inhibition—The capability to prohibit one’s own behavior at any giving time, this include avoiding inappropriate actions and thinking. However, there is another side to inhibition known as impulsivity.  If you have poor ability to prevent yourself from action on your impulses you are considered “impulsive” (Gioia, 2002).
  2. Shift—The ability to move at will from situation to another while behaving appropriately to the situation (Gioia, 2002).
  3. Emotional Control—Having the capacity to modulate emotional responses by bringing rational thought to bear on feelings (Gioia, 2002).
  4. Initiation— The ability to initiate a task or and to individually generate thoughts, responses, and problem-solving techniques (Gioia, 2002).
  5. Working Memory—Capacity to retain and recall information in order to follow through on a task (Gioia, 2002).
  6. Planning/Organization—The ability to oversee present and future-oriented task demands (Gioia, 2002).
  7. Organizational of Materials—Having the ability to be orderly on work, play, and storage spaces (Gioia, 2002).
  8. Self-Monitoring–The ability to measure self’s performance and to compare it against some standard of what is needed or expected (Gioia, 2002).

When students suffer from weak executive functioning skills as a result of nature, all responsible for educating the child in a given year, should be aware of the students’ disorder, disabilities, strengths, or weaknesses in order to effectively educate students.  For example, Differentiated Instruction is a research-based framework that puts a huge amount of attention on variance and diversity.  Differentiated Instruction is designed to properly meet students at their readiness level and nurture their learning towards the intended targets. Every hour on the hour, teachers are to be aware there are different groups of mixed-ability learners.  Therefore, superintendents, administrators, teachers and other stakeholders must ensure instructions are consistently adjusted to meet students’ readiness level (Tomlinson, 2000).  This is a non-negotiable.  Nevertheless, this can only happen if strong leadership is presence at the building and district level. To promote consistent and balanced effectiveness of “How we teach,” district and building administrators must allow for professional development, implementation of research-based strategies such as “Differentiated Instruction” and “Response to Intervention practices in each and every classroom, and ongoing collaboration with colleagues. Many times the collaboration opportunities must include teachers modeling proven techniques for one another.  Effective teachers should be knowledgeable of their subject matter and have the ability to use an array of instructional strategies to adhere to students’ culture and learning styles (Stronge, 2007). It is imperative for educators to adhere to students who suffer from disorders associated with the frontal lobe matters such as Attention Deficit Disorder or processing of information.  District administrators should regularly equip building principals with professional development that focuses on current research-based strategies which enables administrators to work with their entire building staff.  If students with Tourette are considered, it is important to know 70% of students who suffer from Tourette have other concerns such as learning disabilities, processing or ADHD.  More than not, boys tend to suffer from ADD as well as suffer from weak executive functioning skills and in many cases girls go unnoticed when there are concerns, because girls tend to be less active (Kahn, & Dietzel, 2008).  I find this to be valuable knowledge and information that should be used by administrators and teachers in order to meet students were they are both academically and socially.

The Social nature of intelligence is the next of six dimensions I care to expound upon.  The majority of learning comes from observation of others.  The brain has a craving to be social with other like brains.  Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do.  Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guided for action however, difficult for many students (Bandura, 1977, p. 22). These are only a few examples to describe the importance of social nature of intelligence.

Expectations of College

College can be the best four years of one’s life, however, it is a time when students must adapt to obscure situations filled with new challenges and barriers. This transition separates students from their childhood friends. Students are forced into challenging new task, roles, routines, and relationships. It is time for students to put into practice all of the social skills, norms, and expectations taught by their immediate family, because college life allows for more freedom, independence, and responsibility.

Students who suffer with weak executive functioning skills such as organization, working memory, planning, and self-monitoring will have an extremely difficult time in high school and this is especially true when attending college away from home.  Therefore, it is important for students with such concerns to disclose this information to the university staff. The majority of postsecondary systems take a Response to Intervention approach. However, colleges consider students to be adults and cannot mandate students to take advantage of the interventions provided by colleges. Students who suffer from weak executive skills tend to not reach their full potential if they do not take advantage of such offerings and opportunities by improving their weak EFSs and many consistently fail at task. This failure could also lead to learned helplessness and students may drop out of school. Therefore, superintendents, administrators, teachers, parents, colleges, and the community are all necessary elements for educating all, despite disabilities or disorders.  Cortese (2007, p. 1) states, “If we truly want to close the achievement gap we have to find ways to make sure children get a better-than-average education.”  I totally agree with Cortese.  I also understand this nurturing begins with parents, community, educators, and the CEO of the district.

Make no mistake about it, students who suffer from weak executive functioning skills should continue to work on their skills beyond college. The great news is there are interventions and strategies to help with these concerns.  If students disregard improving their skills, it is possible for students to have problems on their jobs and throughout their careers. Poor planning, lack of organization, and weak emotional control can very well lead to departure from school and jobs.

As parents who have a child who deals with ADHD, I find it important to enlighten others who have children dealing with the same concerns or similar concerns. As the adult it’s important to help your child with improving weak executive functioning skills. Parents must be organized and consistently clear for understanding. Work with experts and counselors who will provide the child and family members with strategies that help the child succeed. Family members must continue to be there as long as needed.  Finally, keep your child’s school and teachers in the know, especially if there have been noticeable changes in your student’s behavior or academic performance.

References

Bandura, A. (1997). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Calvin, W. H. (1996). How brains think: Evolving intelligence, then and now. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Cooper-Kahn, J., & Dietzel, L. (2008). Late, lost, and unprepared: A parent’s guide to helping children with executive functioning. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.

Cortese, A. (2007). Get real: Here’s the boost that poor children, their teachers, and their schools really need. Retreived January 5, 2012 form www.aft.org/news

Dickman, M., & Standford-Blair, N. (2009). Mindful leadership: A brain-based framework.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Dickman, M., Standford-Blair, N., & Rosati-Bojar, A. (2004). Leading with the brain in mind: 101  brain-compatible practices for leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Gioia, G. (2002). New perspectives on educating children with adhd: Contributions of the executive functions. Journal of Health Care Law & Policy, (5), 124-163.

Mithen, S. (1996). The prehistory of the mind: The cognitive origins of art, religion, and science.  London: Thames & Hudson.

Parent, A., & Carpenter, M.B. (1995). Human neuroanatomy.  Baltimore, MD: Wilkns & Williams.

Sherer, M. (2001). How and why standards can improve student achievement: A conversation  with Rober Marzano.” Education Leadership (September 2001): 14-18.

Stronge, J. (2007). Qualities of effective teachers. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2000).  Reconcilable differences: Standards-based teaching and differentiation. Educational Leadership, 58(1), 6-11.