Thursday, January 23, 2014

Licking and grooming: Hope for kids?

If you hear talk of  "licking and grooming"  in Charlotte education circles,  don't be startled.  It's nothing kinky,  just a phrase that author Paul Tough used repeatedly in his keynote speech at Wednesday's Education Summit.

Tough cited research showing that mother rats who lick and groom their babies instill lifelong benefits.  Tough, the author of   "How Children Succeed,"  had fun with the notion of delving into rat research while exploring his own role as a first-time father. He assured the audience he never actually licked his son.

But his point was serious:  The human version of licking and grooming  --  holding,  soothing,  talking and singing  -- is the real  "secret weapon"  for creating successful students and adults.  The flip side of that,  he said,  is "daunting and even depressing":  Children who lack that support and grow up surrounded by chaos, trauma and stress often face a lifetime of ill effects.

After a series of data-driven talks,  it was fascinating to hear Tough say out loud what so many educators already know:  Parents  --  and life  --  have stacked the odds for or against children long before they reach school,  and our obsession with testing academic skills isn't likely to change that.

Tough was definitely not waving the flag for a "blame the parents and write off the children"  mindset.  He said adolescence brings a second chance for teachers,  volunteers and other caring adults to help kids develop the grit and optimism they'll need in life.  The success stories he writes about all involve a crucial adult who helped students learn to deal with setbacks.  "None of them were able to do it alone,"  Tough said.

Even as he talked about a once-troubled young woman making her way through college,  he acknowledged the sadness of looking honestly at the lives of struggling children.  "They just can seem so rare and random,  these success stories,"  he said.

"I hope this research doesn't make us fatalistic,"  Tough concluded.  "I hope it makes us want to help even more."


Wiley Coyote said...

~ 26% of children under 21 in the US are in single parent households.

~ 19.5% of households with children were headed by a single parent in 1980
~ 29.5% of American households with children were headed by a single parent in 2008

In 2009, 41.3% of custodial mothers received some form of government assistance:

~ 32.3% received SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits
~ 6.8% of custodial single moms received TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
~ 20.9% of custodial fathers received some form of government assistance

~ 72 Percent of African-American Children Are Raised in Single Parent Homes

If you can't afford kids or have the ability to raise what you bring into the world, don't have them.

deepthinker said...

Hope for kids? Hope for the future? My dismal thoughts:

It is interesting that humans are the most evolved and have more access to information than ever before in the history of mankind, and that we have more now to help us survive, make life easy and comfortable than ever before in the history of mankind, yet we are doing a poorer job of raising our offspring than ever before in the history of mankind.

We are witnessing the de-evolution of the human condition due to the fact that we have adapted to life with technology and technology is making the decisions for us now, we are riding along the path technological development takes us. In other words, we have become lazy and less self-reliant, looking for the quick fix.

Licking and grooming has become a thing of the past for many parents, too time consuming and too many other distractions.

Anonymous said...

There is only one way to break the cycle of poverty. Stop letting people in poverty have children.

Lora H. said...

Deepthinker, although I am not quite as pessimistic as you are about the future, I get the gist of what you are saying and I agree to an extent.

It's hard enough to be a parent when you have the mental and financial resources to do it "properly". Parents are taking the easy way out, handing their kids the Iphone and hours and hours are lost with our kids (and the parents) consumed with the pursuit of gratification from such devices. Then that turns into dependence on the devices, and the loss of innocence, creativity and imagination (on everyone's part).

If you can't afford kids, or don't want to take the time to raise them properly then please, on behalf of the few of us who are trying to do it right, don't have kids.

Anonymous said...

Why is the Black community and our Pres silent on the elephant in the room. 72% of African amer kids are raised in single family homes? That is a disgrace. Can't wait to hear what the NAACP and other black leaders have to say about this, oh yeah probably Nothing.

Wiley Coyote said...

The licking has already started, accelerated exponentially under Obama and will go into hyperdrive if Clinton is elected President.

It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us a book published in 1996 by First Lady of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In it, Clinton presents her vision for the children of America. She focuses on the impact individuals and groups outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child's well-being, and advocates a society which meets all of a child's needs.

...and liberals will continue to blame rich people for other people having five kids, with no father around, no job and having to live off the very government that wants to keep them that way for votes.

Anonymous said...

Ann, I had a hard time reading your article with the pic of the rats!

Not really on topic to your article but to the point of a previous poster, I read a recent article (NY Times) about how the CEO's and leaders of tech companies send their children to the Waldorf school, a school with No technology. I think they know something we don't, or understand that the value of technology for young and elem aged children is nil. Students in high schools can be up to speed on all the latest tech info in about a week's time. the introduction of games, gadgets and tech toys can ultimately do more damage than good to a young, developing mind. I agree that it is a cop out for parents and teachers to use technology and say it's about education.

Anonymous said...

Why nurture a kid anymore when you have an I-Pad to do it for you, or the US gobement.

sandy ridge said...

Breaking news, this just in: parents need to nurture, talk and read to their children. More at 11.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Aw, 10:54, you didn't like my cute little rats? I guess I'm biased; my son used to have white mice and I'd let them run up my arm and perch on my shoulder.

Shamash said...

Hey, I like rats.

Maybe that's because I've trained them before. Smart critters.

Anyone remember Ben and Willard?

Reward rats with peanut butter and they'll chew through a wall for you (or even Michael Jackson).

Anyone who even mentions parenting for success is doing a good thing.

But the larger issue he doesn't address is why "poverty" ISN'T the automatic enemy of education in the rest of the world as it is in the US.

Seems that few want to touch that topic.

Resilience, as the OECD folks call it. True Grit.

Some got it, some ain't.

The Vietnamese got it.

And, as a country, we ain't.

Maybe more "grit" is the answer, y'all.

Toward the end of his latest book, he makes a good point:

"...the biggest obstacles to academic success that poor children, especially very poor children, often face: a home and a community that create high levels of stress, and the absence of a secure relationship with a caregiver that would allow a child to manage that stress."

Well ALMOST 'enuf said...

Anonymous said...

And I suppose now I should brace myself for various folks to keep posting "As Ann once admitted, 'I guess I'm biased ...' " :-)

Wiley Coyote said...

I used to raise mice... to feed my king snake.

My wife has murophobia.

I have to make sure I don't have this article up on the computer.

Anonymous said...

Can we get a 2 hour delay tomorrow so I can spend more time with my kids? The first 2 days of the week were great days spent with them.
Wiley shows the data if you cant afford to raise children dont have them. Problem with that equation is we live in a free country and this cannot be restricted.
I for one enjoy my freedoms as a US citizen. What I dont like is funding all these welfare handout society programs with my hard work. Keith W. Hurley

Unknown said...


Here's a video of rats eating their young.

Bolyn McClung

Philip said...

Here's a radical thought - how about if you are a family who receives gov't assistance you must successfully complete a series of Pre-school basics classes WITH your child before your child can be admitted into a public Kindergarten program. This is no joke. It's the least bit of accountability that families receiving assistance from the federal and state governments can and should do.

Anonymous said...

I've been saying this for years - parents need to be held accountable! The answer always we can't make anyone do anything! Really? However, if I don't get my children to school I can go to jail; but, if I drop them off and do NOTHING else, that's OK. There needs to be a paradim shift in this country, WE ARE ALL ACCOUNTABLE, ALL OF US for our actions or non-action. Until there is a 'cost' for not being responsible it does not matter how much money, curriculums, testing we throw at it - it will not improve.

Anonymous said...

1:57 you have captured it well. Zero Accountability= No Resposibility. Someone else will clean up my mess ! Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

Philip 1:36, Most agree that something needs to be done and requiring parents to be active participants in their childrens' education should be expected. No more excuses.

Anonymous said...

"Breastfeeding rates in the U.S. still trail those of many other Western countries. In Norway and Sweden, for example, at least 97 percent of women are breastfeeding their babies when they take their babies home from the hospital.

Also disappointing are the ethnic and racial disparities in the CDC report. Between 2000 and 2008, the percentage of new mothers who initiated breastfeeding increased the most among black women (up from 47.4 percent to 58.9 percent). But their numbers still trailed those of white women (up from 71.8 percent to 75.2 percent) and Hispanic women (up from 77.5 percent to 80.0 percent). (The rise in the rate of breastfeeding among Hispanic women was considered statistically insignificant.)

“The consistently lower prevalence of breastfeeding among black infants warrants increased attention and action,” the CDC researchers note."

While we're on the subject of the benefits of licking rats, anyone care to take a guess what the breastfeeding rate is in Finland?


Anonymous said...

Just a thought...

On the topic of the correlation between poverty and student achievement:


"Consistent with previous research, there was a marked socioeconomic gradient in breastfeeding. Women with higher family incomes, those who had or whose partners had higher education levels, and women who had or whose partners had professional or executive occupations were more likely than their counterparts to breastfeed. After adjustment for many potential confounders, maternal and paternal education remained positively associated with breastfeeding, while income and occupation were no longer significant. Compared with other racial or ethnic groups, foreign-born Latina women were the most likely to breastfeed.


The significant association of maternal and paternal education with breastfeeding, even after adjustment for income, occupation, and many other factors, suggests that social policies affecting educational attainment may be important factors in breastfeeding".


Anonymous said...

O.K, I'll shut up after this last comment:

How many Project LIFT and Broad Foundation dollars are earmarked for women's health education?

Or, are those free little green laptops, teacher incentive rides in a limo with Dr. Morrison, and expanded standardized testing still expected to save the day?


Anonymous said...

This is common sense. Teachers have talked about it for years.. It's not teachers jobs to be social workers, councilors, and patents. They are supposed teach.. But I am glad so many teachers in NC take on these roles.. Since I have been here, Many of my Childs teachers have gone above and beyond for kids in need. From my basic observation, inspite of income, if a child has a mother and father, things are better.

Shamash said...

I agree about teachers just teaching and not being social workers.

I don't want teachers providing additional "social services" to my kids.

And I don't want DSS employees doing it either (not even for my rats).

EOG History Quiz:

Which president promised there would be "a chicken around every neck"?

Anonymous said...

Parole officers will make sure their "students" go to school but do not make sure they are working or at least behaving.. We have twenty something criminals in our schools.. Can we at least help teachers with this?

Anonymous said...

Smash.. All testing is created by a handful of companies.. I used to work for one.. Crazy "errored" questions are on all assessments. Sorry to bust your little bubble but NC pays millions of dollars to a testing company. The SAT, Praxis and most all the EOC's are made by the same people. These companies are very generous to politicians who support them. Democrats and Republicans. Remember Bill gates left Haverd to make his move.. Over educated mid level burocrats are needed to run any organization. Box check but people follow leaders, people look to innovators that inspire.. We do not have a test for that yet.. Sorry

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

I wasn't talking so much about who wrote the test as who sets the standards and grades for such labels as "proficient".

It makes sense to let someone with experience do the job, so I'm not surprised that a professional test company would do it.

With all the recent hullabaloo over what "proficient" means and all the "surprise" adjustments of state ratings, I'm just glad that I've been paying more attention to nationally standardized scores instead of state scores.

Because most of the US states got a big surprise recently when they found that their prior ratings of themselves were too optimistic.

While the NAEP tests had been telling them all along that they weren't doing all that great.

Anyway, I have taken my share of tests, so I know to take the results with a grain of salt.

And I hold my own kids to much higher standards than any of the tests I've seen.

But I make sure they can beat the tests, too.

Shamash said...

Oh, yeah, and speaking of Bill Gates...

Didn't he get a near perfect SAT score?

Something like 1590 the last time I checked.

So, I can understand why he probably didn't need Harvard (or any other college) for that matter.

He was apparently smart enough to figure things out on his own.

Michael Dell was the same.

It isn't so much the fact that these guys were "dropouts" as much that they were just so much smarter than most everyone else that they didn't NEED the "seat time" in college.

And they were ALSO good at standardized tests.

And apparently a lot of other things as well.

Anonymous said...

Richard Branson had problems in school.. Not to worry, he is fine.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing about Gates... He did not write MS DOS.. He payed for it. Then hired the guy who wrote it. He was the shrewdest of business men. Pirates of silicon valley sheds some light on Billy boy. Branson was dyslexic.. But a true innovator and leader

Shamash said...

There's an urban legend going around that says something like HALF the employees of NASA are dyslexic.

I don't necessarily believe THAT, but I've known quite a few fine engineers who were either color-blind or dyslexic.

Sure, it affected their early school performance, but they did OK.

Yes, even on those awful standardized tests...

And FWIW, Paul Allen ( co-founder of MS with Gates) scored higher than Gates on the SAT.

Yep, he got a perfect 1600.

Again, it's certainly possible that smart people won't score high on these tests for various reasons (such as motivation..., See Bill Cosby).

But the ones who DO get high scores are usually smart.

Not always successful, because that takes more than just being "smart", but usually smart.

Where they go with those smarts is another matter.

There are smart guys in prison, too.