As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thoughts in Response to a Forum Thread I Once Ran Into

This is a post I've written in response to a forum discussion about the fact that, even with progress having been made, women today still don't have equal power in this world.

The title of the thread is, "I'd Hate to Be A Woman".
The OP (original poster, for those who don't frequent online forums) pointed out that the intent of the thread (discussion, again for those who don't frequent forums and know "forum terminology") was intended to start a discussion about the fact that many women don't view themselves as more than "second-class citizens".

That thread aside, I've recently become aware of a few authors who suggest that the reason women have taken so long to become "first-class citizens" (at least in more ways than some of them may have, or at least in higher numbers than many have) is the fault of women, themselves.

This post is a matter of responding to that thread, and then some. The first part of what follows is my direct (and inspired by that discussion) response. The latter part of what follows is more the "then some".

Here's the response to the discussion:

The OP's premise here is very much centered on how others (particularly over history and not necessarily in the present) view and treat women. Today, women do still deal with people who view women with ignorance, aggression, and an oppressive attitude (but women aren't the only group who deal with that, and men are in some of those groups as well).

Who we are, and whether we like who we are, isn't about how others view us or treat us. That's about others. Who we are and whether we like who we are is about us - not others. Those of us (women or men) who know that what we are is well worth respect and value, and who know that we are often/can be equal and/or better than a lot of other people (men or women) in a lot of ways, place value on what we are and generally like what we are for those things.

The questions posted:

"Why don't women vote for women?

A:   Many women have been raised to actually believe women aren't capable of high office. Also, there are a lot of men women won't vote for either. A lot of people don't like the choices that are put out there and choose the least of two "evils".

Why are gynecologists in the western world mostly men?
Why is equality taking so long?

A:   I'm guessing there are several reasons related to how the school systems haven't always valued girls, women not wanting jobs that involve being in call, and maybe even women not finding the specialty a particularly "life-saving" one (as compared to other medical specialties). Either way, that's an isolated point/issue that doesn't reflect the larger picture women face.

Why are most religions trying to demean women?

A:   "Ages-old ignorance and believing words that written by men who thought the way men thought thousands of years ago (and THEN - scaring everyone else into thinking if they don't believe those words they're going to hell).
Why do women in the first world not stand up for women in the third world?

A:   Give examples of how you would propose more women do that, and consider the reasons many men don't seem to be able to do much for women (or men or children) in third-world countries either.

Why are there no purely female issues or parties in politics"

A:   In a fairly enlightened country, most people view all areas of politics as "human areas" (either "family-related" issues, "community-related issues", "business-related issues", or "tax-spending/collecting issues"). Abortion already is a huge issue and has been for decades. So what are those "specific-to-women" issues - whether public buildings have enough feminine product machines in the restrooms? whether there are lactating rooms required in all businesses? fighting breast and ovarian cancer? (Most people also view prostate cancer and testicular cancer as serious issues and common aims. So are the ever-universal heart disease and diabetes.) Most people are aware of these problems. There's only so much any government can do about them (and if it doesn't do what it can it's often because of lack of resources).

and here's the "Then Some":
None of this stuff, by itself, is the measure of how women are viewed in society. Having said that, what IS the measure doesn't show up in the public eye much of the time. It isn't about what laws have been written in an attempt to guarantee equality. What IS the measure of what women live with each day and how others view and treat them has nothing to do with anything political or any of the issues everyone can see discussed over and over again. It has to do with the small, day-to-day, ignorance that women deal with because people keep looking to the wrong problems and in the wrong places for solutions to any of the ignorance and oppression women do still have to fight off and deal with today.

Having said ALL that, though, the trouble is not just because some women do still believe they're second-class citizens. Even for women (like me) who have always had all kinds of people who respect and care about them in their lives, and who tell them they can do anything they want to do; and even for women who know how capable and strong or intelligent they are; it can be a real challenge getting past the ignorance and superior attitudes of even the otherwise and seemingly most respectful people. Hateful and obviously hostile attitudes toward women are often easier to fight than the more hidden, insidious, kind of misogyny that disguises itself in either thinking women need protection from their own thinking; or else is so ingrained in some people's hard-wiring that they can't/won't get past the fact that a woman is a woman.

I could write a book (kind of started one here, it looks like :lol:) about what people still don't get about women. I can tell you, though, some of the things in human nature that have meant women have remained oppressed (to this day, and in perfectly nice suburban homes where it sure looks like everyone around them treats them well and thinks well of them) are the things that have always been, and remain, a reason women (in general) don't seem to have equal power in this world (and in their own, smaller, world). In so many cases, it has truly nothing to do with how women view themselves; and everything to do with how those around them view them.

Yes, the world is full of women who don't believe people of their own sex can possibly be anything but second-class citizens (although many will "grant" that women can be "first-class citizens in their own womanly way, but not in the same way as men "always have/always will" be simply by virtue of their anatomy and/or "nature"). Sometimes you can't blame some of those women because they weren't raised to even think in terms of being equal. Their range of abilities wasn't nurtured. Instead, all anyone nurtured into them was nurturing, itself. Many women were directed either into being stay-at-home moms or else into professions usually associated with care-taking roles. Many girls were raised to hear, "If you're only going to be a stay-at-home mom at some point anyway, there's really not much point in spending a lot of money on getting a college education." A whole lot of women were raised being told, "Dad is the head of this house, and no matter how stupid about one thing or another Dad may be, what he says goes."

When I was in school in the late 1960's, teachers and classmates generally saw the kids who excelled in math and science as "the smart kids". It was a time in society when technology was "the big thing" and when kids headed into fields in technology were seen as those headed into careers that would earn the "Big Bucks". Excelling in verbal skills (generally associated with girls, both then and now) wasn't seen as anything other than "nice". The school world seemed to have life and intelligence all summed up in a nutshell: "The kids (most often boys) who excel in math are generally headed into technology, maybe medicine - where they'll make lots of money." "Everyone else" (the non-math-wiz boys and most of the girls) are the "not-quite-so-academically-outstanding" (sometimes even the "not-particularly-smart") kids and can settle into less lucrative fields (and if they're girls, if they work at all).

The role of words and verbal skills in the founding of the United States was generally respected if anyone took the time to think about history at all, but whether or not anyone truly valued the ability to use words often remained within the context of only those Founding Fathers (who were, of course, "men of words and principle and courage and brilliant thinking", as far as a whole lot of people were concerned). However, how important skills like verbal skills (and the thinking that can be behind them) was, to a lot of people in a lot of average schools (teachers and students alike), was a "that-was-then/this-is-now" kind of thing. Words had had their time, place, and day.

Technology was just beginning the process of claiming its own time, place, and day in this world. So, just at a time in American history when The Women's Movement was gaining momentum, technology swept on in as well. Sure, words (those written by men) had come in handy when the nation was in the process of being established. Here we all were, though: In a well established and mature and thriving nation that no longer really needed words as it once did. After all, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, political leaders got less powerful people (sometimes even women) to write their words for them. People (at the time still predominantly men)in business (even those capable of thinking up their own words, and even when their words weren't anything more powerful than a simple business letter) got the less powerful (and "clearly less capable") to type those words for them. Ah! - A great use of those otherwise not-very-impressive verbal skills girls often have was to be able to check the spelling of those more "worthy" and "respectful" people whose words they typed.

In spite of all that, I see others' ignorance about women as their weakness and lack of intelligence - not mine. I'm pretty darned happy that I'm a woman (even if this post is a sign that I live with a life-long need to vent anger at what I've lived with, and even if I learned a long time ago that if I want my words taken seriously and respected, I'd better not attach a picture of my un-intimidating and completing-lacking-in-any-traits-associated-with-males face to them).

Just Thoughts on Raising Children to Be Responsible

The best way to have children turn out to be responsible adults may be to be a very responsible adult, so they see what a responsible adult does.

So often I've heard parents talk about how they insist that their children do household chores "so they'll learn to be responsible". Sometimes these are even chores the parents have decided they, themselves, will no longer do because "the children need to learn". I'm not "anti-chores" when the matter is handled in a way that is reasonable; but sometimes parents require children to do the very chores they, the parents - whose responsibility those chores are - won't do them!

The parent who sits on the couch behind a newspaper every evening, rather than spending time with the children or even doing housework, is showing children that when people grow up they don't need to do what someone else wishes they would. The parent who sits and talks to another parent (or on the cell phone) at the park and gets so engrossed in conversation may not notice if her child needs something. I'm not saying parents shouldn't socialize, but we've all seen people not noticing the children because of being too busy in conversation with an adult. These same parents may try to teach their children that "there is a time and place for things".

When kids see their parents doing all kinds of things the kids wouldn't want to do (getting up to make breakfast for everyone else, paying bills, calling the plumber, fixing the roof, walking the dog in the middle of the night, etc.) they often not only start to see that this what being an adult is, but they also may admire their parents for doing all the things they do. (I think kids need to see that being adult can also mean having fun sometimes, but that's a topic for another day.)

When children have parents who act very responsibly, and when, as part of acting responsibly parents also talk to children all throughout their childhoods about why one thing or another is important, there's a good chance children grow up to be apples that didn't fall far from the tree.

There is one other factor that could play a role in which children grow up to be responsible adults; and that is when children have childhoods that are pretty carefree and secure, and parents who assure that their children's childhoods are safeguarded, the children often grow up not missing anything and more than ready to take on their own adult responsibilities when the time comes. It is at least possible that children who miss too much of what children need from childhood may grow up still wanting to hang onto to their childhood in some way and not too interested in anything they may view as a burden.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Children and Stealing

This is a subject I ran into in an online forum, so I thought I'd post my reply here:

It's one thing if it the friends are, say, teens who shoplift.  That's not something "all kids" (or at least a lot of kids) do.  With younger kids (especially kids around 5/6, I think, but maybe even with some a little older in some cases), it's a different thing.

Young kids can be raised to know what's right and wrong, and they can very much want to do what's right.  What they run into can be temptation that's more than they're emotionally ready to be able to resist.  They know "in their head" that stealing is wrong.  (That's why a lot of them are very clever at making sure nobody ever discovers that they've taken something.) It's not something that absolutely "every" kid does as a little kid, but it's something a whole lot of kids do (and even if for some, it's nothing more than a candy bar once or twice).  There's something awfully appealing about something like a candy-bar rack, and resisting that urge (especially if kids know their parent won't buy it) can be hard for - like - a five-year-old.  Their brains are developed enough for them to be able to think up "deceit" and a "plan" and a "cover-up", but emotionally they're not always able to resist the urge to take what they want.

When he was still with ABC News, John Stossel did a thing on what's called "frustration tolerance point", and it was found that the more kids did without something, the more likely it would be that they'd hit their frustration toleration point and be unable to resist temptation.

It's not just stuff like candy, though.  Little kids may see something that appeals to them, like shiny coins, other "shiny objects".  Kids who have plenty of the kind of thing that catches their eye aren't as likely to have that frustration tolerance point as kids who never really have the kind of thing they find appealing for reason or another.

It gets the best of them.  They take something here or there.  Some take more than one thing here or there.  They feel horrible about what they did (if they're normal, rather than if they're just "little sociopaths", which most little kids are not).  Eventually (and in generally not in all that many years at all), most outgrow even having the urge to steal at all and/or they at least become emotionally mature enough to be able to control the urge to steal if it happens they get such an urge.  Most just outgrown even seeing (if only for a moment) stealing as an option, no matter how much they want something.

Young children of the "best parents in the world" have been known to "lift" something at one time or another, or even over a period of time when they were in that "around five" (or so) age range.

Here's the take of The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry on the matter:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Unfinished Feminism: Live and Learn

Unfinished Feminism: Live and Learn: Having hit my teen years and early adulthood in a time when the idea that girls/women could want "more than just being a wife and mother" ha...

Live and Learn

Having hit my teen years and early adulthood in a time when the idea that girls/women could want "more than just being a wife and mother" had largely taken hold among a lot of young women of my generation, I'd like to say that in a "Post-June-Cleaver" era I came of age at one of the best times in history (and America's history).  I'm not sure that's true, by any means; because women born around the time that I was did not inherit a society that had particularly (or completely) embraced the concept of "women as equal".

For women my age there was still a lot of over-coming to be done.  On the other hand, women of my age (then and now) hadn't come of age in a time when some things could just be taken for granted by women.

In any case, I hit my late teen years and early adulthood, looked around, and saw that so many of the women who had contributed to big strides being made on behalf of women were "the kind of women" many people often associate/associated with Feminism, which is/was the "typical, stereotypical" feminist who saw wearing make-up and a bra as sign of male oppression, and who had learned that trying to communicate in a softer, "feminine", voice amounted to nobody's paying much attention to what was being said.  Much of what was being said was important and correct.  One problem was, however, that with that "important and correct" stuff that was being said often came messages that weren't quite as correct.

In any case, having grown up in the smaller world of my childhood family (and parents), in which it had seemed pretty much taken for granted that girls could "be anything they wanted to be"; but also having grown up in the larger world in which girls (and particularly girl students) weren't particularly of the sex known for being encouraged to achieve; I had to sort my way through the vast mix of messages being sent to young women (and society in general), and figure out what seemed right to me.

At the time, I considered the very vocal and well known feminists (many of whom seemed to have an aversion to "anything at all feminine", and many of whom seemed to eschewing make-up, wearing things like flannel shirts, and not "getting into" hair-styles that would, to them, indicate yet more that women were the "victims of male oppression" if/when they even tried to look their most attractive.

As much as I very much agreed with a lot of "main thinking" of vocal feminists (at least when it came to women's rights, women's equality, and the fact that women had certainly been opporessed throughout history), something I saw as being misguided was the belief that the woman who simply wanted to look her prettiest when she looked in the mirror did so because she wanted to attract men.  My thinking at the time was that most "normal" people (women or men) generally liked to like what they saw in the mirror, and that it was perfectly normal (and common) for women to want to look their most attractive and yet have that aim without particularly be interested in whether they attracted men (or even just one man) or not.

My thinking back then was that I didn't (or shouldn't) have to reject anything associated with being a woman and/or with femininity out of the belief that "all things feminine" (or at least associated with women) necessarily had to be the evil plot of men who were out to keep women oppressed (consciously, sub-consciously, orchestrated, conspired on, or otherwise).  After several years of paying attention to some of the messages that were being sent (and some of the things that were out-and-out being stated), I arrived at the thinking that I shouldn't have to be "a fake man" (in other words, refuse to be/do anything that men werent/didn't do) in order to be taken seriously.  To me, it wasn't "feminism" to tell women that the only way to be taken seriously was to try to be like men.  My thinking was that I would wear my make-up, try to have a hairstyle that would make me look my most attractive, and keep wearing the feminine-looking skirts that I was happy to be able to wear once I was out of high-school and no longer worried about what was cool or not to cool to wear.

At the time, my thinking was that I was sure of myself as far as my own strength and intelligence went.  I thought of myself as "representing my own sex", and my plan was that "the world will figure out that someone who looks, sounds, and moves the way I do can be someone who should be taken seriously."   In spite of very much sharing so many of the aims and beliefs of The Women's Movement, my aim was to be strong enough to enjoy and respect my own femininity and "show people" that women didn't have to give up looking, acting, or being feminine in order to be people who could/should be taken seriously.  To me, trying to act like men wasn't the way to "honor" femininity.   I knew I risked having a lot of people think I was the "old-fashioned-thinking" kind of woman.  I had to make peace with that.  After all, I had a voice and some perfectly fine verbal skills.  I knew I couldn't change the world all by myself, but I figured that in my own circles I might eventually be able to get a few people to realize that women who looked and acted like I did (and it wasn't that I went around wearing ruffles and pink ribbons, by any means, because I dressed much the same as a lot of other young women did) could certainly be worthy of the kind of respect that a lot of grown men had come by without even trying.

Sitting here today, a few decades later, I like that I was that sure of myself back then; and I really like that I didn't buy the lines about rejecting everything associated with being a woman and, instead, only embracing things traditionally associated with men.  The thing is, though, that sitting here today, I can see now that my belief that I didn't/shouldn't have to give up, or reject, all-things-feminine in order to be taken seriously was a belief that (while, I think, still correct in its own way) was, in a lot of ways, misguided.  Well, it wasn't misguided when it comes to whether or not women should have to be "fake men" in order to be taken seriously.  What was misguided was my belief that by remaining my old, feminine, self would allow me to "show people" that someone like me could be strong, smart, and very self-reliant.

Four decades of an adult life as a woman who thought she could "show people" that solid, "un-emotional", ideas and strong constitution could be expressed in a softer, higher, voice has shown me that even forty years of society's changing attitudes, policies, and laws has not amount the kind of changes that women need in their day-to-day dealings with other people and the world in general.

In other words, forty years ago I believed I could "show people" that someone didn't need to look, sound, or act like a man in order to be worthy of being taken seriously and being equally respected as a capable human being.  I was wrong.  The fact is feminism didn't even seem to recognize that women like me existed, so a lot of women like me were completely abandoned by it.  The "anti-Feminist" type of women certainly haven't been on the side of women like me.  So, I've been much felt like the proverbial "man-without-a-country" (or maybe it would be more accurate to say "woman without the back-up of one or another stereotypical group").

On the one hand, I don't for a moment regret that I've approached my adult life in the way that I have.  On the other hand (and as someone who hates to admit it but must - even needs to - if she's honest), I'm sitting here and looking at decades of one form of subtle (and often no-so-subtle) oppression in my life or another, and feeling both saddened and amazed that in all this time so little remains understood, discussed, and addressed when it comes to women and the ways (intentional and unintentional) they so often remain so far from free of oppression and/or prejudice.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Childhood Obesity

Does Letting Kids Grow Up Too Fast Play A Role In Today's Rate Of Childhood Obesity?With all the talk about childhood obesity these days, it seems as if most people blame fast food for this problem, which results not only in obesity, but which can lead to Type II Diabetes, as well.

While fast food may frequently "be in the picture" when it comes to childhood obesity, I can't help but wonder if there's a chicken-egg aspect to it; and if the real problem is what makes kids want/need more of this food than they otherwise may (or than a lot of other kids do).

My own children, now grown, were always very slender kids; and I'd bring them to fast-food places a few times a week, when we'd be on the way to pick up their father and when I'd know they'd be too hungry to wait until we got home. All three children (two boys and one girl) ate a modest meal when they were grade-school age. They'd get juice or milk, so they didn't have the soda. Before they were grade-school age each child barely ate what was in, say, a Happy Meal. They'd eat a part of the sandwich, about three French fries, and maybe a couple of the cookies (which was what came in those meals at the time).

So, what I wonder is this: What makes some children "chow down" on fast food when, really, the over-eating isn't something normally "built into" a child's nature (even when he's at a fast-food place).

It is now known that stress can cause fierce food cravings because under stress the body craves high-energy foods (foods high in carbohydrates and fat). I can't help but wonder if many children today live under stress because they're allowed to, and even encouraged to, grow up too soon. One point about stress cravings is that the person so stressed out as to need high-energy foods will not feel well, may have trouble concentrating, and may even have difficulty doing much of anything unless/until he eats the kind of food his body craves.

For the person experiencing that physiological call to eat carbohydrates and/or fat, not only will he not feel satisfied until he has eaten what his body craves, but the person under stress may feel nauseous eating something like salad because changes in stomach acid can mean eating something blander (like bread) eliminates any mild sense of nausea or other discomfort that the stressed-and-empty stomach can cause.

Many people may think about how many girls show physical signs of growing up earlier than girls in the past did, and believe that this is just one more indication that kids "just grow up faster today". The truth is that a link has been made to stress and early onset of menstruation; so even if it appears that kids are "just growing up faster", what's behind that particular piece of "evidence" is stress.

People who understand child development know that children's brains and bodies generally develop according to a basic time-table; and regardless of what time we live in, or what society we live in, toddlers still get teeth during a certain age range, learn to walk during a certain age rage, etc. etc. The same applies to all areas and stages of child development.

It just makes sense to me that, in view of the fact that the stages of development people knew about in the era of Dr. Spock are the same for children today; so one has to ask what impact it would have on a child who is not emotionally ready to be treated like an adult, or to be expected by the world to act more grown-up than his years.

In other words, just because a four-year-old may be capable of playing his older brother's video games; or just because a lot of a thirteen-year-old's classmates may be involved in sexual relationships; should they be? Society today dumps a whole lot of grown-up stuff onto young kids; and if you're that thirteen-year-old in a sexual relationship it's got to be more than you're ready for. At the same time, the kid who isn't doing what he thinks "everybody else is doing" may have the stress of feeling like he's not like his peers.

The four-year-old who is at a stage in development when much of the focus is on expanding the at-home world to include more of the outside world (like preschool), and learning about playing with peers, has to be missing something his brain needs if he's spending a lot of time doing things that aren't appropriate for his age. Similarly, if he's playing games with older siblings he's most likely up against someone who has the advantage of age over him.

With regard to girls who mature earlier than is considered, "average", one type of stress blamed for early maturity is a stressful home environment. It cannot possibly be good for a girl who has matured early but who lives under stress at home, and who isn't ready to "act like a grown-up", to be viewed (and treated) by peers (including young-teen boys) as "being all grown-up".

Another problem may be that adults so often underestimate the intelligence of children; and living life always being underestimated is, by itself, stressful and frustrating.

The point is, I suspect that one major cause of childhood obesity is that society too often grossly underestimates the intelligence of children while, at the same time, it too often overestimates the emotional maturity of children.

If one considers these potential sources of stress, and then factors in other sources of additional stress (such as a stressful home life, peer pressure, academic demands/challenges, and even the general insecurities of childhood/adolescence), it's not hard to realize how much stress today's children can live under. More significantly, it's not hard to imagine how today's kids may be so stressed out they crave the high-fat/high-carb meals and snacks that can make them feel less tired or frazzled.

What could be making this confounding issue as challenging as it appears to be is that the adults "in charge of" solving the (parents, teachers, anyone concerned with childhood obesity) don't think to ask themselves if THEY are responsible. Rather, they take the easy route of pointing a finger at fast food (or at parents of overweight kids they believe "must not know about healthy eating").

I really think it's time adults in society stop looking at kids who appear to "just be growing up faster these days", and stop passively accepting what "how it seems kids are".

It's the responsibility of adults to define what childhood is supposed to be - not allowing what children "seem to be" to define it. It's also the responsibility of adults to make sure children have a childhood while they're still too emotionally immature to be able to deal with more grown-up things (even if "more grown-up" is only a ten-year-old doing things he shouldn't be doing until he's thirteen).

It's only my guess, but I think if people want to solve the problem of childhood obesity (and the Type II Diabetes no child should ever develop) they need to stop blaming fast food, and stop assuming that all parents of overweight kids don't know anything about healthy eating.

Children in recent years have increasingly been put on the fast track to growing up far earlier than the developing human being ever should be. To make it worse, it's now known that if a child doesn't receive the right kind of nurturing in his first three years (when his brain synapses are forming) it can affect how well his immune system and stress response system function for the rest of his life. If it's true that more of today's babies and toddlers are being pushed to develop/do things for which they aren't quite developmentally ready, that could potentially mean that they'll have an even more challenging time dealing with a stress response system that, perhaps, goes into action under circumstances that would otherwise not cause a stress response.

I know I could be wrong, but I tend to think people today seem to be looking for solutions to the childhood obesity issue in the wrong places. I don't think educating parents and children about the value and goodness of vegetables and fresh fruits nearly addresses what may potentially be the real root of the rise in childhood obesity; because while I know there there are, of course, some parents or children who are ignorant about healthy eating, I don't believe that the majority are that ignorant.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Technology In Schools Today

There is no doubt that greater technology in elementary schools offers children some educational advantages, as well as the chance to have technology as much a part of their world as it is of the larger world. Whether or not greater technology is beneficial to the actual process of learning may be a separate consideration.

There's the external process involved with learning (someone shares information about something with someone else), and the internal process of learning (the activities of the brain and any formation of brain connections).

I think the basic, external, learning process is the same as always. Someone gives information to the child. I think technology has offered ways of reinforcing, building on, or supplementing that basic learning; but, in general, I think the foundation of basic learning remains the same. So, in this way, greater technology is beneficial.

On the other hand, I can't help but believe that there are probably different things going on in the brain as a result of technology's role in learning because it is clear that someone who began learning long after technology was in full swing does things differently. Whether this is good or not is not clear.

Consider math, for example. I learned the basics before computers were available to everyone. Calculators existed but would never be allowed in school. Today, if I'm in a work setting, doing some kind of math calculations, I'll do the work the way it is done in business these days, using technology.

If I'm working on personal finances, though, I do something kind of bizarre: I'll use the computer to do the math. I'll check it once by re-doing it. Then I'll check the computer's work by using a personal calculator, and check the calculator's work by doing it a second time. At this point, you'd think I'd be pretty comfortable, but I'm not.

I will then proceed to check the double-checked work of both the computer and the calculator by doing the math myself (complete with paper and pencil). I should at least skip the double-checking of the computer and calculator, but no matter how often I do this I keep thinking that double-checking will be enough. Its as if I discover each time that I cannot reach a level of confidence in the results until I check one more time. In my head I trust the computer the first or second time, depending on room for human error. Every time I have a big calculating job to do I think the computer will suffice. Every time I keep discovering I can't feel confident in it or the calculator. Its only after I do my own calculations that I can have "mental peace".

If I'm in work setting I do it "the work way". I figure if the machines make an error it isn't my doing because in the work setting today people choose to "take the risk".

A young person raised since computers have been in homes and schools doesn't have this "issue". They take for granted the computer does a better job than a human, and they trust it. I'm comfortable with technology. In my head I certainly trust that it is more likely to do it's math correctly than I, a human, will. Still, I'm not able to overcome that feeling I learned from the time I first learned to do math - that feeling of seeing the process, knowing I have included the correct numbers, being the one to do the calculating, and seeing that all the numbers add up.

I can only assume that my brain learned some need to be involved with the process of the calculation in order to reach that sense of confidence and "mental peace" with the results. I don't have OCD in any area of my life, and decades ago there would have been no technology to cause me to wonder if I have it when it comes to doing my own calculations. I can only assume that because my generation was taught with this ongoing, ever-present, do-it-yourself, approach and drill, drill, drill; that's how my brain learned to be most comfortable.

I'm not sure if the way children today learn is a good thing or a bad thing. Its certainly a current thing. Children today are less likely to develop the issue I have that makes me appear to have OCD when it comes to doing calculations. (I was "so-not" ever a math wiz, so it isn't that I've built my confidence in my math ability. I was nicely above average in math ability, but math was never my favorite subject.)

When it comes to the internal part of the learning process I think children today must have something different going on. Whether people like me have such solid "manual" skills they tend to have more confidence in themselves, or whether people like me have our brains hopelessly wired in an obsolete way, I don't know.

There is little doubt that greater technology offers a world of learning experience to students of all ages. There is no doubt that with each new era comes the need for new types of skills. There was a time when people needed to know how to make their own soap. My great-grandmother's generation needed to be skilled at using a washboard. My mother knew to how to sterilize cloth diapers, while - for good or ill - I never dealt with a dirty cloth diaper in my life. My generation came along at a time when so many life skills, once required for day-to-day living, were no longer necessary. Will today's elementary-school student even need the math skills I needed to learn?

There is another side to this, though. The math skills that are so ingrained in me are a part of my day-to-day living. When I do my grocery shopping I keep a pretty accurate running total of what I'm spending in my head. If I get a ad from a bank, advertising a new type of account or a new credit card I have a fairly complete picture of the costs involved just by seeing the rates and requirements outlined in the large print. Whether shopping for car insurance, a mortgage, or a dental plan, the math skills I've used all my life offer me that immediate overview of costs without doing much calculating. If I decide to keep track of the calories or fat I eat, convert a recipe, or manage my time, that lifetime of using my own math skill makes life easier. More significantly, there is the possibility that a "use it or lose it" principle applies to matters of cognitive skill. There is also the question of whether use of one's own math skill results in secondary neurological goings-on that are beneficial in ways not presently understood.

There is no doubt that greater technology is beneficial in a number of ways. The question is whether it is also a double-edged sword. I'm certainly not of the one-room schoolhouse era, but my elementary school education involved an old school, books, paper, pencils, a blackboard, and, of course, My Weekly Reader. It was not a luxurious education, but it was a solid one. There was no elaborate technology to create the impression of a great education even when the education was only mediocre. Some would say that the lack of that elaborate technology was what made the education I got, in fact, mediocre.

Greater technology is clearly beneficial in it's own way. Whether that way is the most crucial way, in terms of developing human potential, is something we cannot yet know.

Monday, May 23, 2011

LISA'S COLLECTION: My Writing Identity-Crisis, Part One

LISA'S COLLECTION: My Writing Identity-Crisis, Part One: "I've been in the middle of a big 'writing-identity' crisis since I first signed up to write online because the 'person-me' enjoys writing. ..."