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Bowman School – Discover. Create. Become.
"Discover, Create, Become: Learning to Innovate for the Future
"Education should no longer be mostly imparting knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentials.”

~Dr. Maria Montessori

In an increasingly technological and globalized world, children need more than just job skills—they need to learn how to think, problem solve, innovate, and communicate. Schools must go beyond the educational models of years past to prepare children for our ever-changing future.

At Bowman, we embrace the challenge of equipping the next generation through an integrated, hands-on approach based on a Montessori understanding of development and learning. We provide a dynamic and prepared environment for children to explore big questions about the world and their potential to affect positive change.

Experienced Montessori teachers provide individual guidance to students in following their developmentally-specific educational path through broad-focused inquiry and examination. Bowman creates responsible and responsive global citizens.

Our Mission
Simply put, Bowman inspires children to love learning in an academically challenging and internationally-aware program that promotes leadership, respect, responsibility, and independence.

Our School
Founded in 1995, Bowman International School is an independent, non-profit, K-8 school committed to educating tomorrow's leaders by promoting a rigorously self-directed and individualized approach to learning year-round. We are pleased to hold the distinction of being one of only two WASC-accredited Montessori schools in California and considered one of the top seven Montessori elementary schools in the world by Tim Seldin, founder of the International Montessori Council (IMC).

Our teachers are models of initiative and engagement as active contributors to education-focused publications, presenters at local and national conferences, and leaders in numerous Montessori organizations. As a result of their influence, Bowman students—representing more than 30 countries—transition to highly competitive high schools, and are accepted to public and private colleges including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Princeton, and Yale.

The Bowman community is comprised of forward-thinkers who are motivated to share knowledge and grow together. Situated on a 1.5- acre site in Palo Alto, our campus currently includes inspirational classrooms and outdoor spaces for gardening, physical activities, and events. We are now coming together to achieve our goal of adding a “Learning Village,” including a new preschool, STEAM laboratory, and gymnasium. By providing the best teaching and resources, Bowman will empower the younger generation toward their highest aspirations for years to come!"
schools  paloalto  bayarea  montessori 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Imagination School, Bay Area, K-8 Progressive School
"To succeed in the 21st Century, students must not only know facts and information, but know how to learn. They need a capacity for creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and effective communication. They must be culturally and globally aware, technically literate, and have a sense of personal and collective responsibility.

At Imagination School, our K-8 program engages high-ability students in collaborative, hands-on learning experiences so they develop the skills and habits of mind necessary to succeed."
schools  paloalto  homeschool  afterschool 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Tru
"Tru is a private elementary school near downtown Palo Alto serving students K – 6, with unique progressive practices to support the love of learning. Students practice mindfulness, engage in stage performance, and learn through in-depth projects with cross-disciplinary themes. Teachers form personal relationships with each child based on developmental research and make strong connections with families"
schools  paloalto  bayarea 
december 2017 by robertogreco
E744: Initialized Capital Operating Partner & TechCrunch contributor Kim-Mai Cutler on affordable housing crisis in San Francisco Bay Area at intersection of race, class, & Silicon Valley | This Week In Startups
"Housing has become a hot button issue in the Bay Area, and in fact, the world, with homes being unaffordable and the ability to produce more housing being throttled by a number of interests. Housing in the Bay Area has become more expensive than anywhere else in the country, and the ability to rent an apartment has reached a level that has exceeded NYC. Our guest today, Kim-Mai Cutler, is a Bay Area native, Initialized Capital Operating Partner, TechCrunch contributor, and has become an authority on housing in the Bay Area. Join us as she explains the affordable housing crisis, the structural issue of power, the causes and consequences of transit fragmentation, gentrification and income inequality, and more."
housing  2017  california  kim-maicutler  sanfrancisco  losangeles  nyc  oakland  sanmateo  paloalto  cupertino  history  transportation  bart  bayarea  gentrification  policy  politics  proposition13  inequality 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The dark side of Silicon Valley, according to a teen who grew up there - Business Insider
"Home of the brightest engineers, the coolest new technology, and the highest salaries in the world, Silicon Valley is also home of the most cutthroat competitive high schools.

Let's take a look at the schools with the highest SAT scores in the nation. Unsurprisingly, 6 of the top 20 are located in Silicon Valley: Monta Vista (#15), Mission San Jose (#18), Lynbrook (#7), Gunn (#12), Leland (#20), and Harker (#2).

In many of these schools, getting a 3.5 GPA could put you in the bottom half of the class (especially at academic powerhouses Gunn, Monta Vista, and Harker).

In other schools, athletics play a bigger role in the culture, but success is still expected nonetheless (Bellarmine, Los Gatos, Mitty). Also, it's a given that the student body is not only talented, but also well accomplished in many different areas.

It's unbelievable when you see the sheer numbers these schools put out. Harker has had 173 people admitted to Berkeley in the past 3 years. In just 2015, Harker had a 43% acceptance rate to Berkeley (69 admitted out of 162 who applied).

For the No. 1 public university in the world, those are some crazy numbers. Not to be out-matched, Mission San Jose High boasted a 29% acceptance rate to Berkeley in 2015, with 93 admitted. I understand admission to Berkeley isn't the best metric to judge competitiveness/success, but it shows a small part of the bigger picture.

Evergreen Valley, my home school, is considered one of the middle-tier competitive schools, but it's slowly becoming a microcosm of the Palo Alto/Cupertino areas. It's reflected in our college admissions.

This year alone, we have 32 students going to Berkeley and 4 going to Stanford. Now, it's great and all that we're succeeding in the college admissions game, but at what cost?

The bottom line is that behind these stellar numbers and phenomenal extracurricular activities lies a culture of overwork and incessant competition. There no longer exists a free summer for high school kids.

Everyone is competing — who can get the best internship? Who can pack their schedule the most? Who can get admitted to the best, most prestigious summer programs? Even in school, everyone is competing — who can work the hardest? Who can sleep the least and still get straight A's? Who can do it all? Who can be a part of the most clubs?

Going through it, it always seemed like a giant race to nowhere. There are a few features that distinguish Silicon Valley high schools:

1. Fear of failure

This sounds counterintuitive. I mean, we live in the freaking Silicon Valley, right? Home of entrepreneurship, risks, and solving the world's problems, right?

No, not really — high school isn't like that. We stick to what we know best. You play the piano really well? Keep doing that. You dance well? Stick to it.

Don't try other things — didn't you know you have to commit to an activity in order to put it on your college app? Why try new things and fail when you can stick to what you've been doing, work hard, and accomplish great things? Because, after all, isn't the point of life to get into college?

2. Stifling competition

We're ambitious and we're talented and we're hardworking — no doubt about it. We start companies and publish books and become nationally ranked in every extracurricular activity possible while juggling a 4.0 GPA. But with all of it comes a price.

By most of society here, you are judged by your numbers. I've lost track of the number of times I've heard parents ask about my SAT score and where I'm going to college, and then change their perception of me because of it. I want to tell them that these superficial things don't define me — that I'm more than these arbitrary numbers and test scores.

3. Ridiculous over-scheduling

You'll see kids with schedules more packed than an exec in the corporate world. After school, go to sports practice for 2-3 hours. After sports practice, practice your instrument for 1-2 hours. Now, it's time for dinner.

Eat for an hour, do homework for an hour, and then sleep at 9 p.m.? Not really. Not when you have five AP courses that each assign Herculean loads of homework. Not when you're managing several clubs and organizations. Not when you're also involved in student government.

Where's the time to relax? Where's the time to enjoy? We're bogged down in this mindset that happiness is to be postponed.

It's this mentality that says "I'll work hard now, so that I can enjoy my life later. It's OK if I don't enjoy now because it'll get better." But when does it end? Caught in this vicious cycle, it's hard to see what makes life worth it.

The only thing I want to say to the Silicon Valley teens out there is to enjoy your time. Be ambitious, be hardworking, be everything you've wanted to be and more — but don't forget to stop and smell the flowers. After all, what's life without enjoyment?"
siliconvalley  schools  competition  education  harker  children  parenting  kalvinlam  overscheduling  failure  colleges  universities  admissions  via:jolinaclément  sanjose  losgatos  paloalto 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Learn Different - The New Yorker
"Students at AltSchool are issued a tablet in pre-K and switch to a laptop in later years. (For now, AltSchool ends at the equivalent of eighth grade.) When I visited a mixed classroom for second and third graders, most of the children were sunk into their laptops. All were engaged in bespoke activities that had been assigned to them through a “playlist”—software that displays a series of digital “cards” containing instructions for a task to be completed. Sometimes it was an online task. Two children were doing keyboarding drills on a typing Web site. Their results would be uploaded for a teacher’s assessment and added to the student’s online Learning Progression—software developed by AltSchool which captures, in minute detail, a student’s progress.

The curriculum is roughly aligned with the Common Core, the government standards that establish topics which students should master by the end of each grade. But AltSchool’s ethos is fundamentally opposed to the paradigm of standardization that has dominated public education in recent decades, and reflects a growing shift in emphasis among theorists toward “personalized learning.” This approach acknowledges and adapts to the differences among students: their abilities, their interests, their cultural backgrounds.

A girl in the class was completing an offline task—reading a book about polar bears. A boy lay on his stomach on the carpeted floor, headphones on, using a Web site called BrainPOP to learn how to calculate the perimeters of basic shapes. “Two out of five!” he shouted at one point, as oblivious of those around him as a subway rider wearing earbuds and singing along to Drake.

Not all the activities were solitary. Two girls sat together, laptops before them, using Google Images to scroll through pictures of seals for a social-studies assignment; occasionally, they paused to compare notes. Every so often, a student spoke with the teacher, a young woman in jeans and a loose top, her iPhone tucked under her thigh as she sat on the carpet. One girl had been using her laptop to research castles—an area of sustained interest. She and the teacher discussed princesses and castles, and whether they always went together. “That’s a good question,” the teacher said, and then asked, “Does America have princesses?”"



"At the same time, educators at AltSchool are discussing whether children really need to attain certain skills at particular stages of their educational development, as the Common Core implies. Seyfert thinks that it might be more useful to think of learning not as linear but as scrambled, like a torrent file on a computer: “You can imagine all the things you need to learn, and you could learn it all out of order so long as you can zip it up at the end, and you are good to go.”

Like other AltSchool teachers, Seyfert was drawn to the startup because of its ambition to make systemic change. Two or three times a week, she told me, she gives colleagues feedback about the school’s digital tools. The Learner Profile, Stream app, and other tools are only about a year old, and AltSchool’s personalization still requires considerable human intervention. Software is updated every day. Carolyn Wilson, AltSchool’s director of education, told me, “We encourage staff members to express their pain points, step up with their ideas, take a risk, fail forward, and fail fast, because we know we are going to iterate quickly. Other schools tend to move in geologic time.” (Ventilla may question the utility of foreign-language acquisition, but fluency in the jargon of Silicon Valley—English 2.0—is required at AltSchool.)

Ventilla told me that these tools were central to a revised conception of what a teacher might be: “We are really shifting the role of an educator to someone who is more of a data-enabled detective.” He defined a traditional teacher as an “artisanal lesson planner on one hand and disciplinary babysitter on the other hand.” Educators are stakeholders in AltSchool’s eventual success: equity has been offered to all full-time teachers."



"Some education advocates are wary about potential privacy violations that might result from data collection on the scale intended by AltSchool, particularly given that AltSchool is a for-profit company. (Most independent schools are not-for-profit institutions.) These concerns could complicate the adoption of AltSchool software by public school systems. Ventilla says that there is no intention to use AltSchool data for commercial purposes, and that AltSchool can gather data in a way that will respect a student’s anonymity. Only salient moments in the classroom videos are saved, he says, and most are not even stored. “I would never want to record all the things a kid says and keep them around,” he said. But he added that looking at vocabulary-acquisition patterns in aggregate could provide teachers with valuable information that will help them teach each individual more effectively. “The collection of any kind of data is not free,” Ventilla acknowledged. “But the alternative is the incredibly invasive, inaccurate standardized-testing regimen that we have now, which comes at a lot of cost, psychic and otherwise, and doesn’t provide nearly the amount of benefit that we want.”

Daniel Willingham, an education scholar at the University of Virginia, told me that adopting technology in schools can be maddeningly inefficient. “The most common thing I hear is that when you adopt technology you have to write twice the lesson plans,” he told me. “You have the one you use with the technology, and you have the backup one you use when the technology doesn’t work that day.” Willingham also notes that the most crucial thing about educational software isn’t the code that assesses student performance; it’s the worthiness of the readings and the clarity of the math questions being presented onscreen. “People are very focussed on the algorithm,” he said. “But equally important is the quality of the materials.”

The gap between AltSchool’s ambitions for technology and the reality of the classroom was painfully obvious the morning that I spent in the Brooklyn school. One kindergartner grew increasingly frustrated with his tablet as he tried to take a photograph of interlocking cubes that he had snapped into a strip of ten. (He was supposed to upload the image to his playlist.) He shook the unresponsive tablet, then stabbed repeatedly at the screen, like an exhausted passenger in a cab after an overnight flight, unable to quell the Taxi TV.

Even when AltSchool’s methods worked as intended, there were sometimes questionable results. The two girls whom I watched searching for seals on Google Images found plenty of suitable photographs. But the same search term called up a news photo of the corpse of a porpoise, its blood blossoming in the water after being rent almost in half by a seal attack. It also called up an image in which the head of Seal, the singer, had been Photoshopped onto a sea lion’s body—an object of much fascination to the students. To the extent that this exercise was preparing them for the workplace of the future, it was also dispiritingly familiar from the workplace of the present, where the rabbit holes of the Internet offer perpetual temptation."



"There had been some bumpy moments for the Palo Alto school, which opened last fall. One family left after concluding that there wasn’t enough homework. Other parents wanted to know the curriculum in advance—an impossible demand in a school dedicated to following children’s interests. A look around the classrooms confirmed that for some children the ability to follow their own passions reaped rich dividends. I observed the kindergarten-and-first-grade classroom during afternoon “choice time,” and saw two children separately involved in complicated long-term projects. A seven-year-old boy with an avid interest in American history had built a dining-table-sized model of Fort Sumter out of cardboard—he was painting black-splotch windows on its perimeter. He had also composed a storybook about Paul Revere, which was vibrantly written, if impressionistically spelled. Another seven-year-old boy had undertaken a physics experiment, building two styles of catapult out of tongue depressors and tape. He was measuring their power with the help of a yardstick affixed to the wall, and recording the data in a notebook. The AltSchool environment—and an inspiring young teacher named Paul France—had liberated these children’s individual creativity and intellectual curiosity in just the way that the parents of a potential Elon Musk might hope.

The boys’ classmates, however, had made less demanding use of their choice time, and this had apparently allowed the teaching staff to provide the necessary support for the more ambitious projects. Four boys were seated on the floor making primitive catapults with Jenga blocks. Half a dozen girls had chosen “art creation,” and were sitting around a table affixing stickers to paper and chatting. One girl had opted to work in clay. But no students had chosen to engage in dramatic play, or to work at the light table, or to do jigsaw puzzles—options that were displayed on a wall chart. The remaining eight children—six boys and two girls—had selected “tablet time.” They were sitting around a table, each with headphones on, expertly swiping and clicking their way through word or number games. Their quiet immersion would be recognizable to any parent who has ever bought herself a moment’s peace from the demands of interacting with her child by opening Angry Birds on her phone."



"When the AltSchool technologists who participated in the December hackathon shared their discoveries at the end of the session, the team that had focussed on bookmarking video seemed particularly pleased with its innovations. The team had decided to try to find a “fun route” to help … [more]
altschool  education  schools  2016  children  learning  pedagogy  amplify  teachtoone  brooklyn  paloalto  maxventilla  surveillance  standardization  blendedlearning  howweteach  howwelearn  automation  technology  edtech  sanfrancisco  gender  siliconvalley  commoncore  standards  brainpop 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Students and the Pressure to Perform — To the Point — KCRW
"Silicon Valley's Palo Alto school district is in crisis. The suicide rate for teenagers there is four to five times the national average. This tragic statistic has made the city a symbol of the pressure kids live under in affluent communities to get into elite colleges, to excel at everything, to succeed at all costs. This week, as high school seniors and their families gather around computers racing to finish their college applications, we ask whether the obsession with getting into the best colleges is hurting kids more than helping them, and what schools, parents and students can do lessen the stress."
education  stress  class  barbarabogarev  suniyaluthar  julielythcott-haims  gwyethsmighjr  carolynwalworth  paloalto  siliconvalley  colleges  universities  admissions  homework  schools  parenting  anxiety  success  suicide 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Dispossessed in the Land of Dreams | New Republic
"Those left behind by Silicon Valley’s technology boom struggle to stay in the place they call home."
siliconvalley  realestate  inequality  homeless  homelessness  paloalto  libertarianism  nimbyism  california  monicapotts  sunnyvale  sanjose  displacement 
december 2015 by robertogreco
After a String of Suicides, Students in Palo Alto Are Demanding a Part in Reforming Their School's Culture | VICE | United States
"There are a few encouraging signs that the community is coming around to recognizing and ultimately fixing these flaws. In March, the school board voted to allocate $250,000 of the district's budget to hiring two more full-time therapists for the high schools, which will relieve the strained workload of the counseling staff. At Gunn, students took the matter of improving mental health into their own hands, organizing the Student Wellness Committee with the help of Herrmann. It organically grew out of their discussions on what needed to change at the school after Cameron Lee's death. One of the things they set up was a referral box, which allowed students to anonymously refer their friends to counseling. "A startling number of people have told me that they wouldn't talk to a counselor if they had a friend who was in trouble," Gunn sophomore class president Chloe Chang Sorensen explained.

The committee also launched a mental health awareness campaign to educate students about causes, symptoms, and resources available to them. And finally, the committee collaborated with an organization called Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!) to implement a mindfulness curriculum in physical education classes starting in the fall. These students were not interested in waiting for the adults to act. They made themselves into agents of change."



"Students were not willing to passively accept the superintendent's decision. Two Gunn juniors, Ben Lee and Nina Shirole, co-founded the Palo Alto Student Union to advocate for and promote the student voice. They put up posters with the words SUPPORT STUDENT CHOICE, SUPPORT STUDENT VOICE all over Gunn. And many teachers supported their efforts. With the superintendent sitting behind him on stage, retiring Gunn mathematics teacher Peter Herreshoff said in a speech at graduation, "Your class this year witnessed the imposition of an unjust policy regarding zero period. Although it didn't affect you directly, you united in solidarity with future graduating classes to oppose that policy. Although you didn't win, yet, you learned about taking agency over your lives and working collectively to do that." The student union considered holding a student walkout over the zero-period change but ultimately decided to host a sit-in at a school-board meeting.

A few weeks after the decision was announced, dozens of students attended a Tuesday-evening board meeting. This was the meeting at which zero period was originally meant to be discussed, but McGee had unexpectedly made a unilateral decision beforehand. One after another, students came up to the podium and blasted the superintendent. Gunn senior and school-board student representative Rose Weinmann called the move "misguided paternalism." What students were most peeved about was that the zero-period decision was orchestrated in a top-down manner without their consultation. Ben Lee told me later, "We were blatantly disregarded by the community. It was good to show that we weren't lesser beings. We were going to fight for our right to be heard." He believes that the decision was rashly made to "appease a few people." Shirole also thinks it's a contradiction that physical education and broadcasting classes during zero period will remain when the underlying intention of the change was to help all students get more sleep. And she says the research on later start times does not "account for the element of choice," as zero period is optional."
nikhilgoyal  paloalto  suicide  education  schools  2015  culture  society  siliconvalley  mentalhealth  academics  gunnhighschool  depression  anxiety  stress  parenting  studentvoice  studentchoice 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why Affluent Parents Put So Much Pressure on Their Kids - The Atlantic
"With financial success ought to come some measure of relief—a chance to take in a deep breath, exhale, and survey the world from the top.

But, as Hanna Rosin’s recent Atlantic cover story on the high rate of suicide among high-school students in Palo Alto, California, captures, that’s not how things work. To the contrary, kids living in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country are stressed and miserable. As Rosin writes:
On the surface, the rich kids seem to be thriving. They have cars, nice clothes, good grades, easy access to health care, and, on paper, excellent prospects. But many of them are not navigating adolescence successfully.

The rich middle- and high-school kids [Arizona State professor Suniya] Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm.* They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

Why is this? As Rosin reports, a major factor is “pressure”—from parents, teachers, themselves, whoever—to excel not just in school but in a host of other activities as well. All of that pressure and the resulting hyper-activity seem to leave kids feeling very tired, very inadequate, and very alone. No wonder they are miserable.

But that does little to answer the question of why there is so much pressure in the first place. It turns out that there is a pretty straightforward—and ultimately very troubling—answer: It’s because the competition for a place among the country’s well-off is so vicious. To secure one of those spots, kids must gain admission to a relatively small number of elite colleges and universities, which “essentially did not grow but rather became increasingly selective” since the 1970s. (By contrast, in Canada, where higher education “lacks a steep prestige hierarchy,” the admissions competition is less dire.)

In part, this is because of what sort of people make up America's elite today: not the owners of family businesses but professionals with impressive educations. Family businesses are heritable; education, by contrast, is not. No matter how successful parents are, their kids have to earn their own way in (albeit, of course, with the incredible advantages that come from having highly educated, well-off parents). As sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman put it in an interview with Jessica Grose at Slate, “If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or MBA—you can’t pass those on to your kids.”

All of this results in what the economists Garey and Valerie Ramey of the University of California, San Diego, brilliantly termed “the rug rat race.” As they wrote in a 2010 paper, “The increased scarcity of college slots appears to have heightened rivalry among parents, which takes the form of more hours spent on college preparatory activities.” In their findings, the rug rat race takes place primarily among the most educated parents, because there simply aren’t enough spots at elite schools for less-educated parents to even really have a shot, especially as the competition accelerates. It’s for this reason that the most educated parents spend the most hours parenting, even though they are giving up the most in wages by doing so.

This intense competition does more than serve as a giant sieve for college admissions; it is also a intensive training process for the actual skills that it takes to succeed at the upper echelons of the American economy. As one soccer parent told Friedman during her research on parenting in such a competitive culture, “I think it’s important for [my son] to understand that [being competitive] is not going to just apply here, it’s going to apply for the rest of his life. It’s going to apply when he keeps growing up and he’s playing sports, when he’s competing for school admissions, for a job, for the next whatever.” Friedman concludes, “Such an attitude prepares children for winner-take-all settings like the school system and lucrative labor markets.”

This leaves affluent parents with little choice. Even for those who fear the consequences of the pressure on their kids, they may figure it’s worth getting through a few tough years for a lifetime of economic security. One thing that bolsters this rationale: the steep dropoff in incomes and wealth from the very, very rich to America’s struggling middle class. There is a lot to be gained by being among the very elite. If that's something you have a reasonable shot at, there’s a good argument for taking it.

The conversation about the intense pressure on kids is normally focused on parenting culture, on what parents are doing wrong. But this all needs to be considered in the broader context of the American economy. The pressure on kids may come from parents, but it’s the result of systemic forces so much bigger and so much more powerful than anything any household has control over.

In a sense, what wealthy parents are doing is working. There is very little social mobility in America, up or down, and most of those born into the richest and best-educated households will someday run their own high-earning, highly educated households.

Then again, it’s not working at all. There is very little social mobility in America, up or down, and most of those born into the poorest and least-educated households will someday run their own low-earning, poorly educated households. How is it that a country so prosperous shines its munificence on so few? And, for those who do find success, why does getting there leave them feeling so hopeless?"
education  affluence  precarity  economics  inequality  society  socialmobility  us  incomeinequality  fear  parenting  schools  learning  competition  fragility  hannahrosin  pressure  anxiety  stress  selectivity  colleges  universities  rebeccarosen  gareyramey  valerieramey  admissions  scarcity  jessicagross  suniyaluthar  paloalto  siliconvalley 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Suicide Clusters at Palo Alto High Schools - The Atlantic
"In the late 1990s, when she was an assistant professor in Yale’s psychiatry department, Suniya Luthar was doing research at an inner-city school in Connecticut. She wanted to know whether misbehavior correlated more with poverty or with a stage of adolescence. She needed a second school to use as a comparison. An undergraduate student she worked with had connections at a school in a Connecticut suburb that was more upscale, and Luthar got permission to distribute her surveys there. The results were not what she expected. In the inner-city school, 86 percent of students received free or reduced-price lunches; in the suburban school, 1 percent did. Yet in the richer school, the proportion of kids who smoked, drank, or used hard drugs was significantly higher—as was the rate of serious anxiety and depression. This anomaly started Luthar down a career-long track studying the vulnerabilities of students within what she calls “a culture of affluence.” I called Luthar, now a professor at Arizona State University, in March to find out whether the anxiety she was recording amounted to familiar teenage angst or something more serious. As it happened, she was about to fly to Palo Alto. A meeting on adolescents and suicide, hosted by Stanford’s psychiatry department, had been organized in a hurry. Earlier that month a fifth kid had killed himself, Byron Zhu, a 15-year-old sophomore at Palo Alto High. He had walked in front of an early-morning northbound train. The police were still at the scene when kids were biking to school that morning; the principal, who had rushed over, asked the police to put up a special barrier so they wouldn’t see.

Luthar had been invited to give a presentation on affluent youth as a largely unrecognized at-risk group. Convincing people that rich kids are at high risk isn’t easy, she said. But she has amassed the most thorough data set we have on that group, from schools scattered across the country. Luthar’s data come from school districts where families have median incomes of more than $200,000, and private schools where tuition is close to $30,000 a year. Her research suggests a U‑shaped curve in pathologies among children, by class. At each extreme—poor and rich—kids are showing unusually high rates of dysfunction. On the surface, the rich kids seem to be thriving. They have cars, nice clothes, good grades, easy access to health care, and, on paper, excellent prospects. But many of them are not navigating adolescence successfully.

The rich middle- and high-school kids Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm. They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

“We assume that because [these kids] have money and a good education, everything is fine,” Luthar says. And in the long run, money and education will protect them. But in adolescence, the dangers posed by the culture of affluence can be “quite potent.” That doesn’t mean rich kids are more likely to kill themselves. Studies on youth suicide have generally turned up few differences among social classes. But it does mean many are deeply suffering.

One of the two major causes of distress, Luthar found, was the “pressure to excel at multiple academic and extracurricular pursuits.” In one study, for example, kids were asked to choose and rank their parents’ top five values, from a list of 10. Half of the values were related to achievement (“attend a good college,” “make a lot of money,” “excel academically”), and the other half to well-being and personal character (“are honest,” “are kind to others,” “are generally happy with yourself and your life”). When the kids chose a greater number of achievement-related goals, that usually correlated with personal troubles, Luthar said.

The kids were also asked how much they identified with sentences such as “The fewer mistakes I make, the more people will like me” and “If someone does a task at work/school better than I, then I feel like I failed the whole task.” From their answers, Luthar constructed a profile of elite American adolescents whose self-worth is tied to their achievements and who see themselves as catastrophically flawed if they don’t meet the highest standards of success. Because a certain kind of success seems well within reach, they feel they have to attain it at all costs—a phenomenon she refers to as “I can, therefore I must.” Middle-class kids, she told me, generally do not live with the expectation that they should go to Stanford or earn $200,000 a year. “If I’ve never been to the moon,” she said of middle-class families, “why would I expect my kids to go there?” The yardstick for the children of the meritocratic elite is different, and it can intimidate as much as it can empower.

The second major cause of distress that Luthar identified was perhaps more surprising: Affluent kids felt remarkably isolated from their parents. When I wrote “The Overprotected Kid” for this magazine last year, I assumed that the brand of helicopter parenting I described as typical of my cohort involved a trade-off. Parents might be sheltering their kids, but at least they were more emotionally in tune with them than, say, the parents of the ’70s divorce generation were with their children. Luthar disabused me of this comforting narrative. The kids in the affluent communities she studied felt their parents to be no more available to them, either emotionally or physically, than the kids in severe poverty did.

Some of the measures Luthar used were objective: Did the family eat dinner together, or hang out in the evenings? Here, she discovered that some busy parents would leave adolescents alone in the afternoon and evening and often weren’t home at all during those hours. She also measured the kids’ feelings of closeness—“My father understands me,” or “My mother knows when I am upset.” Here again Luthar saw a fissure: Children had the sense that their parents monitored their activities and cared deeply about how they were spending their time, but that didn’t translate into feeling close. Many children felt they were being prodded toward very specific goals and behaviors by parental cues, some subtle, some less so. Their parents glowed warmly when they did well in school or sports but seemed let down when they didn’t. Often the kids learned to hide their failures—real or imagined—for fear of disappointing their parents. Other research has shown that a feeling of closeness to parents was inversely linked to household income, meaning that the most-affluent kids felt the most alienated. “It’s mind-boggling,” Luthar says. “We are comparing them to a group of parents we think of as being in dire straits—largely single mothers on welfare whose circumstances are assumed to affect the quality of their parenting. And yet kids from these affluent families, mostly Caucasian, say they feel no closer to their parents than the poor kids do.”

Luthar’s research was incorporated into the 2006 best seller The Price of Privilege, by Madeline Levine, a child psychologist who practices in the Bay Area. She reported that the adolescents she was encountering would “complain bitterly of being too pressured, misunderstood, anxious, angry, sad, and empty.” In the past couple of years, other best sellers have sounded a similar note. William Deresiewicz, a former Yale professor who contributes to this magazine, argues in Excellent Sheep that elite education “manufactures students who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose.” The New York Times columnist Frank Bruni’s Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania warns of the dangers of insisting that admission to an elite college is necessary for a successful life.

After leaving Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote a book, published in June, called How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. In it, she confesses that as a dean, she had interacted with students who relied on their parents “in ways that felt, simply, off” and who seemed “existentially impotent.” She detailed the growing mental-health crisis at colleges, and described the brilliant, accomplished students who “would sit on my couch holding their fragile, brittle parts together, resigned to the fact that this outwardly successful situation was their miserable life.”

I’ve read all these books, and so have many of my friends. We have kids this age, or about to be this age, and yet somehow we can’t absorb the message. I didn’t, really, until I spent some time in Palo Alto.

Since Levine wrote The Price of Privilege, she’s watched the stress in the Bay Area and in affluent communities all over the country become more pervasive and more acute. What disturbs her most is that the teenagers she sees no longer rebel. A decade ago, she used to referee family fights in her office, she told me, where the teens would tell their parents, “This is bad for me! I’m not doing this.” Now, she reports, the teenagers have no sense of agency. They still complain bitterly about all the same things, but they feel they have no choice. Many have also fallen prey to what Levine calls a “mass delusion” that there is but one path to a successful life, and that it is very narrow. Adolescents no longer typically identify… [more]
hannahrosin  suicide  siliconvalley  affluence  parenting  schools  education  2015  hannarosin  paloalto  gunnhighschool  anxiety  mentalhealth  children  youth  adolescence  psychology  depression  academics  suniyaluthar 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Why Are Palo Alto’s Kids Killing Themselves? — Amazing humankind — Medium
"Saal, the psychiatrist, believes that many students at his daughter’s school are showing signs of acute stress disorder, a non-pathological response to trauma that is more immediate and more transient than PTSD. Even a single incident of stress, Saal says, can induce “a collection of overpowering recall.” While most people are capable of coping at that level, a cascade of trauma like that experienced by Palo Alto’s teens can produce more radical responses."



"Most people, in fact, were anxious to share, in great detail, what they’ve endured since the first Gunn student took his life back in May 2009.

This was particularly true of the teens, who volunteered acute insights about their town, their school, and the contradictions of a culture that demands personal excellence but withholds emotional support. They railed against their superintendent’s denials of responsibility; against the so-called Palo Alto mask that blocks reality in the name of perfection; against school officials’ lip service to bold change. “They just check boxes, put counselors in place so that it will look good, not thinking about how to do it in a way that really helps kids,” says Lauren Saal. Other students are eager to defend the school and knock what they perceive as victim-blaming. They decry attempts to fit all the suicides, as senior Anna Barbier says, “neatly under one umbrella.” “Fake” is the word used by two seniors to describe Gunn’s culture, which they fault for breeding intense competition while claiming to foster unity. But other students are frank about their own complicity in the noxious, cutthroat environment. “My dad always describes how when he was growing up, it was students against the system,” Anna says. “This is students against students.”"



"While they’re relentlessly pushed to chase higher grades and greater commendations, students say, they are simultaneously pressured to maintain an air of confidence and composure. Gaby Candes, a Gunn sophomore whose parents are both Stanford professors, refers to the condition as “Stanford duck syndrome”: “Everybody puts on a front of being super-relaxed and perfect, but under the surface they’re kicking furiously,” she says. “When all you see is calm ducks, you think that you are the only one who’s not perfect.” The attitude even bleeds into class activities that are intended to ameliorate stress. “We’re always doing exercises where they say, ‘We all have problems, and other people have problems just like you,’” says junior Hayley Krolik. “But nobody really believes it. This isn’t really an environment where people talk about being less than perfect.”

With everyone paddling desperately (but stealthily) in pursuit of distinction, pulling out in front becomes nearly impossible. “Everyone wants to be the one to stand out, because it’s really hard to stand out here,” says Hayley. Consequently, anything that gets you noticed — being gay, being Jewish, even being inordinately sad — garners social capital at Gunn. Depression is effectively “glorified,” a senior says, because it attracts attention."



"This push-pull is a bite-size encapsulation of the skirmishes currently consuming all of Palo Alto. There aren’t enough fingers in Silicon Valley to point at all the people, norms, and institutions that may or may not be responsible. “The parents blame the schools. The schools blame the parents. And when they are together, they blame the universities,” says Marin psychologist Madeline Levine, author of a bestselling book about the afflictions of affluent youth, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. Communities like Palo Alto, she says, may tout their Hallmark-ready battle cry of “We’re all in this together,” but all too often, there is little coming together on anything. “Where are the parents?” Levine rants. “How do they tolerate four hours of homework? Since when are kids making multiple trips to the ER? It starts to be a mass delusion. That’s what this feels like to me. What’s that book where all the girls become hysterical — The Crucible? That is what this feels like to me.”"



"The problem is that Palo Alto, in my experience, is a community with something of a tin ear, many denizens seemingly hearing only what confirms their preexisting worldview. Some of that tone deafness is understandable, given the complexity of the issues besetting the town. But some of it may be due to a general muzzling of suicide-related speech. The backstories of many of the 2009–10 suicides have long been shrouded in secrecy, leaving kids and parents speculating and rumormongering. The Stanford Psychiatry Department embarked on a “psychological autopsy” of the cluster, but no report was ever publicly released. In any case, Blanchard is dismissive of the study’s value: “There are many more [teens] who are not doing well,” she says. “Researching only kids who have passed away — its usefulness is so limited.”

Often it seems as if that de facto gag order from 2009 is still in effect. Even the kids speak in euphemisms, as if they’ve signed some town pact: During a “Listening to Youth Voices” panel in March, they referred to the suicides as “the recent events.” Some experts object to this use of abstruse terminology, which they believe reflects a damaging community-wide repression. “This is exactly the time to call it suicide and nothing else,” says Levine. “It couldn’t be clearer that there’s a crisis around kids being able to manage their feelings.”"



"For a moment, the Gunn turned Palo Alto problem became an Asian problem. But chestnut-haired Paly junior Carolyn Walworth, her school’s student rep on the district board, quickly forestalled any temptation to render the suicides an ethnic issue. On Palo Alto Weekly’s website, she posted a chilling diatribe titled “The Sorrows of Young Palo Altons” [http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2015/03/25/guest-opinion-the-sorrows-of-young-palo-altans ] in which she lamented the entire student body’s response to the crisis. “We are lifeless bodies in a system that breeds competition, hatred, and discourages genuine learning,” she wrote. “We lack sincere passion. We are sick….”

The self-criticism in the treatise was, in Levine’s view, a healthy step forward. She says that she fears for this generation of kids, “who don’t come out and say ‘Screw you.’ Where’s the rebellion? These kids have no sense that they could change something.” But more and more, students are stepping up to challenge the status quo. Carolyn and Martha have both done so. And, quite eloquently, so has Gunn senior Jessica Luo, who, in a letter to her ninth-grade self written for a youth forum, admonishes the younger Jessica: “The ‘culture’ and the ‘system’ are not some monster looming above Gunn and issuing commands. The ‘system’ is made up of your actions and the actions of people around you.”

“Something’s only going to change,” concurs Gunn junior Hayley Krolik, “if 75 percent of us start saying to people around us, ‘Oh, you got the A, but did you enjoy the project?’ And frowning on people who just do things because it will get them someplace.”

Jessica sees the magnitude of the problem facing her peers — and advocates for a wholesale revision of the student-school compact. “We aim our arrows at false targets,” she writes. “We shoot at AP classes while the real enemy lurks in an unspoken assumption: that people who take the harder classes are better. That’s because it’s easier to think of culture as a tumor that can be attacked, to throw policy changes like block schedules and homework restrictions at the tumor in hopes of shrinking it. But the tumor just comes back — because the disease is somewhere else.”

Jessica implores her younger self to stop, to think, and — as Kathleen Blanchard advises in the wake of her own son’s suicide — to listen deeply. “Notice the air you breathe,” she writes. “Notice the people you’re helping or harming. Know your enemy — know that it does not live in the problems that look clear-cut. It lives in the shady assumptions beneath.”"
culture  education  paloalto  highschool  suicide  pressure  depression  stress  2015  teaching  homework  learning  carolynwalworth  competition  rebellion  howwelearn  siliconvalley  society  madelyngould  laurensaal  madelinelevine  suicideclusters  marthacabot  dianakapp  gunnhoghschool 
may 2015 by robertogreco

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