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robertogreco : pressure   22

Talent. A Football Scholarship. Then Crushing Depression. - The New York Times
"Maybe you have never heard of Isaiah Renfro. He did not start at the University of Washington, nor did he play in the N.F.L. But you should know his struggle. There are scores like him, young athletes on college campuses grappling with mental illness — a crisis that is only now getting serious attention.

What experts know is this: Recent studies place suicide as the third leading cause of death for college athletes, behind motor vehicle accidents and medical issues.

And nearly 25 percent of college athletes who participated in a widely touted 2016 study led by researchers at Drexel University displayed signs of depressive symptoms.

Since that percentage is roughly in line with the general college population, the findings countered a long-held belief that athletes are less likely than their peers to become depressed — largely because they benefit from regular, emotion-lifting exercise.

As the stigma of mental illness has eased, the reporting of cases has increased. But experts also believe that young athletes now face more stress, which contributes to mental illness, than ever before.

“Performance and parental pressure, social media, more games on TV, more players who think they can go to the pros,” said Timothy Neal, the director of athletic training education at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a nationally recognized expert on mental health and college sports.

The N.C.A.A. is playing catch-up.

“We are still so young in addressing this,” said Brian Hainline, a neurologist who in 2013 became the N.C.A.A.’s first chief medical officer. He cited increasing concern not only about depression, but also about bipolar, eating, anxiety and attention deficit disorders, as well as addiction. “Mental health is our single most important priority.”

What happened to Isaiah Renfro seemed to be a result of this combustible mix, where brain chemistry meets the burdens of reaching success and then maintaining it.

He was hardly alone in his struggle."
athletics  anxiety  mentalhealth  depression  2018  universities  colleges  highered  highereducation  parenting  expectations  americanfootball  pressure  health 
november 2018 by robertogreco
not a contrarian | sara hendren
"From this series of questions to Zadie Smith [https://losarciniegas.blogspot.com/2018/01/zadie-smith-i-have-very-messy-and.html ] comes Teju Cole’s question:

Cole: You must be under some pressure to be agreeable, to agree with the right opinions. But I notice that you think through things, rather than just agreeing to them. How do you defend that space of independent thought?

Smith: I don’t think of myself as a contrarian. I’m useless at confrontation. But I also can’t stand dogma, lazy ideas, catchphrases, group-think, illogic, pathos disguised as logos, shoutiness, ad hominem attacks, bombast, liberal piety, conservative pomposity, ideologues, essentialists, technocrats, preachers, fanatics, cheerleaders or bullies. Like everybody, I am often guilty of some version of all of the above, but I do think the job of writing is to at least try and minimise that sort of thing as much as you can."
zadiesmith  tejucole  sarahendren  2018  confrontation  opinions  pressure  contrarians  contrarianism  thinking  dogma  laziness  catchphrases  groupthink  logic  pathos  logos  adhominenattacks  pomposity  ideology  essntialism  technocrats  preachers  preaching  fanaticism  cheerleading  bullying  writing  howwewrote  howwwethink 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Teach Kids When They’re Ready | Edutopia
"Our friend Marie’s daughter Emily just entered kindergarten. Emily went to preschool, where the curriculum revolved around things like petting rabbits and making art out of macaroni noodles. Emily isn’t all that interested in learning how to read, but she loves to dance and sing and can play with Barbies for hours.

Emily’s older sister, Frances, was reading well before she started kindergarten, and the difference between them worried Marie. Emily’s grandparents thought it was a problem, too, and hinted that perhaps Marie should be reading to Emily more often. When Marie talked to another mom about it, her friend shared the same concern about her own two daughters, wondering if it was somehow her fault for not reading to her younger daughter enough. Would these younger siblings be behind the moment they started kindergarten?

This scenario drives us crazy because it’s grounded in fear, competition, and pressure, not in science or reality. Not only are parents feeling undue pressure, but their kids are, too. The measuring stick is out, comparing one kid to another, before they even start formal schooling. Academic benchmarks are being pushed earlier and earlier, based on the mistaken assumption that starting earlier means that kids will do better later.

We now teach reading to 5-year-olds even though evidence shows it’s more efficient to teach them to read at age 7, and that any advantage gained by kids who learn to read early washes out later in childhood.

What was once advanced work for a given grade level is now considered the norm, and children who struggle to keep up or just aren’t ready yet are considered deficient. Kids feel frustrated and embarrassed, and experience a low sense of control if they’re not ready to learn what they’re being taught.

The fact is that while school has changed, children haven’t. Today’s 5-year-olds are no more fundamentally advanced than their peers were in 1925, when we started measuring such things. A child today can draw a square at the same age as a child living in 1925 (4 and a half), or a triangle (5 and a half), or remember how many pennies he has counted (up to 20 by age 6).

These fundamentals indicate a child’s readiness for reading and arithmetic. Sure, some kids will jump the curve, but children need to be able to hold numbers in their head to really understand addition, and they must be able to discern the oblique line in a triangle to recognize and write letters like K and R.

The problem is that while children from the 1920s to the 1970s were free to play, laying the groundwork for key skills like self-regulation, modern kindergartners are required to read and write.

Brain development makes it easier to learn virtually everything (except foreign languages) as we get older. Work is always easier with good tools. You can build a table with a dull saw, but it will take longer and be less pleasant, and may ingrain bad building habits that are hard to break later on.

One of the most obvious problems we see from rushed academic training is poor pencil grip. Holding a pencil properly is actually pretty difficult. You need to have the fine motor skills to hold the pencil lightly between the tips of the first two fingers and the thumb, to stabilize it, and to move it both horizontally and vertically using only your fingertips. In a preschool class of 20 we know of in which the kids were encouraged to write much too early, 17 needed occupational therapy to correct the workarounds they’d internalized in order to hold a pencil.

Think of it: 85 percent of kids needed extra help, parents spent extra money, and parents and kids felt stressed because some adult thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be swell if we taught these 4-year-olds to write?” without any regard to developmental milestones.

We see this early push all the way through high school. Eighth graders take science classes that used to be taught to ninth graders, and kids in 10th grade read literature that used to be taught in college. In Montgomery County, outside Washington, DC, the school district attempted to teach algebra to most students in eighth grade rather than ninth grade, with the goal of eventually teaching it to most kids in seventh grade. It was a disaster, with three out of four students failing their final exam. Most eighth graders don’t have sufficiently developed abstract thinking skills to master algebra.

Historically, kids started college in their late teens because they were ready; while there have always been exceptions, on the whole 14-year-olds weren’t considered developmentally ready for rigorous college work. Ironically, in the attempt to advance our kids, our own thinking about these issues has regressed.

Ned fields requests from many parents who want their kids to start SAT prep in the ninth grade. Ned tells them that it’s a mistake to spend their kid’s time and their money for him to teach them things that they will naturally learn in school. It’s far better to wait for them to develop skills and acquire knowledge at school, and then to add to that with some test preparation in their junior year.

Starting test prep too early is not just totally unnecessary, it is actively counterproductive. It’s like sitting your 14-year-old down to explain the intricacies of a 401(k) plan. It’s not going to register.

The central, critical message here is a counterintuitive one that all parents would do well to internalize: Earlier isn’t necessarily better; and likewise, more isn’t better if it’s too much."
children  education  schools  readiness  unschooling  deschooling  kindergarten  reading  learning  teaching  schooling  writing  acceleration  policy  curriculum  parenting  pressure  williamstixrud  nedjohnson 
april 2018 by robertogreco
School is 'biggest concern' for children | News
"Nearly half of 12-year-olds report feeling sad or anxious at least once a week, survey finds
School is the biggest source of stress for young people, according to a new survey by children's charity Barnardo's.

The charity found that almost half of children aged 12 feel sad or anxious at least once a week, with the proportion rising as they get older.

Barnardo's commissioned YouGov to examine what is troubling young people and how they might be better supported.

According to the survey, nearly half of 12-year-olds in England (48 per cent) feel sad or anxious at least once a week. By the age of 16, 70 per cent report feeling this way at least once a week, with more than a fifth (22 per cent) having negative feelings as often as once a day.

Twelve-to-16-year-olds report that school is their main cause of stress (65 per cent), followed by thoughts about their future (42 per cent), problems at home (31 per cent), their weight (26 per cent) and offline bullying (25 per cent).

By the age of 16, stress at school is a worry for 83 per cent of children in England and 80 per cent are worrying about their future.

The survey found that social media has an important effect on mental health for young people, with 11 per cent reporting that they worry about getting enough "likes" or responses to posts.

Twelve per cent say they are concerned about online bullying, while 15 per cent say they have been troubled by something they have seen on social media.

According to the survey, which was commissioned to mark the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week today, three-quarters (75 per cent) of 12-to-16-year-olds think it would be helpful if they had a counsellor or another professional at their school to talk to when they were feeling down.

When asked who they would talk to if they felt sad or anxious, 38 per cent said teachers, 63 per cent said friends and 71 per cent said family members.

Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "It is deeply concerning that so many children in England are growing up feeling sad and anxious, and these feelings are intensified as they get older.

"Although these can be normal emotions experienced while growing up, children need support to deal with the pressures of everyday life.

"We need to create a culture where everyone has a greater understanding of what keeps children mentally well and when professional help is needed."

He added: "We want parents and carers to be confident in recognising if their children are unhappy, and teachers and other professionals to be sufficiently trained, adequately resourced and available to support them.""
children  stress  schools  schooling  mentalhealth  health  sfsh  pressure  socialmedia  bullying  anxiety  education 
february 2018 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
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
The male suicides: how social perfectionism kills | Mosaic
"Impulsivity, brooding rumination, low serotonin, poor social problem-solving abilities – there are many vulnerabilities that can heighten the risk of suicide. Professor Rory O’Connor, President of the International Academy of Suicide Research, has been studying the psychological processes behind self-inflicted death for over 20 years.

“Did you see the news?” he asks when I meet him. The morning’s papers are carrying the latest numbers: 6,233 suicides were registered in the UK in 2013. While the female suicide rate has remained roughly constant since 2007, that for men is at its highest since 2001. Nearly eight in ten of all suicides are male – a figure that has been rising for over three decades. In 2013, if you were a man between the ages of 20 and 49 who’d died, the most likely cause was not assault nor car crash nor drug abuse nor heart attack, but a decision that you didn’t wish to live any more.

In every country in the world, male suicides outnumber female. The mystery is why? What is it about being male that leads to this? Why, at least in the UK, are middle-aged men most at risk? And why is it getting worse?

Those who study suicide, or work for mental health charities, are keen to press upon the curious that there’s rarely, if ever, a single factor that leads to any self-inflicted death and that mental illness, most commonly depression, usually precedes such an event. “But the really important point is, most people with depression don’t kill themselves,” O’Connor tells me. “Less than 5 per cent do. So mental illness is not an explanation. For me, the decision to kill yourself is a psychological phenomenon. What we’re trying to do in the lab here is understand the psychology of the suicidal mind.”

We’re sitting in O’Connor’s office on the grounds of Gartnavel Royal Hospital. Through the window, the University of Glasgow’s spire rises into a dreich sky. Paintings by his two children are stuck to a corkboard – an orange monster, a red telephone. Hiding in the cupboard, a grim book collection: Comprehending Suicide; By Their Own Young Hands; Kay Redfield Jamison’s classic memoir of madness, An Unquiet Mind.

O’Connor’s Suicidal Behaviour Research Lab works with survivors in hospitals, assessing them within 24 hours of an attempt and tracking how they fare afterwards. It also carries out experimental studies, testing hypotheses on matters such as pain tolerance in suicidal people and changes in cognition following brief induced periods of stress.

After years of study, O’Connor found something about suicidal minds that surprised him. It’s called social perfectionism. And it might help us understand why men kill themselves in such numbers."



"If you’re a social perfectionist, you tend to identify closely with the roles and responsibilities you believe you have in life. “It’s not about what you expect of yourself,” O’Connor explains. “It’s what you think other people expect. You’ve let others down because you’ve failed to be a good father or a good brother – whatever it is.”

Because it’s a judgement on other people’s imagined judgements of you, it can be especially toxic. “It’s nothing to do with what those people actually think of you,” he says. “It’s what you think they expect. The reason it’s so problematic is that it’s outside your control.”

O’Connor first came across social perfectionism in studies of American university students. “I thought it wouldn’t be applicable in a UK context and that it certainly wouldn’t be applicable to people from really difficult backgrounds. Well, it is. It’s a remarkably robust effect. We’ve looked at it in the context of the most disadvantaged areas of Glasgow.” It began in 2003 with an initial study that looked at 22 people who had recently attempted suicide, as well as a control group, and assessed them using a 15-question quiz that measures agreement with statements such as “Success means that I must work even harder to please others” and “People expect nothing less than perfection from me”. “We’ve found this relationship between social perfectionism and suicidality in all populations where we’ve done the work,” says O’Connor, “including among the disadvantaged and the affluent.”

What’s not yet known is why. “Our hypothesis is that people who are social perfectionist are much more sensitive to signals of failure in the environment,” he says.

I ask if this is about perceived failure to fulfil roles, and what roles men feel they should fill? Father? Bread-winner?

“Now there’s this change in society,” O’Connor replies, “you have to be Mr Metrosexual too. There are all these greater expectations – more opportunities for men to feel like failures.”"



"If you’re a social perfectionist, you’ll have unusually high expectations of yourself. Your self-esteem will be dangerously dependent on maintaining a sometimes impossible level of success. When you’re defeated, you’ll collapse.

But social perfectionists aren’t unique in identifying closely with their goals, roles and aspirations. Psychology professor Brian Little, of the University of Cambridge, is well known for his research on ‘personal projects’. He believes we can identify so closely with them that they become part of our very sense of self. “You are your personal projects,” he used to tell his Harvard class.

According to Little, there are different kinds of projects, which carry different loads of value. Walking the dog is a personal project but so is becoming a headteacher in a lovely village, and so is being a successful father and husband. Surprisingly, how meaningful our projects are is thought to contribute to our wellbeing only slightly. What makes the crucial difference to how happy they make us is whether or not they’re accomplishable.

But what happens when our personal projects begin to fall apart? How do we cope? And is there a gender difference that might give a clue to why so many men kill themselves?

There is. It’s generally assumed that men, to their detriment, often find it hard to talk about their emotional difficulties. This has also been found to be true when it comes to discussing their faltering projects. “Women benefit from making visible their projects and their challenges in pursuing them,” Little writes, in his book Me, Myself and Us, “whereas men benefit from keeping that to themselves.”

In a study of people in senior management positions, Little uncovered another salient gender difference. “A clear differentiator is that, for men, the most important thing is to not confront impedance,” he tells me. “They’re primarily motivated to charge ahead. It’s a clear-the-decks kind of mentality. The women are more concerned about an organisational climate in which they’re connected with others. You can extrapolate that, I think, to areas of life beyond the office. I don’t want to perpetrate stereotypes but the data here seem pretty clear.”

Additional support for this comes from a highly influential 2000 paper, by a team lead by Professor Shelley Taylor at UCLA, that looked at bio-behavioural responses to stress. They found that while men tend to exhibit the well-known ‘fight or flight’ response, women are more likely to use ‘tend and befriend’. “Although women might think about suicide very seriously,” says Little, “because of their social connectedness, they may also think, ‘My God, what will my kids do? What will my mum think?’ So there’s forbearance from completing the act.” As for the men, death could be seen as the ultimate form of ‘flight’.

But that deadly form of flight takes determination. Dr Thomas Joiner, of Florida State University, has studied differences between people who think about suicide and those who actually act on their desire for death. “You can’t act unless you also develop a fearlessness of death,” he says. “And that’s the part I think is relevant to gender differences.” Joiner describes his large collection of security footage and police videos showing people who “desperately want to kill themselves and then, at the last minute, they flinch because it’s so scary. The flinch ends up saving their lives.” So is the idea men are less likely to flinch? “Exactly.”

But it’s also true, in most Western countries, that more women attempt suicide than men. One reason a higher number of males actually die is their choice of method. While men tend towards hanging or guns, women more often reach for pills. Martin Seager, a clinical psychologist and consultant to the Samaritans, believes this fact demonstrates that men have greater suicidal intent. “The method reflects the psychology,” he says. Daniel Freeman, of the University of Oxford’s department of psychiatry, has pointed to a study of 4,415 patients who had been at hospital following an episode of self-harm; it found significantly higher suicidal intent in the men than the women. But the hypothesis remains largely uninvestigated. “I don’t think it’s been shown definitively at all,” he says. “But then it would be incredibly difficult to show.”

For O’Connor, too, the intent question remains open. “I’m unaware of any decent studies that have looked at it because it’s really difficult to do,” he says. But Seager is convinced. “For men, I think of suicide as an execution,” he says. “A man is removing himself from the world. It’s a sense of enormous failure and shame. The masculine gender feels they’re responsible for providing and protecting others and for being successful. When a woman becomes unemployed, it’s painful, but she doesn’t feel like she’s lost her sense of identity or femininity. When a man loses his work he feels he’s not a man.”

It’s a notion echoed by the celebrated psychologist Professor Roy Baumeister, whose theory of suicide as ‘escape from the self’ has been an important influence on O’Connor. “A… [more]
suicide  men  via:anne  2015  perfectionism  roryo'connor  middleage  behavior  impulsivity  rumination  serotonin  socialperfectionism  responsibility  responsibilities  society  failure  judgement  urbanization  success  self-esteem  socialesteem  pressure  stress  gender  manhood  roybaumeister  martinseager  thomasjoiner  shelleytaylor  brianlittle  self-concept  korea  china  us  uk  kayredfieldjamison 
may 2015 by robertogreco
what what. (There is a pervasive form of modern violence to...)
"There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist…most easily succumbs: activism and over-work. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work… It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her)…work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful."

—Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
thomasmerton  activism  burnout  rush  pressure  anxiety  urgency  slow  violence  work  labor  overwork 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Plashing Vole: Grimm's Tale
"Stefan was going to be fired. Not because his work was no good: it was, as the publications list shows. No, he was going to be fired because he didn't attract the 'sexy', headline funding. He quietly raised money to pay for his ongoing research as and when he needed it. His failure was the inability to grasp that his university – which isn't so different from lots of others – care far less about the discoveries made than the headlines achieved from lottery-style grants. 'X wins £50m grant' is the dream THES or New Scientist headline, not '£50,000 for Grimm'.
Your current level of funding does not constitute the appropriate level for a professor at Imperial College. Unless you submit and are awarded a Platform grant as PI in the next 12 months we will seek to initiate disciplinary action against you. This email constitutes a warning that your performance is being monitored and that action may be brought if you fail to meet the conditions herein

Grimm was told he had to bring in £200,000 p.a. – not contractually, but let's leave that aside. His letter explains that he did that through a series of small grants, but that wasn't good enough: it had to be the stuff of headlines, or 'impact' as it's officially known in the Research Assessment Framework to which we all have to submit.

This isn't about science - it's about bragging rights, or institutional willy-waving. Grimm was informed – in public – that he was to be fired, and left waiting for the axe to fall while the axe-wielder marauded around the campus boasting about it like an even more pathetic Alan Sugar.
I fell into the trap of confusing the reputation of science here with the present reality. This is not a university anymore but a business with very few up in the hierarchy, like our formidable duo, profiteering and the rest of us are milked for money, be it professors for their grant income or students who pay 100.- pounds just to extend their write-up status.

If anyone believes that I feel what my excellent coworkers and I have accomplished here over the years is inferior to other work, is wrong. With our apoptosis genes and the concept of Anticancer Genes we have developed something that is probably much more exciting than most other projects, including those that are heavily supported by grants.

This is not, I shouldn't have to say, how academia works. Einstein famously published one peer-reviewed paper. Science rarely has a Eureka moment: it's rather a series of careful, thoughtful developments of work done by one's forebears and peers. A management which demands a Eureka a day is one which doesn't just not 'get' academia, it's a management which contradicts the academic method and it's one which has forgotten that it's meant to serve the needs of science, the arts, students and researchers, not the insatiable maw of attention seeking 'Leaders' (that's the word they use now) and the PR office. It's also a management that kills."

[See also: http://musicfordeckchairs.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/wider-lessons/
http://www.dcscience.net/2014/12/01/publish-and-perish-at-imperial-college-london-the-death-of-stefan-grimm/ ]
stefangrimm  academia  education  funding  highereducation  highered  money  finance  business  corporatization  2014  science  publishorperish  bullying  capitalism  pressure  management  administration  hierarchy 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why Schools Can’t Teach Sex Ed in the Internet Age
"But school board members contend that 9th grade students have already been exposed to the contents of the book—and much, much more. They argue that even relatively modern sex ed has even not begun to reckon with what kids are now exposed to in person and online.

The singer Rihanna, for example, has legions of young fans. Her music video for the song “S&M”—viewed more than 57 million times on YouTube so far—shows the artist, pig-tied and writhing, cooing “chains and whips excite me.” It then cuts to her using a whip on men and women with mouths covered in duct tape.

“I think denying that [sex] is part of our culture in 2014 is really not serving our kids well,” says Lara Calvert-York, president of the Fremont school board, who argues that kids are already seeing hyper-sexualized content—on after school TV. “So, let’s have a frank conversation about what these things are if that’s what the kids need to talk about,” she says. “And let’s do it in classroom setting, with highly qualified, credentialed teachers, who know how to have those conversations. Because a lot of parents don’t know how to have that conversation when they’re sitting next to their kids and it comes up in a TV show. Everyone is feeling a little awkward.”

But the Fremont parents aren’t budging. “Any good parent monitors what their child has access to,” says Topham. “We don’t say, ‘they’re going to drink anyway, let’s give them a car with bigger airbags.’” The parents note that the book was actually written for college students, and refers to college-related activities like bar crawls. (While acknowledging this, the book’s author Sara L. C. Mackenzie, believes it’s appropriate for high schoolers; her children read it at 13.)

The book has been shelved, at least for this year. But the problem isn’t going away. The Fremont showdown is a local skirmish in what has become a complicated and exhausting battle that schools and parents are facing across the nation. How, when, and what to tell kids about sex today? TIME reviewed the leading research on the subject as well as currently available resources to produce the information that follows, as well as specific guides to how and when to talk to kids on individual topics."



"On paper, the United States is checking all the right boxes of managing teen sexual behavior. The national pregnancy rate is at a record low and it appears teens are waiting longer to have sex, and those that are sexually active are using birth control more than previous years. But these numbers only tell a tiny snippet of the story.

“Sex education in the U.S. has only gotten worse,” says Victor Strasburger, an adolescent medicine expert and distinguished professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. “Most of the time they don’t talk about contraception, they don’t talk about risk of pregnancy, STIs [sexually transmitted infections]—certainly not abortion. At some point you would think adults would come to their senses and say hey we have to counteract this.”

Strasburger says the U.S. shouldn’t base success on its teen pregnancy numbers: “Everyone else’s teen pregnancy rate has gone down too. Before we pat ourselves on the back, we should acknowledge that we still have the highest rate in the Western World.”

Not only does sex education still virtually not exist in some areas of the country, but school programs that do teach kids about what used to be called the facts of life start too late. A recent CDC study showed that among teens ages 15-17 who have had sex, nearly 80% did not receive any formal sex education before they lost their virginity. Or, if they did, it was only to discourage them from being sexually active. “Parents and legislators fail to understand that although they may favor abstinence-only sex education (despite the lack of any evidence of its effectiveness), the media are decidedly not abstinence only,” reads a 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement.

“I had sex with my older boyfriend at 16,” says Ashley Jones, 22, a young Georgia woman. “Suddenly my dad wanted to talk about the birds and the bees. I was like, what? It’s too late!” (The Kinsey institute puts the average age that kids have first have sex at 16.9 for boys and 17.4 for girls.)

Current sex education, where it does exist, often teaches the basic plumbing, but it’s not answering the questions young people really have when it comes to sexuality: What should I do when my girlfriend/boyfriend is pressuring me to have sex? What on earth was happening in that video I probably shouldn’t have clicked online? What do I do when my best friend tells me they’re gay—or I think I am?

School-wide sex education largely ignores gay men and women. “I think the Internet is one of the most commonly used sources for young LGBT folks to gain information,” says Adrian Nava, 19, who says his question about same sex relationships in his Colorado high school sex ed class that was shot down by the teacher. “In some ways it’s great because online forums tend to be supportive and positive. But there’s so much misinformation that reinforces negative feelings.”

Sex ed courses tends to hyper-focus on the girls. “Girls are the ones who have babies,” says Victoria Jennings, director of the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University, whose research has shown there are globally more programs developed to help young girls navigate their sexuality than to help boys. Given the fact that recent CDC literature shows 43.9% of women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual violence that was not rape, and 23.4% of men have experienced the same, public health experts agree both sexes need education on appropriate behavior.

It doesn’t help that the two groups are getting quite different messages. “The way we talk to boys is antiquated and stereotypical,” says Rosalind Wiseman, educator and author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, about teen girls and Masterminds and Wingmen, on boys. “There’s an assumption that they’re insensitive, sex-crazed, hormone-crazed. It’s no surprise that so many boys disengage from so many conversations about sex ed.”

We teach girls how to protect themselves, adds Wiseman, and their rights to say yes and no to sexual behaviors. But we don’t teach boys the complexities of these situations or that they’re a part of the conversation. “We talk to them in sound bites: ‘no means no.’ Well, of course it does, but it’s really confusing when you’re a 15-year-old boy and you’re interacting with girls that are trying out their sexuality,” she adds. Data show that boys are less likely than girls to talk to their parents about birth control or “how to say no to sex,” and 46% of sexually experienced teen boys do not receive formal instruction about contraception before they first have sex compared to 33% of teen girls.

Yet completely reshaping the sex education landscape is currently almost impossible, not just because of disagreements like the one in Fremont, but because schools lack resources. There’s historically large funding for abstinence-only education, but supporters of comprehensive sex education—which deals with contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and relationships—face significant logistical and financial barriers."
sexed  children  adolescence  media  teens  behavior  sexuality  trust  2014  alexandrasifferlin  controversy  pressure  relationships  emilyweinstein  victorstrasburger  socialmedia  sexting  parenting  myths  pornography  education  policy  politics  curriculum  sex 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Rox and Roll: Parents: let Harvard go
"I want to tell every parent reading this post that you need to assume, right now, that your child is not getting into Harvard no matter what he or she does. (And no, he's not getting into Stanford either, or Yale, or Dartmouth, or MIT. Probably not UC Berkeley either. No, I'm not kidding.) Your kid isn't getting into the college you think he is.

What? So-and-so's child is at Princeton right now? and got what on his SATs? and did those activities? Hmmm. Interesting. Sure, you can prove me wrong with some examples. And I can prove myself right with a hundred more. Stanford's rate of admission was below 5% last year. Do the math.

In the spirit of "I want to do something," I offer below some Q & A that I hope y'all read and take to heart. These are real questions asked by real parents of real kids I know within the past year. I didn't answer these questions at the time exactly like I did below, but I answer them here and now based on a combination of my expertise in admissions (noting that nothing I say here should be construed as official advice or information given on behalf of any school) as well as my experience as a community leader and parent.

And be forewarned: I'm going to be a bit of a wise-ass, 'cause we all need to calm down like Martha says, which also means "lighten up" in my book.

But also, I promise a reward at the end: questions that I wish people would ask me instead. And I think -- I hope -- it's some valuable stuff."



"Post-publication note: This posts seems to have reached a lot of people who have a lot of strong reactions to it. I think the comment that reached me most on another person's Facebook page is one from a parent who thinks I am encouraging mediocrity. The snarky part of me wants to tell the dude he's right, that I tell my kids "aim low." But the truth is, this post is far from encouraging mediocrity or "settling" for anything less than a child can feel good about achieving. As a Palo Alto parent, I am tired of our culture of 'achievement' as defined by grades, scores, college admissions, and the like. And I am unapologetic about that. I have worked with our community's teens as a coach, as a youth minister, as a mentor, and as a parent, and I encourage every kid to be their best self. That means being proud of their work, whether in the classroom, on the playing field, and/or in the world. Do I think they need to engage in competition for one of those 15 slots at Stanford (there is no fixed number, and I wouldn't know it if there were) by trying to outwit, outplay, and outlast (to borrow "Survivor" lingo)? Nope. And beyond that, there are going to be times when our kids just don't want to work hard because they're kids and continue to push boundaries. They're going to blow off studying for a test. They're going to fail something. Good. That's right -- I said good. Their mistakes teach them that actions have consequences and that their effort ties to their outcomes. We can't give them that with carrots or with sticks. They'll figure it out. They want to do well -- as they define it. (They know what's up with college admissions without us even getting involved, parents.) And the more they figure out for themselves, with no message from us other than "we take you as you are and want you to be healthy and fulfilled," the healthier our kids are going to be. I want nothing but the best for our village's kids -- for any kids-- and I stuck my neck out there with the post because I refuse to define the "best" as it has been anymore. The best for our kids is no more of them self-harming in any way, and I feel like we can alleviate some of that by changing our tone."
colleges  universityis  admissions  parenting  2014  via:willrichardson  stress  pressure  anxiety  aps  ivyleague  motivation  harvard  collegeadmissions  testing  standardizedtesting  success  achievement  mediocrity  grades  grading  standards  sleep  teens  adolescence  highschool  schools  education  competition  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  apclasses 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Lessons Learned: How a Progressive New School Adapts to Realities | MindShift
"One major change has been how students are grouped. The year started with kids of all ages — six to 12 — working together on everything. But that proved problematic. … Now, students are grouped into age-based cohorts, or “bands,” so that age-appropriate work could move along more smoothly."

"assessments covered three areas: students’ project-based learning, social and emotional learning, and skills acquisition and quantitative learning, according to Program Coordinator Justine Macauley. “Rather than assessing the students’ work product, we looked at their work and development during the process of their project,” asking questions like, Are they a supporter of other students’ projects or do they spearhead their own? Do they listen to others? Do they self-advocate? What subject areas do they gravitate to? and How adept is the student at organizing him/herself, their projects, their process?"

"Another change is the frequency in assessments…three times a year, instead of just once."
wateringdown  waterin  featurecreep  deschooling  unschooling  academics  rigor  pressure  parents  progressive  teaching  schools  program  curriculum  gevertulley  justinemacauley  2012  assessment  brightworks 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Rough Type: Nicholas Carr's Blog: Situational overload and ambient overload
"The real source of information overload, at least of the ambient sort, is the stuff we like, the stuff we want. And as filters get better, that’s exactly the stuff we get more of. It’s a mistake, in short, to assume that as filters improve they have the effect of reducing the information we have to look at. As today’s filters improve, they expand the information we feel compelled to take notice of. Yes, they winnow out the uninteresting stuff (imperfectly), but they deliver a vastly greater supply of interesting stuff. And precisely because the information is of interest to us, we feel pressure to attend to it. As a result, our sense of overload increases."
internet  information  nicholascarr  infooverload  cv  pressure  filters 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The curse of giftedness - The Globe and Mail
"“Sometimes,” says Dr. Freeman, sitting in her airy office in central London, with toys on the floor and copies of her 17 books on the shelf, “those with extremely high IQ don't bother to use it.” The psychologist, who spent much of her own childhood as a wartime evacuee in Alberta, puts it bluntly in her book: “Success in school did not predict success outside of it.” Most of the world's highest achievers, she points out, were never identified as gifted children. A gifted child is just one who has advanced beyond his or her peers; it takes drive, application, perseverance and insight to turn that potential into exceptional adult success."
gifted  education  children  learning  psychology  success  pressure  confidence  well-being 
november 2010 by robertogreco
BBC News - Why is teaching so stressful?
"Former teacher & ed researcher Dr Kevin Eames says pressures of job are very intense & draining. "It's exciting...adrenaline burn from classroom is like nothing else..."Teachers I've worked w/ who have come in from law, finance & journalism have commented that it is most demanding, tiring & busy thing they have ever done." Teachers have always had to get up in front of class & put on performance. But things seem to be getting tougher for teachers...very little down-time to re-charge & re-energise themselves."...But there is something else. Dr Eames says there has been a change in culture in recent years, which has turned students into consumers of ed services. "If something goes wrong - it's the teacher's fault. If the exam results are not what are expected it is also the teacher's fault. "It's this shift from pupils learning from someone who has the knowledge - to becoming consumers who are judging the providers of that knowledge - it's like a beauty contest into 'edutainment'""
teaching  stress  health  work  culture  uk  mentalhealth  schools  expectations  tcsnmy  demands  testing  standardizedtesting  pressure 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Op-Ed: Advanced Pressure - Video Library - The New York Times
"The filmmaker Vicki Abeles features the stories of students and teachers of Advanced Placement classes and the pressures they face in our achievement-obsessed culture."
film  documentary  applications  ap  highschool  education  health  teens  students  achievement  pressure  stress  rotelearning  rote  tcsnmy  broken  schools  schooling 
january 2010 by robertogreco
The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture | Race to Nowhere
"Race To Nowhere is a groundbreaking documentary film that examines education, childhood and the unintended consequences of the achievement-obsessed way of life that permeates American education and culture. Unrelenting pressure, whether from well-intentioned parents, teachers, national leaders or from children themselves, is creating a generation suffering from unprecedented levels of stress, depression and burnout."
schools  schooling  film  documentary  education  success  stress  youth  children  parenting  tcsnmy  lcproject  alternative  well-being  racetonowhere  learning  teens  society  pressure  deschooling  unschooling 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Reel Link Films - Race to Nowhere
"RACE TO NOWHERE is a close-up look at the pressures on today’s students, offering an intimate view of lives packed with activities, leaving little room for down-time or family time. Parents today are expected to raise high-achieving children, who are good at everything: academics, sports, the arts, community-service. The film tackles the tragic side of our often achievement-obsessed culture, with interviews that explore the hidden world of over-burdened schedules, student suicide, academic cheating, young people who have checked out.

RACE TO NOWHERE asks the question: Are the young people of today prepared to step fully and productively into their future? ... RACE TO NOWHERE is a call to families, educators, experts, state and national leaders to examine current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become the healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens we need."

[Trailer here: http://www.reellinkfilms.com/trailer.html ]
education  schools  learning  children  teens  youth  stress  society  pressure  parenting  schooling  deschooling  unschooling  lcproject  well-being  tcsnmy  film  documentary  racetonowhere 
may 2009 by robertogreco
For Girls, It’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too - New York Times
"If you are free to be everything, you are also expected to be everything. What it comes down to, in this place and time, is that the eternal adolescent search for self is going on at the same time as the quest for the perfect résumé."
girls  education  learning  pressure  psychology  society  schools  colleges  universities 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Jan Chipchase - Future Perfect: Big Brother / Little Sister
"When it comes to surveillance most people think big brother, but increasingly its your (early adopting, tech savvy, sensor loaded) little sister. Which makes whole notion of opting out of technology adoption one of whether to opt out of society."
janchipchase  society  surveillance  friends  families  technology  mobile  phones  presentations  pressure  engagement  social  earlyadopters  change 
february 2008 by robertogreco
Jemima Owen: Yes, she's a mess - so why do we teenagers still love Amy? | Society | The Observer
"at times teens...relate to some aspect of Winehouse's plight...support from fans...comforting message in world that can often seem unforgiving - no matter how much you screw up, there will still be people who want you to shine."
amywinehouse  teens  psychology  fandom  pressure  society  youth 
january 2008 by robertogreco

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