Tags » ‘irrational’

Shredding Back The Years

February 23rd, 2013 by

Recently, our after-school program was de-funded by the State of California due to the ongoing budget crisis.  With one swipe of the pen, Governor Jerry Brown wiped out approximately six million dollars of funding from our organization annually which was used to fund after-school program scholarships for the financially disadvantaged.

I’m here to say that I don’t think it was such a bad thing.

Now, mind you, before you consider me some cold-hearted, right-leaning, only-care-for-the-rich jerk, I’ll give you my reasons.

Well, reason, really.

The fact is that whenever you take money from the government, no matter for what noble cause, paperwork – ungodly, unjust, and vast amounts of paperwork – flows from the halls of power as if Mount Olympus had just been moved to Sacramento.

In the case of our funding, the paperwork was called “Desired Results for Families and Children”.  A fairly benign title, really.  After all, who isn’t for positive results for all Californian children.

Ah, but here’s the rub.  While I’m sure that plenty of time, sweat, and effort went into drafting these 31 “desired results” (the actual number fluctuated between 50, 31, and 13 over time), the government demanded that we rate each child’s progress ongoingly according to these standards that were seemingly handed to us from Mount Sinai (which also I surmise is now located in Sacramento, near Mount Olympus).

And rating each child was not enough!  We then, in accordance with our funding contract, had to tabulate and aggregate all the data we generated about each child’s progress, and re-design our curriculum every six months with the end goal being pushing each child’s “rating” up on each of the 31 standards.

Of course, one might ask… where is the room for original curriculum?  What if the emerging curriculum suggested by the children said we should investigate ladybugs… but we didn’t because we were busy making sure that kids understand how to wash their hands well enough to score a 3 on that particular standard?

Aside from the basic bristling of the government telling me what curriculum I must promote and is good for kids, these Desired Results Developmental Profiles (DRDPs in shop-talk) that we had to complete for each child, every six months took hours to complete (probably 3 hours of observation, 1/2 hour of assessment, and 2 hours of administrative number-crunching and curriculum re-designing… per child)!

Let’s multiply it out… if you figure 5-1/2 hours of work per child… and say, like our program, you had 35 children receiving subsidized child care, that comes out to 192.5 man-hours of work… times two (remember this is a semiannual requirement)… that comes to a total investment of 385 hours of work each year… or roughly the equivalent of 18.5% of a full-time job.

Now, the financial payouts are more appealing… in exchange for that 385 hours, we received approximately $122,000 to subsidize these kids’ child care expenses.  About $315 per hour for our work (of course, the workers don’t get that money… it goes into the general budget).

But, finances aside, the main problem with the DRDP is that the ratings are completely subjective.  That’s right… subjective.  Which means I could rate a child a “2″ in the category of self-confidence, and another teacher might see that child as a “3″ or a “1″.  While there are “guidelines” by which to select your rating, the fact is that the rating would still be subject to that teacher’s perception of how the child is.

Another fact is that, while Miss Bobbie might be rating the child now, six months from now it may be Mr. Jim that’s doing the rating.  Given the high turnover rate of workers in the child care field, it’s possible that a child may be rated by a different adult every time.  And this makes for somewhat shaky results.

And, then, we create our curriculum around these objectively suspect findings.

So, happy was I (however, probably not the environment) as I fed these DRDP tools from the past 7 years into the paper shredder this week.  Another win for common sense.

And, as a footnote to this story, the needy of the community were not left out.  Our organization budgeted creatively and started their own program for subsidized after-school care.  Win-win.

 

 

Locked Down?

October 14th, 2012 by

A little slow on the postings this past week, but I wanted to comment on a post from Free Range Kids guru Lenore Skenazy.  Another “stranger danger” incident happened recently at a preschool in the SF Bay area.  Apparently, a parent had allowed another adult inside the preschool compound without letting staff “buzz” them in, which created quite a stir- AND a lengthy letter outlining the dangers of people we don’t (and do!) know.

My reaction is this:

  • Why are our preschools / afterschool programs / schools wired like a minimum security prison in the first place?  I mean, I understand why.  At least I understand the reasons given.  I don’t agree with them.  Do we need to look at the DOJ statistics?  If we’re merely playing a statistics game then, shouldn’t we ban parents from driving their children home? (more car accidents happen per year with child passengers than stranger abductions) Perhaps we should ban relatives from picking up children at all (most abuse happens at the hands of relatives than any other category).
  • The main issue I have with the “lockdown” mentality is the subconscious message that it sends the children.  It tells them that they are just victims in a game where strangers lurk in every crevice waiting to pounce.  It tells them that they are incapable and must be protected from all things, real and imaginary.  It creates in children a sense that the world is a dangerous place, and that they’re better off not exploring, questioning, or learning about the wider world.

The fact is that, statistically, children are safer now than at any time in our nation’s history.  But paranoia makes for great headlines and child safety (or the fear of un-safety!) makes for great copy and Nielsen numbers.

But what is the cost to our kids?

Another “Worst-First” Thinking Debacle

March 20th, 2012 by

So, the 4-year-old goes to school and draws a picture of daddy holding a gun.  You won’t believe what happens next…

Read what happened here…

Another example of the kind of overreaction that gives teachers and social workers a bad name.

picture

What is your kid drawing that could get you in trouble?

The Male-as-predator Stereotype Dies Hard

February 2nd, 2012 by

Back when I began working with children in the stone-ages of the 1990′s, there was an article in one of those “Parent” magazines entitled “How to Choose A Child Care Program”.  Being the unenlightened neanderthals that we were back then, bullet point number seven stated “Avoid the child care program where men are working”.  Really?  The logic is… most predators are male, so, it (il)logically follows that all men that work with kids must be child molesting monsters.  Even then, the idea seemed ridiculous to me.

Who do you see?

Recently, the magazine “Parenting” has shown us that this anti-male bias is not dead, some 20 years after my first encounter with it.  In an article entitled “The New Playdate Playbook” (linked here via CNN), a worried mother is told to cancel a sleepover when she finds out her daughter’s friend is being parented by a single dad.

Really?

What are the underlying assumptions here?  Single men are monsters?  You can’t trust a man with a child if there’s not a woman around to temper him?  Is this rational?

What’s even more strange… after a barrage of negative responses to this article, the editor of Parenting.com takes up arms to defend the original article.  You can read the editor’s response here.  He starts off balanced enough, but then disintegrates into the rationale that the original article’s author’s fear of a single dad should be defended under the idea that the opinion may be different, but it is valid (if I don’t like my kid’s friend’s parents because they’re African-American, is that “different, but valid” too?).  He further damages his credibility with a ridiculous ad hominem attack on a website who published a negative review of the article.

As long as articles like this show up in the mainstream, men (and especially men who choose to work with children and youth) will be viewed through a stereotype with suspicion.

Thanks to Free-Ranger Lenore Skenazy for bringing this article to my attention.