Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

musings on…primum non nocere

In Medicine, Musings, Philosophy on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 at 07:04

for years, I have been hearing people “quote” a portion of the hippocratic oath that referencing “first do no harm” as the main point and an exact quote.   while not the type to directly correct someone, especially about something that i think a majority of people believe,  and it just makes me look like a philosophical snob or elitist.  that said, i heard someone mentioning the “first, do no harm” portion in conversation and ascribing it to the hippocratic oath again yesterday which precipitated this posting.  i don’t believe that people deliberately want to misquote or mislead others as this seems to be a generally held belief.

for the record, the original version of the hippocratic oath is as follows:

“I swear by Apollo the Physician and Asclepius and Hygeia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parent and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give share of precepts and oral instruction and all other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but to no one else.

I will apply dietetic measure for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and in holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite be my lot.

Hippocrates (c. 460–c. 370 B.C.).  The Oath and Law of Hippocrates.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.

as one can see in the oath the passage “I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing” and “In whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm” (pp. 299, 301) IMPLIES to do no harm but the exact wording “first do no harm” (in latin, “primum non nocere”) is not in the hippocratic oath.

Hippocrates (c. 460–c. 370 B.C.).  The Oath and Law of Hippocrates.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.

clearly, there is an explicit and implicit understanding in the oath to “first do no harm” however, this is not part of the hippcratic oath.  the mention not doing harm IS in the hippocratic corpus.  not that there isn’t controversy surrounding the corpus as its true authorship is a much-debated topic, but we will ascribe it to hippocrates as some of the greatest philosophic scholars can not say for sure.  it has actually been postulated that many ‘authors’ had their hand in writing the many books of the corpus.  even so, the corpus is largely associated with hippocrates and we may never know for sure whose work it was or who contributed to it.

alas, for now, I leave you with the part most have come to accept of as one of the main points of the hippocratic oath:

in  latin, “primum non nocere” which literally means “first do no harm” is seen in one of the books of the corpus .  “As to diseases, make a habit of two things—to help, or at least to do no harm. The art has three factors, the disease, the patient, the physician. The physician is the servant of the art. The patient must co-operate with the physician in combating the disease.”

Hippocrates, Epidemics, book 1, section 11.—Hippocrates,trans. W. H. S. Jones, vol. 1, p. 165 (1923).

so, now you know if you didn’t already!


flapping hands and wagging tails…

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Child/Adolescent Psychology, Humane Education, Life with dogs, Pets, School Psychology on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 at 06:02

Your Hands Tell Me When You’re Happy

By: Stewart Duncan

Christmas was one week away, the excitement building as we prepared presents for friends and family. We laughed as we changed the words to our favorite Christmas songs, drank Egg Nog and opened the next door to find out what shape the next chocolate was in our advent calendars.


As we talk about Santa and what each of us is hoping for, I lean over to my son Cameron and say “Do you know how I always know when you’re happy?”


He said “No, how?”

I replied “Your hands tell me.”

He smiled and said “because I flap my hands!”

At that point, he began bouncing on his toes and flapping his hands so hard that I thought he might fly.

Beside us, sitting up against my hip, was my dog Spirit. She is Cameron’s best friend and, I think, Cameron is her best friend too.

I said to Cameron “Cameron, do you know how I always know when Spirit is happy?”

He said “No.”

I told him “Because her tail tells me.”

Again, the excitement building as he flapped his hands really hard, “She wags her tail!!”

I explained to him that Spirit doesn’t have hands so she wags her tail but I imagine that it’s very much the same feeling. There’s just so much happiness inside that it has to come out.

I told him that I know some people might bug him about it, some people might say silly things or tell him that he shouldn’t… but I’ll never stop him from showing me how happy he is.

He got up and gave me a big hug.


About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

Retrieved from:  http://www.stuartduncan.name/autism/your-hands-tell-me-when-youre-happy/

Large study shows substance abuse rates higher in teenagers with ADHD

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Fitness/Health, Psychiatry, School Psychology on Sunday, 24 February 2013 at 10:03

Large study shows substance abuse rates higher in teenagers with ADHD.

awesome reading suggestions for a rainy, dark saturday…

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Genes, Life with dogs, Pets on Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 15:41


Prosody cues word order in 7-month-old bilingual infants…

In Language on Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 15:39


gender may have more to do with autism than we thought…

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Genes, Genomic Medicine on Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 15:33

Female Sex May Protect Against Autism

By: Megan Brooks

Autistic behaviors may be less common in girls because girls are less susceptible to some of the genetic and environmental factors that increase risk for autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs), new research suggests.

“There is a well-established sex bias in ASDs — specifically, the overall male to female ratio is about 4:1,” Elise Robinson, ScD, of the Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, told Medscape Medical News.

“We were interested in better understanding that pattern through the lens of a potential female protective effect. In other words — are females affected less frequently because they are less susceptible to some of the genetic and environmental factors that create risk for ASDs? That is the primary implication of the study, and it will need to be replicated in future efforts,” Dr. Robinson said.

The study was published online February 19 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Investigators examined data from 2 large, independent cohorts of fraternal twins: 3842 12-year-old twin pairs in the UK-based Twin’s Early Development Study, and 6040 9- to 12-year-old twin pairs in the Swedish Child and Adolescent Twin Study.

In both groups, they compared sibling autistic traits between female and male probands, who were identified as scoring in the top 90th and 95th percentiles of the population autistic trait distributions.

In both study groups, siblings of female probands displayed significantly greater average impairments than the siblings of male probands. This suggests that girls may require greater “etiologic load” to manifest autistic behavior, the authors note.

Reached for comment, Richard E. D’Alli, MD, chief of the Division of Child Development and Behavioral Health from Duke Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved in the study, cautioned that there really “isn’t anything new here,” and he does not think it “moves the science forward.”

“If you really believed that the female organism was different in some way to the male organism, that would explain why 5 times as many boys are afflicted with autism. Then you’d be looking for something that has something to do with the development of the disease,” he told Medscape Medical News.

“For example, if there are certain circuits in the brain that we know or certain biochemical events that occur during development that predisposes a kid to autism, you’d ask, ‘Is there a kind of difference in either the neurohormonal makeup of the female brain compared with the male brain that makes the male brain more sensitive to development of these aberrant circuits?’ You would be looking for a neurochemical, or a neurohormonal, or a neuroelectrical circuity difference,” Dr. D’Alli said.

Dr. Robinson said her team pursued the study “primarily for its research implications.”

“A female protective effect, which we found evidence for, would suggest that a greater average concentration of risk factors may be associated with ASDs in girls as compared to ASDs in boys. If our findings are replicated, this knowledge could help us pursue genetic and environmental studies of ASDs more efficiently, and better interpret our findings,” she said.

The authors and Dr. D’Alli have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Proc Natl Acad Sci. Published online February 19, 2013. Abstract

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/779650?src=nl_topic

Examining and interpreting the female protective effect against autistic behavior

Elise B. Robinson, Paul Lichtenstein, Henrik Anckarsäter, Francesca Happé, and Angelica Ronald


Male preponderance in autistic behavioral impairment has been explained in terms of a hypothetical protective effect of female sex, yet little research has tested this hypothesis empirically. If females are protected, they should require greater etiologic load to manifest the same degree of impairment as males. The objective of this analysis was to examine whether greater familial etiologic load was associated with quantitative autistic impairments in females compared with males. Subjects included 3,842 dizygotic twin pairs from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) and 6,040 dizygotic twin pairs from the Child and Adolescent Twin Study of Sweden (CATSS). In both samples, we compared sibling autistic traits between female and male probands, who were identified as children scoring in the top 90th and 95th percentiles of the population autistic trait distributions. In both TEDS and CATSS, siblings of female probands above the 90th percentile had significantly more autistic impairments than the siblings of male probands above the 90th percentile. The siblings of female probands above the 90th percentile also had greater categorical recurrence risk in both TEDS and CATSS. Results were similar in probands above the 95th percentile. This finding, replicated across two nationally-representative samples, suggests that female sex protects girls from autistic impairments and that girls may require greater familial etiologic load to manifest the phenotype. It provides empirical support for the hypothesis of a female protective effect against autistic behavior and can be used to inform and interpret future gene finding efforts in autism spectrum disorders.

Retrieved from: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/02/13/1211070110.abstract?cited-by=yes&legid=pnas;1211070110v1#cited-by



what causes depression? a possible answer.

In Genes, Genomic Medicine, Mood Disorders, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 06:54

Potential Cause of Depression Identified

By: Meagan Brooks

A protein involved in synaptic structure has been identified as a potential cause of depression, a finding that according to researchers has “enormous therapeutic potential for the development of biomarkers and novel therapeutic agents.”

Investigators at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City found decreased expression of Rac1 in the postmortem brains of people with major depressive disorder (MDD) and in mice subjected to chronic stress. They were able to control the depressive response in mice by manipulating the expression of Rac1.

“Our study is among only a few in depression research in which 2 independent human cohorts and animal models validate each other. Rac1 has enormous therapeutic potential, and I look forward to investigating it further,” study investigator Scott

Looking for Drug Targets

Rac1 is a small Rho GTPase protein involved in modulating synaptic structure.

“There is a hypothesis that depression and stress disorders are caused by a restructuring of brain circuitry,” Dr. Russo explained in an interview with Medscape Medical News.

The scientists subjected mice to repeated bouts of social stress and then evaluated the animals for changes in gene expression in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), the brain’s reward center.

The researchers found that expression of Rac1 was significantly downregulated in the brains of mice for at least 35 days following the end of the chronic social stressor. Rac1 was not affected by only a single episode of stress, indicating that only prolonged stressors that induce depression are capable of downregulating Rac1.

The scientists note that chronic stress in the mice caused epigenetic changes in chromatin that led to Rac1 downregulation.

They were able to control the depressive response to chronic stress to some extent by chronic antidepressant treatment. Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors were “extremely effective in both normalizing the reduction in Rac1 and also promoting antidepressant responses,” Dr. Russo told Medscape Medical News.

“What we think is happening is that chronic stress leads to a lasting change in the ability of our genes to transcribe this RAC1 gene, and if you target the epigenome, you can reverse that loss of Rac1 and promote synapses and more normal healthy responses,” he said.

As in the mice, Rac1 expression was also strongly downregulated in the NAc in postmortem brains of patients with MDD, who displayed similar epigenetic changes. In most of the individuals with MDD who were taking antidepressants at the time of death, Rac1 expression was not restored to the levels seen in control participants, “suggesting a need for more direct RAC1-targeting strategies to achieve therapeutic effects,” the authors write.

“Currently, there aren’t any approved drugs or even experimental drugs that target Rac1 that are safe and effective,” Dr. Russo said. “It would be nice if we could team up with some chemists or pharma and figure out if there are some safe and effective Rac activators.”

However, there are caveats to that, he said.

“It might be difficult to target Rac specifically, because it is involved in cell proliferation and restructuring so it may be difficult to get a compound that doesn’t cause cancer. It might be better to screen for targets that more generally regulate synaptic plasticity. Ketamine is a drug that does this, and there is huge interest in ketamine” in depression, Dr. Russo said.

Experts Weigh In

Commenting on the findings for Medscape Medical News, David Dietz, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, State University of New York at Buffalo, who was not involved in the research, said the study “is exquisitely well done. The researchers did an excellent job of translating their findings in the rodent model to the human condition.”

Maria V. Tejada-Simon, PhD, who also was not involved in this research but who has studied Rac1, noted that her group has been “highlighting the importance of Rac1 in the brain in general, and in psychiatric diseases in particular, for a while now. Therefore, I am not surprised that Rac1 has been found to be also associated to stress disorders and depression.”

“Mood disorders have been linked to changes in synaptic structure, and it is certain that small GTPases such as Rac1 have a tremendous role as modulators of these processes. However, we need to understand that alterations in Rac1 signaling are not likely to be the primary defect in mood disorders.

“Thus, targeting Rac1 to moderate clinical symptoms (while there is potential for a translational approach there) has to be done very carefully, given the broad role of Rac1 in many cellular functions involving the actin cytoskeleton,” said Dr. Tejada-Simon, assistant professor of pharmacology and adjunct assistant professor of biology and psychology at University of Houston College of Pharmacy in Texas.

“The highlight of this research is in identifying a possible mechanism by which we can study pathways that are involved in remodeling of the brain; we might be able to find something a little bit more specific down the line,” Dr. Dietz said.

He noted that Rac1 has also been linked to addiction.

“It’s well known that there is comorbidity between depression and addiction, that one may lead to the other, so there seems to be something fundamentally related between Rac1 and these 2 psychiatric disease states.”

The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Johnson and Johnson International Mental Health Research Organization Rising Star Award (presented to Dr. Russo). The other authors, Dr. Tejada-Simon, and Dr. Dietz have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Nat Med. Published online February 17, 2013. Abstract

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/779544?src=nl_topic

Epigenetic regulation of RAC1 induces synaptic remodeling in stress disorders and depression

Sam A Golden, Daniel J Christoffel, Mitra Heshmati, Georgia E Hodes, Jane Magida,Keithara Davis, Michael E Cahill, Caroline Dias, Efrain Ribeiro, Jessica L Ables, Pamela J Kennedy, Alfred J Robison, Javier Gonzalez-Maeso, Rachael L Neve, Gustavo Turecki, Subroto Ghose, Carol A TammingaScott J Russo

Nature Medicine(2013) doi:10.1038/nm.3090; Received 11 October 2012.  Accepted 14 January 2013.  Published online 17 February 2013.


Depression induces structural and functional synaptic plasticity in brain reward circuits, although the mechanisms promoting these changes and their relevance to behavioral outcomes are unknown. Transcriptional profiling of the nucleus accumbens (NAc) for Rho GTPase–related genes, which are known regulators of synaptic structure, revealed a sustained reduction in RAS-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 (Rac1) expression after chronic social defeat stress. This was associated with a repressive chromatin state surrounding the proximal promoter of Rac1. Inhibition of class 1 histone deacetylases (HDACs) with MS-275 rescued both the decrease in Rac1 transcription after social defeat stress and depression-related behavior, such as social avoidance. We found a similar repressive chromatin state surrounding the RAC1 promoter in the NAc of subjects with depression, which corresponded with reduced RAC1 transcription. Viral-mediated reduction of Rac1 expression or inhibition of Rac1 activity in the NAc increases social defeat–induced social avoidance and anhedonia in mice. Chronic social defeat stress induces the formation of stubby excitatory spines through a Rac1-dependent mechanism involving the redistribution of synaptic cofilin, an actin-severing protein downstream of Rac1. Overexpression of constitutively active Rac1 in the NAc of mice after chronic social defeat stress reverses depression-related behaviors and prunes stubby spines. Taken together, our data identify epigenetic regulation of RAC1 in the NAc as a disease mechanism in depression and reveal a functional role for Rac1 in rodents in regulating stress-related behaviors.

Retrieved from: http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nm.3090.html

bye bye, bipolar disorder!

In Education, General Psychology, Mood Disorders, School Psychology on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 06:57

i love this website and the information.  i find it useful in general and in my work in the schools.  if you work with children with behavioral issues or are interested in learning more, i recommend you join dr. mac’s b-list email list.  i always find interesting and useful articles like the one below.  thanks, dr, mac!

Bye-Bye Bi-Polar Disorder

Hello again, fellow B-Lister!  Where are you located right now on the mood spectrum?  Forlorn?  So-So?  Ecstatic?  How’s the energy level right now? Are you sinking into the sofa for the 3rd day in a row, taking a short-lived seat to read this communication, or jumping up and down on it?

We all have ups and downs in mood, energy, or ability to function well in our daily tasks.  Some folks, though,  re-cycle through these ups and downs, reaching the extreme ends of the continuum.

Back-in-the-day, I typically heard the term “Manic Depression” used for the condition under discussion in our newsletter today.  When I first heard the term “Bi-Polar”, I thought it had something to do with the melting of the polar ice caps or penguins moving up to Santa’s domain!

Bipolar disorder: A mental illness that is evidenced by extreme shifts in mood, energy and functioning.

Yes, now Bipolar Disorder is the clinically correct terminology for the dramatic, recycled changes experienced by individuals with this mental health disorder.  However, I must admit that manic-depressive held more meaning for me. It identified the two opposites of the continuum rather than using vague terminology as a label.

There are different variations of Bipolar Disorder listed in the two mental health diagnostic manuals, the DSM-IVtr (soon to become DSM-5) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).  Once thought to be a rare condition in children and youth, the 1990’s era saw a massive increase in Bipolar diagnoses for kids with severe sadness, irritability, anger, and grumpiness. a rise of 4000% in just 12 years!  As might be expected, the dramatic increase sparked discussion and disagreement about whether children were being misdiagnosed and then prescribed powerful psychotropic mediations with significant negative side effects. (A future topic for a B-List members)

Bipolar disorder is a life-long mental disability, but most research has shown that  kids diagnosed with childhood bipolar disorder (the expansive version) are no more likely to develop classic Bipolar Disorder than their non-diagnosed peers.  Additionally, the prescribed medications didn’t work as well in children as in adults.  Certainly, these youngsters possessed a legitimate mood disorder, one that may very well extend into adulthood. but for most of them, it wasn’t Bipolar Disorder.

One of the graduate students in my teacher preparation program in behavior disorders created a wonderful video regarding authentic Bi-Polar Disorder in children.  Using a case study of a 6 year old boy, Michelle then compares the youngster’s symptoms with the criteria for the condition, before offering strategies and approaches for intervention. (Thanks, Michelle!)

*Health note: Omega 3 oil, lecithin, and vitamins B6 & B12 have been implicated in the condition, with Bi-Polar individuals being deficient in these nutrients.  If you are seeking a natural alternative or supplement to Lithium and/or the other common medications you can find them in their purest form here: http://www.shop.com/healthnutrition-a.xhtml (Your purchases result in discounts & cash-back while supporting a kid’s pre-teen swim team.  My nutrition consultant, Cindy, is also available to assist you at this site)

A rose by any other name.

In response to the great controversy & disagreement as to whether this mental health disability should be diagnosed in kids, DSM-5 (due for distribution in May 2013) makes an effort to reduce the numbers of Bipolar diagnoses… by creating a new diagnosis!…: Distemper.  Oh Wait!!!  That’s my dog.  For our kids, the mental health diagnostic manual it will soon contain a new condition titled “Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria” (TDD).

Dysphoria: An emotional state of feeling unwell or unhappy.

TDD displays itself in severe outbursts of anger/temper interchanging with negative mood states.  Unlike Bipolar Disorder, it does not include phases of mania (but neither did the criteria used to diagnose kids as having Bipolar Disorder… Odd, eh?… Labeling kids as being Bipolar when they didn’t have a second pole).  TDD is also not considered to be a life-long disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association states that it hopes that the majority of kids (perhaps 60-70%) who have or might have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder will now receive the TDD label.  This re-diagnosis would probably also include many youngsters with Conduct Disorder who were labeled as being Bipolar in order to obtain health insurance coverage for treatment

The symptoms of TDD in the upcoming DSM-5 manual are similar in many ways to the broad type of childhood bipolar disorder (as it was diagnosed). The proposed diagnostic criteria for TDD include:

severe recurrent temper outbursts that are grossly out of

proportion to the intensity of the situation

frequency of at least three temper outbursts per week

temper outbursts ongoing for at least one year

temper outbursts present in at least two settings (for

example, at home and at school)

onset before age 10

There is an excellent 10 minute video on the new disorder in the archives of National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=123544191&m=123564957


For those of you working with youngsters who have the symptoms mentioned above:

1. Rob Plevin’s 3-part FREE video series on working effectively with disruptive kids is still availabe.  Click here to view effective strategies for quieting noisy classes and kids.

2. Modify the character of the youngster using the Circle of Courage model of intervention.  This comprehensive, intensive and positive program changes lives.

3.  The Behavior Intervention Guide allows you to determine a disruptive youngster’s present level of readiness to change behaviour.  Based on the outcome of the assessment, strategies are provided that move the youngster toward greater levels of willingness to change his/her behavior for the better.

4.  Use “The Behavior Survival Guide for Kids: How to make good choices and stay out of trouble” in your social skills/anger management programs, or place it in the class library.  Stellar reviews by websites, magazines, parents, teachers, and the kids themselves let you know the effectiveness of this self-help book for kids.  It’s written on a 4th grade reading level… just like these weekly newletters!

5. Implement the FREE 100+ lesson plans that accompany The Behavior Survival Guide (or use them in isolation)

For Parents of Defiant & Angry Youngsters

1. Develop a home-school behavior change program based on the monetary system.  When money and priviledges are involved, kids listen!

2. Learn the principles of changing behaviour for the better, and effective strategies for helping your child make better behavior choices.

3.  Leave “The Behavior Survival Guide for Kids: How to make good choices and stay out of trouble” out on the coffee table for your child to pick up.

4. Seek out family counseling.

5. Acquire the comprehensive program designed specifically to help parents of children with Conduct Disorder/highly disobedient behavior change their child’s behavior for the better. (Click on the Total Transformation box below)

NEXT WEEK: Disruptive Behavior (Not otherwise specified)

(When the actions are disruptive, defiant, and/or aggressive,but don’t meet the criteria for ODD or Conduct Disorder)

Dr. Mac

Room 914west,

Department of Special Education, Hunter College,

695 Park Avenue,

New York,

NY 10021


Retrieved from: http://www.behavioradvisor.com

How Can Teachers Overcome Depression and Strife? – Living in Dialogue – Education Week Teacher

In Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Psychology, School reform, Well-being on Friday, 15 February 2013 at 09:01

great advice on the article below.  

i have never seen a greater level of stress and lower morale than this school year.  i worry every day for my teachers and staff and hope, no matter what “they” throw at us, that the good ones will stay because even if you feel your system doesn’t appreciate you, those kids do.  sometimes, we school employees might be the only people who give a kid attention or show he or she is cared about.  some might not have parents in the house (maybe raised by an older sibling or another family member), some might not have food most days, clean clothes, some don’t even have a house or place to sleep.  

in the end, it’s all about the kids and i do know most teachers and support staff feel that way.  but i also realize that it is difficult to be in a career where teachers are blamed for “outcomes” when teacher/school influence only accounts for 15-25% of student outcome (i have not seen any study that can account for more than that).  how is it then, that teachers are going to be evaluated and paid based on something that they only have 15-25% control of?  the other 75-85% obviously has a greater effect.  all the teachers i know do it for the love of the kids and try very hard to keep this at the forefront.  but…when you are being told that it’s all about test scores, outcome, academic improvement, it’s difficult to focus on things that make teachers who they are…those who chose a profession, not to make money or get rich because they never will, but for the love of learning and the love of children and our future.  the way our country is going with education “reform” breaks my heart and i am saddened for all the wonderful and inspirational teachers that might just decide it’s no longer worth it.

How Can Teachers Overcome Depression and Strife? – Living in Dialogue – Education Week Teacher.

Consequential Growth

In Fitness/Health, General Psychology, Happiness, Mindfulness, Well-being on Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 11:12

Consequential Growth

By: Timothy J. Wachtel

Written for the Texas Association for Adult Development & Aging

I’m older now. A little more pale, a little more frail, but I got my wits. The ebbs and flows of life have taken their course and have strewn me all over the place. It didn’t seem fair then and it doesn’t seem fair now. What do I have to show for it? I still try to keep my head held high and I smile a lot. Boy, life sure has a way of serving up its fair share of bumps and bruises . . . kinda glad in a way.


Have you ever found yourself in this reflective space? Have you ever not found yourself in this place? I think that everyone can agree that any individual who reaches the midpoint of adulthood and beyond is never immune to the trials and tribulations of life. It comes with the travel package. There always tend to be those pinnacle times of life; the times where the emotions get bruised, the spirit gets suffocated, the isolation looms large, the mind runs wild, and the rug from underneath you is no longer there. These life events and novel experiences come in many forms, as you very well know. Divorce, death of a family member, religious conversion, relocation, job transfer, job loss, injury or disease, natural disasters, kids move out, spouse goes off to war, traumatic stress, conflict; the list seems forever endless.

Is there a silver lining to all of this? I believe the answer is emphatically YES! We oftentimes don’t realize the goodness in these types of life events while we’re a part of the process. And it is a process; these situations, events, and experiences have a necessary starting point and oftentimes tend to be phases or stages throughout the process. Some people reach the productive end to the process, while others don’t quite reach the same successful terminal point. Today, science is doing more than ever before to inform us of these types of processes. More and more research is demonstrating evidence of the fact that many of these types of inexplicable occurrences in life result in very positive outcomes.

Research has found that individuals going through “troubled waters” over the course of a significant period of their lives tend to develop a greater sense of altruism and resilience, many experience more satisfaction or well-being in their life, and still others are finally able to come to terms with the meaning of their life. Scientists and practitioners use a battery of different terms to identify some of these events, some of which include: critical life eventsposttraumatic growthstress-related growthspiritual emergencytransformational crisisposttraumatic positive adjustmentgrowth through adversity, and the positive outcomes of one’s battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I recently came up with a term that I believe helps to encapsulate the upsides to many of the downsides of life. “Consequential Growth” is the term I use to describe the results of these processes. Consequential Growth seems to semantically emphasize the necessary consequences we oftentimes experience throughout the growth process. The term broadly identifies the “dark nights” and the cognitive, spiritual, and emotional hardships we face during these times of duress.

Many books have been written on the positive results of these types of experiences in one’s life. Notably, the individual and collective works of Calhoun, Tedeschi, and Joseph talk much to these processes; especially in terms of Posttraumatic Growth. Moreover, many naturalistic and experimental research studies have found conclusive evidence of consequential growth. They inform us that those who are able to grow through their perceived negative experiences oftentimes maintain a more positive orientation toward life, are generally more optimistic, and tap into healthy coping strategies to get through the hardship(s). These individuals often have strong social circles and are seen by others as stronger and wiser as a result of going throughthe consequential growth process, even though they never signed-up for the turbulence.

The aging process is indeed complex. Life situations can catapult us right off our comfortable life. This is the stuff of character, wisdom, virtue, transformation, transcendence, higher consciousness, emotional resiliency, generativity and care for your fellow human beings. I wish you well on your next tumble.


Tedeschi, Richard G.; Lawrence G. Calhoun (1995). Trauma and Transformation: Growing in the Aftermath of Suffering. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Joseph, Stephen (2011). What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth. Basic Books
Timothy “Tim” J. Wachtel

Executive Director

The Center for Optimal Adult Development


Retrieved from: http://www.optimaladult.org/index.cfm/knowledge-center/coad-news-notes/consequential-growth/



In Education advocacy, School reform, School violence on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 16:33

the comments section has some very well-written and thought-out points.  i believe without the individual attention these kids get now, we will see a rise in criminality. weren’t we JUST on the early intervention kick after sandy hook? how soon we forget…ugh. it’s save now, pay later. but we are the ones that will pay.


a story of rescue…

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Life with dogs, Pets on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 16:02


humane education and issues in animal rescue-new blog

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Life with dogs, Pets on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 06:50


a girl and her puppy…

In Animal Rescue, Happiness, Humane Education, Life with dogs, Pets on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 04:50

animal rescue is important for so many reasons.  not only are you changing the life of the animal, but the life or lives of the  lucky ones to adopt that animal.  a great deal of research has been done on the multitude of benefits of companion animals (physiological, psychological, academic, etc…) and those who live with companion animals will forever be better for it.  the hours and hours spent taking care of a foster (or fosters), the money spent, the many baths, walks, lessons…all the things rescuers do with pleasure are even more worth it when you see something like the video below.

the story behind the video…riley came to volunteer with angels among us pet rescue (www.angelsrescue.org) and her mom is a good friend of the foster mom (me) to a litter of beagle/basset puppies, so she has known them since they were saved (there were six). riley’s mom fell in love with the one we called gretl. when riley came to volunteer, she IMMEDIATELY fell in love with gretl as well (like mother, like daughter). riley spent the adoption day with gretl and when she had to leave, cried and cried knowing that she would likely get adopted and riley would not see her again. in riley’s mind, she was the “best one” and riley could not imagine she would not be snatched up immediately! when she left, she got to the car and started to cry. riley said she was crying because she was sad about leaving her, but was happy for gretl because she would certainly find a home. little did riley know, plans were being made at that very moment that involved her and gretl. riley went home to her mom’s house that night and, unbeknownst to riley, her dad came to meet gretl and pick her up for a “sleepover” to make sure all was well with gretl and their dog without riley knowing in case it did not work out. it actually worked out better than could have been imagined and gretl and her “big brother” love each other. THIS is a video of riley getting to her dad’s house with NO IDEA what, or actually, who, would be there to greet her. what you see is pure joy and love and the reason i devote my life to animal rescue. rescue ONE until there are NONE.

eating troubles and autism…a link?

In Autism Spectrum Disorders on Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 09:11


what’s all this about skepticism?

In Education, Philosophy on Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 08:37

What is Skepticism, Anyway?

By: Michael Shermer, Ph.D.

 I often hear, “Oh, you’re a skeptic, so you don’t believe anything?” No, I believe lots of things, as long as there is reason and evidence to believe.– Michael Shermer

As the publisher of Skeptic magazine I am often asked what I mean by skepticism, and if I’m skeptical of everything or if I actually believe anything. Skepticism is not a position that you stake out ahead of time and stick to no matter what.

Consider global warming: Are you a global warming skeptic? Or are you skeptical of the global warming skeptics? In this case, I used to be a global warming skeptic, but now I’m skeptical of the global warming skeptics, which makes me a global warming believer based on the facts as I understand them at the moment. The “at the moment” part is what makes conclusions in science and skepticism provisional.

Thus, science and skepticism are synonymous, and in both cases it’s okay to change your mind if the evidence changes. It all comes down to this question: What are the facts in support or against a particular claim?

There is also a popular notion that skeptics are closed-minded. Some even call us cynics. In principle, skeptics are neither closed-minded nor cynical. We are curious but cautious.

Or, I often hear, “Oh, you’re a skeptic, so you don’t believe anything?” No, I believe lots of things, as long as there is reason and evidence to believe. For example:

• I believe in the germ theory of disease.

• I believe that vaccines are good for societal health.

• I believe that fluoridated water reduces cavities.

• I believe in the Big Bang theory of the universe.

• I believe that the theory of evolution best explains life.

• I believe that the theory of plate tectonics best explains the the continents.

• I believe that the periodic table of elements best explains chemistry.

• I believe that JFK was assassinated by a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald.

• I believe aliens are probably out there somewhere but that they have not visited Earth.

Being a skeptic just means being rational and empirical: thinking and seeing before believing. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this historical usage of the word Skeptic:

“One who doubts the validity of what claims to be knowledge in some particular department of inquiry; one who maintains a doubting attitude with reference to some particular question or statement.” And: “A seeker after truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite convictions.


Skepticism is not “seek and ye shall find,” but “seek and keep an open mind.” But what does it mean to have an open mind? It is to find the essential balance between orthodoxy and heresy, between a total commitment to the status quo and the blind pursuit of new ideas, between being open-minded enough to accept radical new ideas and so open-minded that your brains fall out. Skepticism is about finding that balance. Here is a definition of skepticism:

Skepticism is the rigorous application of science and reason to test the validity of any and all claims.

Skeptics question the validity of a particular claim by calling for evidence to prove or disprove it. In other words, skeptics are from Missouri — the “Show Me” state. When we skeptics hear a fantastic claim, we say, “That’s interesting, show me the evidence for it.”

You say you believe in Big Foot? I say, “That’s interesting, show me a body of a Big Foot creature and I’ll believe.”

You say you believe that aliens have landed on Earth? I say, “That’s fascinating, show me an alien body or a crashed spacecraft and I’ll believe.”

It is not always easy to evaluate claims, and so we skeptics have developed what the astronomer Carl Sagan called “the fine art of baloney detection.” Inspired by Sagan, at Skeptic magazine we produced what we call the Baloney Detection Kit, which consists of a list of questions to ask when encountering any claim. Here are a few:

• Does the source of a claim often make similar claims? Pseudoscientists have a habit of going well beyond the facts, so when individuals make numerous extraordinary claims they may be more than just iconoclasts.

• Have the claims been verified by another source? Typically pseudoscientists will make statements that are unverified, or verified by a source within their own belief circle. We must ask who is checking the claims, and even who is checking the checkers? The biggest problem with the cold fusion debacle, for example, was not that Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman were wrong; it was that they announced their spectacular discovery before it was verified by other laboratories (at a press conference no less), and, worse, when cold fusion was not replicated they continued to cling to their claim.

• Has anyone gone out of the way to disprove the claim, or has only confirmatory evidence been sought? This is the confirmation bias, or the tendency to seek confirming evidence and reject or ignore disconfirming evidence. It is why the methods of science that emphasize checking and rechecking, verification and replication, and especially attempts to falsify a claim, are so critical.

• Has the claimant provided a different explanation for the observed phenomena, or is it strictly a process of denying the existing explanation? This is a classic debate strategy — criticize your opponent and never affirm what you believe in order to avoid criticism. But this stratagem is unacceptable in science. Big Bang skeptics, for example, ignore the convergence of evidence of this cosmological model, focus on the few flaws in the accepted model, and have yet to offer a viable cosmological alternative that carriers a preponderance of evidence in favor of it.

• Do the claimants’ personal beliefs and biases drive the conclusions, or vice versa? All scientists hold social, political, and ideological beliefs that could potentially slant their interpretations of the data, but how do those biases and beliefs affect their research? At some point, usually during the peer-review system, such biases and beliefs are rooted out, or the paper or book is rejected for publication. This is why one should not work in an intellectual vacuum. If you don’t catch the biases in your research, someone else will.

Also in the Skeptics’ Toolkit is an aphorism often attributed to Carl Sagan, but was actually said by others before and in several different wordings, but regardless of its etymology this is a line you should keep in mind whenever someone regales you with an extraordinary claim:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

That is, the more fantastical the claim, the more skeptical you should be unless the evidence is equally fantastic.

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today’s most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email tedweekends@huffingtonpost.com to learn about future weekend’s ideas to contribute as a writer.

Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-shermer/what-is-skepticism-anyway_b_2581917.html?ir=TED+Weekends&ref=topbar

wired for anxiety?

In Anxiety, Child/Adolescent Psychology, General Psychology, Psychiatry, School Psychology on Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 08:31

Are We All Just Wired for Anxiety?

By: Ben Michaels, Ph.D.

 Michael Shermer’s TEDTalk, “The Pattern Behind Self-deception” is both groundbreaking and earth-shattering. The neuroscience Shermer cites in his talk is tight, his examples are strong and his conclusions far-reaching. The implications that many have drawn from his talk regarding larger belief systems are beyond my expertise as a clinical psychologist and so I will (wisely or cowardly — you choose) sidestep these arguments.

I do however, think that one of the factors that Dr. Shermer stumbles upon in his talk has a wide applications for the field of clinical psychology, which is this:

If Shermer is right (and he is), and that our default setting is to see patterns where they don’t exist because the cost of being wrong (that there is no pattern) is usually much higher than the cost of being right (that there is a pattern) then I have some bad news for you:

We are all just wired for anxiety.

Let me break it down:

Let’s say something bad happens to us: We have a breakup, a breakdown, a trauma, an insult or injury of any kind. This leads us to seek out patterns in our environments that could signify the possibility of future pain. In fact, Shermer says that when we feel uncertain (like after a trauma) we will be even more prone to seeking out patterns, possibly seeing them where they don’t exist.

This desperate pattern seeking is, in essence, the pernicious spiral of anxiety: We are afraid of what’s next so our minds exit the present to try to solve an unsolveable math problem about our futures. The reason the problem is unsolveable is that all of the variables don’t yet exist. The key variable being the actual event.

If this tendency is our natural weakness, we must overcome it by using our natural strength: Thinking and testing our beliefs.

For example, I once worked with a handsome young man, who we will call, Nate, who was constantly told that he was “ugly” and “stupid” by his abusive father. When he first came to me, Nate was convinced that no woman would ever want to date him, let alone, marry him.

I responded to him by saying, maybe he’s right maybe no woman would have him, but there is only one way to find out: test his beliefs in the real world. I told him that if he asked out all the women in the world and none of them want to date him, than his anxiety would be justified If at least one woman wanted to then it would not be.

He realized that this was absurd, but after a great deal of relentless pushing, Nate agreed to try to approach a few women over time.

Fourteen months later he was engaged. He is now happily married and currently expecting his third child.

Science/Empiricism = 1; Anxiety/Fear = 0

The takeaway is this: We may indeed be wired for anxiety, but that does not mean that anxiety is our fate. If we use the gift of our minds well, we can overcome our wiring.

If you read this and are feeling anxious or are buried under the weight of any false belief because of your wiring, do the hard thing: Test it out. The only thing you have to lose is your anxiety!

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today’s most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or emailtedweekends@huffingtonpost.com to learn about future weekend’s ideas to contribute as a writer.

Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-michaelis-phd/wired-for-anxiety_b_2599944.html?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social&utm_content=2c773f97-31e5-4b88-bbb2-fa255a762ed1

Click here to read the original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired the post and watch the TEDtalk below:



The Heart of Education…

In Education, Education advocacy, Humane Education on Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 08:52

The Heart of Education: A Discussion with Zoe Weil

By: Michael Tobias

Zoe Weil is a long-time leader in humane education in the U.S., and throughout the world. As president of the Institute for Humane Education, which she co-founded in 1996, and as author of numerous books, Ms. Weil has passionately championed a movement which, she says, has the “potential to solve every problem we face and create a restored, healthy, and humane world for all.”  Her TEDx talk, “The World Becomes What You Teach” eloquently conveys the essence of humane education and its importance to all living creatures.

Michael Tobias: Zoe, what is unique about the Institute of Humane Education? How broad is it, in terms of the environment, animals, humans themselves, and the future of our planet?

Zoe Weil: At the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) we offer the only graduate programs in comprehensive humane education, as well as online courses, workshops, Summer Institutes, and a free, award-winning resource center. IHE believes that education is the fundamental root solution to injustice, exploitation, and destruction, and our programs are designed to help people become humane educators who can teach others within traditional and non-traditional educational venues. Humane education has four elements that are keys to its power and success, and these include: 1) providing accurate information about the pressing issues of our time so people have the knowledge they need to address global challenges; 2) fostering the 3 Cs of curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking so people have the skills they need to address challenges; 3) instilling the 3 Rs of reverence, respect, and responsibility, so people have the will to address challenges, and 4) providing positive choices and the tools for problem-solving, so people can solv echallenges.

Michael Tobias: And the scope of it?

Zoe Weil: In terms of breadth, humane education covers human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation, and cultural issues such as globalization and systemic change-making. This makes it perhaps the broadest educational movement to date, encompassing sustainability ed, character ed, social justice ed, global ethical ed, animal welfare ed, and media literacy.

Michael Tobias: In your opinion, why is humane education so important?

Zoe Weil: While there are many ways in which humanity is becoming less violent, less prejudiced, and less cruel, the reality of a warming planet with over 7 billion people and limited resources means we face potential economic, social, and environmental catastrophes. While every generation has faced its challenges, only in this century do we confront the possible loss of half of all species on earth, with the simultaneous breakdown of the ecosystems which sustain us all. At the same time, through the Internet, only in this century do we now have the capacity to work together across every border, and collaborate and innovate so quickly and powerfully. There is great and realistic hope that we can solve the challenges we face and transform dysfunctional, inhumane, and destructive systems, but we’ll be hard-pressed to succeed if children in school continue to be taught under centuries-old models, and if our grand purpose for schooling remains to “compete in the global economy,” which is the buzz phrase of our time regarding education reform.

Michael Tobias: But the basic proficiencies?

Zoe Weil: Of course our children need to become verbally, mathematically, and scientifically proficient, but these are foundational tools, not endpoints. At IHE, we believe that the goal of schooling in today’s world ought to be to provide all students with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscientious choice makers and engaged change makers for a prosperous, healthy, just, and humane world for all people, animals, and the environment, or as we like to put it: we need to graduate a generation of solutionaries.

Michael Tobias: Solutionaries. I like that.

Zoe Weil: Evidence is growing that education that addresses pressing global issues and which fosters compassion, responsibility, and integrity results in graduates who know more, care more, and become more involved in creating positive change.

Michael Tobias: What are the typical impediments to introducing a humane “agenda” in public and/or private school curricula and in this country?

Zoe Weil: Public schools lack funds, freedom, and flexibility. They’re inclined to teach-to-test so as to ensure that they maintain funding, so anything that doesn’t immediately improve standardized, bubble test scores can’t easily gain a foothold. Meanwhile, our country is so politically polarized that anything that smacks of controversy is often automatically excluded, dumbing down the curriculum. A couple of years ago I spoke at a middle school assembly program, and I began by asking the kids what they thought were the biggest problems in the world. One boy said “war.” I agreed with him that war was a big problem. After the talk was over, the principal was very upset. We had a long talk, and he told me he was concerned that he’d get calls from angry parents who were veterans or who had a spouse serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. So I asked him to go into each classroom and ask the kids what they learned from my talk. I had spoken about the need to make connections between our choices and their effects on others; to model the message they hoped to convey in the world; to pursue joy in life by being of service, and to take responsibility for their actions.

Michael Tobias: So what happened?

Zoe Weil: After visiting each class, he was relieved that these points were, indeed, what the students took away from my presentation, but his fear had been so intense, and that’s worrisome. If a child can’t say war is a big problem and have a teacher agree; if we can’t speak about global warming, healthcare, factory farming, immigration, and a host of other “controversial” issues in our classrooms, where will discussions and problem-solving happen? School is exactly the place to grapple with global challenges and to explore multiple viewpoints and perspectives. We all have biases, of course, and teachers need to take care to “own” theirs because their role is to teach their students to be critical thinkers, not to disguise opinions as facts and indoctrinate them. This is why humane education is so important, because one of its core goals is to foster critical and creative thinking, without which our children are at the mercy of every sort of manipulation, group-think, and even simply mainstream norms and habits that may be destructive and inhumane.

Michael Tobias: What about in private or independent schools?

Zoe Weil: For independent schools the issues are different. Many parents send their children to private schools to give them a better chance at getting into elite colleges and to ensure they receive a strong “traditional” education. In meeting parents’ expectations, such schools may neglect innovative approaches like humane education because they’re new and not fully tested. While the reality is that humane education provides the most relevant and important skills for today’s world, parents who want their child to get into Harvard or Berkeley may feel more comfortable with traditional curricula. But there are many independent and charter schools that have adopted new approaches to and goals for education, and these may well be where humane education takes root and becomes replicable.

Michael Tobias: It seems that this whole realm of compassion and humaneness in educational curricula, not to mention, as core values, is still lacking in large measure, no?

Zoe Weil: Comprehensive humane education is still relatively unknown, and there aren’t yet enough assessments to demonstrate either its effectiveness at achieving its own goals (graduating knowledgeable and wise solutionaries), or its ability to increase academic achievement on standardized tests, which is all that we generally measure. IHE is working to remedy this by raising awareness of the field and its importance as well as through a longitudinal study of the effectiveness of humane education which we’re launching this year.

Michael Tobias: What’s the situation with humane education in other countries?

Zoe Weil: While I’m not an expert on the educational systems in other countries, I can say that some are much more open to humane education and some much less. Humane education is far more popular in the U.S. than Asia, while Canadians seem generally more receptive than Americans. It will be interesting to see whether humane education takes root in Finland which has arguably the most advanced, successful approach to schooling of any nation.

Michael Tobias: Finland. I’m not surprised. That nation’s tenth president, Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari won the Nobel Peace Prize as you know in 2008 for thirty years working in the trenches of humane conflict resolution throughout the world.

Zoe Weil: Finland has rejected standardized testing, competition in classrooms, long school days and school years, grading before middle school, even teaching reading before the age of 7, yet they consistently outperform other nations in reading and math by age 15. Given Finland’s success and willingness to embrace new approaches, it could be where humane education is embraced wholeheartedly, too, although I hope the U.S. takes on this opportunity because the impact of a generation of U.S. citizens who have received humane education could have a profound global impact as our graduates become solutionaries through the various fields they pursue and within the various industries in which they work.

Michael Tobias: At your school, can students/teachers get accredited?

Zoe Weil: Our online graduate programs are fully accredited through an affiliation with Valparaiso University. We also have online courses for teachers, parents, and the general public. For those who learn best in person, we bring our workshops to communities throughout the U.S. and Canada and sometimes overseas, and we offer a residency component to our graduate programs and a Summer Institute for teachers at our beautiful facility in coastal Maine. We have students in our programs from across the globe learning how to be humane educators and bringing humane education into their classrooms, universities, religious institutions, and communities through traditional classroom teaching as well as through the arts, as filmmakers, writers, actors and playwrights, designers, and singer/songwriters.

Michael Tobias: Do you see unique job niches for this next generation of so-called solutionaries, who have had humane training?

Zoe Weil: Some of our graduates are entrepreneurs who are creating humane education-oriented businesses. We’re still building the market for the field, but there are more and more opportunities for humane educators all the time.

Michael Tobias: Share with us some success stories?

Zoe Weil: Michael, after the very first week-long humane education class I taught in the summer of 1987, two students started a Philadelphia area-wide group and won awards for their activism. A few years ago I was giving a talk inNew York, and one of them attended. He was working for the mayor of New York City in public health. After the talk, I introduced him to some friends as having taken the first humane education course I ever taught. Before I could finish my sentence he interjected, “That course changed my life!”

Michael Tobias: That’s wonderful!

Zoe Weil: More recently, I received a packet of thank you letters from 8th graders whom I taught each morning over the course of a week. One wrote, “Spending that week with you was the most inspiring 5 days of my life so far. You made me realize how much just one person can do to help the world and how much more we can do by educating others….” The letter went on about what she planned to do with her new knowledge. I felt so great when I first read her letter, but later I came to see it as pretty depressing. Spending a week with me, or any humane educator, shouldn’t be the most inspiring 5 days of a teenager’s life. Her education should always have been inspiring, relevant, and meaningful. Another girl, who heard me speak at her National Honor’s Society induction, exclaimed after the talk, “We should have been learning this since Kindergarten!” This is exactly right.

Michael Tobias: That’s an interesting wake-up call for educators, isn’t it!

Zoe Weil: It was obvious to me from the very beginning of my career as a humane educator that this work had the potential to create profound and lasting change if we could just embrace it fully as an educational goal. I could tell you so many success stories about the impact our graduates are having in their classrooms and communities, but my hope is that soon we won’t need to talk about success stories because humane education will be the norm, infusing all curricula, taught in every school, and ushering in a solutionary generation.

Michael Tobias: This definitely puts any future education debates, let alone any legislation, into a whole new realm of compelling possibility, and plausibility.

Zoe Weil: Just imagine what would happen if every child learned about relevant global issues and examined the underlying production, agricultural, defense, transportation, energy, economic, political, and other ubiquitous systems so that they could use their great minds and big hearts to explore innovative approaches that maximize  justice, sustainability, and peaceful coexistence.

Michael Tobias: Indeed. Yes.

Zoe Weil: Imagine our students participating not just in debate teams, but also in solutionary teams that demand that they come up with practical, cost-effective, and viable ideas for solving problems instead of just arguing about who’s right and wrong. When humane education is integrated into our schools, every child will graduate ready and able to ensure that the systems within their chosen professions are healthy and humane, and when that happens we will witness a profound transformation as we solve the challenges we face and build a more humane and sustainable world.

Michael Tobias: Zoe, many thanks for your outstanding work!

Copyright 2012 by Michael Charles Tobias/Jane Gray Morrison/Dancing Star Foundation. Special Thanks to Ms. Jane Delson.

Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltobias/2012/04/25/the-heart-of-education-a-discussion-with-zoe-weil/

Why the Common Core is Bad for America

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Friday, 8 February 2013 at 06:48

Why the Common Core is Bad for America

By Jonathan Butcher, Emmett McGroarty and Liv Finne

Key Findings

  1. The Common Core is the basis for a national curriculum and national test.
  2. Three hundred prominent policymakers and education experts warn the Common Core will close the door on innovation.
  3. The Common Core standards are of insufficient quality.
  4. The cost of the Common Core is considerable, yet unknown.

1. The Common Core is the basis for a national curriculum and national test.

Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from “exercis[ing] any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction” or selection of “instruction[al] materials.” However, the Department circumvented these prohibitions by making Race to the Top funding and No Child Left Behind waivers contingent on a state’s adoption of the Common Core and the aligned assessments. Because curriculum must be aligned with standards and assessments, the Department would thus be able to exercise direction and control over curricula, programs of instruction, instructional materials.

2. Three hundred prominent policymakers and education experts warn the Common Core will close the door on innovation.

Local control of public school curriculum and instruction has historically driven innovation and reform in education. A one-size-fits-all, centrally controlled curriculum for every K–12 subject threatens to close the door on educational innovation, freezing in place an unacceptable status quo and hindering efforts to develop academically rigorous curricula, assessments, and standards that meet the challenges that lie ahead. State and local leaders cannot change Common Core content or the assessments. There is no evidence that national standards alone lead to higher academic results.

There is no “best design” for curriculum sequences in any subject. Requiring a single set of curriculum guidelines at the high school level is questionable, given the diversity of adolescents’ interests, talents, and pedagogical needs. American schools should not be constrained in the diversity of the curricula they offer to students. We should encourage — not discourage — multiple models.

3. The Common Core standards are of insufficient quality.

Common Core’s standards are of insufficient quality to warrant being this country’s national standards.

The Common Core math standards fail to meet the content targets recommended by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, the standards of leading states, and our international competitors. They exclude certain Algebra 2 and Geometry content that is currently a prerequisite at almost every four-year state college, essentially re-defining “college readiness” to mean readiness for a non-selective community college. They abandon the expectation that students take Algebra 1 in eighth grade. (This expectation is based upon what high-performing countries expect of their students, and has pushed about half of America’s students to take Algebra 1 by eighth grade). The Common Core math standards also require that geometry be taught by an experimental method that had never been used successfully anywhere in the world. The Common Core math standards do not teach least common denominators; delay until sixth grade fluency in division; eliminate conversions between fractions, decimals and percents; adopt a new definition of algebra as “functional algebra” that de-emphasizes algebraic manipulation.

In English Language Arts, Common Core standards are inadequate. The Common Core “college readiness” ELA standards can best be described as skill sets, not fully developed standards. As such, they cannot point to readiness for a high school diploma or four-year college coursework. Skill sets in themselves do not provide an intellectual framework for a coherent and demanding English curriculum. The Common Core document expects English teachers to spend over 50% of their reading instructional time on informational texts in a variety of subject areas, something English or reading teachers are not trained to teach. This requirement alone makes it impossible for English teachers to construct a coherent literature curriculum in grades 6–12. The ELA Common Core Standards will impair the preparation of students for competing in a global economy.

4. The cost of the Common Core is considerable, yet unknown.

States and their taxpayers face significant increased costs in four areas: textbooks and instructional materials, professional development, assessments; and technology and infrastructure. One peer-reviewed study estimates this at $16 billion. The assessment costs will further increase if the consortia are unable to sufficiently refine technologies to score open-ended questions (such as short answer questions) for use in large-scale high-stakes testing. Few states have evaluated these issues.

A version of this paper was submitted to the American Legislative Exchange Council by authors Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute, goldwaterinstitute.org, Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project, americanprinciplesproject.org, and Liv Finne of Washington Policy Center, washingtonpolicy.org.

Download a PDF of this Policy Note here.

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/notes/why-common-core-bad-america

homework! the great debate.

In Education on Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 08:52


Wall Street Goes to School » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 16:46

Wall Street Goes to School » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

giroux on the war against teachers

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Philosophy, School reform on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 16:35

things that make you go, “hmmm…”



stressed is just “desserts” spelled backwards!

In Fitness/Health, Mindfulness, Well-being on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 12:14

ignore the drama. anger is deathly. practice gratitude. view with compassion. do unto others…


In Uncategorized on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 11:51

great post…

Unwrapping Minds

Sometimes you know that some relationships are more toxic than being a support. You understand that it’s a mistake making your life heavy and exhausting . You spend all your energy & happiness meeting the expectations but nothing suffices. In this vicious cycle you lose your personality, identity & the want of living.

Deep down you also know the only solution but refuse to accept it to yourself let alone the world. There could be several reasons for you being in the dysfunctional situation:

  • You are scared of hurting yourself as well as your loved ones.
  • Have become addicted to this relationship and like a substance abuser know the repercussion but doesn’t have the power to come out of it.
  • You even refuse to accept the truth to yourself & live with the hope of a miracle going to happen someday.
  •  Don’t want people to feel sorry for you.
  • The fear…

View original post 190 more words

is you are sick, please stay home!

In Fitness/Health on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 09:42

Sick Persons’ Germs Spread to Half

of Commonly Touched Office Surfaces, Study Finds

If you thought you could avoid your sick coworkers’ germs by just covering your nose and mouth when they sneeze, we have some bad news to deliver — you probably won’t be able to escape their germs because they get EVERYWHERE.

New yet-to-be-published research conducted by scientists at the University of Arizona shows that half of the most commonly touched surfaces in the office (like the coffee pot handle, tabletops, doorknobs and phones) can become infected with a sick person’s germs — all by lunchtime.

The study, conducted by public health professor Kelly Reynolds and germ expert Charles Gerba, involved having 80 people go about their regular work-day business in an office at the university. Most of the study participants received droplets of water on their hands at the beginning of the day, but one of the participants got droplets of fake viruses, which acted like the cold, flu and stomach flu viruses, that researchers were able to test for in the office environment later on.

The researchers found that after just four hours, more than half of the office surfaces had traces of the fake viruses. And by the end of the day, 70 percent of the tested surfaces had traces of the fake stomach flu viruses (cold and flu viruses have a shorter survival time, so had largely dissipated by the end of the day).

The findings were surprising because the office setting wasn’t one where people were milling about constantly.

“They basically go in their offices, sit in their chairs and are on their computers. They may go to the bathroom, and they have a common kitchen area they share and a photocopy machine, but that’s about it,” Reynolds said in a statement.

Researchers said that the risk of getting sick from one of these fake viruses was between 40 and 90 percent.

“Most people think it’s coughing and sneezing that spreads germs, but the number of objects you touch is incredible, especially in this push-button generation. We push more buttons than any other generation in history,” Gerba said in the statement.

The researchers then conducted a second study where free tissues, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes were offered to the employees. The risk of becoming infected with one of the fake viruses went down to 10 perfect.

But what if the sick person is living in your homeClick here for our tips for staying healthy when you’re caring for a flu patient.

Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/03/sick-person-germs-office-surfaces-contaminate_n_2583589.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

What Happens When the Bills Come Due?

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 09:15

What Happens When the Bills Come Due?.

work, college, or…

In Education on Monday, 4 February 2013 at 09:11

Work or College?  We Need to Think About a Third Path

By: Andrew Benedict-Nelson

As part of The Narrative Renewal ProjectInsight Labs recently convened a group of education experts to discuss how communities like East Chicago, Indiana can refresh their collective story. In the classic board game “Life,” players are asked to start out by choosing between work and college. This Lab showed us we need to think about a third path.

In our visits to East Chicago, we discovered that the people with the most optimism about the future of the community were juniors and seniors in high school. Older folks might love their town, but even the best of them tend to say, “Let’s make this community the way it used to be.” As a group, teenagers have a better read on the situation. They say, “Let’s make this community whatever we want it to be.”

But that discovery led to a more sobering corollary—in East Chicago and thousands of cities like it, that hopeful energy is being squandered as soon as students cross the stage at graduation.

Consider the typical mix of students who graduate from high schools in economically depressed communities. Because of their age, nearly all of these students can still imagine many different possibilities for who they will be and how they will live their lives.

For the small percentage of students who leave home and go to four-year colleges, this process of self-actualization continues, as it should. But the majority of students enter low-wage jobs (or if that fails, the welfare system) leading to a sudden collapse in their imaginative possibilities.

This Lab proposed that we create a third path that directly connects young people’s optimism and imagination with the community’s needs. This path could take many forms. Here’s one version:

After high school, a group of about 20 high school graduates would leave home, living for one year in a dormitory-style building. Using community-organizing techniques, a trained staff would help the young people answer the question, “How would we make this town different if we were in charge?” The students would then spend the rest of the year designing and implementing a major initiative to make that change happen. The students would also operate a business or other venture that contributes to the program’s sustainability.

The first cohort to take this path would be the most motivated and responsible students who—for whatever reason—are not headed to college. When they leave this program, these students would still enter a world with a real lack of opportunity and no lack of danger. But that world would also include visible signs of hope that those students had themselves created. Those signs could inspire them to launch further community projects or start new businesses rather than malinger in dead-end jobs. Of course, some students would likely choose to use their new skills to head to college, but they would do so with a sense that East Chicago was the place that inspired them, not the place they escaped.

With each year’s cohort creating its own community initiative in the city, it’s not hard to imagine the ripple effects this program might have for adults in East Chicago. But an even more exciting possibility is the way it could re-align the aspirations of children in high school and middle school. Many students who fall behind become even more discouraged because they do not see a path from their present state to a brighter future. This program would provide an ever-changing cast of role models who had made something of themselves even if they weren’t academic all-stars. Eventually, we anticipate that many students with a good chance of making it into a university would defer for a year to participate.

And that wouldn’t be a bad thing for East Chicago or for any community. When young people turn 18 in this country, they’re told to head to college and build a life for themselves. But many of them would be well-served by an option that lets them first spend some time building something in their own communities. This new kind of institution could benefit many—and it could get its start not in the nation’s showcase school districts, but in East Chicago, Indiana.

A version of this post originally appeared at The Narrative Renewal Project

Retrieved from: http://www.good.is/posts/work-or-college-we-need-to-think-about-a-third-path?utm_campaign=goodtweet&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

education and obama’s next four years…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Politics, School reform on Sunday, 3 February 2013 at 16:17

basically, same old, same old…


the dalai lama on education…

In Buddhist Thoughts, Education, Education advocacy, Mindfulness on Saturday, 2 February 2013 at 08:52

“We have to think and see how we can fundamentally change our education system so that we can train people to develop warm-heartedness early on in order to create a healthier society. I don’t mean we need to change the whole system, just improve it. We need to encourage an understanding that inner peace comes from relying on human values like, love, compassion, tolerance and honesty, and that peace in the world relies on individuals finding inner peace.”~His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

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