Mounting Evidence of Advantages for Children of Working Mothers!

Dear Commons Community,

In an op-ed article earlier this week.Claire Cain Miller, a reporter for The Upshot, reviewed some of the current research on the effects of working mothers on children.

“The mommy wars might seem like a relic of the 1990s, but 41 percent of adults say the increase in working mothers is bad for society, while just 22 percent say it is good, according to the Pew Research Center.

Yet evidence is mounting that having a working mother has some economic, educational and social benefits for children of both sexes. That is not to say that children do not also benefit when their parents spend more time with them — they do. But we make trade-offs in how we spend our time, and research shows that children of working parents also accrue benefits…”

In one new study of adults in 25 countries, daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes. Having a working mother didn’t influence the careers of sons, which researchers said was unsurprising because men were generally expected to work — but sons of working mothers did spend more time on child care and housework.

Some of these effects were strong in the United States. Here, daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, after controlling for demographic factors, and sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care and 25 more minutes on housework.”

“Part of this working mothers’ guilt has been, ‘Oh, my kids are going to be so much better off if I stay home,’ but what we’re finding in adult outcomes is kids will be so much better off if women spend some time at work,” said Kathleen McGinn, a professor at Harvard Business School and an author of the study, which is part of the school’s new gender initiative, to be announced Monday, for researching and discussing gender issues.

“This is as close to a silver bullet as you can find in terms of helping reduce gender inequalities, both in the workplace and at home,” she said.”

Not all agree with Professor McGinn. In the United States, it turns out that attitudes about working parents depend a lot on a family’s circumstances, like whether parents are happy with their child care and need the income, said Kathleen Gerson, a sociologist at New York University. The question is not just how working affects children, but how to deal with challenges like long and unpredictable hours and a lack of child care.”



Diane Ravitch on the Latest PISA Test Score Results!

Dear Commons Community,

In response to an article commenting on how Vietnam “walloped” the United States and the European Union countries on the latest PISA test results, Diane Ravitch commented on the value of these tests to predict anything other than performance on tests.

“In a newly released summary of PISA test scores, students in Vietnam had higher test scores than their 15-year-old peers in the U.S. and most European Union nations.

For some in the U.S. media, this will set off alarm bells, produce hand-wringing, and provoke fears of “a Sputnik moment,” arrived again.

A Vietnamese newspaper reported:

“Vietnam ranked 12th out of 76 economies in a new global education survey, overtaking the US and many EU countries, international media reported Wednesday.

“The rankings by the economic think tank OECD were based on 15-year-olds’ performance in maths and science tests. The US placed 28th while most of the EU, including Denmark, Sweden and the UK were outside the top 15.

“Asian economies dominated the top positions. Singapore took the top place, followed by Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, BBC reported.”

Andreas Schleicher of the OECD said the survey showed that Asian nations excel because they have excellent teachers with high expectations. “There’s a lot of rigor, a lot of focus and coherence,” he told BBC.” And he said that the test scores predicted future economic growth.”

However, in a 2013 interview, Vietnam’s deputy education commissioner took issue with Schleicher’s assessment of the PISA results:

“Nguyen Vinh Hien, Deputy Minister of Education and Training, told Tuoi Tre (youth) newspaper on Friday that the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, does not assess students’ overall competence…

“Even though PISA’s 2012 results, announced early this week, ranked Vietnam over many wealthy western countries, including the US, in math and science, “we have to be honest and admit that if fully assessed, Vietnamese students’ capacity is still poor,” Hien said….

“Dr. Giap Van Duong also wrote in the newspaper that compared to “the four pillars of education” prescribed by UNESCO–learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be–PISA targets only a small part of the first pillar.

Duong holds a doctorate in physics and used to work with universities in England and Austria.

“He said PISA tests were limited because they use 15-year-olds as their subjects. At that age, students are still immature and their knowledge is far from meeting the demand of practical fields like business, administration, culture, and arts, he said.

“If the test targeted older people such as 20-year-old university students or 30-year-olds who are working, Vietnam’s results would “definitely” be much lower, according to Duong.

“In fact, many Vietnamese students fail to land a job after graduation. When they study overseas, many have difficulties in meeting the requirements of advanced education systems like team-work, problem solving and creativity, he said.”

“Duong went on to quote the Asian Productivity Organization’s 2012 report as saying that Vietnamese people’s productivity is about 20 times lower than that of American people.”

Duong added:

“Vietnamese education’s focus is on learning to pass exams. The whole system operates to serve only one purpose: exams.”

“Students here take exams to enroll in the first grade, the sixth-grade, the tenth-grade, and then universities, and every exam is “tense” and “competitive,” the scholar said.

“The tradition of learning to pass exams” is typical of Confucian education systems and is also found in other Asian countries like China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, he said.

All these countries ranked high in PISA tests, although their development is on par with or lower than that of the US and western countries.

This indicated that the tradition probably affected the tests’ results, Duong said.

“He noted that among countries with Confucian traditions, Vietnam ranked the lowest, so there was no reason to be happy about the country’s ranking.”

Ravitch concluded:

“The international tests are vastly overrated. It is not clear that the test-taking skills of 15-year-olds predict anything at all about the future of the economy. When the first international test of math was offered in 1964, 12 nations took it. The U.S. came in next to last in eighth grade and dead last in twelfth grade. Yet over the next fifty years, the U.S. economy outperformed the other 11 nations. The test scores predicted nothing at all.

As the Vietnamese deputy commissioner said, PISA measures only one dimension: test-taking skills. Whatever value the standardized tests have is overshadowed by the collateral damage they do to the quality of education and to the standardizing of young minds.

What matters most today is the liberation of minds to be creative, imaginative, compassionate, and collegial. The world is in a mess and we don’t need more fiercely competitive, me-first people. We need thoughtful and knowledgeable people who know how to resolve conflicts.

Above all, we need the one quality that the international tests can’t measure: Wisdom.”



Remembering Derrick Griffith!

Derrick Griffith II

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has an article today about the victims of the Amtrak derailment outside of Philadelphia. The photo above was taken at a vigil that was held for our colleague, Derrick Griffith, at Medgar Evers College. Here is it what the article said about Derrick:

“An educator with a lifelong passion for helping the children of his native Bronx, who hated flying. He was glad to be taking the train….the tributes began and quickly multiplied. Former students of his at CUNY Prep, the alternative high school program he founded and ran for eight years, exchanged stories on Facebook of how “Mr. G” had changed their lives, pushing them out of troubled childhoods in the Bronx and into college.

College friends remembered how he seemed to be everywhere at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, becoming the first African-American student body president to serve two terms on the majority-white campus. Medgar Evers’s president, Rudy Crew, recalled in a news conference on Thursday how fluidly his colleague could switch from street slang to academic formality, lacing it all with wit and a huge smile.

And they all recalled the driving force of his life: Mr. Griffith, 42, who was raised by a single mother in the Bronx and had successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation on educating young black boys this spring, was determined to help young people transcend their backgrounds, just as he had.

All the while, he was raising his son as a single father and caring for his mother, who eventually moved in with him in Brooklyn. He talked openly to his teenage students about his impoverished childhood.

“He was the pillar of our family, he was the glue of our family, he was the motivator, everything,” said Treinna Griffith-Johnson, a cousin. When it came to his students, “He knew what a struggle was — and if he could do it, so could they.”



Derrick Griffith – Killed in the Amtrak Train Accident in Philadelphia!

Derrick Griffith

Dear Commons Community,

It is with a deeply saddened heart that I inform you that one of our students, Derrick Griffith, was killed on Monday in the Amtrak train accident outside Philadelphia. Derrick was also the Acting Dean for Student Services at Medgar Evers College, and the former principal of CUNY Prep.

I had the pleasure of knowing Derrick and served on his dissertation committee with Juan Battle and Nick Michelli.  He successfully defended his dissertation in January and was to receive his hood in two weeks. The picture above of Derrick with his mother was taken moments after he passed his oral defense.

Derrick was a fine individual, a dedicated father, and a first-rate scholar.   We extend our deepest sympathies to his family. All of us who had the pleasure of working with him will miss his easy smile and demeanor.

May he rest in peace!


Thomas Friedman Interviews Gordon Moore (of Moore’s Law Fame)!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman,  published an interview today he conducted with Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, and well-known for his prediction (Moore’s Law) of the exponential growth in the capacity of microchips. Moore predicted in 1965 that every year we’d double the number of transistors that could fit on a single chip of silicon so you’d get twice as much computing power for only slightly more money. When that came true, in 1975, he modified his prediction to a doubling roughly every two years. “Moore’s Law” has essentially held up ever since — and, despite the skeptics, keeps chugging along, making it probably the most remarkable example ever of sustained exponential growth of a technology. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

“Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich summarized where Moore’s Law has taken us. If you took Intel’s first generation microchip, the 1971 4004, and the latest chip Intel has on the market today, the fifth-generation Core i5 processor, he said, you can see the power of Moore’s Law at work: Intel’s latest chip offers 3,500 times more performance, is 90,000 times more energy efficient and about 60,000 times lower cost.

To put that another way, Krzanich said Intel engineers did a rough calculation of what would happen had a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle improved at the same rate as microchips did under Moore’s Law: “Here are the numbers: [Today] you would be able to go with that car 300,000 miles per hour. You would get two million miles per gallon of gas, and all that for the mere cost of 4 cents! Now, you’d still be stuck on the [Highway] 101 getting here tonight, but, boy, in every opening you’d be going 300,000 miles an hour!”

What is most striking in Moore’s 1965 article is how many predictions he got right about what these steadily improving microchips would enable. The article, entitled “Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits,” argued that: “Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers — or at least terminals connected to a central computer — automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment. The electronic wristwatch needs only a display to be feasible today. … In telephone communications, integrated circuits in digital filters will separate channels on multiplex equipment. [They] will also switch telephone circuits and perform data processing.”

Moore pretty much anticipated the personal computer, the cellphone, self-driving cars, the iPad, Big Data and the Apple Watch.”

When asked, Mr. Moore also had interesting comments about machines replacing workers as well as the growth of the Internet.

Good read!



David Brooks Sees a Center-Right Political Movement!

Dear Commons Community,

David Brooks observes that many elections around the world are favoring center-right politicians. He writes in his column:

“The most surprising event of this political era is what hasn’t happened. The world has not turned left. Given the financial crisis, widening inequality, the unpopularity of the right’s stances on social issues and immigration, you would have thought that progressive parties would be cruising from win to win.

But, instead, right-leaning parties are doing well. In the United States, Republicans control both houses of Congress. In Israel, the Likud Party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled off a surprising win in an election that was at least partly about economic policy. In Britain, the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron won a parliamentary majority.”

He attributes this in part to:

“The conservative victories probably have more to do with the public’s skepticism about the left than with any positive enthusiasm toward the right. Still, there are a few things center-right parties have done successfully.

First, they have loudly (and sometimes offensively) championed national identity. In this era of globalization, voters are rewarding candidates who believe in their country’s exceptionalism.

Second, they have been basically sensible on fiscal policy.

Third, these leaders did not over-read their mandate. Cameron in Britain promised to cut the size of government, and he did, from 45.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2010 to 40.7 percent today, according to The Economist. The number of public-sector jobs there has gone down by 1 million.

The British electorate and the American electorate sometimes mirror each other. Trans-Atlantic voters went for Reagan and Thatcher together and Clinton and Blair together. In policy terms, Cameron is a more conservative version of President Obama.”

Brooks concludes:

“Globally, voters are disillusioned with large public institutions. They seem to want to reassert local control and their own particular nationalism. But they also seem to want a slightly smaller public sector, strong welfare state reform and more open and vibrant labor markets as a path to prosperity.

For some reason, American politicians are fleeing from this profile, Hillary Clinton to the further left and Republicans to the right.”

Interesting analysis!


Mark Bauerlein: What’s the Point of a Professor?

Dear Commons Community,

Mark Bauerlein, English professor at Emory University, and the author, most recently, of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30),” had an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times calling on college professors to do more to challenge their students. Provocatively titled, What’s the Point of a Professor?, he comments on grade inflation, careerism, and most importantly, the need for faculty to become more engaged with their students. Here is an excerpt:

“…while they’re content with teachers, students aren’t much interested in them as thinkers and mentors. They enroll in courses and complete assignments, but further engagement is minimal.

One measure of interest in what professors believe, what wisdom they possess apart from the content of the course, is interaction outside of class. It’s often during incidental conversations held after the bell rings and away from the demands of the syllabus that the transfer of insight begins and a student’s emulation grows. Students email teachers all the time — why walk across campus when you can fire a note from your room? — but those queries are too curt for genuine mentoring. We need face time.

Here, though, are the meager numbers. For a majority of undergraduates, beyond the two and a half hours per week in class, contact ranges from negligible to nonexistent. In their first year, 33 percent of students report that they never talk with professors outside of class, while 42 percent do so only sometimes. Seniors lower that disengagement rate only a bit, with 25 percent never talking to professors, and 40 percent sometimes.”

Bauerlein’a recommendation:

“You can’t become a moral authority if you rarely challenge students in class and engage them beyond it. If we professors do not do that, the course is not an induction of eager minds into an enlarging vision. It is a requirement to fulfill. Only our assistance with assignments matters. When it comes to students, we shall have only one authority: the grades we give. We become not a fearsome mind or a moral light, a role model or inspiration. We become accreditors.”

Sound advice!




Happy Mother’s Day!

“I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.” ―Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom

Mother's Day 2015

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to Unveil New Contract with America!

Dear Commons Community,

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is heading to Washington, D.C. next week to present a progressive “Contract with America,” a 13-point agenda intended to push the Democratic Party leftward.

According to a draft of the document provided to The Daily Beast by someone asked to join the effort, de Blasio will call for a number of measures for which he has already pushed in New York City, including national paid sick leave and free, universal pre-kindergarten and afterschool programs. Other items expected to be in the Contract are a reform of the National Labor Relations Act “to enhance workers’ rights to organize and rebuild the middle class,” the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, allowing students to refinance student loan debt, closing the carried interest loop, ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and the closing of a “CEO tax loophole that allows corporations to take advantage of ‘performance pay’ write-offs.”

De Blasio is expected to be joined in Washington by a more than 60 members of Congress, progressive activists, and labor leaders, among them Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, Congressmen Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva.

Aides to de Blasio dismiss the suggestion that this effort is designed to lift de Blasio’s profile, and say instead that it is intended to get a more progressive government into Washington, D.C.—one that will be more attentive to New York City’s needs. The contract is modeled on Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, which helped Republicans retake the House in 1994.

Many of the items that de Blasio calls for are unlikely to pass, even with a Democratic president and a Democratic congress. Regardless, they need to be in the public’s eye.



Coursera CEO Rick Levin: Reports of MOOC Disruption to Higher Education Greatly Exaggerated!

Dear Commons Community,

Poets & Quants has an interview with Rick Levin, former president of Yale University and presently CEO of the MOOC provider, Cousera. He offers a number of insights into where he thinks MOOCs are heading.

“Levin pooh-poohs predictions that free online courses are going to put many universities out of business anytime soon. Far more likely, he says, employers will begin to recognize the value of online credentials and reward employees for having them with promotions, pay increases, and new opportunities.

True disruption to higher education, believes Levin, will take many years and largely impact commuter colleges not known for deep engagement between students and faculty. For universities that sit on the sidelines, there could be significant consequences. Levin predicts that global rankings of universities are likely to take into account the number of people in the world touched by a university’s professors. That would a global university’s status and prestige partly dependent on a school’s reach which can greatly be expanded through online learning…

We are still at the stage where it [online learning] is expanding the [higher education] market rather than substituting for educational offerings. The biggest effect is in bringing new learners in. Three-quarters of our learners are over the age of 22. They are beyond secondary and college years. Most of them are working and they are using it primarily for career advancement or personal enrichment in equal proportions. That is not a hugely disruptive thing at this point. That is additive, an enhancement to what we provide.

The evidence is beginning to be very clear that if properly managed and done strategically, online learning can be a net revenue enhancement. MOOCs can increase the visibility of a university, generate revenue from learners who buy certificates, and serve as lead generation to master’s and other programs.

Over time, there will be a tendency for institutions of higher education to want to use some of high quality MOOCs in their own instructional programs. But it will take time and there will be institutional inertia that will make it slow. If we look over decades, sure disruption will happen.”

The entire interview provides excellent commentary on the future of online learning and higher education. The vast majority of colleges and universities will have to plan carefully and strategically how to integrate online learning into their academic programs. Very few will seek to disrupt their operations to do so.