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Education in America; Wisconsin – The Real Story

February 23, 2011 5 comments

Here’s what we know that will make our schools better:

1.    Improve the quality of teaching.
2.    Personalize the educational experience of children to meet diverse needs and interests.
3.    Treat schools as unique, organic communities, not standard same-for-all institutions.

What do we have?

1.    We have “No Child Left Behind” that places enormous importance on standardizing instead of a more personal, organic, and creative experience for each child.
2.    We have president Obama’s recent State of the Union speech emphasizing that the only disciplines of importance are math and science. This message tells our children that if they are not good at either one of these subjects they are not smart and they will probably not be as successful as those who are accomplished in math and science.
3.    We continue to believe that if everyone is good at math and science, we’ll be fine. Meanwhile, creativity, innovation, lateral thinking, and the treasures all our children house in their minds are wasted as we are commanded to focus on math and science.
4.    The entire model for our education system is built on Industrial Age beliefs regarding supply and demand. This no longer holds true. The rapid acceleration of technology, population growth, and the shifting of power throughout the world make it impossible to predict what our society and economy will have even 2 years from now.

Here is what is true:

1.    Education is extremely personal. Everyone is unique and different in their interests, talents, and learning styles.
2.    Human talents are buried deep within us and teachers must be adept at identifying and nurturing our children’s aptitudes.
3.    It will take more than competency in Math and Science for America to prosper and grow in the future.
4.    It is NOT about money!

Now let’s look at money and what it has accomplished in Wisconsin, since it is in the news for leading the charge in education:

1.    Wisconsin’s per pupil spending on public school students increased from $6,517 in 1996 to $10,791 in 2008.
2.    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator the $6,517 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in 1996 dollars equaled $8,942 in 2008 dollars. That means that from 1996 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $1,849 or 20.7% in real terms while adding only one percentage point to their average eighth grader’s math score. (Terence P. Jeffrey)
3.    The $10,791 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in its public elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year 2008 was more than any other state in the Midwest.
4.    In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009, the latest year available, only 31% of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 8% earned an “advanced” rating.
5.    The other 61 % of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 40% who earned a rating of “basic” and 21% who earned a rating of “below basic”.
6.    The NAEP tests also showed that the mathematics test scores of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders have remained almost flat since 1996 while inflation adjusted per-pupil spending had significantly increased.
7.    In fiscal 2008, the federal government provided $669.6 million in subsidies to the public schools in Wisconsin.

I don’t mind paying teachers what they are worth. I don’t mind paying them for results, but NOT these results! If Wisconsin teachers, their unions, and teachers all across our country call the above statistics “Results” then they have lost their way.

We have placed our most precious treasures, our children, in the hands of impostors who cannot deliver. They are stealing the nation’s future. We are doomed. They cannot produce. They cannot be fired. They have TENURE, a job for life. The laugh is on us; we pay their salaries with our property taxes. They take our money and dull the minds of our children.

It is easier to get rid of a Predator Priest than it is to fire an Incompetent Teacher.

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Education; Critical Thinking vs Rote Memory in American Education

January 28, 2011 6 comments

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstein

We have an American educational system that languishes under the premise that if a student repeats something many times he will learn it. He may not understand it, but he will learn how to repeat it so he sounds knowledgeable. Our primary classroom teaching methods use Rote Learning, defined as, “…a learning technique which avoids understanding of a subject and instead focuses on memorization. The major practice involved in rote learning is learning by repetition. The idea is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material the more one repeats it.” Wikipedia

This is how teachers continue to process your children in grades K–12 and our students in colleges and universities throughout America in the 2011 Global Knowledge Economy, which is driven by information and technology. This is a time and age when students have to be able to deal with changes quickly and effectively. This new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyze information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems. NO ONE will advance in this new information age with rote memory skills. Those are the skills of mindless workers who put this gidget with that gadget for eight hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 30 years. That age is over in America. It left for China and India more than10 years ago.

Why do our teachers and educators continue to use a mode of education that consigns our children to a life of irrelevancy? Why do they resist change, flexibility, and new thinking techniques?

I believe it is because it threatens their lifelong Rote learning habits. Technology threatens them; teachers are artifacts from a time where they were taught they had to know all the answers. They believe in authoritarianism in an age when large groups are sharing information every day in a world without Ethernet boundaries; this is how teachers were taught to teach. They see technology as a threat rather than a challenge. Their students know more than they do in this Knowledge Economy and so they avoid the embarrassment of having to admit they are fallible by demanding safe Rote answers to safe standardized  test questions.

Educators have forgotten that one of the most exciting teaching moments is when the student teaches the teacher. Information exchange between teachers and students allows everyone to participate in the exciting adventure of Critical and Creative thinking. The teacher becomes the guide who helps channel student energy, creativity, intellect, and critical thinking into new solutions that awaken enormous possibilities for all. Teachers do not have to have all the answers; they need to ask the right questions! Their students will find the answers.

There is a serious relationship between Critical thinking and Creative thinking. They are like a hand in a glove. Creative solutions to problems involve not just having new ideas. New creative ideas must also be useful and relevant to the task at hand. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones, and modifying them if necessary.

Now what is Critical Thinking? The list of core critical thinking skills includes observation, interpretation, analysis, inference, evaluation, and explanation. There is a reasonable level of consensus among experts that an individual or group engaged in strong critical thinking gives due consideration to:

•    Evidence through observation
•    Context of judgment
•    Relevant criteria for making the judgment well
•    Applicable methods or techniques for forming the judgment
•    Applicable theoretical constructs for understanding the problem and the question at hand

Critical thinking employs not only logic, but also broad intellectual criteria such as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance, and fairness. A teacher or student disposed toward critical thinking includes a courageous desire to follow reason and evidence wherever it may lead. They are open-minded, display attention to the possible consequences of choices, have a systematic approach to problem solving, inquisitiveness, fair-mindedness and maturity of judgment, and a confidence in reasoning.

To be fair, the real question is, do our educators possess this kind of thinking? Are they able to develop critical thinking in their teaching methods so their students have a future in the fast moving, ever changing world of the Global Knowledge Economy? If our educators cannot make this transition between Rote Memory and Critical Thinking then our student population is doomed to languishing in Industrial Age thinking while the rest of the world, i.e., China, India, and others leap forward, above, through, and beyond them.

It is NOT about money. Socrates taught under a tree.

It is about questioning old assumptions, creating group think in classrooms, exciting students and challenging them to question everything they are told, and requiring them to develop their own solutions to problems, which may or may not agree with ours. It is about trust and belief in our ability to learn along with our students as they learn along with us.

Finally, the student must be taught not how to know the answer, but how to ask the question. Teachers and students must first embrace what they do not know and Critical thinking is a primary tool in approaching this. Spend some time with any 3, 4, 5 or 6 year old and count how many times they ask you, “Why?” Watch them play and watch how they solve problems and disputes. They have it! Then we turn them over to government schools that Drill and Kill it out of them.


Education; The Lost Art of Engaging Students in Public Education and Universities

January 26, 2011 1 comment

“No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike.”
General George S. Patten, Jr.

There is a high school in a poor section of the Bronx called the Theater Arts Production Company School. Report card grades were released in the fall for New York City’s 455 high schools, and the highest grade went to this school. It is a school that believes that no one should fail!

The principal’s instructions as codified in the teacher’s handbook states that all teachers should grade their classes in the same way: 30% of students should earn a grade of A, 40% should earn B’s, 25% should earn C’s, and no more than 5 % should earn D’s. As long as they show up, they should not fail. According to a New York Times article on January 19, 2011, “…even students who missed most of the school days earned credits. They also said students were promoted with over 100 absences a year; the principal, rather than a teacher, granted class credits needed for graduation; and credit was awarded for classes the school does not even offer.”

One teacher discussed a student who was absent 98 days in one year. This student was promoted to the next grade, earning credits for classes including cooking, yoga, and independent study. The school does not offer a cooking class. The principal, Lynn Passarella, created an independent study course called cooking, which was given after school. “I don’t know how they think they are raising these kids to think that they can do what they want with no consequences and still get good grades,” said a teacher who left due to an illness. “It’s just so wrong on so many levels.”

The city is opening an inquiry into the practices of this school.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, ACTA, confirms that many students aren’t learning very much in their first two years of college. As troubling as it is, it comes as no surprise to ACTA. Their study of more than 700 top colleges and universities, which enroll more than 6 million students, documents that, “…students can graduate from college without ever having exposure to composition, literature, foreign language, or American history.

“To be specific, our study found that less than five percent of schools require economics and less than a quarter have a solid requirement of literature. Of the more than 700 schools, sixty percent received a “C” or worse for requiring three or fewer subjects.”

Is it any wonder that students learn little and do little, when colleges today expect little of them?

So what is to be done?  The goal is not simply to have more students with diplomas, but rather to graduate students who have a rich and rigorous education that prepares them to think CRITICALLY. The ACTA is reaching out to 10,000 of these colleges and universities to address this national scandal.

Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, asks, “Why is anyone surprised to find that standards and expectations in our colleges are too low? High school graduates, a rapidly dwindling elite, come to college entirely unaccustomed to close reading, habits of disciplined analysis, skills in writing reasoned arguments and a basic grasp of the conduct, methods and purposes of science.”

Can there be any question why America increasingly finds itself at a competitive disadvantage when our K–12 public education and higher educational institutions are failing to do their job? By the way this failure from a post secondary system costs more than twice as much per pupil as the average expenditure in other industrialized nations. We outspend and we underachieve.

President Obama in his State of the Union Address last night wants to “invest” in education. He and the Department of Education can pour billions, even trillions of dollars into the public education system, but nothing will change because MONEY IS NOT THE PROBLEM. We have Industrial Age educational institutions at the K-12 and college levels. We do not have a Technological Age educational system. We continue to educate as if our population will be working in factories, or as bank clerks, or manufacturing zombies.

Our teachers/professors are secure in their chalkboards and books, notes and standardized tests, lectures and authority. As a matter of fact, most of the instructors in the first 2 years of college are NOT PhD professors. They are graduate students, who are making little money teaching while they work on their higher degrees. Research and graduate education dominate American higher education, placing undergraduate education at the margins.

As a result of our perpetuating the past in our teaching methods and material, our students only know rote learning and how to respond to mediocre, standardized tests to receive grades. There is no vital connection made in the classroom between learning and life, much less any affection for voluntarily using one’s mind in the rigorous, sustained, and frequently counter intuitive way that leads to innovation and the advancement of knowledge.

This is the century of innovation! This is the century of technology! Our children have daily access to worldwide communication, to instant knowledge via Twitter, Google, Facebook, iPhones, iPads, etc. They know when someone in the world is assassinated the moment after it happens. They are exposed to worldwide events on a daily basis! This generation is smart, inquisitive, hip, curious, and able. They DO NOT like being bored by someone holding a piece of chalk in their hand.  Most of their learning occurs outside of school. What a comment on Education in this country.

This is the generation who invented a whole new language; Mouse, Apps, Email, Domain, Emoticon, Firewall, Flash Drive, Gigabyte, Hyperlink, Icon, jpg, JavaScript, LOL, Adware, Avatar, Bitmap, Blog, Bluetooth, Malware, Browser, Cache, Megapixel, codec, Cookie, Desktop, Motherboard…You get the picture!

These are not idiots! This is a generation trying to sprint into the New Age while being anchored in the Industrial Age by their Industrial Age teachers, buildings, and thinking. Let’s catch up and then lead them forward into a life of rigorous and sustained Lateral and Critical Thinking.

It’s NOT about money. It’s not about billions and trillions of “invested” dollars!

“I skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
Wayne Gretsky

America’s Educational Competitive Edge; Category 5

January 8, 2011 3 comments

Let’s talk about America’s mythological “Competitive Edge”.  Back in 2005 the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine wrote the influential 2005 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future”. A new report was requested by the presidents of these distinguished academies in 2010, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Approaching Category 5”. The authors of the 2010 report concluded that the nation’s competitive outlook has worsened since the original Gathering Storm issued its call to strengthen K-12 education and double the federal basic-research budget.

The 2010 report notes indications where the United States’ competitive capacity is slipping, some of which includes the following:

•    In 2009, 51 percent of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies.
•    China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s number one high-technology exporter and is now second in the world in publication of biomedical research articles.
•    Between 1996 and 1999, 157 new drugs were approved in the United States.  In a corresponding period 10 years later, the number dropped to 74.
•    Almost one-third of U.S. manufacturing companies responding to a recent survey say they are suffering from some level of skills shortage. (My emphasis)

In addition, the nation’s education system has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in math and science. According to the ACT College Readiness Report, 78 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2008 did not meet readiness benchmark levels for one or more entry-level college courses in mathematics, science, reading, and English. The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in the quality of its math and science education.  FORTY-EIGHTH! (Copies of Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited; Category 5 are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu.)

The only way America will meet future challenges is to change the way we parent and educate our people. Charter Schools, which are publicly funded, are yet another popular way to change traditional education, which was originally designed to produce literate factory workers for the industrial age of Ford, Rockefeller, and the like. Up until this industrial push most immigrants in our country verged on being or were illiterate. The chalk board, 30 wooden desks, teacher lecturing, and students taking notes for tests hasn’t changed much since that mandate for public education for all children.

The Charter innovation is described in the documentary “Waiting for Superman” and focuses on the lottery that determines its students. The lottery is conducted in public, and the film illustrates the high drama of the proceedings: The families of the winners are euphoric, the losers despondent. It depicts how desperate parents are to find any alternative to the inner-city schools millions of minority children attend.

According to a 2006 article in U.S. News & World Report one-third of our schools are dysfunctional. They are located in drug-infested, crime-ridden urban neighborhoods to which whites rarely venture. Most of the brightest and most talented teachers are attracted elsewhere. Columnist George Will described the neighborhoods where millions of minority children live and attend schools as “concentrations of the poor, the poorly educated, the unemployed and unemployable.” They also have been portrayed as “prisons without walls.”

Far too many of these students and preschoolers are dealing with hunger, homelessness, abuse and/or neglect. More than 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. Typically, an impoverished, overwhelmed mother or grandmother is the only adult at home. Students leave dysfunctional homes to attend dysfunctional schools. They’re learning, but the lessons are concentrated on how to survive.

Considering the above, are charter schools the answer? Or does meaningful improvement in education lie elsewhere?

Early childhood is where it is at; this is the decisive moment!

Schools inherit reading problems, which are actually language problems. Learning begins at birth, ideally with two parents providing loving care, cultivating curiosity and offering constant exposure to spoken and written language. These well loved children have been attending “school” since birth.

Schools should extend their expertise to parents of preschoolers and to future parents. They should elaborate on the universal message: Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers, and learning happens outside the classroom as well as in it. Incoming students who are better-prepared should result in better-performing schools. We need to develop parenting programs for those who are not yet parents as well as for those who are and we need to take these programs into the communities and schools. We need to begin at the beginning.

We’ve been looking in all the wrong places for far too long. We can’t solve a problem by avoiding the cause; it’s rooted in the home. Parents are the key. We need to convince them of their importance and provide ways for them to be effective teachers.

Watch what happens to education in America when we get Parents involved with parenting their sons and daughters for a future that leaves behind their dysfunctional history!

Apple Pie Parenting; A Dose of This and a Dash of That

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been asked by so many, “What is good parenting?” Even though I consider the answer to be a matter of common sense and honest, selfless decisions I have come to realize that common sense is not in abundance and selfless decisions are held hostage to ego needs and immediate gratification. So I have concluded that the best answer is another question.

How is good parenting like baking an apple pie?

Let’s take my simple apple crumble pie recipe that I bake for one son. Its ingredients are: a 9” deep dish pie crust, 5 cups apples – peeled, cored and thinly sliced, ½ cup white sugar, ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/3 white sugar again, ¾ cup all purpose flour, 6 tablespoons butter. The oven must be preheated to 400 degrees where I bake the assembled pie for 35 to 40 minutes. Of course all the ingredients must be assembled in just the right way to get tasty results AND the pie must be baked just right to get that crispy top with soft apples under it.

Now what if I left out, because I was busy or distracted with my own needs, one third of the sugar, or the butter. Maybe I only used half the apples. Maybe I forgot the cinnamon; after all it is only ¾ teaspoon and that shouldn’t matter. Maybe I only baked it for 25 minutes. Who would know?

These appear to be such small compromises for my pie that I am serving to my family. Granted, it won’t be the best pie I could bake for them and maybe it won’t taste just right but it will get us through dessert and I could probably camouflage it with a heavy dose of vanilla ice cream.

On the other hand this could have been a superior pie that I would be enthusiastic to serve if I took the time and care in the preparation. There would be no excuses to suffer through and no camouflage tactics to cover up my personal failure to take pride in my creation. Excuses are so complex. It’s so much simpler to do it the right way.

Now let’s take a simple recipe for parenting. Its ingredients are: thoughtful nutrition and healthy balance during the uterine environment, careful physical and emotional maintenance during infancy with many tablespoons of hugs, big arms, and soft talk, a huge bucket full of reading out loud and play time, hundreds of hours of decision making and direction pointing, large and small doses of discipline, many cups of creative thinking, a dash or two of self esteem building, gallons of intellectual curiosity, and a dash of this and a dash of that. Baking time is at least 18 years.

What if we left out some of the dashes, doses, gallons, or buckets? Who would know? The most sorrowful parent is the one who left out some ingredients only to find that 18 years later it was too late to add them back. Like the pie both were baked. You cannot unring a bell. It’s so much simpler to add all the ingredients and do it the right way.

I was reading the “Future Buzz” blog by Adam Singer today. Even though this is a blog about digital marketing he says it all, “Complexity is standard and expected, simplicity is elegant and surprising because it is daring. It requires confidence – you’re taking a chance that what you’re putting out there is good enough to stand on its own.”

Food preparation is an art. Child rearing is an art. It is simple and surprising but when done with confidence it is good enough to stand on its own, no excuses.

Apple Pie & ParentingAPPLE PIE & PARENTING – SAME THING

The Family; Ben Bernanke & Freeman Hrabowski

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I was reading an article this morning that reinforced what I have been writing about these many months. Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, was asked about the rising financial inequality in the United States and he responded, “It’s a very bad development. It’s creating two societies. And it’s based very much, I think, on educational differences. The unemployment rate we’ve been talking about, if you’re a college graduate, unemployment is 5 percent. If you’re a high school graduate, it’s 10 percent or more. It’s a very big difference.”

Mr. Bernanke added: “It leads to an unequal society, and a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”

I found it enlightening that the Fed Chairman is aware of the huge disparity between the financial groups based upon educational achievements. The people at the bottom of the educational scale are usually minorities whose parents are uneducated and whose parents were uneducated. And so it goes, one generation of underachievers perpetuating the next generation of underachievers. This perpetual motion, an action that continues into infinity, enslaves a class of people who shroud themselves in ignorance as if it were a cloak of pride. What is it that makes people continue down the road of satisfied ignorance from generation to generation? How do we change this?

I read another story about Mr. Freeman Hrabowski, who is president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Freeman (love his first name) lays awake at night worrying about the low number of college graduates in this country who have degrees in science and engineering.

Right now only about 6 percent of young college graduates in this country have degrees in science or engineering, as opposed to about 10 percent in many developed nations. He states the numbers are far worse for minorities: only 2.7% of young African-American college graduates and 2.2% of Latinos. The United States was once the world’s leader in science education but is now far behind the rest of the world. It ranks 21st out of 30 developed nations in terms of student performance on international science tests. It ranks 27th among developed nations in the percentage of students who graduate from college with degrees in the natural sciences and in engineering.

Freeman led the committee that produced “Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation,” an eye-opening study issued by the National Academies, the country’s leading science advisory group.  The report sets the goal of nearly doubling the percentage of science graduates. To reach this goal, the country should at least triple the percentage of science and engineering degrees granted to underrepresented minority groups, who will represent nearly half the national population by the year 2050. Mr. Hrabowski leads by example at U.M.B.C., which now produces more minority scientists than any predominantly white institution in the country.

I then went on to read about 21-year-old Zakiya Qualls, a senior-year science research student at Howard University and her dream of finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Ms. Qualls was one of more than 150 students who received awards last month at the 10th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, in Charlotte, N.C. It is sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and attracted about 2,000 mainly minority students, along with hundreds of research program recruiters and professors who led seminars and judged competitions.

Then there was James McCann, a quiet young man from St. Edward’s University in Texas, who wowed the conference with his work on a bacterium that preys on victims of cystic fibrosis. And how about Melissa Youssef, a 21-year-old senior and award winner from Furman University in Greenville, S.C. whose experience at the ceremony was life changing and who went home determined to pursue both an M.D. and a Ph.D., even though it will probably take eight years.

What do these wonderful young award winners have in common beside their race or ethnicity? I am willing to bet my lucky rabbit’s foot that it is their parents. They committed to raising their children from conception to a goal of elevation, above the normal. They, as my parents, improved the next generation. Even though Asians are considered a minority group their success is unrivaled in our educational institutions across our country. I’ll bet my lucky rabbit’s foot that this is largely due to their parents, who value family, education, discipline, and ambition.

We cannot continue to disregard the importance of parenting in hopes that we can change children, who are ignored from birth, into scholars and high achievers. We must begin at the beginning and help those who are having children to become loving, committed parents. It is the parents who first open and cultivate curious minds. It is only possible to educate and enlighten minds that are open.

If we can find a way to accomplish this then Mr. Ben Bernanke and Mr. Freeman Hrabowski may turn their attention to other matters of worldly concern.

Family & Parenting = Success

The Family; Postpartum Dads

November 14, 2010 2 comments

We spend a lot of time in our society focusing on Mothers and their postpartum depression, which appears to occur following birth. But how about the father’s; How do they feel? What goes on in their minds and how do they cope? When a father is told, “We are going to have a baby”, the first thing that goes through his mind after adjusting to the news is, “How am I going to pay for this?” He thinks about money, current bills, future expenses, job security, education and all those things that men feel are their responsibility. Fathers get depressed too; it is not only mothers who suffer from  Postpartum depression; it’s just that fathers conceal it better.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is now looking at the effects of postpartum depression on Fathers as well as mothers. The AAP states, “Every year, more than 400,000 infants are born to mothers who are depressed, which makes perinatal depression the most under diagnosed obstetric complication in America. Postpartum depression leads to increased costs of medical care, inappropriate medical care, child abuse and neglect, discontinuation of breastfeeding, and family dysfunction and it adversely affects early brain development.”

One of the reasons that postpartum depression has garnered so much attention is because it can have serious consequences for children. The new AAP report lists the many ways in which kids of depressed moms may be worse-off: “They are more likely to have developmental delays, social and emotional difficulties, cognitive and language problems, and more.”

US News Health reports the emerging work on fathers shows that depression in dads can have similar ripple effects. In his 2006 study, J.F. Paulson, Center for Pediatric Research, Eastern Virginia Medical School, found that melancholy fathers were less likely to play with or read, sing, or tell stories to their babies. A follow-up study, published in 2009, showed that these behavioral changes can have long-term effects on child development. Sad dads read to their kids less frequently, and the less reading aloud those fathers did, the worse their 2-year-olds scored on vocabulary tests.

The National Institutes of Health conducted studies on postpartum depression. These included a national sample of 5,089 two parent families. The NIH concluded that 14% of mothers and 10% of fathers exhibited high levels of depressive symptoms. They emphasized that postpartum depression is a significant issue for fathers. “In both mothers and fathers, depressive symptoms were negatively associated with positive enrichment activity with the child (reading, singing songs, and telling stories).”

University of Oxford psychiatrist Paul Ramchandani claims that children of depressed fathers are more likely to have some genetic risk for developing their own mood disorders. But there could easily be environmental mechanisms at work as well. “Depression affects how fathers interact with their children,” Ramchandani says. “They may be more irritable, they may be more withdrawn. That might affect children’s understanding of emotions and how they learn to regulate their own emotions.” Mood problems may also influence a fathers’ ability to work, affect the strength of his marital relationship, and more—any of which could put their kids at risk.

The accumulated evidence is clear: Depression in new dads—whatever the name, whatever the mechanism—is a real problem that has gone undiagnosed for many years. Men by their very nature are not allowed to talk about their inner selves or express their feelings. Society expects them to be the provider and not to admit any emotional stress. The stress on some men must be enormous, but they can’t express it and they have to bottle it all up because most of the attention when a newborn enters the family is focused on the mother and the baby.

Parents may miss their own doctor’s appointments but they never miss seeing the pediatrician. We need for pediatricians to look for depressed symptoms in fathers and offer advice and/or support systems where fathers as well as mothers may receive help from peer groups who have experienced these symptoms. Presently services are fragmented for fathers and are focused mainly upon mothers and their child.

Mary Alabaster, head of maternal mental health at South Essex Partnership Trust Runwell Hospital said: “Fathers psychological health is a neglected area. We do a lot for mothers, but not for dads. When I see women, I am often left wondering how their partners are coping.”


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