Lemon-Scented Bivouac  

Fatherly and, eventually, teacherly blather. Also: graphic design, baseball, synthetic fabrics, jug band music and, lord help us, the occasional politics.

Saturday, October 19, 2002  

An interesting BBC study of hikokomori boys in Japan -- teenage hermits who never leave their bedrooms. Some of them are sullen and agorophic; some are violent. If you asked me in person if I knew a teenage boy a lot like this, I'd tell you the truth; but I never would in this blog. I wonder if the hermit-boys play with their Nintendos or other electronics. Maybe they just stare at the walls. One ex-hermit interviewed in the story says he wants to know what he was doing -- so maybe they couldn't answer.

  posted by Andy @ 3:31 PM §

Surely some of you have not seen this staggering clip of William Shatner performing "Rocket Man" at the 1978 Science Fiction Film awards. It's stomach-churning, and I dare you to finish it. Found at the redoutable Mister Pants.

  posted by Andy @ 12:18 PM §

Oh, and to complete my morning's newspaper tour, frame 2 of the following satisfies me:

  posted by Andy @ 11:33 AM §

Well, I energetically blogged away at my first entry, and then my browser went catatonic. Interestingly, nearly every time something like this has happened I've written a better (read: shorter) recap of what I lost. So be grateful you don't have to read what I'm not bothering to retype.

A friend convinced me that online diaries not only could be not-crap, but that they could be useful to people you know -- a way to talk to each other. So, friends and family: Hello. Outside world, if you're looking, why? But hello anyway.

The Seattle Times equivocates all over the subject of underachieving students -- it's the usual meander of harmless, pointless advice. But it craters when "child psychologist" Ruth Peters weighs in (I'll jump to bold when I'm good and mad):

Ruth Peters, author of "Overcoming Underachieving: A Simple Plan to Boost Your Kids' Grades and End the Homework Hassles," is an advocate of incentives to prod better performance. Parents have to find out what rewards mean the most to kids — a new CD, clothes, toys, TV or video-game time or trips to the mall .... "Students underachieve mostly because they don't give a hoot," said Peters, a child psychologist who is also author of "Laying Down the Law: The 25 Laws of Parenting."

"They're not internally motivated to do the work," she said. "So externally motivate them (with incentives)."

Or, plainly, bribe them. This never works. It can't. You may get superficial compliance, but you do not get a single ganglion of actual learning put in place this way -- in fact, you worsen lives that way. In one classroom I watched the teacher handed out Red Vines for good deeds or simple compliance or showy compliance. The kids were ridiculously jacked up over those Red Vines -- they panted, they whined about quantities ("I deserve two!"), they formed little scrums around the Red Vines tub. And I guarantee you they had made no connection between the Red Vines and what they had or hadn't done. Even if they did, the connection was so corrosive they'd be better without it. The Red Vines were a non sequitur.

I think the best counterexample has to be caring for animals -- the bread and butter of my wife's childhood sanity but something I've only come to recently. When a child fixes up an animal's living space and maybe brushes the animal's coat and feeds it, the animal seems happier and shows its need and gratitude for that child. It's a powerful response because it follows -- the reward is organic to the behavior. Red Vines and Nintendo and trips to the mall do not follow. I think much of the background white noise that clouds up students' heads is made up of irrational or missing rewards -- a grade? follows why? candy? why? I clean up my work space and I get play money I can spend on candy? Adults should wonder: Whose life is like that? How is learning that artificial set of behaviors valuable?

And Ruth Peters, who seems to be fighting for that same common-sense-scold shtick as Dr. Laura and Judge Judy, should leave her field.

  posted by Andy @ 11:22 AM §

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