Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings [Podcast]

June 10, 2011

The podcast of Colin’s interview of Dr. Jean Mercer can be downloaded here. She is the author of the book reviewed earlier here. Read the rest of this entry »

I Was an Army Brat, and I’m Okay!

May 17, 2011

This past week I have been told (yes, told!) that my childhood was very stressful because my father was an Army officer. Seriously, I did not start out a conversation stating I was an Army brat, one was just a chat about a plant at a garden sale and I was asked if I had grown up where it grew wild, and I had to explain that I grew up in lots of places. Then it was a chat about high schools with the woman cutting my daughter’s hair when I was asked where I went to high school (I went to two). That is when I was told that I have been damaged by moving around every couple of years, attending several schools and having my father leave for a year at a time. Twice. Sigh.

I was a bit confused why this “revelation” was being relayed to me until I discovered that a bit a week ago there was a Military Spouse Day, and it was on NPR. It seems the lady at the plant sale only heard the bad parts of the story, and missed the bits about the support systems. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Awareness Week!

March 2, 2011

Coming up later this month is Brain Awareness Week. Started in 1996 by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives to educate kids and their families about the brain and brain science.

If you are near Washington, DC check out the exhibits and activities at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. If you can’t (like most of us) see what activities there are for kids at the Neuroscience for Kids website.

Also, download this week’s Parenting Within Reason podcast where Colin interviews Dr. Joanne Deak about her book Your Fantastic Elastic Brain.

Diversity and Engineering Week… A Bit of Rambling

February 20, 2011

Last week I decided to visit my daughter’s high school to check out the food options that were being offered on the last day of “Diversity Week.”  The various student groups were selling food to help finance their activities and I wanted to try it out!  I got there at about the time lunch was supposed to start, but it turned out that was delayed due to the assembly, which highlighted the various groups and clubs in the school (I heard some, but did not go in since it was ending).

So I sat in the cafeteria/commons area trying to read a book, but was distracted by the activity around me.  There was the table of PTSA moms of seniors who were going sell tickets for the prom and graduation parties, then there were the pair of kids who were signing (the school has a deaf ed program), plus the various groups setting up for food. Read the rest of this entry »

Extreme Parenting? My Reaction to Amy Chua

January 15, 2011

Another update: This is the Gwen Dewar article link that Elyse and Julia talk about in the 44th Episode of Parenting Within Reason podcast.

A parenting book review has caught my attention, and I just finished reading reactions about it a the New York Times. This started out as a comment there (not posted), but it became blog length. Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast TWIPS: Episodes 15 and 16

June 27, 2010

Yikes. This is late. Needless to say, the content on SBP has been slim lately as the podcast and our daily routines have started to consume our lives.  Episode 15 was soooo long ago. Remember when Elyse and Women Thinking Free Foundation counter-protested at the antivaccine rally in Chicago? Yeah, we talked about that. We also spoke with Dr. Eugenie Scott about her work at the National Center for Science Education!

And remember when we spoke with Dr. Angie McQuaig of Center for Inquiry and Camp Inquiry? She’s pretty awesome too!


Every week, the hosts of Podcast Beyond Belief use parenting science as a springboard for discussion. On episode 15, we discussed…

On episode 16, we discussed…

Atheists in Catholic School

May 26, 2010

Cincinnati is a melting pot of faiths, but the predominant religion here is catholicism. There are 66 catholic schools in my county. Judging from my interactions with other parents in the community, many of those schools are enrolled with the children of atheists and agnostics.

The overwhelming opinion, and debatable fact, of the public schools here is that they are dangerous hives of villainy where bright (non-black) children will be dragged down by the riff raff. This popular opinion even extends to the white-flight suburbs, which might remove a small portion of the racism out of the equation. As bad as parents deem the low quality public schools, they inversely praise the catholic schools for their high standards of education.

Who can entirely blame them? Many of these freethinking parents attended the very same catholic schools when they were students, well before their conversion toward agnosticism. And many of them remember higher standards of education and higher expectations of the graduates.

And yet, I’m having a very hard time accepting this way of life in Cincinnati. For one thing, my wife often points out that this is a vicious self-fulfilling prophecy. If every parent of a bright child yanks each of their kids out of public school and puts them in a catholic school, then there won’t be any scholars left to attend public school. But, the question is whether I want my kids to be the exception. Do I want my daughters to stagnate in an institution that has been abandoned by other well-intentioned parents in the community? Do I want my daughters to suffer because I insisted on having them attend a poor quality public school, instead of the distinguished catholic school.

The other problem here is the money. First, I can’t afford the expense of catholic school. In fact, I’d wager my small income that many of the debt-ridden families that attend catholic school can’t afford it either. Even if I could afford catholic school, I would have serious ethical issues paying massive amounts of money to a religious institution in which I neither believe nor wish to support in any way. I don’t want to be too melodramatic about it, but the stories of systemic sexual abuse in the catholic church are revolting enough that supporting them in any way would sincerely bother me.

There’s also another problem with having my children attend catholic school. They expect you to go to church. They even keep tabs on whether you have tithed enough. So, not only are your children at the mercy of nuns who are shoving the threat of hell at them on a consistent basis, but these students are expected to extend their exposure to religion on Sundays too. The ironic thing that I like to point out is that these parents would feel very uncomfortable teaching their kids about atheism because they are worried that they might indoctrinate them.

And then what will these freethinking parents tell their children when the inevitable questions of church and faith come up? There will surely be an awkward conversation about why they must attend a religious school while living in a non-religious house. Will this seem like hypocrisy? I’m not entirely sure how it will play out, but I wonder about how these children will handle interacting with their faithful peers. Will they be bullied, ignored, teased, or will they learn to keep their beliefs quiet so that they won’t be kicked out of the school or socially ostracized?

I don’t judge the freethinking parents who are deciding to put their children in these religious schools. Every parent wants the best for their kids, including myself. I could never condemn an atheist for making this difficult choice, but I think the idea deserves a conversation. What do you think?

Podcast TWIPS: Episode 10 (Dr. Stuart Brown)

May 9, 2010

Last week on Podcast Beyond Belief we spoke with Dr. Stuart Brown, director of The National Institute of Play and author of PLAY: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

Here is a video of Dr. Stuart Brown speaking at the TED Conference…

We also discussed these topics on “This Week in Parenting Science”…

SciGirls – I’m having deja vu!

February 9, 2010

Wow. If you look at my last post, I’m talking about an animated girl guiding other girls through a wonderful world of science. It’s only been a day, and I’m already talking about the exact same thing.

OK. What is going on?

PBS is launching a brand new science series for girls called SciGirls. It’s like Sid the Science Kid for tweens. Apparently, the new series will begin this month and be sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Since it worked so well last time, I’ll just say that I hope there are many  more projects like this. Awesome!

I Was Wondering…

February 6, 2010

The National Academy of Science has put together a neat little flash animated web site for girls interested in science called “I Was Wondering…“. The page links to interesting women in science, their discoveries, and a timeline of their contributions to science. The project is inspired by a series of books called Women’s Adventures in Science, which will be biographies targeted toward tweens that were made in cooperation with the women for which they were written.

There’s also a place on “I Was Wondering…” called Ask It where girls can ask curious questions. And don’t forget the fun games too!

This is the kind of interactive learning  tool that we desperately need for our children. I only hope that they expand on this web site and work on other projects that science-based families can enjoy.