Saturday, December 31, 2005

Wishing you the best in 2006

It is not your environment;
it is not your history;
It is not your education or ability.
It is the quality of your mind
that predicts your future.
- Dr. Benjamin Mays

Happy New Year!

Making the case for 'a new civil rights movement'

Are some problems facing black families self-inflicted?
One of the cruelest aspects of slavery was the way it wrenched apart black families, separating husbands from wives and children from their parents. It is ironic, to say the least, that now, nearly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, much of the most devastating damage to black families, and especially black children, is self-inflicted.

The above quote is by Bob Herbert, a popular columnist for the New York Times. He writes with precision, and he's never afraid to step outside the box of political correctness.

Herbert makes the case for black people to stop blaming others for their problems. He does not negate the fact that slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and institutionalized racism have impacted people of color since they hit American soil. But he does urge black people who are stuck in a "woe is me" mentality to escape their mental prisons. His biggest concern is the effect on children. Herbert also writes:

Most black people are not poor. Most are not criminals. Most are leading productive lives. The black middle class is larger and more successful than ever. But there are millions who are still out in the cold, caught in a cycle of poverty, ignorance, illness and violence that is taking a horrendous toll.

Herbert suggests that the black community could use an infusion of new leadership. What do you think? The complete text of the New York Times column can be found at FBIHOP.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Signs of child abuse: Part 2

Taking a closer look at 'silent victimization'

Yesterday's post on child abuse offered some suggestions to teachers on how to spot children who may be victims of abuse. Approximately 12 out of every 1,000 American children up to age 17 are treated for child abuse each year. Len, publisher of InnerVue, provides some insight on the impact to young victims.

She writes, "Emotional abuse is probably the cause of so many people experiencing depression, anxiety, anti-social behavior, and anger. This silent victimization can begin in childhood and the effects of it expands into adulthood, and the cycle repeats itself."

Len also recommends taking a look at the American Humane website - a great resource for anyone with an interest in child safety.

Defining emotional abuse

According to American Humane, "emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child's cognitive, emotional, psychological, or social development." To learn what constitutes emotional abuse, also known as psychological maltreatment, click here.

Abuse can take many forms, and some children can suffer from more than one type. According to data collected by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), the majority of children confirmed to be victims of mistreatment experience neglect. Following are the percentages of children who experience some form of abuse:

Neglect 59.2%
Physical abuse 18.6%
Sexual abuse 9.6%
Emotional/psychological 6.8%
Other 19.5%

"Other" includes abandonment, threats to harm the child, congenital drug addiction, and other situations that are not counted as specific categories in NCANDS. The percentages here add up to more than 100% because some children were victims of more than one type of abuse.

Race, gender and age of victims

In 2001, according to America Humane, roughly half (50.2%) of children who were abused were white, 25% were African American, and 14.5% were Hispanic. American Indians and Alaska Natives accounted for 2% of victims, and Asian-Pacific Islanders accounted for 1.3% of victims. These rates have remained consistent for the past several years. Boys are targeted as often as girls.

Teacher cites examples of abuse

Jaimie, publisher of Life Is Hilarious, is a kindergarten teacher. This veteran educator knows all too well that life is not always hilarious in the classroom. Jaimie shares some first-hand knowledge of what she has seen at her school:

One girl in kindergarten, who was not in my class, came to school with a black eye. Her sister, who was in 4th grade, came to school with a broken nose. Mom spent time in jail, then was released and the girls were back with her. It's just a matter of time before it happens again.

Another story: I had a child in my class who was extremely intelligent (reading at a second/third grade level), but who was absent frequently, would crawl into classroom closets, and purposely sabotage her work. She eventually told me that her mother's boyfriend was beating up her mom, and even broke her nose (I saw the mom's broken nose, but she told me she was 'in a car accident'). The girl was constantly living in fear. They ended up moving to Las Vegas.

Jaimie adds that the article by Kristen Houghton (featured in the previous post) was informative, but Jaimie would have liked to have seen more clarity in some areas.

"Some children are just more quiet than others, and some children just have strange dispositions," she says. "It is hard to detect an abused child if you were to rely on personality alone."

If you suspect your student is a victim of child abuse, report it to the appropriate school personnel so that the local child protection agency can be contacted. If the child is in immediate danger, call the police.

Web Resources

The Children's Bureau

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration
for Children and Families

The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information

American Psychology Association

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Facts for Families

Psychology Today

Dr. Deborah Serani
What parents need to know about child abuse

Tags: Children, Parenting, , Education, , , , ,

© 2005 D. C. Sistrunk - All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Signs of child abuse: Part 1

What a teacher should know

The abused child comes in many sizes and shapes. They come from families of all socioeconomic levels. They are among the sad children teachers see every day. Do you know how to tell the difference between a child just going through normal sadness and an abused child? Kristen Houghton offers some tips.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Celebrating Kwanzaa

Reflecting upon African ancestry, unity and values

Kwanzaa is the Swahili word for "first fruits." And just like a joyous harvest, it's a time for celebration. Guided by the seven traditional principles known as Nguzo Saba, Kwanzaa starts on Dec. 26 and is a week of reflection on African ancestry, unity and values. The holiday is observed annually by more than 18 million people throughout the United States, Canada, England and the Caribbean.

Maulana Ron Karenga, now a professor of black studies at California State University, Long Beach, came up with the idea for Kwanzaa in 1966 as a way to restore a sense of connection with African culture.

When someone greets you by saying, "Habari gani?" they're asking you what's new. And during Kwanzaa, the answer is always the honored principle of the day.

The first principle of Kwanzaa, Umoja, stands for unity. On Dec. 26, the day is set aside to resolve family or community problems and find ways for everyone to pull together.

Kujichagulia is the second principle, and its translation is "self-determination." Dec. 27 is dedicated to the need for living and speaking for oneself and to be true to what one knows is right. To live the value of Kujichagulia, families can explore their African heritage through culture, language and history. It's a time to learn more about the historical events that helped define culture (e.g. the civil rights movement in the United States).

The third day of Kwanzaa is based on Ujima, collective work and responsibility. On this day, people of color can help each other accomplish chores, and join with the community to complete area projects.

The principle of Ujamaa, or cooperative economics, helps build strong financial foundations. Shopping in black-owned stores or sharing skills are great ways to celebrate Ujamaa.

As people of color affirm Nia, they reinvigorate their sense of purpose. They respect their individual goals, as well as those of others. Values and the traditions of the past are honored.

Dec. 31 is dedicated to Kuumba, or creativity, and African arts take center stage. The festivities include reading poetry, telling folk tales, and performing traditional dances.

On Jan. 1, the principle of faith is honored.

As the holiday of Kwanzaa closes and the new year begins, people of African ancestry come together in pride and self-worth. A feast, called Karamu, is served and homemade gifts, Zawadi, are shared.

Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrating the legacies of the past and the remembrance of the struggles. And always, it is about pride, courage and hope for the future.

Related: The Official Kwanzaa Website

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A special day brought two faiths together

About Christmas and Hanukkah

On Sunday, for the first time in 46 years, Christmas and the start of Hanukkah fell on the same day.

On Dec. 25, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians maintain that Jesus, the son of God, was born of a man - a Jewish man - to suffer and die on the cross to take away the sins of the world.

The word Christmas comes from the words Cristes maesse, or "Christ's Mass." Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus for members of the Christian religion. Most historians peg the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D.

Meanwhile, at sundown on Sunday, Jews began their celebration of Hanukkah - the festival of lights. Hanukkah (also commonly spelled Chanukah) means "rededication" in Hebrew. The holiday, in part, honors the Maccabees, a family who successfully fought for Jewish independence from their oppressors (the Selucid Greek government) in the second century B.C. The Hanukkah observance continues through Jan. 1.

According to various demographic sources, there are nearly 2 billion Christians in a total world population of 5.5 billion. The total world population of Jews is estimated between 13 million and 14.5 million.

When Hanukkah and Christmas are celebrated on the same day, it's natural to wonder how the two major faiths are intertwined. The earliest Christian were, in fact, Jews. For that reason, the relationship wasn't something they had to ponder 2,000 years ago. Their faith was developing as they lived it.

(Many people prefer to concentrate on more secular celebrations of Christmas. Others blend the religious aspects with the secular. To learn more about secular traditions, click here.)

Related: Chanukah, Christmas

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Remembering the Christmas miracle and the treasure of friendship

Today is the day I remember the prophesy of peace - and the reason for the season of Christmas. It is also a time to be thankful for friends.


Dear Lord,
Thank you for a special gift,
one that cannot be bought
for any amount of money.

Thank you for a gift wrapped in beauty,
that is wonderful in all seasons and times.

Thank you for a gift that is always near
in times of need
and brings great joy.

Thank you for the gift that sparkles
with freshness every day.

Thank you for my friend.
May I never take this gift for granted.

(by John C. Maxwell)

C H R I S T M A S !

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Examining the funding gap in education

Low-income and children of color shortchanged in many states

Most states significantly shortchange poor and minority children when it comes to funding the schools they attend, according to a report released today by the Education Trust.

Nationally, we spend about $900 less per pupil on students educated in our nation’s poorest school districts than those educated in the wealthiest. Worst yet, in some states, this funding gap exceeds $1,000 per pupil.

The problem is widespread. In 27 of 49 states studied, the school districts serving the highest concentrations of poor students spend less per pupil than the lowest-poverty districts. The dollar figures in this analysis were not adjusted for the extra costs of educating low-income students.

The Education Trust also analyzed funding data by applying a widely used 40-percent adjustment to account for the additional costs of educating low-income students.

When this adjustment is applied, the funding gap between high- and low-poverty districts grows to more than $1,400 per student, and the number of states with funding inequities increases to 38 states.

Under-funding is also pervasive in districts educating the most minority students: In 30 states, the school districts serving concentrations of minority students spend less per pupil than the districts that educate few children of color; when the numbers are adjusted to account for the extra costs of educating the low-income students these districts serve, 35 states have minority funding gaps.

This annual analysis of school funding focuses on the money that state and local governments provide to school districts by looking at data for the 2002-03 school year, the latest year for which such financial data are available. The report focuses on state and local policies because these jurisdictions, rather than the federal government, control more than 90 percent of the dollars received by public schools, and they bear the lion’s share of the responsibility to close these gaps.

“In far too many states, we see once again that the children who need the most from our schools receive the least,” said Ross Wiener, policy director of the Education Trust. “While the federal government should spend more on education, this can’t be used as an excuse for states to ignore their discriminatory education funding policies.

"The fact that we still are talking about funding gaps shows a lack of political will to do what’s right.”

The Education Trust report acknowledged that providing more money to schools does not, by itself, guarantee gains in student achievement. Rather, the money must be spent wisely on resources proven to increase student learning, such as hiring qualified teachers and providing extra support to struggling students.

“This nation has embraced the goal of ensuring that every child – no matter their color, family background, or socioeconomic status – will receive an education that allows them to compete in a rapidly changing global economy,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust.

“Indeed, there are districts and schools all across the nation that are educating students to high-levels daily without additional dollars,” Haycock said. “But if we are to truly fulfill our promise to educate all students, we need to ensure that school systems have the resources they need to get the job done. We’ve got to abandon school-funding practices that consistently give poor and minority kids less than their fair share.”

Some states, like Illinois, stand out for being particularly unfair when it comes to funding schools. Illinois continues to have one of the biggest funding gaps in the country, at a whopping $2,065 per student, without adjusting for the additional costs of educating low-income students. And the state has made no progress in closing this gap since at least 1997.

New York also stands out for neglecting to fairly fund poor and minority school districts. New York spends $2,280 less per student in its poorest districts than its does on students educated in its wealthiest school districts. Even after New York was ordered to deal with these funding gaps, policymakers have failed to take action.

“Even relatively small gaps add up to big inequalities for poor and minority children,” said Haycock. Take for example, a state like Colorado, which has a gap of $101 per student between its highest- and lowest-poverty districts. If Colorado closed its funding gap, a typical low-income high school of 1,500 students would have an additional $151,500 to fund school improvements.

Some states are taking a serious look at their funding gaps and are working to close them, the report notes. Maryland, for example, appointed a bipartisan commission to examine education funding. The commission recommended large infusions of new money in the highest-poverty school districts, and the state’s political leaders are working to carry out those recommendations.

“Shortchanging the educational needs of students growing up in poverty has always been immoral,” Haycock said. “But these deep inequities in resources are absolutely untenable in the face of the demands of the 21st-century economy. How can we, as a nation, profess to care so much about poor kids and kids of color and then give them less of everything they need to succeed in school?

“Fortunately, policymakers in some states are making the right choices and putting money behind their convictions,” she said. “But, as this report shows, most still have a long way to go.”

The Education Trust's 11-page special report is available online as a PDF document. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the report. If Adobe Acrobat Reader is not installed on your computer, just go to for a free download.

Girls rule: Taking opponents to the mat

Female wrestler makes the grade

Helen Maroulis, 14, a 112-pound freshman, is undefeated in league wrestling matches so far in the 2005 season.

"She’s very technically sound," assistant coach Kevin Phelps says. ‘‘We work on her footwork a lot, and she knows how to scramble well. We try to focus on getting the points early and wherever she can, because she does have some strength issues to overcome."

Maroulis’ "strength issues" derive from the fact that she is one of the few girls wrestling against boys in Montgomery County, MD. Despite the fact that she is wrestling against opponents that, for the most part, weigh the same as she, Maroulis does not have the upper body strength that many of her male counterparts have. While that may be an insurmountable obstacle for other wrestlers, Maroulis has learned how to use her opponents preconceived notions to her advantage.

Maroulis often demonstrates her ability to pin her opponents. In the photo above, taken at a recent meet, she's the student on top.

"Some people just really don't like wrestling girls," she says. "I think some guys get psyched out, but I don't know. I don't really care. I like the competition." As Chay Rao reports, Helen Maroulis may be on the vanguard of a new generation of girls who have entered the formerly male-dominated sport of wrestling.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent design follow-up

Court ruling won't stop the battle, experts say

Supporters of the concept of "intelligent design" will find new ways to advance their cause to have it taught in U.S. schools despite a major setback this week, experts on both sides say.
In a strongly-worded court ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Jones said teaching intelligent design violated a constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools. The decision was a blow to Christian conservatives who have pressed for the teaching of creationism in schools but opponents and supporters of the concept said it could also energize and spread the campaign to put it on the curriculum.

Intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are so complex that they must have been the work of an unnamed creator rather than the result of random natural selection, as argued by Charles Darwin in his 1859 theory of evolution. Opponents argue it is a thinly disguised version of creationism -- a belief that the world was created by God as described in the Book of Genesis - which the Supreme Court has ruled may not be taught in public schools.

In his ruling that the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania acted illegally by including intelligent design in ninth-grade biology classes, the judge condemned the "breathtaking inanity" of the policy of the school board, all but one of whom have now been ousted by local voters. The San Jose Mercury News provides its take on the court ruling in this editorial.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Court rejects 'intelligent design' in science class

Six-week trial drew national attention

A federal judge said on Tuesday the teaching of intelligent design by Pennsylvania's Dover Area School District violated the constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools. Judge John Jones, in a 139-page ruling, said, "The defendant's ID (intelligent design) policy violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States."

Jones banned the school district from any future implementation of the policy in Dover schools. The district was sued by a group of 11 parents who claimed the intelligent design policy was unconstitutional and unscientific and had no place in science classrooms. CNN has the details.

Related: How intelligent design works

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Closing the achievement gap for young students

How teachers can make a difference

A new study provides evidence that for kindergarten children at risk for problems in first grade, strong interactions with their teachers appear to help reduce the achievement gap. In a recent commentary, Bridget K. Hamre and Robert C. Pianta explore effective ways for closing gaps between students of varying demographic, experiential and developmental backgrounds. The commentary, Closing the Achievement Gap - One Teacher at a Time, appears in the journal Teachers College Record.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Brainy babies, or the next generation of couch potatoes?

Educational value of toddler tech toys questioned

Many video games, computer-software titles and DVDs advertised as "educational" for infants and toddlers, have not been proven to increase either the IQ or cognitive abilities of preschool children. That's the conclusion of a new study funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Glenn Lovell writes that these games and DVDs may be "less effective in educating very young children" than what they are replacing: one-on-one time with parents. Lovell explores the issue in the San Jose Mercury News.

Via Media by Sistrunk

Tags: Technology, Children, Parenting, Culture, Early Childhood Education, Education,

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Zula Patrol: A launch pad for learning

PBS science program for young children is funny and educational

A group of animated aliens travel the galaxies to learn new and exciting things about science and space exploration. This is the story behind the "The Zula Patrol," a science/astronomy TV show for children pre-kindergarten through second grade.

The program delivers both astronomy-based science education (orbits, eclipses, moon phases, asteroids, comets, gravity), as well as character-building lessons. It provides a dynamic, focused and fun learning experience for children, while encouraging them to think innovatively and approach problems evenhandedly. The official website for The Zula Patrol offers classroom resources for teachers and students - and home versions of these tools for parents. More from Yahoo News/AP.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Study backs benefits of preschool

Innovative program prepares children for kindergarten

The journal Developmental Psychology has published new research suggesting that Oklahoma's pre-kindergarten program is a success at helping kids prepare for school. Oklahoma is one of the few states to offer preschool to every four-year-old. Gains are reported for kids across the board.

Oklahoma's early childhood program is unusual because it is staffed by well-educated, well-trained, and well-paid teachers receiving regular public school salaries. Michelle Trudeau reports for National Public Radio.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Speaking Spanish at school

Student gets a rude awakening - suspension

Sixteen-year-old Zach Rubio (pictured here, bottom right) speaks like most kids. He embraces the slang of his generation and talks clearly in unaccented English. But Zach is also fluent in his dad's native language, Spanish. Speaking a few words of Spanish led to Zach getting suspended from school. The Washington Post has the story.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Report: American schools put too little emphasis on science prep

Science standards are too low in many states, officials say

According to a new study, many states are doing a poor job of setting high academic standards for science in public schools. The study, released this week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggests that No Child Left Behind, the federal education mandate, puts emphasis on reading and math at the expense of science. The report says that when it comes to science, American students are not getting enough preparation to stay competitive with peers in other countries. Academic and corporate leaders are expressing a need to improve science prep and expand the talent pool. Details from the New York Times.

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Great expectations for student achievement

In pursuit of academic victories

Few victories are more important than raising expectations. Sadly, we still have some educators, parents, and community leaders who don't believe that poor youngsters and children of color can learn as well as their white privileged peers. For those schools, it can be difficult to convince students that education offers their best opportunity for a better life.

"It doesn't take much effort to learn to have low expectations of poor people and people of color," says Martin Haberman. "All you have to do is grow up in American society, and you've built them in."

As Robin Flanigan writes, if school leaders don't believe in students, then students won't believe in themselves. Flanigan's report appears in the December American School Board Journal.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Higher Education Act

Funding postsecondary education

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Higher Education Act, the piece of legislation that created the federal government's large scale involvement in funding postsecondary education for lower income citizens. By most measurements, the results of that involvement have been revolutionary, with the number of colleges, universities, and vocational schools growing rapidly, and the percentage of Americans with some higher education expanding greatly as well.

In 1960, 7.7 percent of Americans held a bachelor's degree or higher; in 2000, that number was 24.4 percent. In 2002, a majority of the population -- 55.2 percent -- had attended some college, while in 1967 only 22.9 percent had done so. According to the Census Bureau, the increase in educational achievement between the late sixties and the early part of this decade accounts for 93 percent of the average gain in family income over that period.

For more information on federal student aid, for tips on how to establish high expectations for students as early as middle school, and for assistance in planning for higher education academically and financially, visit The site, called Adventures in Education, provides content for students and parents, beginning at the middle school level. TG provides this Web site as a public service to help all families and students achieve their educational and career dreams.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; Postsecondary Educational Opportunity Newsletter

Via Black

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Remembering Pearl Harbor

Survivors recall chilling moments that pulled the U.S. into World War II

On Dec. 7, 1941, a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu, Hawaii, lasted two hours, leaving 21 U.S. ships heavily damaged and 323 aircraft damaged or destroyed. The attack killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178.

Today, 64 years later, Pearl Harbor survivors will join community leaders and guests for a moment of silence - and to honor the battleship Arizona, which remains submerged under water with the bodies of soldiers still aboard. A survivor recalls that "day of infamy" in the Arizona Republic.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Podcast: 2005 Word of the Year

Rest of the world catches up with techies

The Oxford University Press, publishers of the New Oxford American Dictionary, has selected podcast as the Word of the Year for 2005. Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary, said: "Podcast was considered for inclusion last year, but we found that not enough people were using it, or were even familiar with the concept. This year it's a completely different story. The word has finally caught up with the rest of the iPod phenomenon."

For the complete story, just click on the header above (Podcast: 2005 Word of the Year).

Reading, writing and raising kids

The changing face of public education

Public schools have more than just a focus on academic achievement. They have clearly evolved into public child-rearing institutions. Public schools now provide before-school programs, breakfasts, lunches, after-school care, afternoon snacks and sometimes dinners (as well as summertime meals). They also instruct children about sex and, in many places, teach them to drive. They face growing pressure to take tots as early as age 3 in pre-kindergarten programs.

They share responsibility for keeping children off drugs, making sure they don't carry weapons, instilling ethical behavior, battling alcohol abuse, tackling child obesity, heading off violence, and providing a refuge for homeless children. Certainly, schools are now providing services in ways not anticipated a generation ago.

How do we manage these hybrid institutions so that both nonacademic and academic programs get a fair shake? A recent story in the Washington Post offers some suggestions.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

In praise of child labor

Why chores are good for our kids

If you're like Patrick Boyle, you had a lot of family responsibilities when you grew up. You probably did your fair share of setting the table, washing dishes, raking leaves and cleaning bathrooms. Perhaps you cared for younger siblings or painted the house. We learned important lessons from these experiences.

Now that we're older, we realize that our parents weren't mean. They were right. It's good for children to have chores. Chores build good work habits, discipline and character. Youngsters respond well to having real responsibilities that matter. Boyle writes more in the Maryland Gazette.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Girl credited with raising $5 million for Katrina families

Effort received national and international attention

A 10-year old Iowa girl is credited with helping to raise $5 million for hurricane victims. The child conceived a fundraising idea several months ago and set a goal of $1 million. Students from thousands of schools across the country also helped to raise money for the project. Thanks to the concerted effort, five times the original amount is now available to assist victims of Katrina and Rita. The Des Moines Register is following this story.

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Mean girls: The follow-up

Educator recounts how she was tormented in high school

A few days ago (Nov. 26), we examined a disturbing trend - increased frequency of bullying, verbal abuse and outright violence among girls. The post conjured up memories for Jaimie, a teacher and publisher of Life Is Hilarious.

Many of Jaimie's high school memories are less than funny. She vividly recounts her experiences with mean girls. Jaimie tells how being pretty and smart made her the target of harassment by schoolmates. Read her powerful story, Stuck and Unfinished.

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