Friday, June 29, 2012

US News and World Report Rankings Need Changes

There have been a lot of questions about the new college rankings, particularly what sort of methodology was used to assess hundreds of schools throughout the country. Although there's an entire school of thought on the efficacy of the rankings themselves, these criteria should at the very least be modified. One of the key criteria that should be factored into these rankings is post-graduation statistics, namely what students are doing from these prestigious colleges after they graduate.
Much information could be gleaned by adding an additional category on post-graduation employment and/or statistics on graduate school entry. Adding an additional category would reflect a college's ultimate purpose, i.e. providing employment opportunities and/or graduate program opportunities.
There are two reasons why adding this criteria into the rankings would be helpful: (1) this information would show the public exactly what the graduates do after college, and (2) it would create an incentive for colleges to improve their career services and graduate program counseling. If a parent were comparing two top schools, let's say Cornell University and Washington University in St. Louis (both ranked 12th respectively), would it not serve the public well to know which school provides its graduates better career opportunities and/or graduate program opportunities?
Further, colleges have for generations been adjusting their core curriculum and admissions based on the U.S. News rankings. Whether this is a good or bad thing could be debated for just as long. However, if parents are going to spend 40 to 50 thousand dollars per year on their son or daughter's education, it would be helpful to know what exactly their son or daughter will do after graduation.
The U.S. News Rankings do provide valuable information on colleges, both public, private, as well as liberal arts and graduate schools. But the methodology could be improved with additional criteria like graduation statistics specific to employment and further education pursued by students. This addition would create major incentives to improve student resources, would give valuable information to parents and students and lastly, would provide a greater ability for parents to differentiate these schools.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Three Important Things About Online Sex Education

These days many people are turning to the internet to learn about sex. For people who are embarrassed to talk about sex, scared to ask questions or uncomfortable with the idea of asking someone in person, the internet provides the anonymity they crave. The privacy the internet affords us is one of the most beneficial aspects when it comes to getting information about sexuality and sexual health.
That is the good news. The bad news is there is no shortage of websites that contain inaccurate and sometimes even false information, especially when it comes to sex. Put the words "sex education" in a search engine and more websites that can be counted will come up. How does someone sort the good from the bad? How can someone tell if the information is accurate or not? It can certainly be confusing as someone with questions tries to navigate the waters of the internet. Getting the wrong information can be disastrous. A website that only discusses abstinence for example would not give someone looking for condoms use the information they need and that may lead to unprotected sex. Unprotected sex may lead to unplanned pregnancy or STD infection.
If you are considering looking online for answers to your questions about sexuality or sexual health you may want to keep the following in mind:
First, find out all you can about the website you are viewing. Look at the "About" section. If there is no "About" section that might be a bad sign to begin with. A reputable website will tell you why they are qualified to give information, who their experts are and their credentials.
Second, be wary of websites pushing their own agenda. Some organizations are more about pushing their own values than giving accurate information. You can tell a lot about a website or company's perspective by checking out who funds them and their presentation. If they seem biased, they probably are. Using scare tactics, guilt and shame are not good educational tools.
Third, look for websites that back up their information with scientific research and/or experts in the field of sexuality. Many people get online and call themselves sex educators but not all of them actually studied sexuality as a discipline. Government websites like the CDC are excellent for getting statistics and information about HIV for example and they are continuously posting new research and data.
As a consumer you have the right to questions where information comes from as well as how accurate the information is. Information about sexuality and sexual health is no different and being proactive will help ensure you get the information you need.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How To Read and Listen to Nutrition News With an Educated Point Of View

One day you are told that eating certain foods are extremely bad for you so you swear off those foods and eat what the news recommends instead. Then a few months later you read a report about how your new favorite food is also bad for you health! How are you supposed to believe the news when they hop from one belief to the next? The advice from one day is no longer valid and it can leave you feeling betrayed and searching for something else that may just change in a few months again.
Sometimes results from a single study are presented as fact when actually the results of a single study don't prove or disprove anything! But they are still presented to you anywase as a new fact that you need to know.
Here are a few things to look for when you are learning about your new tidbit of nutrition information to keep you safe from switching your diet completely to something that is just as unhealthy.
1. The study should be published in a peer reviewed journal as an unpublished study or one from a non credible source may not be as official. If it has been challenged or reviewed by experts in the field then give more weight to the study then if it has not.
2. Learn if the study was done over a long period of time, how many people were involved, and whether there was direct contact between participants and researchers.
If the study was done for 1 week, with 10 people, and they collected their data over the phone then it may not be an exact science as if it was done for 30 years, with 50,000 people, and closely monitored. You get my drift; just be wary of short term studies that claim wild things.
3. If the study was done with humans then take into account the similarity they have to you. Meaning if they are 30 years you're senior, non-active, and a different gender than you, then you may not be as affected or you may be more affected then they are. Take into consideration your differences.
4. Has there been previous research about the topic? Are there other studies to back up this study or is this the first of its kind?
Meaning is this constant throughout time or is it because of factors from this time period and situation.
5. Does this make sense to me? If the study tells you that margarine is bad for your heart you have to wonder if the amount of margarine in the study is the same as the amount you eat. Do you eat enough to have it affect your heart?
The point I am trying to make is that you have to take in your nutrition news with a critical eye and not allow yourself to jump on the bandwagon because of one study reported to you in a way that makes you think you have to change or suffer the consequences. Take into consideration all of these things and let your common sense as well as solid proof decide what is healthy for you.

Friday, June 8, 2012

No to More Prisons, and Yes to More Education & Job Creation

Recently, the Jamaica Observer published an article: "Build new prisons to fight crime, says Wayne Chen." Immediately, I was compelled to respond to said article.
I don't think the US model is the best model for fighting/reducing crimes. Is Mr. Chen going to promote private (for profit) penitentiaries, too, for Jamaica? Yes, he's pushing for privatization of prisons. I recommend that Mr. Chen do further research - researching other countries' models (including those with a homogeneous culture/society); unless, of course, his findings are solely motivated by profits/personal gain versus the public good (Jamaica's).
Mr. Chen's ideas could easily lead to abuses such as the "jailing kids for cash" scandal that took place in Pennsylvania years ago.
We need to tackle the problem at its root, in part, the politics (or politricks). If not, Jamaica will end up becoming an island prison due to profitable prison expansions buoyed by foreign investments, of course. We have to find a way to pay (starting with the usurious interest rate) for the loans borrowed from IMF and the World Bank, don't we?
And, of course, Mr. Chen could research on how to create more jobs for the educated jobless youth of Jamaica. Jamaica needs more Penn States (plus job creation) than state pens. The US model is a fiscal failure since it takes more money to finance a prisoner than it would take to educate said prisoner at Harvard (see Prison Policy's "Education and Incarceration" thesis).
Jamaica - my Jamaica - the land of my birth deserves better than Mr. Chen's half-baked ideas; ideas floating around in New York and California by the growing private corrections business interest group (see Newsweek's "Classrooms or Prison Cells" & "How the Recession Hurts Private Prisons"). If I'm not mistaken, last February, Mr. Chen was invited to one of these conferences held in Los Angeles, California.
Moreover, according to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, "poverty is the mother of crime." Therefore, let's tackle the mother before tackling the child. If not, the mother will only produce another child and another child and another child. In other words, you tackle the mother with education and job creation, instead of tackling the child with incarceration (only).
Remember, a for profit prison system needs a steady stream of prisoners (year after year) to be successful and profitable for its shareholders. For the public good (Jamaica's good), we don't need a successful for profit corrections system with a very bright future - not in my Jamaica - the land of my birth.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Educational Toys

Pick "Any public School USA", walk into a classroom and listen to what the teacher has to say. It seems as though they all read from the same script, "too many children in the classroom, not enough supplies, student's do not sit quietly and focus on learning, too many unruly students and of course, not enough pay".
Like you I have read many articles from newspapers to magazines and have heard the reporters from TV news to radio talk shows and it all sounds the same, "Spending more money on a broken system will not fix the problem, it will make it bigger". So what can be done? If money can't fix the problem that what can? Parents...
U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that the number of stay-at-home moms is increasing each year. However, stay-at-home moms aren't the only ones concerned. According to a 2002 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, "stay-at-home" dads numbered 189,000. Although this number does not compare to the approximate 11 million "stay-at-home moms" the trend of one parent staying at home and raising their children is on the increase. Many parents like yourself are genuinely concerned and are taking control of their children's future.
Because there is nothing that can replace the bond between parent and child, parents need to know that a child's brain development is most affected from infancy - 6 years of age. It is also the ages in which parents will learn and understand their child's individual abilities and capacity for learning. As parents make crucial investments of quality bonding time with their children especially in this age group, they will be preparing their children for what lies ahead.
The most natural way for children to learn is simply by playing. As children play, their young minds are stimulated which encourages them to interact and explore the world around them. Their play is actually preparing them for future tasks and adulthood. Research as well as news reports have found that educational toys increases a child's ability to learn by challenging their thinking, expanding their imagination, stimulation their creativity and developing their physical abilities while having fun.
As more parents grasp the idea of educational play as well as increased personal interaction with their children, we will all enjoy the benefits. It is much wiser and cost effective to invest into a child's life today than to address the problems later in life that could have possibly been avoided. Parenting is a process that begins at infancy, it may not always be easy but it certainly can be fun. So parents, it's time to take control of your children's future, turn off the TV spend time with them, interact with them and train them. This is the only way that the public school crisis can be fixed.
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