Archive for February 13th, 2009

The straight scoop regarding public high school dropouts

| February 13, 2009 | 2 Replies
The straight scoop regarding public high school dropouts

Aimee Levitt has written a terrific article on the high dropout rate among public high school students, using the local St. Louis school district to illustrate a national problem. Her article, which appears in the St. Louis Riverfront Times, is entitled “Class Conscious: St. Louis educators are desperately seeking ways to get kids back in school.”

Consider the following:

  • In the United States, one student drops out of high school every 9 seconds.
  • On average, dropouts earn $10,000 less per year than workers with high school diplomas.
  • Dropouts are much more likely to be unemployed, recipients of government assistance, imprisoned or suffering from poor health.

Here in St. Louis, 22% of the public high school students drop out every year. This means that half of the students who started ninth grade this year will have dropped out by the time their class graduates.

Levitt’s well-written article documents the scope and depth of the problem. She also profiles many of the people working hard for the children. One of these people is Terry Houston, of Roosevelt high school. Two years ago, when he became principal, there were “38 known gangs in the building” and “attendance was less than 60%.” That is the extent of the problem, a problem that Houston has had some success in addressing, according to Levitt.

A wide-ranging solution will require the work of numerous people, of course, including people who run GED programs, education reformers from City Hall, case managers for social services, educators to run alternative programs for children who have already dropped out, and, of course, the parents of the students, many of whom are maintaining lifestyles that all-but-guarantee that their children will fall into similar dyfunctional lifestyles.

Levitt’s story is detailed and disturbing, but it also offers us some reasons to think that we can actually do better than we have been doing. After all, real human lives are at stake when we allow children to drop out of school. If that is not reason to use Herculean effort to change the system, what is?

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Australian dust storm

| February 13, 2009 | Reply
Australian dust storm

I don’t know if this 2007 dust storm occurred close to Hanks house–maybe he can comment. But this dust storm is dramatic. I’m never seen anything like it. I hope these guys brought along some extra air filters for their car . . .

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Boy monkeys prefer boy toys

| February 13, 2009 | 1 Reply
Boy monkeys prefer boy toys

There’s no gender socialization in monkeys, right? Then why are the boy monkeys (vervets and rhesus) preferring “boy” toys to “girl” toys? The two sets of experiments have been reported by Psychology Today:

In 2002, Gerianne M. Alexander of Texas A&M University and Melissa Hines of City University in London stunned the scientific world by showing that vervet monkeys showed the same sex-typical toy preferences as humans. In an incredibly ingenious study, published in Evolution and Human Behavior, Alexander and Hines gave two stereotypically masculine toys (a ball and a police car), two stereotypically feminine toys (a soft doll and a cooking pot), and two neutral toys (a picture book and a stuffed dog) to 44 male and 44 female vervet monkeys. They then assessed the monkeys’ preference for each toy by measuring how much time they spent with each. Their data demonstrated that male vervet monkeys showed significantly greater interest in the masculine toys, and the female vervet monkeys showed significantly greater interest in the feminine toys. The two sexes did not differ in their preference for the neutral toys.

I wish they had reported the actual results in this short article. They did report that the boy rhesus monkey preference for “boy” toys was “strong and significant.”

See also, this related post: Boys’ Toys

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