What are they thinking?

This is a familiar cry of bewildered parents trying to understand why their kids can’t read and write effectively, but are receiving good grades in school.  What is going on in the classroom?  Why aren’t American kids learning today?  These are some of the real questions that I want to start addressing on this site.  Back in the day, it was only the disadvantaged kids that weren’t learning.  Now the problem has crept into the middle-class, and upper middle-class.

I would love to hear your input, and your life experiences.  This blog hopes to address the real issues that no one ever talks about.  Let’s talk about accountability.  If our children are not learning in the classroom and their skill level has not improved what happens?  Far too often, kids are labeled “Special Ed” or “learning disabled” because they can’t reach the bench marks.  Is this a reflection of the students’ ability or inability to learn, or is this a reflection of a failed educational system.

Coincidentally, Special Education is one area that has really grown in the last decade.  This is a reflection of not only poor instruction and an ineffective classroom model, but also a reflection of the foods our children are consuming, and the lifestyle that has evolved with the computer age.  Mass quantities of corn-syrup are pumped into most of the juices on the shelves today.  If you’re not reading the label your children and family are probably consuming very unhealthy levels of toxic sugar that will ultimately affect their health and ability to reason and think clearly.  It also creates an environment where your children are more susceptible to illness, obesity and hyper activity, and an inability to focus or think clearly.

Just yesterday I heard on PBS that a group of doctors wanted to have sugar classified as a toxic substance.  Apparently, if one consumes mass quantities of sugar it has devastating effects to your body and mind.  These are very serious consequences.

According to the “New York Times”, Sunday Review- (January 28, 2012 issue), three million children in this country take drugs for problems related to focusing.  Towards the end of last year, many of their parents were deeply alarmed because there was a shortage of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, that they considered absolutely essential to their children’s functioning.

In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder.  Why do we, as a nation of people, rely on these drugs so heavily?  Attention –deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams.  But- when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems.  The drugs can also have serious effects, including stunting growth.

Many children today need instruction that is meaningful.  For example, they need to work core skills that they do not know.  They need to have a variety of learning activities (practice), to help them learn the skill and internalize it without becoming bored.  They need to feel they are doing meaningful work that is helping them actually learn something substantial.  The lessons should not be abstract.  Old school teaching has a straight forward approach.  Most importantly they need to be in a nurturing environment, where they feel valued and appreciated.  This learning environment needs to be clean, safe and quiet enough to think and learn.

Stay tuned for more, and thanks you for reading!!


Denise J. Mastro


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