The Perfect Gift: Does mindfulness matter?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series The Perfect Gift

Hands forming a heart shapeDo you wait until the last minute to decide what to buy for holiday gifts? Or, have you been thinking about it for months, carefully compiling your list of just the right gifts for just the right people?

The second approach requires mindfulness. I don’t mean the traditional Buddhist practice (though that might help). Rather, I’m referring to being thoughtful about gift giving.

“Being mindful about gift giving,” writes psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell, “means paying attention to the whys behind the gift, looking anew at how we give, and questioning preconceived or traditional ideas of giving. Being mindful requires us to reconsider what we think we know about giving and adapt in ways that match our family’s values.”

Price-Mitchell says we develop “giving identities” during childhood and adolescence. So, being mindful about gift giving as an adult means reflection and introspection about gift giving when we were young.

It also means being conscious to the giving identities we intentionally or unintentionally create in our children.

“Parents can help children and adolescents become more mindful about gift giving simply by encouraging them to think, voice their thoughts, and then act on them,” says Price-Mitchell. “Parents have ample opportunities to ask open-ended questions that engage children in conversations about giving.”

Are you a mindful gift giver?
What did gift giving mean when you were growing up?
What giving identities to you instill in your children?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Hopes for Children: Why are parents in rich nations pessimistic?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

Rising affluence usually translates into optimism about the future. One of the chief findings from the vast World Values Surveys is that economic development generally elevates happiness, well-being, and satisfaction with life.

Why, then, are so many people in affluent societies pessimistic about their children’s future?

The majority of Americans and Europeans don’t believe today’s children will be better off financially than their parents, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. In fact, the citizens of most of the countries with advanced economies are pretty gloomy about their children’s prospects. Conversely, the citizens of many emerging-market societies see a bright future for their children.

The reason for these differences is the rate of economic development. This is shown clearly in this graph from Pew. Those who live in nations with the fastest GDP growth are optimistic about their children’s future. China and Vietnam are prime examples. Nations with slow growth (like the US) or negative growth (like Italy or Spain) exhibit lots of pessimism.

Other factors matter, of course. Argentineans, Lebanese, and Tanzanians are experiencing fast GDP growth, but they are less optimistic than they should be, given their rate of economic change. Conversely, Ukrainians have experienced negative economic growth but they are more optimistic than nations with similar economic experiences.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future prospects of today’s children?

Are your surprised that so many people in affluent societies are pessimistic about their children’s future?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Children’s Values: Just how much curiosity do we want?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Colorado school students protest conservative curriculum

Click this collage of headlines to jump to the Los Angeles Times story.

“Curiosity” is a good value to teach our children, millions of Americans agree—however, the Pew report we are examining this week shows that liberals and conservatives are likely to disagree on its relative importance.

The eruption of protests among students and teachers in a suburb of Denver, this week, may reflect this difference. Pew did not ask specifically about the Colorado case, but a political split over “curiosity” appears to be part of the Colorado conflict.

THE NEW  YORK TIMES REPORTS, in part: “ARVADA, Colo.—A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience. On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.”

The students are concerned about more than “curiosity,” but their comments in national news media make it clear that their desire to be curious is a prime motivation. In the hundreds of news reports streaming out of Colorado, teenagers are quoted as saying that they want to ask probing questions in their American history classes. They are wary of being taught from textbooks that they fear may be slanted, now, toward conservative viewpoints on our history.

PEW FOUND—Liberals are much more likely than conservatives to value curiosity as a quality they would like to see in children, according to the new Pew survey we’ve been consulting this week. Over eight of ten consistently liberals (86%) say that curiosity is especially important for to teach children. A third say it is among the most important values. Just over half of consistently conservative Americans (55%) say that curiosity is a very important value for children, with 6% saying that it is among the most important.

What do you think about the school protest this week?

Do you think the protests are motivated partly by curiosity—or other motives?

How would you resolve the Colorado conflict?

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Categories: Critical PatriotismFreedom

Children’s Values: More Common Ground than You Think?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Wayne Baker United America front cover

AMERICANS SHARE MORE VALUES THAN YOU MIGHT THINK. That’s the message drawn from nationwide research that went into my book “United America.” Click on the cover to learn more about this book.

Americans generally agree about several values that are especially important to teach our children. “Being responsible” is #1, as we discussed yesterday. What other values are also widely considered to be essential?

As a reminder, here are the 12 values the Pew Research Center asked about in their recent survey of the nation:

  • Curiosity
  • Religious faith
  • Obedience
  • Tolerance
  • Persistence
  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Independence
  • Being well-mannered
  • Helping others
  • Being responsible
  • Hard work

Half of these 12 values are widely considered to be especially important to teach children. After responsibility, “hard work” is part of the common ground. At one end of the political spectrum, 95% of consistently conservative Americans say that hard work is one of the most important values to instill in children, with 44% naming it as the most important. At the other end, 82% of consistently liberal Americans agree, with 26% naming hard works is the most important value.

Large majorities of Americans across political lines also say that “being well-mannered” and “helping others” are among the most important qualities for children to learn.

“Independence” is very important to teach children. At least three of four Americans in every political category—from consistent liberals to consistent conservatives—agree that this value is among the most important.

And, “persistence” is a key value. There is somewhat less support for this value, compared to the other five, but at least six of ten Americans in each political category say persistence is among the most important values to teach our children.

Are you surprised to learn that there is so much common ground when it comes to the values we want our children to have?

Would you put these six values—responsibility, hard work, good manners, helping others, independence, and persistence—at the top of your list?

If not, what values do you consider to be more important?

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Categories: Justice and Fairness

Children’s Values: What’s the most important value to teach children?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Classroom photo in Wikimedia

THEY’RE WAITING. WHAT ARE WE TEACHING? (Photo by Anittos, provided via Wikimedia Commons.)

Children learn their basic values at home by observing their parents’ behavior and by talking with them. However, children may or may not learn the values that are the most important to you.

What values or qualities do you think are important to instill in children? Which value is the most important one?

In a new survey, the Pew Research Center asked Americans about the values they believe are especially important to teach children. Before I reveal any findings, consider the following list of 12 values.

Which one is the most important value to teach children?

  • Curiosity
  • Religious faith
  • Obedience
  • Tolerance
  • Persistence
  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Independence
  • Being well-mannered
  • Helping others
  • Being responsible
  • Hard work

(Note that respondents could name up to three values as the most important.)

Here are Pew results: More than nine of ten American adults (93%) say that “being responsible” is especially important to teach children, with more than half (55%) selecting this value as the single most important one. Belief in the importance of teaching responsibility is widespread. Across the political spectrum, from consistently conservative Americans to consistently liberal Americans, responsibility is seen as the most important value to impart to children.

For example, 96% of Americans who are consistently conservative say “being responsible” is important, with well over half (61%) naming it as the most important value to each children. At the other end of the political spectrum, 92% of consistently liberal Americans say “being responsible” is especially important to teach children, with 47% naming it as the most important.

There is even more common ground when it comes to the values that Americans believe are important to teach children, as we’ll discuss tomorrow. Of course, there are also sharp differences along ideological lines, which we’ll cover later in the week.

Do you agree that “being responsible” is most important on this list?
If not, which value tops your list—and why?
What are the top three on your list of qualities children should acquire?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Banned Books: Why are books challenged?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Banned Books
CARE TO READ A FAMOUS CASE STUDY OF BOOK BANNING? On Monday, in Part 1 of this series, I recommended Kevin Birmingham's new book about worldwide response to James Joyce's "Ulysses." Click this cover image to visit the book's Amazon page.

CARE TO READ A FAMOUS CASE STUDY OF BOOK BANNING? On Monday, in Part 1 of this series, I recommended Kevin Birmingham’s new book about worldwide response to James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Click this cover image to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Book censorship is a time-honored tradition. Banning books is alive and well in America today. Today, we consider why books are challenged—the reasons cited by those who attempt to ban books in our schools and libraries.

What do you think is the main reason?

This week, as most of America’s schoolchildren are going back to school, we’ve examined new attempts to ban ‘demonic’ books, the No. 1 banned book in the last 10 years, self-censorship by authors in our climate of surveillance, and the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week this month and 451 Degrees, a high-school book club devoted to reading banned books. (By the way, I asked my son about Captain Underpants, the No. 1 banned book in the last decade. Had he read it in elementary school? “Yes,” he said. “It was kinda funny, but pretty stupid.”)

We conclude this week by considering the reasons why books are challenged.

There have been 5,099 challenges to books from 2000–2009, according to the ALA. Here are the main reasons why books are challenged. (Note that some books are challenged for multiple reasons, so the figures below don’t total 5,099.)

  • “Sexually explicit” material (1,577 challenges)
  • “Offensive language” (1,291 challenges)
  • “Unsuited to age group” (989 challenges)
  • “Violence” (619 challenges)
  • “Homosexuality” (361 challenges)

More challenges are made to books in school libraries than any other place, followed by challenges to books used in classrooms and then books available in public libraries. There are relatively few challenges to books used in college or in academic libraries, according to the ALA.

Are you surprised to learn that “sexually explicit” material is the most commonly made charge?

Of these five reasons, which one is the most important to you?

Which of the five is the least important to you?

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Categories: Critical PatriotismFreedom

Banned Books: How about a book club—for banned books?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Banned Books

Banned Books Week Virtual Read-outPeaceful protest in defense of one’s principles is one of the core American values, as I describe in United America. In the political arena, it’s called critical patriotism. How does this same spirit play out in the literary sphere?

How about a book club devoted to reading only banned or challenged books?

A group of students at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago did just that. They call themselves “451 Degrees” in honor of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury’s book itself has been challenged and banned, which is ironic given that it describes a world where reading is forbidden and books are burned.

Members of 451 Degrees devote themselves to reading books that are challenged, controversial, or banned. The book club and the Lane Tech student body won the Illinois Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Award in 2013 for their protest of The Chicago Public School’s banning of Persepolis, a book by Marjame Satrapi. (Read more about the award here.)

Later this month, the American Library Association (ALA) is hosting its annual Banned Books Week (September 21–27, 2014). If you want to participate, you can. The ALA is inviting readers to make and post videos on the Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel in support of intellectual freedom. You can read from a banned book, or discuss a banned book and what it means to you. Celebrity videos are featured on the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out. (Want to participate? Here’s the Banned Book Week Virtual Readout page with information for participants and links to earlier videos.)

What do you think of the 451 Degrees book club?
Would you support a similar club in your local school?
Do you plan to participate in this year’s Banned Books Week?

Enjoy this brief video that served as the official Banned Book Week Video Trailer last year …

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Categories: Critical PatriotismFreedom