Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning

The University of Mississippi School of Education

GCSEL Blog

Even Mothers’ Milk is in Trouble

Breast milk has long been recommended as the healthiest milk a baby can drink and most advantageous to their health in the first year of life. According to an article published by Vox on July 10, 2018, research has also linked breastfeeding to higher rates of survival during the first year of life, higher intelligence, and lower rates of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes later on. Finally, breastfeeding seems to boost maternal health, reducing the risk of postpartum hemorrhage right after birth; and in the longer term, Type 2 diabetes and breast, uterine and ovarian cancers among mothers.

On July 8ththe New York Times reported that the US delegation to the UN affiliated World Health Assembly sought to water down a resolution scheduled to be passed by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children  The article states that during the deliberations, some American delegates even suggested the United States might cut its contribution to the World Health Organization if the resolution was passed. This opposition comes even after the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.

According to a tweet attributed to President Trump, “The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/09/well/breastfeeding-trump-resolution.html) Critics of this stance point to the malnutrition and poverty in the most impoverished parts of the world and our country as a main reason to encourage women to breast feed. This is due the cost of formula and use of unsanitary water to mix powered milk. Examples such as the Flint, Michigan tragedy where the water had an unhealthy level of lead for years and in underdeveloped countries across the world where no water purification exists illuminate the issue even in the US.

From an economic view, the World Health Organization and partners estimate that global economic losses from lower cognition associated with not breastfeeding reached more than US$ 300 billion in 2012, equivalent to 0.49% of the world’s gross national income.

Why such opposition?  A report published by Common Dreams indicates international delegates to the United Nation’s World Health Assembly reflecting on their recent meeting, felt that U.S. representatives appeared to put the interests of the $70 billion baby food industry ahead of those of parents and children—and pressured other countries to do the same. It has been hypothesized that as baby formula sales have gone down in wealthy countries in recent years, the baby food industry has targeted developing countries with marketing campaigns. A UN resolution passed this spring—despite pushback from the U.S.—aimed to promote breastfeeding around the world.

What determines the policies and interpretation of laws specific to children and families in our country must be held up for examination. The lens through which this occurs is the issue. In this case, is it children’s health or corporate greed?

by Dr. Cathy Grace

 

 

 

Where Is Mr. Rogers When You Need Him?

I did not intend to eavesdrop at the gym, but it was striking that two very athletic young men were having a conversation about Mr. Rogers. Yes, that Mr. Rogers…the guy on television that helped raise generations of children in America. The young men were wishing there was a modern day Mr. Rogers who could make sense of growing up for today’s children as he did for them years ago.

People who followed Fred Rogers know he was a puppeteer and ordained minister who became the host of the TV program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood . What many don’t know is that as a young boy he was shy, suffered from asthma and overweight. Due to his asthma, he was required to stay inside a great deal and felt socially isolated. These early experiences obviously made a lasting impact on how he chose to live his life and shaped his message of the importance of friendship and compatibility with others. Even after his death, his messages of hope, compassion, and acceptance of those different from ourselves is carried on through his center.

In December 1998, in a rare display of anger, Mr. Rogers filed suit against a Texas store for using his likeness on T-shirts, which contained a handgun and the slogan, “Welcome to my ‘hood.” Rogers didn’t simply want the T-shirts discontinued; he wanted them destroyed.  There was no place for violence in his neighborhood and he did not want any confusion about his position. If he was alive today, he would be 90 years old and by all accounts still showing children and their parents an alternative to the meanness we hear and unfortunately see as our children continue to kill one another.

According to a report published in the Washington Post there have been more schoolchildren killed at school this year than military deaths during the same time period. The men who were in conversation at the gym were reminiscing about their childhood experiences and each mentioned how Mr. Rogers set the tone for early socialization in ways their parents couldn’t. He taught young children through puppets and stories about how friends were made and kept, even if they were not always nice or if they looked and acted differently. It was a much gentler time, and authority figures spoke with reason and exercised power through consensus building. During the days of Mr. Rogers, young men and women who were in the armed services were killed doing their duty, fighting in battles for our country, not as high school students going about their daily activities. During the days of Mr. Rogers, young people had disagreements and even came to blows, but with fists, not guns. Sadly, those days are gone. Young people are being killed in greater number on school yards by our own citizens than on battle fields by our enemies.

No one knows what has triggered the actions of the killers who have targeted their peers or what they hoped to accomplish by murdering them. But questions have to be asked “Why this year? “What is different now that is resulting in record numbers of school shootings?” “Are guns easier to get than they were 5 years ago?” Mr. Rogers probably would not attempt to answer the questions posed, but it is safe to say, he would stress the need for additional funding for more mental health services for children, increased supports to families that would reduce domestic violence and addictions such as drugs, alcohol or gambling, and stronger partnerships between parents, physicians and teachers in creating a safe neighborhood like the one Mr. Rogers did all those years ago.

by Dr. Cathy Grace

 

Another Case of Ill-Informed Pronouncements on Education in Mississippi

Bill Crawford has recently written several pieces on how to best train Mississippi’s work force. He makes his point by using the research generated by the Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. James Heckman, who has shown that the greatest return on investment (ROI) in educating the workforce of the future is through high quality early childhood education. I suppose Grant Callen missed that memo since he has now pronounced that pre-kindergarten programs are an entitlement, and not the core of high quality education for children in the state who we hope someday will be productive workers.

Pre-K is an entitlement. Just not the type of entitlement Mr. Callen is trying to disparage. High quality early childhood education is a work force investment tool that is what all Mississippians are entitled to receive. The 13:1 ROI when reviewing life events over time cannot be ignored, especially by Mr. Callen, who has no research of this caliber to support his opinion. The newest data from Professor Heckman and colleagues finds a 13% ROI for comprehensive, high-quality, birth-to-five early education. This research analyzes a wide variety of life outcomes, such as health, crime, income, IQ, schooling, and the increase in a mother’s income after returning to work due to childcare.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a report released in 2017 shows the second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools.  Numerous research reports on school choice that have been generated by all types of think tanks still cannot make the argument for the connection between choice and massive improvements in student outcomes.  For Mr.Callen to try to confuse the two issues is an old trick designed to divide and conquer. This time, the data is not there to support his entitlement claim, other than to say, all children in our state are entitled to a high quality early childhood education. It is the way to support workforce development and keep Mississippi brain power at home.

Mr. Callen writes “School choice is not a silver bullet, but it offers the most promise for the least money and the least amount of effort.” In my opinion, that statement is the best reason anyone could give for dismissing the entire voucher movement. Education does require effort. Education does require money. If Mr. Callen did not think so, he would not have worked to appropriate more funds for vouchers per child to use for choice than the amount the state was willing to fund per pupil for public schools.

by Dr. Cathy Grace

Where is Mr. Rogers When You Need Him?

I did not intend to eavesdrop at the gym last week, but it was striking that two very athletic young men were having a conversation about Mr. Rogers. Yes, that Mr. Rogers…the guy on television that helped raise generations of children in America. The young men were wishing there was a modern day Mr. Rogers who could make sense of growing up for today’s children as he did for them years ago.

People who followed Fred Rogers know he was a puppeteer and ordained minister who became the host of the TV program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood . What many don’t know is that as a young boy he was shy, suffered from asthma and overweight. Due to his asthma, he was required to stay inside a great deal and felt socially isolated. These early experiences obviously made a lasting impact on how he chose to live his life and shaped his message of the importance of friendship and compatibility with others. Even after his death, his messages of hope, compassion, and acceptance of those different from ourselves is carried on through his center.

In December 1998, in a rare display of anger, Mr. Rogers filed suit against a Texas store for using his likeness on T-shirts, which contained a handgun and the slogan, “Welcome to my ‘hood.” Rogers didn’t simply want the T-shirts discontinued; he wanted them destroyed.  There was no place for violence in his neighborhood and he did not want any confusion about his position. If he was alive today, he would be 90 years old and by all accounts still showing children and their parents an alternative to the meanness we hear and unfortunately see as our children continue to kill one another.

According to a report published in the Washington Post there have been more schoolchildren killed at school this year than military deaths during the same time period. The men who were in conversation at the gym were reminiscing about their childhood experiences and each mentioned how Mr. Rogers set the tone for early socialization in ways their parents couldn’t. He taught young children through puppets and stories about how friends were made and kept, even if they were not always nice or if they looked and acted differently. It was a much gentler time, and authority figures spoke with reason and exercised power through consensus building. During the days of Mr. Rogers, young men and women who were in the armed services were killed doing their duty, fighting in battles for our country, not as high school students going about their daily activities. During the days of Mr. Rogers, young people had disagreements and even came to blows, but with fists, not guns. Sadly, those days are gone. Young people are being killed in greater number on school yards by our own citizens than on battle fields by our enemies.

No one knows what has triggered the actions of the killers who have targeted their peers or what they hoped to accomplish by murdering them. But questions have to be asked “Why this year? “What is different now that is resulting in record numbers of school shootings?” “Are guns easier to get than they were 5 years ago?” Mr. Rogers probably would not attempt to answer the questions posed, but it is safe to say, he would stress the need for additional funding for more mental health services for children, increased supports to families that would reduce domestic violence and addictions such as drugs, alcohol or gambling, and stronger partnerships between parents, physicians and teachers in creating a safe neighborhood like the one Mr. Rogers did all those years ago.

by Dr. Cathy Grace

 

Word of the Day: Agnotology

 

Agnotology: The study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt; derived from agnosis, the Greek word for ignorance or “not knowing”.

Stanford University professor Robert Proctor coined the term in his 1995 book(p. 8) that explored the creation and dissemination of false information and intentionally hiding the truth in the interest of power and financial gain.

One example is how the tobacco industry spent billions of dollars to cast doubt on the scientific evidence regarding negative health effects of smoking. It seems to be universally accepted now that smoking has detrimental effects on one’s health, but by purposefully obscuring the truth and keeping people ignorant, the tobacco industry made billions of dollars in the process.

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War II,  said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”  With the prevalence of social media, that statement is clearly relevant today. A complete falsehood based on fictitious information can go viral and be accepted as true by thousands of people, most of whom are unconvinced by clear evidence that contradicts their beliefs.

We are living in what some are calling a “post-truth” or “post-reality” culture, when many people base their beliefs on emotion and what they want to be accurate rather than on actual facts. It’s what comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness.”

Central elements of our democracy are Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech. Open, honest exchange of ideas provides citizens with evidence on which to make informed decisions. The question for our time is whether deliberate misrepresentation for financial gain is protected as free speech and, if so, at what cost? We have a responsibility as citizens to discern facts from fiction.

George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949, imagined a “Big Brother” government where the government is the master producer of propaganda that  casts doubt on scientific facts and sows distrust in science and intellectualism.  A privileged elite are in charge and the “Thought Police” punish citizens for independent thinking and individuality. In the novel, the Ministry of Truth is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism (e.g, deleting or editing news articles to replace the truth with, as Kellyanne Conway would say, “alternative facts.”)

Hm. Leaders who cast doubt on scientific facts? Let’s look at a few of the popular myths in our society today that have no basis in fact.

  • Global warming is not real. For a concise, objective representation of what scientists know, see https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/  By the way, this week it was reported that carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere have reached the highest levels in 800,000 years.
  • If we cut regulations and taxes on big corporations and the wealthy, they will reinvest the savings in more jobs and better wages for employees which will offset the cost of the tax cuts (also known as “trickle-down economics”).
  • Adding work as a requirement in order to get “food stamps” will force lazy people to get to a job and enable them to get off government assistance. See Dr. Grace’s recent post on this topic here.
  • The state cannot afford high quality child care and preschool for all families in Mississippi.
  • (And similarly) If we provide good childcare to all children, other public services will need to be cut.

The work of Nobel laureate Professor James Heckman shows the economic benefits far outweigh the costs of quality child care and education in the form of higher educational attainment and earning potential, lower rates of incarceration, reduced need for special education services, and lower heath care costs.  His research has found at whopping 13% annualized return on investment in high quality early learning programs. (The rate of return on government bonds as of today is around 3%).

U.S. News and World Report just issued a report showing Mississippi’s economic growth ranked 46thin 2017. The economy grew at a dismal 0.3% last year.  In other words, our state economy is smaller than it was in 2008 when adjusted for inflation.

For almost 14 years we’ve been told the current economic policies implemented by our state’s leaders will grow jobs and invigorate the economy. There’s been plenty of time for that experiment to be proven true. If the strategies were valid, they would’ve worked by now. Winston Churchill also said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” There has been very little attention given to the recent economic report; apparently, we have hurried off as if nothing happened.

So, do we even care about truth anymore? If the truth doesn’t match our political or religious ideology, do we just look the other way? If the truth does really matter, we must not incentivize and perpetuate the intentional misrepresentation and promotion of ignorance.  We should all become agnotologists.

In times of universal deceit…telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

                                 George Orwell

By Dr. Melody Musgrove

 

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