NO, WE DON'T THINK THE MEDIA HAS UNDUE INFLUENCE ON OUR KIDS, WHY DO YOU ASK?

Fellow has been desperate to finish off his tube of Winnie the Pooh Oral B kids toothpaste - because waiting on deck in Mommy's bathroom is a tube of Power Rangers Oral B toothpaste. For a week, he's brushed at night, then said, "It's finished now! Let's throw it away!" Exasperated by this impractical urge to dispose of perfectly good toothpaste, we've assured him there is NO difference between the two tubes. "No, Daddy," he told us, "the Power Rangers toothpaste has POWER INSIDE it!"

As you can imagine, it was hard to argue that point.

TURNS OUT, NOT SO MUCH BETTER THAN ONE   

The Egyptian girl from whom doctors successfully removed a "parasitic twin head" a year ago has passed away, at almost two, from a brain infection. His is not the most common view, to be sure, but William Saletan at Slate argues that this was no tragedy:

Tragic view: Why couldn't doctors save her? Grateful view: Are you kidding? Head separation surgery had never been done in the Middle East before, and she's the first kid to survive such surgery anywhere, not to mention five more surgeries and a full additional year. Hats off to her doctors.

BREAST MILK: IT BEATS DYSENTERY (NO, LITERALLY)

Elsewhere on Slate, a counterintuitive take on the benefits of breastfeeding: The belief that it transmits critical antibodies to your child is in large part a myth, but there are still important advantages to an infant diet made up exclusively of mother's milk - in the Third World, that is:

Breast-feeding protects against diarrheal ailments in three ways. Infants who nurse are not drinking formula, which is a perfect medium for bacteria if it's not refrigerated and if it is reconstituted with contaminated water, as is typically the case in nonindustrialized countries. And if infants are exclusively breast-fed during the vulnerable first six months of life, they're also not taking in contaminated food. Finally, the maternal antibodies in a baby's gut deactivate swallowed bacteria and viruses that might otherwise infect the cells that line the intestine or penetrate the lining. Most often this prevents bacterial or viral gastroenteritis, which presently kills 1.6 million children worldwide a year.

5_threephasesJUST CHECKING: IT'S WRONG FOR US TO BE TURNED ON BY THIS DIAGRAM, ISN'T IT?

Last one from Slate, which is definitely feeling mammalian this week: A slide show history of the breast pump, explaining how Swedish engineer Einar Egnell, father of the Medela line, devised an ingenious way to get thousands of women to pop open their bras at the office - without once being charged with sexual harassment.


THE FIRST RULE OF FIGHT CLUB DAY CARE IS - YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB DAY CARE

A soldier and his wife were caught on videotape coaching their 3-year-old girl to beat up the 5-year-old boy for whom they were babysitting. It sounds like quite a show:

... the tape shows the soldier commanding his daughter to knock the victim down, kick him and hit him in the face. The girl follows her father's instructions as the boy cries and pleads for her to stop, police said.

The couple is being held in Texas on $100,000 bail each, charged with causing injury to the child.

SIMILARLY, THE FIRST RULE OF STRIP CLUB IS - WELL, YOU GET THE IDEA

His father told the boy that if he left the car he would be eaten by monsters. But after waiting a half-hour for Pop to return, an Oklahoma preschooler left alone in a rainy strip-club parking lot eventually went inside the joint to look for him. A noble bouncer called the police, and now Lap-dance Dad is charged with the crime of (wait for it) "encouraging a minor child to be in need of supervision."

The Man will never take us in on that count: Despite our best efforts, we've never successfully encouraged Tiny Girl that she was in need of supervision.

060323_jewelry_hsml_8a0vsmallIT'S NOT THE REASON WE WOULD HAVE GIVEN FOR WHY YOU SHOULDN'T PUT A REEBOK CHARM BRACELET ON YOUR CHILD, BUT IT'LL DO

Reebok is recalling 300,000 children's charm bracelets after a Minnesota four-year-old died from swallowing a piece of the jewelry, which has been found to contain dangerously high levels of lead. The giant shoe manufacturer had been giving the bracelets away to families who purchased Reebok kid's gear and for some reason thought it would be cool to have their children wear a piece of jewelry with a sneaker company's logo on it.

March 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

FINALLY, A PACIFIER THAT REALLY SUCKS

871 Since we haven't been keeping up with our celeb weeklies like Life & Style and OK!, we didn't realize that the latest celebrity must-have is a Swarovski-crystal-studded pacifier from Alexa & Jack, Miami's purveyors of "Baby Bling." The pacifiers, which come in models like the one at right, or in your own custom design, start at $35, which is quite a price for an accessory you'll need to replace about 10 times.

ENJOY YOUR SOY MILK, LADIES (AND FUTURE LADIES)

The National Institutes of Health will review the research on the safety of soy-based baby formula and a plant estrogen found in soy products, to determine whether they have any effect on human development and reproduction. Sales of soy-based drinks have been soaring, in part because nervous parents have been turning to soy milk (hopefully calcium-fortified). The parents fear the possible side effects (as yet unproven) of bovine growth hormone in cow's milk. We've interviewed pediatric nutrition experts in our civilian role as a parenting writer and they've said, one, you've got to get milk into your kids to build teeth and bones, and two, the potential risks of soy milk should not be so easily dismissed by the soy-milk company executives who claim that, basically, millions of Asians can't be wrong (as one did in the Wall Street Journal article on this controversy last week, not available online). One American Dietetic Association leader once told us, "Is it too much plant estrogen to a young child? If you look at Asian countries, the answer is no. But our genetics are not the same as Asians'."

WE'D LISTEN TO OFFERS IF WE HAD THIS OPPORTUNITY AGAIN, BUT ONLY FROM COMPANIES WHOSE NAMES WOULD BE A GOOD FIT FOR US, LIKE GODADDY OR BASSMASTER

A couple of weeks back, a baby boy was named ChamberMaster Mead, after the software company that won his temporary "naming rights" in a charity auction held by his father, Chris. The company donated $375 for two weeks of naming rights, which seems like a bargain. Consulting firm Horizon Industries has already ponied up for the next two weeks. Will the idea catch on? Perhaps, but we can't ever see ourselves telling our father, "Dad, we considered naming the new baby after Mom, rest her soul, but Fatburger offered us $675 for his naming rights, so how could we say no?"

NO WORRIES HERE. WE'VE ALREADY GOT FELLOW HOOKED ON OUR VIEWMASTER REEL COLLECTION (WE THINK)

Kkk1 The Journal the other day ran a hilarious article on the quixotic efforts of offbeat collectors to pass on their love of toothpicks, milk glasses, and commemorative pencils to their offspring. Turns out, "of the 37 million Americans who identified themselves as collectors in 2000, just 11% were under the age of 36." Kids don't even want to inherit their parents' worthless crap for its sentimental value. There's the miniature-gun collector whose three kids "wouldn't give you a twenty-dollar bill for any of it." Then there's the used-instant-lottery-ticket buff whose daughter says she'll try to hold onto a few of them after he scratches his last card, but who worries,  "I just hope she puts them in the sheet protectors." (Um, wouldn't unused lottery tickets have a greater value as a collectible? Just asking . . .)

The Journal article does point out that the state quarter program has had a tremendous impact in fostering a new collecting urge in young kids nationwide. We know Fellow loves putting new quarters in his state book. (So do we, frankly.) And he doesn't know it yet, but there are about a dozen boxes of mylar-bagged comic books from the 70s and 80s in the corner of his closet. What will be their fate?

March 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

HAVING SOLVED THE PROBLEMS OF HOW TO GET YOUR KID INTO HUNTER AND SCREW YOUR NANNY OVER HEALTH INSURANCE, URBANBABY NOW URGES YOU TO TURN YOUR ATTENTION TO TRULY CRUCIAL CONCERNS

. . . like finding a product that will solve the persistent problem of "plumber's butt" for toddlers. From yesterday's UrbanBaby Daily:

Tiny(hiney)bigs are a new line of custom-designed magnetic clasps for tots six to eighteen months that easily combine function with charm. . . . Launching with six tattoo-inspired appliqué designs – Mommy Heart, Flirt, Rockstar, Sailor Daddy, Gypsy Butterfly and Hot Rod Truck – Tinybigs add a healthy dollop of individuality to any outfit. Created by Keri Schroeder and made locally in Seattle, Tinybigs – like so many mom-invented products – was inspired and test-driven by Schroeder's own daughter. Say good-bye to droopy drawers forever. (Or at least until she goes through her Britney Spears phase.)

AS LONG AS THEY TELL HIM NOT TO DO IT IN BACK OF THE DUANE READE, WE'LL SIGN OFF ON ANYTHING

The Kansas Board of Education takes another step in its campaign against evolution by trying to prevent young people from even finding out how to reproduce. The board this week voted to require school districts to get parents’ written permission before mounting sex ed classes.

Kansas had previously employed an “opt-out” policy , enrolling kids in sex-ed unless parents objected in writing. Now the state joins Arizona, Nevada, and Utah as "opt-in" states. More liberal boards in Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia continue to employ an "opt-oral" sex-ed policy . . .

March 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

THERE WILL BE A MOMENT OF SILENCE IN SUV BACK SEATS, SCHOOL CAFETERIAS, AND FAMILY DINNER TABLES TONIGHT AT 6:15 PM

The inventor of the chicken nugget has passed away. Innovator Robert C. Baker, who founded Cornell's Institute of Food Science and Marketing in 1970, was 84. Following his long-established wishes, his organs will be donated to science, and both his white and dark meat will be ground up and donated to the cafeteria of the American Poultry Hall of Fame, which inducted him several years ago.

"CAN YOU GUESS WHAT ELMO IS THINKING ABOUT TODAY?
U.S. TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ!"

15rice_lgThe liberals who run PBS have decided to throw caution to the wind, risk their federal funding, and stand up for their pacifist beliefs. As you can see in the photo, "Anti-war Elmo" has been showing up at all of Secretary of State Rice's public appearances to lead protests of the ongoing war in Iraq.

(No, not really.)

MOST OF FELLOW'S HOMEWORK INVOLVES DRAWING PICTURES OF THE PEOPLE AND PLACES IN HIS LIFE. BUT WE CAN'T EVEN DRAW A BELIEVABLE SUN. HOW CAN YOUR SITE HELP US HELP HIM?

The Discovery Channel has launched a new subscription Web site ($9.95 per month) which can help parents help children (grades K-12) with their homework. The new site is called Cosmeo, because Discovery Homework Helper would have been too easy to remember.

TSG, BSFOWTFLOWTD, IWNW*
[This sounds good, but since Fellow only writes the first letters of words these days, it would never work]

The Times Thursday Styles section bemoans the lost art of the written letter, and urges parents to get their children penning missives to grandma post haste.

"MIFFY, A CUTE LITTLE BUNNY
MIFFY, A SMART LITTLE BUNNY
MIFFY, A COPYRIGHT-INFRINGING LITTLE BUNNY"

ImagesListening to Miffy this morning as we ate breakfast (OK, we confess), we heard details of what sounded like a very familiar storyline. It seems Miffy - or it might have been Grunty or Snuffy - really wanted to fly. But she couldn't. And that made her very sad. Finally, Mother Bunny had an idea: She painted Miffy's picture on a kite, and flew it high in the air. "Look, Miffy," Mother Bunny said. "Now you are really flying!" Which was a great idea - the FIRST time we read it, in Bear's Bargain, by Frank Asch. Shame on you, Miffy: You've embarrassed not only yourself, but all the people of the Low Countries.

And another thing: The other storyline in this Miffy episode involved all of the lead characters - including the rabbit, the bear, and the pig - telling Miffy's dog that he couldn't go on the slide, or the merry-go-round, or any of the other cool places the others could go to play, because he was just a dog. Hello! When's the last time anyone saw a bunny, a bear, or a pig on a merry-go-round?

. . . OK, yeah, you're right, we'll go to work now.

March 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

HEARTBREAKING STORY OF THE WEEK THAT WE REALLY, REALLY HOPE "WEEKEND UPDATE" STAYS THE HELL AWAY FROM THIS WEEKEND

Miss Deaf Texas killed by train
Witness says engineer sounded horn repeatedly before striking 18-year-old

DON'T TELL ANYONE, BUT SMALL FELLOW REALLY LIKES BOOKS ABOUT PUPPIES AND DUCKS, TOO

Emily Bazelon argues in Slate today that you're doing your boys a disservice if you guide them exclusively to "boy" books instead of letting them discover great "girl" books like the classic Little House series, books which may have female protagonists, but also have rich details about frontier life and instructions on such cool topics as how to build stuff and how to load a musket. Fair enough.

DON'T YOU DARE TRY TO BEAT US TO MARKET WITH OUR BOOK AND GAME TIE-INS TO THIS ARTICLE: THE VERY HUNGRY FETUS AND HUNGRY HUNGRY FETUSES

Hungry1 As if pregnancy wasn't freaky enough for all you ladies out there, here's a creepy new wrinkle: Turns out, that fetus inside your tum-tum is no friend of yours. Nope, Cletus will fight you tooth-and-nail for every nutrient you can take in. As Science Times put it today, "a mother and her unborn child engage in an unconscious struggle over the nutrients she will provide it."

According to Harvard's Dr. David Haig, "A fetus does not sit passively in its mother's womb and wait to be fed. Its placenta aggressively sprouts blood vessels that invade its mother's tissues to extract nutrients." When your fetus gets the extreme upper hand, you get pre-eclampsia. Most tragically, Dr. Haig has concluded, after all the struggle in utero, when the fetus turns 18, it will almost completely stop calling you.

This article, which ought to be Topic A in New York-area OB waiting rooms this week, goes on to discuss, in detail we'd have a hard time handling flippantly here, a "conflict" at the genetic level which could have wide-ranging implications for fields like behavioral science:

His theory also explains a baffling feature of developing fetuses: the copies of some genes are shut down, depending on which parent they come from. Dr. Haig has also argued that the same evolutionary conflicts can linger on after birth and even influence the adult brain. New research has offered support to this idea as well. By understanding these hidden struggles, scientists may be able to better understand psychological disorders like depression and autism.

Clear 15 minutes to have your mind blown and read the piece here.

AT LEAST SOMEONE IS USING OUR "PUBLISHED ARTICLES" LINKS

Inevitably, just when we think Fellow is ignoring our house rules, he delivers some reassurance. For example, Friday has always been tuna-fish-sandwich day in Fellow's lunch sack, and he looks forward to it all week. And yet, due to our own lax monitoring of the pantry closet, last Friday morning we found not a single can of the solid-pack good stuff at FD.com headquarters. Apologizing to Fellow for our dereliction of duty, we told him that perhaps he could have tuna both Monday and Friday this week. No, no, he said, "I can only have tuna fish once a week." It's OK, Fellow, we said, you didn't have it this week, so you can have it twice next week. "No," he insisted, closing debate. "I'm only supposed to have it once a week, so that's it."

March 14, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

BUT IT TRULY SAPS OUR FAITH IN THE REPUBLIC TO SEE THAT BERENSTAIN BEARS BOOKS ACCOUNT FOR ABOUT A FIFTH OF THIS LIST

Publisher's Weekly shares its list of the 150 best-selling children's books of all time. It's dominated by YA perennials - and we're embarrassed to confess that we've never even heard of the #4 book on the list.

[UPDATE: A correspondent has reminded us that this list is a few years old, and therefore our surprise that the Harry Potter books were not ranked higher is invalid. Still, it's a good indicator of which perennials sell best. . .]

GORE WILLY   

Seventy young whale watchers get more than they bargained for when their boat crashes into a baby humpback swimming with its mother:

"We were watching whales in the distance for some time and we were just starting to cruise around to look for more whales when a mother and calf just popped up right in front of the boat. All of a sudden there was this grinding noise and we looked off the back of the boat and all you saw was blood over the water."

AND IF NONE OF THESE TIPS WORK, TRY KEYING THEIR SUV WHEN YOU STORM OUT OF THE RESTAURANT

Today Show contributor Dr. Ruth Peters is a clinical psychologist who writes a weekly column for MSNBC full of useful advice such as this nugget from a recent piece entitled, "Hate Other People's Kids? Here's What to Do":

How should people "deal" with other people's annoying kids? How do they retaliate?

Most parents are defensive. Yes, they do get it, they know their kid is rude and either they are rude themselves and don't care about the effect that it has on you, or they've managed to avoid taking responsibility and want to live in ignorance. In other words, you'll probably be talking to a wall.

We're sorry, Ruth, if we've allowed our children to get out of control. Maybe we should follow some of the advice found in your many published books, like Laying Down the Law; Don’t Be Afraid To Discipline; It’s Never Too Soon To Discipline; or, Stop It, Stop It, Stop It!: Discipline Today, Discipline Tomorrow, Discipline Forever.

THAT'S RIGHT, SUNNY D, THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT YOU

On the other hand, the Today Show's "10 Ways to Prevent Raising a Fat Kid," from nutritionist Joy Bauer, are reasoned and reasonable, and echo ideas we've shared before in this space and in Parents magazine, such as: serve breakfast; fill them up with fiber; and avoid liquid calories. Take a look.

PERSPECTIVE IS IMPORTANT, BUT OF ALL THE SCARY ITEMS IN THE NEWS RIGHT NOW - LIKE THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC, NATURAL DISASTERS, AND NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION - WE KNOW THIS IS THE ONE WHICH WILL GIVE US NIGHTMARES

Nearly 4,000 students, most of them in the northeast, had their SATs scored incorrectly, with some students losing 200 points or more.

March 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

NATURE'S PERFECT SNACK

We begin today with praise for the Kid's Meal, as interpreted by Wendy's. We recently purchased one for the little ones during a ride home from a weekend away, and it was perfect. Here's why: It was actually small. Four chicken nuggets, which was two each for Fellow and Tiny, a packet of french fries that couldn't have had more than 20 in it - and the obligatory small soda hijacked by FD himself. The meal was small enough that, at least when shared by two kids, you could actually call it a snack without sounding like a moron. And it had a perfectly acceptable toy inside, unlike the usual video-game zapping-guy knockoff typically found in the McDonald's box. No, we got a sturdy pack of Curious George domino/matching cards for our trouble, which everyone's been enjoying. All for $2.99.

WELL, NOW WE FEEL PRETTY GUILTY FOR JUST TELLING EVERYONE TO RUN OUT TO WENDY'S FOR A HAPPY MEAL

Half of all children in North and South America will become obese by 2010, "and scientists expect profound impacts on everything from public health care to economies," a new study says.

“We have truly a global epidemic which appears to be affecting most countries in the world,” said Dr. Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force .... "The Western world’s food industries without even realizing it have precipitated an epidemic with enormous health consequences."  

But wait, there's more:

Dr. Phillip Thomas, a surgeon unconnected to the study who works extensively with obese patients in the northwest England city of Manchester, says, “This is going to be the first generation that’s going to have a lower life expectancy than their parents ... It’s like the plague is in town and no one is interested.” 

OK, OK, but in our defense, no one handed out Curious George domino cards with the Black Death.

THIS IS WHY WE'RE STICKING TO CHESS TOURNAMENTS ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE

The French tennis father who routinely drugged his son's opponents by spiking their bottled water with a sedative has been sentenced to eight years after one drugged opponent died in a car accident because he fell asleep at the wheel. Testimony in the man's recent trial stunned many observers, but not so much young tennis players: 

"Parents put pressure on their kids," said Benoit Tauziede, 20, another of the alleged victims, who is now a coach. "A lot of things happen in tennis. They're just all not so obvious."

WE ALWAYS TELL OUR HONEYS TO BIRTH THEIR BABIES BEFORE THEY GO TO C BLOCK

Nostalgic for the early 19th century? No need to be. Apparently, twenty-three states still authorize the shackling of women convicts during labor; Arkansas officials are currently being sued over the practice. (Only a handful of states forbid it, but that number is growing.) The recent Times article on shackling also offers yet another reminder of the value of a strong and potentially sassy delivery nurse, like the kind you might meet on Gray's Anatomy:

Dawn H., an Arkansas prisoner who delivered a baby in custody in 2002, said her guard wanted to shackle her to the bed. "Fortunately," she said, "I had a very wonderful nurse who told the guard I was in her care. I was her patient. And no one was going to shackle me."
 

March 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

IN THEIR THIRD-GRADE YEARBOOK, THESE BOYS WERE ELECTED "MOST LIKELY TO USE ROHYPNOL TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WORKING-CLASS GIRLS, AND THEN BE TOLD, 'YOU'RE DADDY'S MONEY WON'T HELP YOU NOW!' WHEN THEY ARE APPREHENDED BY THE DEDICATED DETECTVES OF THE SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, WHO FIND SEXUALLY-BASED OFFENSES ESPECIALLY HEINOUS"

Cat_main_boys

We suppose Hickey Freeman should be commended for somehow locating the two most smug nine-year-olds in America for its ad campaign, but we look at these guys and we don't want to dress our kids like them; we just want to take a swing at them.


WE'D GLADLY CUT OFF OUR OWN HAIR IF NBC WOULD AGREE NEVER TO AIR THIS FOOTAGE AGAIN

Tdy_curry_haircut_060301vsmallThe Today Show ran a Very Special Segment the other day, about Ann Curry, her daughter, and her daughter's friends, all of whom had let their hair grow for a year so that they could cut it off (on air, of course) and donate it to Locks of Love, a worthy organization which gives wigs made from real hair to girls who have alopecia or are undergoing chemotherapy. You can link to the video here, and you really should, especially if you're looking for a reminder of why you stopped watching the network morning shows in the first place. Before the segment aired, Curry wrote on her MSNBC  "blog":

. . . in my core, I know the best gifts are given anonymously, without needing attention or even thanks. I am also a reporter who doesn't like being part of the story, so much so, I have to be convinced to do what in the profession is called a "standup." 

Well, somebody sure "convinced" the Hell out of her on this one. Today aired a 10-minute segment, filmed over weeks, if not months, profiling Curry, her daughter, and her friends as they grew their hair for the cause. The footage of Curry's daughter and her crew is really sweet and lovely - they're a nice group of girls inspired to do a good thing, and they're completely sincere, especially when they meet in person the girl who will receive the wig to be made from their hair.

But the scenes of Curry and her daughter together have an astonishingly high Ick Factor, even by Today Show standards. In one scene, they're sharing an intimate moment on the couch at home, as Ann tells her girl how proud her own mother, a cancer victim, would have been if she could have lived to see her grand-daughter do this good deed. In another scene, they stroll through the park, a network camera filming them from a discreet distance, as the anchor whispers, "I'm so proud of you." Amazing how they were able to catch the family in an unguarded moment like that, isn't it? This staged mawk cheapens the whole exercise.

Inevitably, we all regroup outside Rockefeller Center, where Katie stands poised, shears in hand, to cut off Ann's hair. At one point, Couric says, "Ann is so beautiful, she'd look good with no hair," and Ann shoots her a look which can only mean, "No, Katie, I'd look good if YOU had no hair! Now pipe down; this is MY moment!"

In the end, hair is donated, cause is promoted, and the people from Locks of Love go home and have a long bath. But Curry has some nagging worries, as she writes online:

The real rub?  Later, the same day as the big hair event, I am flying to Africa for NBC News, to report on the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, a subject of international importance.  I can only hope the stories I bring back will generate as much public interest as my hair.

Well, maybe if you spent six months promoting those segments to death they might, but that wouldn't drive ratings like an on-air Tonsorial Event, would it?

RELATED STUDIES PERFORMED AT FD.COM HEADQUARTERS HAVE SHOWN THAT THIS ALTRUISTIC URGE FADES BY AGE 5, WHEN CHILDREN SIMPLY LAUGH AT ADULTS WHO DROP THINGS, THEN TURN BACK TO THEIR CONNECT-THE-DOTS BOOK

German researchers have performed experiments proving that toddlers as young as 18 months have the capacity for altruism. Without engaging the children directly, scientists would appear to accidentally drop books or clothespins and then react with sadness or frustration. Time after time, the child would toddle over, retrieve the fallen object, and give it back - but only if the researcher appeared to be upset about dropping it in the first place:

. . . the toddlers didn’t bother to offer help when he deliberately pulled a book off the stack or threw a pin to the floor, [Felix] Warneken, of Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, reports Thursday in the journal Science.

To be altruistic, babies must have the cognitive ability to understand other people’s goals plus possess what Warneken calls “pro-social motivation,” a desire to be part of their community. “When those two things come together — they obviously do so at 18 months of age and maybe earlier — they are able to help,” Warneken explained.

DON'T WORRY, TARGET AUDIENCE, THE SYSTEM STILL WORKS

As Manhattan's preschool-age population continues to soar, nursery-school admissions are more competitive than ever. Today the Times offers the harrowing tale of a Yale-Harvard drug company executive with twins, who was put through the wringer by vicious preschool admissions officers with non-Ivy degrees, drunk with their power to play God with the fates of the next-generation ruling elite. The father - "despite his accomplishments!" - was forced to sweat bullets when it came time to write the twins' admissions essays. But he persevered - and then came the long wait for validation.

Betty Holcomb, the policy director of a Chelsea-based child-care referral service, put the fears of parents like our hero in a nutshell, with the article's straight-out-of-New-York-magazine money quote:

"Even if you're rich, you're not guaranteed a place in a preschool."

We know that coffee spilled in back seats of many a Town Car when people got to that line this morning. But, gentle reader, do not fear: The story has a happy ending. Like Rocky toppling Apollo Creed, like Sam Wainwright's telegram from London, there is redemption in the final reel. The twins "got into their parents' first choice of preschool two weeks ago."

Oh, thank God. But wait, a shaken reader might ask, I'm still feeling uneasy. Even though the twins were accepted to their first choice, it sure sounded like they had to wait on pins and needles, just like the rabble. Can't you reassure me, even a little, that the world still works as I imagine it does?

They were notified before most other parents because they applied through an early decision program.

Yesss!

WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT SUCH ABSURD LIMITS ON FREE SPEECH WOULD CROP UP IN GERMANY, OF ALL PLACES?

Daniel Radosh reports today on German rules limiting parents' freedom to give their kids any name they choose, even lame ones. We're just glad we live in a country where we can name our kids Goofus, Aquaman, or even Cheesehead.

March 3, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS

AT OUR PS, THERE'S NO PTA. NOR IS THERE A PTO. WE GET BY WITH A PA - WHICH APPEARS TO MEET ON THE QT. BUT AT LEAST IT'S NOT IN THE POCKET OF THE NEA.

Rita Kramer's op-ed in the Journal the other day strays pretty far to the right, but it's still worth looking at to pick up some trivia - for example, most schools call their parents associations " the PTA," but membership in the actual PTA (formerly known as the National Congress of Parents and Teachers) has declined steadily over the years, and it now actually receives some of its funding from the NEA.

PRESIDENT BUSH WILL INCORPORATE HER IDEAS INTO HIS "NO GRILLED CHEESE LEFT BEHIND" PROGRAM

Star restaurateur Alice Waters has admirably devoted a great deal of her energy and wisdom in recent years to devising ways to make school lunch healthier and more appealing at the elementary, secondary, and college levels. In the Times the other day, she called for "a delicious revolution," in which universal physical education would return to schools, and "
lunch [would] be at the center of every school's  curriculum." Waters argues, "It's time for students to start getting credit for eating a good lunch. . . . Schools should not just serve food; they should teach it in an interactive, hands-on way, as an academic subject."

What the -- ? Does she realize that the average elementary school class has social studies 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week, if that much, and she wants to make LUNCH a class? She sure does.
After all, she says, removing herself from reason, it worked "here in Berkeley."

IS THIS REALLY A DARK VISION OF THE FUTURE?

Communal living for small groups of retirees sounds lovely, intellectually, physically, and spiritually, but one thing's missing from this long piece - Isn't anyone on these communes getting visited by their kids?

YOU MAKE THE CALL

Here's our "You Make the Call" challenge for the day: You're a prominent state senator up for re-election and widely mentioned as a candidate for lieutenant governor, if only you'd focus on the upcoming election, join the ticket, and begin campaigning. But there's a problem: Your 17-year-old basketball star daughter has somehow wound up on "American Idol," and now you're jetting back-and-forth from Massachusetts to Hollywood to make sure Randy Jackson doesn't hit on her. So what do you do, hotshot: Foist your girl off on an aunt, hoping that she'll be able to fend off the rotund Romeo, or abandon your political future and hand-hold at the American Idol Arms? Let's find out what Massachusetts State Sen. Scott Brown decided.

March 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Subscribe to RSS