Category: Education

Teen salt intake especially worrying

Just like adults, children and teens in the U.S. consume a great deal of sodium — about 1,000 mg above the recommended maximum daily intake on average, according to a new CDC “Vital Signs” report.

Results from the 2009-2010 edition of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included 2,266 children 6- to 18-years-old, indicated a mean daily intake of 3,279 mg of sodium, whereas the recommended maximum in the Healthy People 2020 initiative is 2,300 mg/day, according to the report.

Sodium consumption was especially high in teens — participants of high school age had a mean intake of 3,672 mg/day.

As has been reported many times before, the report indicated that much of the sodium came in the form of commercially prepared foods — pizza, fast foods, soups, and snacks. Between-meal snacking accounted for 16% of overall intake, and school cafeteria foods contributed 26% of daily sodium intake on the days that children ate them.

The report’s authors noted that new standards for school meals will reduce their sodium content by 25% to 50% by 2022. But the impact on total sodium intake will reduce the average by only 150 mg/day at most — still leaving most children with daily intake well above the recommended maximum.

Given some recent reporting perhaps I shouldn’t be too cynical about Americans revising their diet, learning enough about nutrition to build a healthier life for future generations.

Well, maybe.

About these ads

Right-wing school board provokes the civil disobedience they consider unAmerican

This week some families in Arvada, Colo., are bringing one of nation’s founding principles, civil disobedience, back into vogue by supporting their kids in a district-wide student walkout in protest of a new school board curriculum policy that could keep teachers from sharing much of our nation’s history of acts of civil disobedience.

According to The New York Times reporting from Arvada, “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 from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado walked out of school, the Times reported. “Sympathetic parents brought poster board, magic markers and bottles of water,” according to the Times…

It’s worth a look at what our nation would miss if the Arvada school board did get a chance to remove from the curriculum all events that inspired, what they describe as today’s “educational materials that encourage or condone civil disorder.”

First to go might be the Boston Tea Party (the original one, not today’s national conservative political movement of the same name) leading to the War for Independence…

However, since The Tea Party was also an act of “free enterprise” it might make the cut. If the Tea Party was kept, the school board might instead choose to remove all the anti-war movements involving acts of civil disobedience.

In that case, they could stop teaching the works of Henry David Thoreau, who famously went to jail for refusing to participate in the US war against Mexico in 1849…

Since “civil disorder” is how women got the vote, the board could zap away all references to the US Women’s Suffrage movement which lasted from 1848 to 1920, a time during which thousands of women marched in the streets and were arrested to gain the right to vote.

And one of the most important historical movements in recent history, the civil rights movement, most notably represented by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wouldn’t have a chance, because it was all about sit-ins and protests that chipped away at segregation.

Nothing new about conservatives burning books – or in the style of groups endorsed by the Koch Brothers [the Arvada School Board], preventing students from access to books and thoughts that encourage independence.

They want tidy obedient little minds to roll out of employee production units – instead of anyone with the potential to fight for human progress and free thought.

There were lots of obedient little minds in Nazi Germany. They were considered Good Germans by the Reichsführer.

Thanks, Mike

US diabetes may have reached a plateau

After years of substantial increases, rates of diabetes may be plateauing in the U.S…

Although incidence and prevalence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes both rose between 1990 and 2008, trends have been flat through 2012, reported Linda Geiss, MA, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The trend may be related to a recent slowing in obesity rates, the researchers suggested…

For their study, Geiss and colleagues looked at diabetes data (type 1 and type 2 combined) from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) on 664,969 adults, ages 20 to 79.

They saw that the annual percentage change in incidence and prevalence of diabetes didn’t change significantly during the 1980s, but it rose sharply each year between 1990-2008.

However, diabetes prevalence continued to grow among patients with a high school education or less, and incidence rates are still rising in Hispanics and blacks, they found…

“This threatens to exacerbate racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in diabetes prevalence and incidence,” they wrote.

Increases in incidence and prevalence seen in the 90s and early 2000s were likely tied to several factors, the researchers said, including improved rates of survival, growth of minority populations at higher risk, enhanced case detection, changes in diabetes diagnostic criteria, and increased environmental and behavioral risk factors such as sedentary lifestyle and obesity.

Reasons for the slowing of that trend are difficult to determine from cross-sectional surveillance data, they noted, although the findings could have something to do with recent changes in obesity prevalence. Studies have shown that obesity rates have been stalling, with no change in obesity prevalence in adults since 2003-2004.

The slowing in both obesity and diabetes trends is in line with declines in overall caloric intake, food purchases, and energy intake…

They cautioned that the decline doesn’t mean physicians should get too comfortable when it comes to preventing and treating diabetes.

“In light of the well-known excess risk of amputation, blindness, end-stage renal disease, disability, mortality and healthcare costs associated with diabetes,” they wrote, “the doubling of diabetes incidence and prevalence ensures that diabetes will remain a major public health problem that demands effective prevention and management programs.”

Nice to have my cynicism answered, corrected – feeding optimism for the potential for our species. I joke about human beings having a redirective capacity – to learn and correct mistakes – just not in my lifetime.

But, over this reasonably long span [so far] I’ve seen exercise increase and improve and understanding of healthful nutrition get a foothold. Consumption of abusively harmful products like alcohol are slightly diminished, cigarettes cut way back from my childhood days. Mutual understanding of sexuality has bright beginnings outside the chainlink fence of fundamentalist religions. And, now, the twin disasters of obesity and diabetes seem at least to have halted what felt like runaway growth.

Most Americans would flunk high school civics

Daddy DUH

A new poll released Wednesday by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found many Americans don’t know how the government works.

The poll showed only 36% of Americans could name all three branches of the government and 35% couldn’t name any of them. It also found over 60% of Americans don’t know which political party controls the House of Representatives and the US Senate.

In a statement accompanying the poll, Annenberg Public Policy Center Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson argued it proves the need for better educational programs.

“Although surveys reflect disapproval of the way Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court are conducting their affairs, the Annenberg survey demonstrates that many know surprisingly little about these branches of government,” Hall Jamieson said. “This survey offers dramatic evidence of the need for more and better civics education.”

Additionally, the poll showed many people do not know basic facts about how the US government functions. It found that over 70% of Americans don’t know a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate is required to override a presidential veto and that 21% of people think a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for a final decision.

Tears are allowed.

Certainly, this proves why Republicans are smugly predicting a stronger position in Congress after the mid-term election. They’re assured of endless funds for TV adverts on so-called reality TV shows. Most Americans are liable to find both equally believable.

This also explains the consistency in today’s conservatives loudly proclaiming support for education – while doing everything possible to impede any chance of the average American knowing squat about anything.

Thanks to Mike for stoking my cynicism.

Real data about same-sex couples instead of homophobe ideology

The US Census Bureau just released information on same-sex couples as part of its release of the 2013 American Community Survey data. Here are some of the highlights from the release.

Same-sex couples are a bit more educated than straight couples. While both married and unmarried gay and lesbian couples are about equally likely to have both partners holding at least a bachelor’s degree, unmarried heterosexual couples are half as likely for this to be the case as married straight couples…

Same sex couples tend to have higher incomes than straight couples….Unmarried straight couples had the lowest average income…

Interracial marriages are more common among same-sex couples than among heterosexual couples…and we know who that pisses off.

RTFA for more demographics. To read the whole report from the Census Bureau – go here.

Masturbation has health benefits


Joycelyn Elders – Surgeon General forced to resign by Republican backwardness, Democrat cowardice

Conduct an Internet search for “masturbation,” and you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of slang phrases for the act. This proliferation of slang phrases suggests people want to talk about masturbation, but are uncomfortable about doing so directly. Using comedic terms provides a more socially acceptable way to express themselves.

So before we talk any more about it, let’s normalise it a bit. Masturbation, or touching one’s own genitals for pleasure, is something that babies do from the time they are in the womb. It’s a natural and normal part of healthy sexual development.

According to a nationally representative US sample, 94% of men admit to masturbating, as do 85% of women. But societal perspectives of masturbation still vary greatly, and there’s even some stigma around engaging in the act. Related to this stigma are the many myths about masturbation, myths so ridiculous it’s a wonder anyone believes them.

They include: masturbation causes blindness and insanity; masturbation can make sexual organs fall off; and masturbation causes infertility.

In actual fact, masturbation has many health benefits…And there are plenty of additional benefits from orgasms generally, including reduced stress, reduced blood pressure, increased self-esteem, and reduced pain…

Talking about masturbation also has benefits. Promoting sex-positive views in our own homes and in society, including around masturbation, allows us to teach young people healthy behaviours and attitudes without stigma and shame.

Parents and guardians who feel embarrassed or need extra guidance to do this should seek out sex-positive sources of information, like ones from respected universities.

Or you could be truly stupid and talk to a priest or listen to some politician who worries about offending 14th Century sexual mores a heckuva lot more than supporting educated reason.

Inequality and trending Web searches

credit luke shuman

In the hardest places to live in the United States, people spend a lot of time thinking about diets and religion. In the easiest places to live, people spend a lot of time thinking about cameras.

This summer, The Upshot conducted an analysis of every county in the country to determine which were the toughest places to live, based on an index of six factors including income, education and life expectancy. Afterward, we heard from Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, who suggested looking at how web searches differ on either end of our index.

The results, based on a decade of search data, offer a portrait of the very different subjects that occupy the thoughts of richer America and poorer America. They’re a glimpse into the id of our national inequality.

In the hardest places to live – which include large areas of Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, New Mexico and Oregon – health problems, weight-loss diets, guns, video games and religion are all common search topics. The dark side of religion is of special interest: Antichrist has the second-highest correlation with the hardest places, and searches containing “hell” and “rapture” also make the top 10…

In the easiest places to live, the Canon Elph and other digital cameras dominate the top of the correlation list. Apparently, people in places where life seems good, including Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming and much of the large metropolitan areas of the Northeast and West Coast, want to record their lives in images…

Beyond cameras, subjects popular in the easiest places include Baby Joggers, Baby Bjorns and baby massage; Skype and Apple devices like the iPod Nano; a piece of workout equipment known as a foam roller; and various foreign destinations (Machu Picchu, New Zealand, Switzerland and Pyeongchang, the South Korean host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics). The phrase “pull-out” is also relatively popular in the easiest places. It presumably refers to either a kind of sofa or a kind of birth control.

…You can understand why religious web searches that are relatively more popular in places where life is harder have such a dark cast. “They are not just about religion but about apocalyptic religion,” notes Dan Silver, a cultural sociologist at the University of Toronto.

In the places on the other end of the spectrum, the picture is much brighter. People have disposable income to buy new technology and take faraway vacations. Their time spent prostrate on a foam roller or out running with the baby in a jogging stroller is more than enough to make up the occasional cupcake. And of course they are intent on passing down their way of life to the next generation, via Baby Bjorns and early access to technology.

RTFA for details and some analysis – including structure of the studies.

Most of all – I didn’t find anything surprising. Another one of those occasions when I wish my cynicism turned out to be wrong.

Thanks, Helen

The Pope thinks kids are wasting time online — he should think about why

Pope Francis has taken aim at today’s youth by urging them not to waste their time on “futile things” such as “chatting on the internet or with smartphones, watching TV soap operas”.

He argued that the “products of technological progress” are distracting attention away from what is important in life rather than improving us. But even as he made his comments, UK communications regulator Ofcom released its latest figures, giving the opposite message. It celebrated the rise of a “tech-savvy” generation born at the turn of the millennium and now able to navigate the digital world with ease.

So what’s it to be for youth and the internet? Time-wasting and futile? Or the first to benefit from the wonders of the digital age?

This debate has been raging since children first picked up comic books and went to Saturday morning cinema. The media, it has long been said, makes kids stupid, inattentive, violent, passive, disrespectful, grow up too early or stay irresponsible too long. Whatever it is that society worries about in relation to children and young people, it seems that we love to blame it on the latest and most visible technology. Anything rather than looking more closely at the society we have created for them to grow up in.

Fifteen years ago, when children were being criticised for watching too much television (remember those days?), I asked children to describe what happened on a good day when they got home from school and what happened on a boring day. From six year olds to seventeen year olds, the answers were the same: on a good day, they could go out and see their friends; on a boring day they were stuck at home watching television.

And why couldn’t they go out and see their friends every day? Far from reflecting the appeal of television, the answer lies in parental anxieties about children going out. As a 2013 report noted, children are far less able to move around independently than in the past. This is particularly true of primary school children, who are often no longer allowed to walk to school or play unsupervised as they once were. Their developing independence, their time to play, their opportunities to socialise are all vastly curtailed compared with the childhoods of previous generations.

And yet the number of children who have accidents on the road has fallen over the years and there has been little change to the rate of child abductions, which remain very rare.

There is little evidence that children are choosing to stay home with digital technology instead of going out. Indeed, it seems more likely that an increasingly anxious world – fuelled by moral panics about childhood – is making parents keep their kids at home and online. And then, to pile on the irony, the same society that produces, promotes and provides technologies for kids also blames them for spending time with them…

Sonia Livingstone asks useful questions. Questions – in my own experience – not asked often enough. Certainly not asked or answered in conversations with folks in charge of funds for education, funds for recreation, even those in charge of whether or not there will be funds for education or recreation.

Much less what comprises useful education and what roles recreation, sport, fitness and challenge should play in the lives of young people. What to do with communication and a view of the whole world?

Tea Party candidate gets Constitution wrong — what a surprise!

s
Calling a mass shooting an “unfortunate accident” — gets you NRA buck$ for sure

Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst may wish to brush up on her high school civics.

Ernst, a Republican, was caught espousing wishful thinking as policy in a September 2013 forum held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, saying Congress should not pass laws “that the states would consider nullifying…”

Unfortunately for Ernst, Supreme Court case law has determined the Constitution actually forbids nullification, and interprets the Tenth Amendment as a basic statement, not a prohibition against the federal government from passing additional laws not already enumerated…

“Tentherism” was one of the primary justifications used by pro-slavery advocate John Calhoun in the years leading up to the Civil War, and a hundred years later, by segregationists opposing civil rights. More recently, conservatives have resurrected the theory to argue for nullification of federal gun laws, the Affordable Care Act and other federal regulations.

Take a look at the issues raised by these ignoranuses. Time after time they center on bigotry, a false libertarianism that turns its back on responsibility to your fellow citizens.

Be true to your school

Barrowford

A letter sent to pupils at a Lancashire primary school along with their key stage two test results has gone viral on social media sites.

The letter to pupils at Barrowford Primary School in Nelson told them the tests do not always assess what makes them “special and unique”…

Head teacher Rachel Tomlinson said she had been “absolutely astounded” by the reaction in social media and elsewhere.

Mrs Tomlinson said she found the letter on a blog from the US posted on the internet…

Letter to pupils:

Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test results. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.

However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you… the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.

They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture.

They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day.

They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school.

They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends.

They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best… the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.

So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.

The head denied the letter was telling pupils that test scores did not matter.

“We never give pupils the message that academic attainment isn’t important – what we do is celebrate that we send really independent, confident, articulate learners on to the next stage of their school career.”

Right on, right on, right on!