Saturday, July 30, 2011

Helicopters Are Noisy

Lenore Skenazy is a reporter for The New York Sun who gained notoriety among her friends for letting her 9 year old son ride the subway by himself.  She is part of a movement of parents that is reacting to what is perceived as overactive parenting that developed in the 1990s.  What people like Lenore are concerned with is that "helicopter" parenting (named because parents, so fearful for their child's safety, hover around them) is convincing children that everything is dangerous.  From a teaching perspective (or at least a Jules Henry perspective) the noise of helicopter parenting is creating a society of distrustful wimps.  Children see danger everywhere because their parents scare them with warnings.  They are taught that every stranger is a kidnapper and everything must be done with adult supervision.  This experience also stifles their imagination, their ability to explore and the development of independence.

Lenore blogs about the responses she gets to her parenting style:
People who want me arrested for child abuse were sure that my son had dodged drug dealers, bullies, child molesters and psychopaths on that afternoon subway ride home by himself.
Believe me, if I lived in a city like that, I’d evacuate. But crime wise, New York City is actually on par with Provo, Utah — very safe.
Not that facts make any difference. Somehow, a whole lot of parents are just convinced that nothing outside the home is safe. At the same time, they’re also convinced that their children are helpless to fend for themselves. While most of these parents walked to school as kids, or hiked the woods — or even took public transportation — they can’t imagine their own offspring doing the same thing.
  Lenore believes that there are consequences to being too protective of children.  In her own words:
Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.
If learning is about exploration and independence, helicopter parenting is inhibiting a child's ability to learn.  Without the ability to take risks or be away from his parents how is a child going to learn to try things on his own?  When teaching Sunday school some students were very independent (unfortunately too independent and they would get in trouble when trying to climb a tree to get a ball down) and others would need me to tell them what to do all the time.  Those in a leadership role are tempted to reward the dependents because they make you feel more in control of the group.  But the question is, which one of those students is better equipped for exploratory learning?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Course Reflection for Language and Culture Class

I have completed my first round of courses in TEP at UCSB and was asked to write a reflection on my Language and Culture in Education course.  Here it is...

Course Reflection

There are times when it is very easy to teach dry facts. If you have motivated, mature adults whose career aspirations depend on them memorizing facts all you have to do is say them and watch as they furiously write down notes on their laptops. Unfortunately teaching facts seems to be inadequate for making successful teachers (and from my foundations of education class it seems like that is true for most learning outside of learning to teach) and a lecture format of educating teachers probably breaks a cardinal rule of teacher education; do not teach your students in a way you do not want them to teach their students. In the early days of taking both the culture and language class and the foundations of education class I was getting frustrated because when I went home at the end of the day I did not feel like I had learned anything new. I like to debrief myself before going to bed and go over events of the day. During the early stages of the class I would get disappointed that I did not have more facts to replay in my mental repertoire. Unlike a lot of children who are in school because they are supposed to or in college because it is a hoop they feel they have to jump through I have no problem sitting through lectures to memorize facts and procedures. It took me a little while to realize that learning was not just about memorization of facts or procedures. The type of learning in these early stages of TEP seems to be to change the way I think. While this type of learning is beneficial to creating successful teachers it is a challenge to find exactly what classroom activities and assignments were the most effective.

One question I had hoped to get answered was how to teach different cultures, as if the class was going to be spent analyzing the different cultures represented in California schools and having us practice teaching them. Perhaps Anissa would have us role-play teaching a class of 25% Samoan, 50% Hispanic, 15% Caucasian and 10% other. We would then get a rubric back from her when we were done that scored us on buzzwords like “cultural compassion” and “inclusiveness.” We would have to make sure our content was properly divided proportionally by percent into items that are intended to reach each different culture. That means that my grade would go down if 25% of my content was not designed to appeal to Samoan students.
Perhaps I will change my mind about this after more classes, but right now I doubt anyone knows the best procedure for teaching a multicultural classroom; nor am I convinced that such a procedure exists as nice as it would be if it did. To be a better teacher who understands the role of language and culture in education we must learn to think in a way that takes language and culture into consideration in how we assess our classrooms. We now have practice analyzing our classroom culture and rationales for being sensitive to the cultures our students come from. That way we become teachers who are equipped to develop our own methods of being culturally responsive and responsible educators.

We worked to accomplish this mostly through observation and discussion. By observation I mean we observe examples of classrooms either first hand, on film or through written descriptions. We then discuss these observations with each other in order to get ideas of how to handle situations we may have to that are similar to what we observed. We were not alone in this. Anissa helped push us in certain directions when we needed it, also our readings often included commentary with the observations that suggested their own solutions to the problems recorded.

The most useful reading we did was probably “I Won't Learn From You” by Kohl. While doing my pre-professional teaching I had a tutorial period for students who were failing their classes. I remember there was one student who would rather stare at the wall than do homework. Every morning he would just sit and do nothing (I would have found it more entertaining to work on my homework) for one hour during homework tutoring. This was obviously a situation of active non-learning. There was something about giving in to the demands of a teacher or doing assignments that he felt threatened by to the point where he would choose intentional boredom over doing any work on assignments. While our class did not give me a step-by-step procedure for convincing this person to do homework it helped me learn to classify what was going on so that I know what to work on for a solution. Instead of asking myself “what's this kid's problem?” I can ask myself “what has engaged this student in active non-learning and how can I address it?” While the difference between those responses seems slight the outcomes have drastically different potentials. The former response is likely to alienate the student and cause him to dig deeper into his immutable trench. The latter may help me find a way to work around the barrier between the lesson and the student's desire to learn.

In a similar vein, discussing contemporary issues in education helped us learn to think clearly about these issues. Though it did not give us definitive answers it helped us learn the concerns behind the issues and to consider the different responses people would have to them. Probably the most effective way to accomplish this (and with minimal bloodshed) was to assign us a position to debate. While there is a chance that the issue one of us received was one we had done a lot of research and thinking on and the position we received was one we are passionate about in general this forced students to attempt to see things from a point of view that was not their own (even if they had no opinion, they had to argue as if they did have an opinion so it was still a point of view that was not their own).

If I had to choose a tangible artifact that showed my progress in this class I would have to say that the blog I started for the class is it ( I had intended to start a teaching blog anyway because it is a hobby I had been meaning to get into. I spent five years between undergrad and TEP and my writing ability had declined significantly and I wanted to start a blog on a topic that I would want to write about a lot. I had tried other blogs (a personal blog and a theology blog) before but would not update them very often. It turns out that the level of writing for a personal blog tends to get too informal for what I was trying to accomplish and I do not have nearly as much to say about theology as I thought I did. The education blog, however, allowed me to continue discussions with fellow students outside of class (and form the comfort of my own home). I also could make posts on my own that helped me work out primitive thoughts I had into something comprehensive, reflect on something I heard or read outside of class and try to apply it to what I was learning or just post an idea I had in class that we did not get around to discussing. I can in to the program with a strong opinion about what education was and how it worked. With my own areas of idealism and cynicism. The blog has helped me work some of those out with the topics we have been discussing in class. I am seriously considering using it (or something like it) when I am a teacher. To be honest, not a lot has changed, but I am more confident that my way of thinking is not misguided and that, while I have not had a paradigm shift, I have had a shift in how I think about education (I mentioned one big example at the beginning where I think that learning to teach does not involve memorizing procedures). Because I have found the blog so useful I intend to keep updating it (I considered this earlier and have been trying not to make my posts look like class assignments).

Though I did expand my way of thinking in our class there are still some questions I have. I am not convinced that simply altering historical meta-narratives taught in class is enough to break students out of active non-learning. I would like to discuss other methods of convincing students that participating in class is in their best interest. I would also like to further discuss the consequences of certain features of classroom cultures. While the topic was touched on more time was spent discussing the more serious issues we ended up debating. Still, while it seems outside of the intention of the program to tell us what kind of classroom culture we should foster I would like to hear views on what some results of different classroom culture styles are.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cultural Noise

Reading Jules Henry is an eye-opening experience for those studying to be teachers.  You realize that you have to worry about how your classroom setup, demeanor and tone of voice educates your students when you feel like a lesson plan is really enough to worry about.  The nice thing about classroom noise is that while it cannot be completely controlled it is within the teacher's circle of influence (see the chart on my previous post) because it occurs within the classroom.  While studying language and culture we have, as a class, had to confront the notion of cultural noise.  What have students been taught by their culture and how does it affect the classroom?  There are two differences between the noise in the classroom and the student's cultural noise that make it harder to deal with.  It is in the circle of concern, the one that affects the student's learning experience but cannot be controlled or influenced by the teacher.  It is also different for each student.  All of the teacher's students are in the classroom together and are therefore affected by the same noise.  The students are not all taught by the same cultural noise.  A teacher can keep up with examining the noise of one classroom, the noise of the dozens of cultures represented by the students is a different matter.

How do teachers deal with the cultural noise that affects their students?  Because they cannot change it they can only be aware of it and try to work with it.  Students must be aware of the different cultures represented in their classrooms, respectful enough of the cultures to get to know them well and affirming enough of their students' cultures so the noise does not become dissonant.  Herbert Kohl noted instances of this where students were refusing to learn because they felt that the teacher was out of touch with their culture and disrespectful of it.  They tuned out as part of their defense mode.

This respect for and interest in culture is a practical step in creating a successful learning environment for students but is not necessarily a moral philosophy.  Teachers are not required to see everything that every culture does as good.  In fact, most people can find things in their own culture and others that they find immoral.  Hopefully teachers can see respecting other cultures, even the ones with practices they find immoral, as a greater good because it aids the teaching process.  Teachers cannot change their students' cultures, so even if they do not like them it is outside their circle of influence, so the only response, if they are still interested in teaching the students, is to take the steps necessary to learn about their culture and adjust their teaching strategy accordingly.

Can We Make it Just About Behaviors?

There really is not much you can do to force students to get along.  They will all have their own opinions about each other regardless of what you want.  Your students attitude about each other is outside your circle of influence.  While students have always found reasons to pick on others recently the issue has been related to sexuality.  Students anxiety over who is or is not gay and over transgender issues can turn into excuses for bullying.  In fact, it is possible that homophobia is an adaptive behavior and therefore an ingrained belief system and not a culturally learned value.  Furthermore it is challenging for teachers to discuss these issues with students because any meaningful discussion will presuppose value judgments which the students' parents may not share.  It seems the popular opinion in education is that it is not a teacher's job to teach students value judgments about homosexuality (though they do about race, fairness and many other things) so teachers do not relish situations where they have to address it on a personal level--especially when disciplinary action against students is involved.  When discussing homosexual and transgender issues with students teachers must keep the following in mind: they do not know what parents have taught their kids about these issues including any moral values that they are raising their children with and they do not know much about the students themselves.  Just because one student picks on another student and calls him gay does not mean that student is actually gay.

Consider one possible scenario.  A group of third graders has decided that because their friend has worn a pink shirt to school they are gay and tease them for it.  When addressing this issue with their students a teacher has to consider the very likely possibility that the students involved do not actually know what gay means and their parents do not want their teacher telling their children.

I have always been confused by the idea that explaining homosexuality to children is a complicated issue.  Most children, by the time they are in school, understand that some adults are attracted to each other without parents having to have the awkward "talk" with them.  Why is it so hard to explain to kids that some adults are attracted to people of the same sex?  It does not make sense even for parents with conservative views of sexuality.  Even if they do not like the idea of same sex attraction they still make their kids aware that some people steal and some people are greedy, why is homosexuality something they have to hide from their children? In what other areas do teachers have to worry about what their parents want their children to know?  Most people would agree that teachers do not need to avoid talking about blood transfers out of fear of Jehovah's Witness parents.  Why should teachers concern themselves over one but not the other?

Most teachers would, instead of addressing the issue of sexuality, focus simply on the negative behavior.  The issue is that they are bullying a student and bullying, no matter what the word gay means, is not allowed.  I wonder if this really creates an environment that is respectful of homosexuals.  If teachers refuse to talk to students about what gay means what does that say to students about people who are identified as gay?

Another possible scenario involves a student who is only considered possibly gay (the actual sexuality is unknown) that students believe is transgender.  Teachers would need to confirm this story, they cannot assume the students are correct, but asking the student in question directly could be a traumatic experience for them.  Other students, however, also have a right to feel safe in their school.  Is it fair to require boys to share a locker room with someone they consider a girl or girls to share a locker room with someone they consider a boy?  Also, teachers silence in weighing on the moral issue of sex-changes may be seen as tacit endorsement of the conservative position.  At best teachers can force students to leave victims of this kind of bullying alone but that will not make the student feel respected by their peers, or even the faculty which does not reassure them that their decisions about their sex or sexuality are proper decisions.  

This is a double bind for me because while I do not like the idea of teachers passing on their personal morality to students I know that it will happen inevitably and that neutrality is often interpreted as taking a particular side.  I also think of situations where teachers do teach their own morality to students and people do not complain.  I remember my teachers explaining concepts like "social justice" to me.  If teachers can weigh in morally on issues like racism and fairness, why not issues of sexuality?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Your Own Worst Enemy: Knowing Both Sides of an Issue

I try not to be one of those people with lots of pet peeves, but I do not like hearing people talk about truth as if there are many different truths.  If there really are many different truths then there is no point to discussing anything.  What is true for someone else is true for them and what is true for me is true for me.  No need to discuss anything there, we are both right in our own truth.  When people talk about different truths from different people what they are really doing (hopefully, otherwise they just love wasting time) is discussing a challenge of epistemology, for all they know what you believe is true but it is ultimately unknowable; or they are arguing that the topic of discussion has no objective truth, like what ice cream flavor is best.  When two people disagree about something other than what rock band is the greatest or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin there are two possibilities: one of them is right and the other is wrong or neither of them is right.  While thinking about things this way allows you to hold to a belief in objective truth that makes serious discussions meaningful it can have the unfortunate side effect of making you overconfident in your beliefs.  To prevent the errors of either the extreme of metaphysical non-realism or the extreme of radical obstinacy we need to agree that there is one real truth but that we often fail at properly accessing it.

Humans are plagued by multiple biases that cause us to believe things without evidence or to only look at evidence that supports our preconceived beliefs.  The main reason we should listen to opposing viewpoints is not because everyone has a valid opinion or because we need to develop strong arguments against those who disagree with us.  It is because we are our own worst enemy at getting to the truth, the only truth that exists; and that awareness of this fact helps mute its effect on us.

While our genes have given us cognitive biases to deal with our society has given us cultural bias by providing us with assumptions we have developed over years of interacting with people who tend to look and think the same way.  Because of this there are certain ideas we have that we have never questioned, but are unjustified.  It is only through interaction with people without our particular cultural bias (though admittedly with a cultural bias of their own) that we can even think to question these things.  

Educating students who do not have our cultural assumptions can be a challenge if we do not listen to their viewpoints and consider the assumptions their culture gives them.  In a previous post I said that educating students requires teachers to find some commonality they share with them to build lessons on top of.  If a teacher refuses to listen to the viewpoints of his students (or at least someone who can explain the cultural assumptions of his students to him) then it is unlikely he will ever find that commonality.  Teachers do not have to agree with their students culturally imprinted assumptions, they do not even have to think they are reasonable.  All teachers have to do is be aware of them (and their own) so that they can effectively build additional information on top of the foundation our unconscious minds have laid.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Class NYT Article

Anissa mentioned this (at least I think this is the one) article in The New York Times by Manohla Dargis in class when we watched The Class.  The article has a pretty good take on the problems with François's teaching style.
...Mr. Bégaudeau is playing a fictionalized version of himself developed through weekly workshops, improvisations and a shoot that lasted a full academic year. Like Mr. Cantet’s shooting style in this movie, he initially comes across as free-flowing, even loose, a guy whose jocular teasing suggests that he wants to be seen more as a friend than as an authority figure, one of us rather than one of them.
He isn’t, which proves this classroom’s most difficult, painful lesson.
 François gives the impression of being the cool teacher but at the end of the day he still has to take control of his class at certain points, revealing himself to be more like the other teachers than the students think he is.

The article also tells us what exactly this movie is -a hyper-realistic drama (Dargis compares it to the HBO series The Wire).
...Mr. Cantet, who shares the screenwriting credit with Mr. Bégaudeau and Robin Campillo, tends to keep his ideas more strategically nestled in the unassuming guise of a documentary-inflected realism that plays a lot like life because that’s precisely where it comes from.
It is an overall favorable review and links to audio of an interview with the director Laurent Cantent.

Here is the trailer in French with English subtitles.  Do you think it captures the essence of the movie?

Discussing The Class

François does not seem to follow an ordinary curriculum.  He teaches French to an ethnically diverse class with several uncooperative students in an inner city middle school in Paris.  The lessons shown in the movie are not lectures but are instead a group conversation where students are encouraged to talk about elements of their personal life that most teachers would not find relevant to school.  

Rather than provide students with formal vocabulary lists François pulls words right out of conversations he has with them, goes over the definitions and then encourages students to use them when appropriate.  In these scenes class appears chaotic, but there is definitely learning going on.  François is introducing words as students are using them.  Because the new words come up in conversation students see how the word is used in context and have already provided the definition of the word themselves by expressing its meaning when they were speaking; the teacher is simply filling in a word that explains what they are talking about.  He then follows up on the words he has been teaching them in later conversations (asking the class to give him a word to use that is appropriate for the situation at hand).

His unconventional method has its drawbacks.  François skirts dangerously close to being seen as a friend to the students and not a teacher.  While the other teachers cultivate a culture of teacher dominance (like forcing students to stand when an adult enters the room) François participates in the classroom culture almost as a big brother.  Students may fight the role other teachers expect them to fulfill, but at least they know what that role is.  François's expectations are not clear.  In an early scene students are chatting with him in his class without having to raise their hands, and asking François about his sexuality.  At one point a student's pen leaks on his hand.  One student stands up to offer him a handkerchief to wipe it off but Francois makes him return to his desk and ask for permission to stand up.  His expectations are especially confusing in a scene when Francois is asking his student Khoumba why they were not on as friendly terms as they were the year before and immediately after the conversation makes her hand him a book in a way that he considers respectful.  From watching the movie I could not figure out what would be expected of me if I were a student in his class.

The teachers at the school with a more traditional vision of classroom culture complain about students behavior much more than François.  They are quicker to apply severe discipline to students who are not interested in participating in the culture that venerates the teacher, and likely encounter these sorts of clashes more often than François due to their strictness.  In these situations students are not just standing up to these adults, they are standing up for their own culture.  The humanities teachers seem to focus on a nationalistic curriculum, exposing them to literature from the French enlightenment tradition.  The teachers' long-term goals for the students reflects a desire to make them into good French citizens.  This poses a challenge for educating students whose roots are not in France but Africa, the Caribbean and China.  Alternately François allows the students to express themselves, tries to teach vocabulary that is relevant to their conversations and focuses less on discipline and more on understanding them.  While this does help cut across cultural barriers it inhibits his ability to control the class.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

RSA Animate: "Would You Like To See My Etchings?"

Here is an RSA Animate of Steven Pinker "Language as a Window Into Human Nature."  He analyzes the nuances of language but cuts through culture and looks at what aspects of being human affect it.

Like Michael Agar in Language Shock Steven Pinker wants to understand why we pick up on indirect meanings from certain statements.  Rather than focusing on instances of confusion, however, Pinker focuses on instances of successful communication.  While Agar seems to want to discuss the inadequacy of pure language for communication Pinker wants to understand why our communication is the way it is.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

RSA Animate: Ken Robinson on Shifting Education Paradigms

RSA Animate is like the TED conference -but with cartoons!  The Royal Society for Encouragement of the Arts hosts speakers with innovative ideas (this is where it is similar to TED) and sometimes they make them into amusing videos.   Here is a video that seem to apply to education I thought I would share for anyone who has the time and inclination to watch them.

The speaker is Ken Robinson and he is talking about how the paradigm of education is based on an outdated model of society and because of this students check out in class because none of it seems relevant to them.

I'm pretty thankful for The Industrial Revolution.  As much as I love the outdoors I enjoy the opportunities I have in this day and age to leave the farm, live in a city and enjoy the benefits of mass production that time period brought about for western civilization.  One product of that time was public education (another reason to be grateful).  Unfortunately the factor design that was popular at the time for making widgets found its way into making students.  Because of that we are handed a educational system that puts kids in a box like they are a product.  

To be honest I do not see a problem with considering kids to be products of an educational system.  What we really have is a compatibility issue.  The problem is that the process of manufacturing intelligent, thoughtful, creative or at least self-motivated adults requires a different sort of factory than a car.  For students there are no standard parts and if you return them to the manufacturer then you go to jail for murder.  For the student factor the parts that come in are all unique and autonomous and it is not entirely clear what to expect of the performance of the finished model.

Is there any solution to our factory problem?  How can we get the volume of students the state requires educated for a reasonable cost?  One possible solution is School of One in New York.  The concept behind the school is that every student is different and requires a different method of learning.  Students are able to select their method of learning for each subject (computer program, small classroom or tutor -who tutors several students at once remotely).  At the end of each session the students are tested and a computer program analyzes what algorithm seems to work best for each student for different subjects.  Feakonomics Radio has an episode dedicated to it.  They compare it to Pandora.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Discussing H. G. Well's "The Country of the Blind"

"In regione caecorum rex est luscus." -Erasmus

H. G. Well's "The Country of the Blind" takes serious issue with Erasmus' quote.  It seems like an obvious statement.  The most enabled person is the one who naturally becomes king.  Yet in examining the practicality of injecting a very enabled person into a society of those less enabled shows that their coronation is not as natural as Erasmus thought.  Often times new ideas and the people who bring them are scary, especially to people who do not have a foundation to understand them.  This is concept is common in literature.  A messiah, sage, or technologically advanced alien arrives, tries to save us from ourselves and we reject (maybe even kill) him.  This can be seen in the New Testament, the 1951 science-fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still or even the Greek myth about Cassandra and is also found in popular historical anecdotes like the Galileo affair. 

When I first starting volunteering and subbing in classrooms I was surprised at the material that teachers were going over with their students.  The information seemed so basic.  Of course that's how you multiply fractions!  Everyone knows that!  The things I learned in primary and early secondary education had become so ingrained in me I forgot about the period in my life when I did not know them.  I forgot what it was like not to know how to balance an equation in algebra or that Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.  I had forgotten what it was like to not know what "circumstantial" meant.  When I try to teach someone how to play the guitar (an instrument I have played since I was 7) I forget that they don't know that a lower note is one of lower frequency and not a note that is on a string closer to the ground.  Experimental physicists and computer programmers have to understand the concept of a fourth spacial dimension well enough to use in calculations.  It sounds like insanity to those who are used to perceiving space in three dimensions and those who teach those concepts have to start in familiar territory.  Say, explaining how one would conceive of a third spacial dimension if they only existed in two.

In order to teach students something new you have to start out meeting them in familiar territory and then expanding.  This is something we discussed in our seminar for teaching math.  Often times what teachers think should be familiar territory among their students is actually something only familiar to someone raised in the teacher's culture.  Nunez tried to explain the concept of sight to the blind citizens but he only used concepts that make sense to those with sight.  The success of the story was that Wells was able to find a cultural difference to which there would be no familiar territory in common to Nunez and the blind citizens.  A good classroom teacher should find a concept that both he and his students understand that works as a starting point to get them into new knowledge.  I do not know exactly what Nunez should use, but I would recommend starting by explaining how his eyes can "feel" things like their hands and that there is a kind of warmth eyes can feel that is called light.  Teaching the blind citizens about seeing in three dimensions would be a major challenge.  Imagine what would have happened if he attempted what Carl Sagan did. 

"So this warm thing that touches my eyes has FOUR SPACIAL DIMENSIONS!...Guys?"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How I Want My Child to Choose Friends

As we saw in the clip from Mean Girls the high school cafeteria is a place where you make a selection of friends as well as food.  Students are often forced to make tough decisions of who they want to sit and identify with.  Do they play the Christ role and eat with the sinners and outcasts, or do they play politician and rub elbows with the powerful students who can increase their popularity?  Well, hopefully there is a middle ground they can find somewhere.  
"Won't you be my friend?"
A gingerbread depiction of what I hope my child is like.
As a parent I would have no control over which group my child chooses to sit with, nor could I really understand exactly what it means for them to be a part of that group.  The high school cliques that my child would have to choose from will probably be nothing like what I remember.  What I could do, however, is work to instill strong values in my child that will help him as a student and in life and prepare him to seek out students with similar values.  If that gets him labeled "nerd" so be it, if he is labeled "jock" -oh well.  I would want my child to dig deeper and find the values of a group that exist beyond the label, music selection or clothing styles.  That may be unrealistic to expect of a teenager, but that does not make this bad advice, just hard advice.

While working to establish churches in the Middle East early Christian tradition holds that the Apostle Paul started mentoring a young disciple named Timothy.  The  tradition surrounding this relationship is encapsulated in the two Timothy Epistles found in the New Testament.  In II Timothy 1 Paul is recorded as saying, "I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers...For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."  While running a youth program in Ventura I had the opportunity to mentor many young people about whom I would pray would receive a spirit of power, love and most especially self-discipline.  It is a prayer I will say for my children should I have any.

On the last session I had with my students I showed them a video of a recreation of Mischel's famous marshmallow experiment (embedded after the paragraph).  I explained to the students that the ability to postpone instant gratification for future benefits was one of the most essential, if not the most essential ability that must be developed early on to live a life that most of us would consider successful.  When Mischel performed a followup to his study he found that the students who could wait until finishing their marshmallow had higher SAT scores, coped with stress better and were considered more dependable by adults.

Bad friends are good kid kryptonite.  I would hope that my child finds friends who have positive qualities that rub off on him more than I care what subculture he belongs to.  I would want my child to be friends with whichever of these kids passed the marshmallow test.