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To protect kids, don’t send report cards home on Fridays (ufl.edu)
264 points by gscott 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 199 comments

Somewhat related, there was another article this week that mentioned kids (and parents) now get notifications sent over the phone of their grades: https://www.vox.com/first-person/2019/1/10/18174263/anxiety-...

“As the retreat group started to tell me more about why they felt such a collective sense of stress and pressure, a few major themes emerged. All of them said they voluntarily get their grades pushed to their phones through notifications. It took me a minute to realize just how annoying and agonizing that must feel. It means that at any moment, they could find out they bombed a test or missed an assignment. Instead of having the time to mentally prepare to receive a bad grade when a teacher returns an assignment, they receive a notification as soon as the teacher posts their grade to the online portal they all use. Further, their parents sometimes receive the same notifications.”

Yeah, I'm in high school right now and they have this system. They also had the same in middle school. There's no way this instant feedback system is mentally healthy. Also, a lot of times, teachers push a 0 as a placeholder grade and parents aren't in the classroom, so they see that and flip out.

Also, with the notification system, both parents and students see each assignment grade in a bubble, so it affects them a lot more than if they saw the whole semester grade (i.e getting an F on a homework assignment isn't a big deal)

But why send the grades (real or invented, it doesn’t matter) to students’ and parents’ phones? Who does that help? Does it help the students? Apparently not, because it looks like it makes them more anxious. Does it help the parents? It probably only helps those “tiger” moms and dads who are toxic anyway, I honestely think a parent shouldn’t care about the intrinsic details of his kids grades and day-to-day activity at school, it only causes more anxiety for said kids as it makes them even more nervous and risk-averse.

And on a more general note, how did we manage to screw this up? (I’m talking about people in my generation, late-20s, 30s, early 40s). Why are our kids anxious? Why do they kill themselves? Why do I hear of a close friend’s niece cutting herself when she’s only 12? We weren’t like that, at least not at this magnitude/level, so the screw-up is on us.

>how did we manage to screw this up?

I was a teacher last year and while I can't answer this question fully, I do know that it's a result of perverse incentives and group pressure.

Where I taught at school (a private English school in China) we also had an app that shows parents how their student is doing. They'd see test scores as soon as I uploaded the grades, and I'd get complaints from some of the parents if I was more than a day late in uploading those scores.

In the case of my school, we were competing with other private English schools. If we stopped or had never started using this app, we would get a few parents complaining "why can't I see my son's grade? [school z] does it, so I'm going to switch to their school!" We would lose some parents -- and for our student-retention team, losing too many parents means a pay for cut the following year. They would do anything to keep those parents so promises get made, and ultimately the school would certainly go back to using the app.

Meanwhile the group who built the app gets fabulously wealthy because they've built a (albeit harmful) service that their clients can't possibly get rid of.

Depressingly, the only way I see it turning back would be a force of equally-upset parents who removed their students from the school while asking "why do you use this at all? It's fostering anxiety and depression for my kid".

People vote with their wallets.

>how did we manage to screw this up?

Not a parent, but as someone in that generation - I almost feel like it’s the natural evolution of how stuff was done when we were in school, just made worse with always-on technology.

20 years ago, when I was a high school freshmen, I wasn’t supposed to have my cell phone in class (or even turned on during the school day. I consistently broke that rule.) and grades were still generally handed out in person. But by the time I graduated, we had pilot online classes, were often emailed grades, and there was a database for the county that could be accessed to see GPA. None of this was in real time, which was better, but the building blocks were already there.

But to me, this isn’t really about technology. It’s about culture and society that, in my opinion, is extremely unhealthy. As another commenter says, much of this can be seen as “school X does this so we have to follow” and parents are often very competitive about their children’s performance, whether it is in school or sports or drama club or whatever. Those of us raised in the era of “everyone gets a trophy” (but the unspoken part of that is that you still know what the “real” trophies are) and lessons for everything (I was in gymnastics and drama most of my life and took golf, tennis, cheerleading, piano, and voice lessons at various times in my childhood/early teens - and that was modest compared to some of my peers), were often preconditioned or encouraged to achieve certain things — whether they were ultimately important or not. I’m not surprised that kids raised that way would also raise their own kids with similar expectations, now with the additional horror or real-time access not just to grades, but location and other stuff.

I think schools just wanted to hop on the latest technology and the easiest way for companies to push that was "instant feedback" or something. They didn't foresee the unintended mental health consequences.

The system should prevent 0 from being pushed as a notification. Each teacher or school should be forced to deal with 0 in some other way, preferably erring on the side of helping students, rather than punishing them.

Teachers already seem overworked. Wouldn’t they just invent a new magic number, maybe “1”?

It wouldn’t stop a 0 from being entered as a grade — just not push that notification.

This would actually makes teaching easier, as they can use a 0 as a placeholder without having to decide about accidentally pushing a notification.

I don’t think the teacher’s goal is to cause a panic with a transient 0 that’s later replaced — so I don’t see why they’d stop using something that better accomplished their goals.

101 would be a relatively safe number to use as a placeholder. Since these people aren't programmers, trying to use NULL or NaN or -1 will probably backfire.

Sentry values are a nope. Have the assignment have a is_published check box / flag. An option to select all as published and the ability to toggle/select individual's assignments as published.

No, there could be extra credit

Or the system should allow "TBD" as a grade, or we should fix whatever reason the teacher was forced to put in a placeholder grade in the first place.

How about a system where grades are published online. If the parent and student don't acknowledge the grade within 7 days, a reminder text is sent. Then later the actual grade.

A related issue is that many parents struggle with school website logins/passwords. I bet a significant percentage never log in, all year. But they can't ignore their phones.

What if they don't have smartphones?

> Also, with the notification system, both parents and students see each assignment grade in a bubble, so it affects them a lot more than if they saw the whole semester grade (i.e getting an F on a homework assignment isn't a big deal)

Could also show the average grade of the class for each assignment, to give students, parents, and teachers a reference for how well they are actually doing?

That's a possible partial fix, but I recall plenty of classes in high school and college that had a weighted grading scale.

Done every homework assignment and aced every test all semester but then bomb the midterm or final? You're still in trouble. Also vice versa - if you didn't do any homework all year, but the midterm is going to be worth 90% of your grade anyway. And of course we all know there are teachers that are just notoriously harder than anyone else where no one is going to get an A in the class, so there's also an aspect of how well other people have done on the assignment/in the class as a whole.

None of that is new at all, though. The problem is that technology has now calculated out a number and displayed it and we as humans add more importance to that hard number. To me it's similar to the whole "fake news" thing - we're too inclined to glance at what the app on our phone says and not think any further.

The average grade could be an idea, but being the worse in a upper high good class doesn’t mean you’re bad.

And I personally think that grades should show how you progress. If you get better with time it’s good.

And also we all agree that one grade out of any context should’nt mean anything

Opt out

this sounds terrible :(

Which SIS are you using?

wouldn't it make more sense to use 1 as a placeholder

Where I live, 1 looks more like an actual grade (the lowest one) than a 0, so that would be a very bad idea.

how about hyphen -

Which is not an Integer and the whole view crashes after the ConversionError.

You know it

My high school system used to convert those to zeroes, just FYI. Anything that was nonnumeric and not a fixed set of "aliases" (for example, "pass" might mean 100% if the teacher set it up that way) became a zero.

How about using an integer where an integer is needed and false where no grade has been produced, with the teacher and student UI showing 'Not yet graded [x]' rather than using magic numbers?

From another viewpoint, I spent a significant amount of time in high school reverse engineering and retrofitting grade update notifications onto our school's (well, School Loop's) existing gradebook, which I shipped as part of my app for accessing this system. For privacy reasons, I would not display any grades or scores in the notification itself, opting for something like "your grade in $course has changed". This gave students the chance to wait to see their new score, since they would have to actively tap on the notification.

I don't know if that's all that much better. As soon as you get the notification you're not going to be able to think of much else until you check.

Sure, but I see it as similar to the teacher giving you your test back: you get time to talk to your friends, prepare yourself, whatever before you actually see your grade (rather than it just popping up on your screen). In both, you do eventually have to see your grade, and you're not going to be thinking of much else while the teacher is going around passing out the test. Of course, I hadn't considered viewpoint when designing the feature, so it's not perfect, but I think it does a somewhat decent job (also, notifications are off by default, again, not because I had this issue in mind, but because I didn't want the iOS notification permission alert being the first thing that showed up when users launched the app).

One is during a specific time at school, one is not. That's a huge difference.

But that's no different to the status quo, you know that a grade is coming right from when you sit the test; and IME a teacher will say roughly when the marking will be done, so there's always anticipation.

It sounds to me like this is the sort of thing that needs to be fixed by each person (for themselves) at some level.

Sure, the provider can give multiple options (message with|without grade, message once a week, no message, etc.) but it's still up to the person to choose.

If you're fretting over a grade coming you're going to fret, you need to fix your own notification system.

You could get messages sent to a parent/carer instead, block the number and check them once a week, wait for the teacher to tell you, etc..

Just because food is put on your plate doesn't mean you have to eat it.

From someone who went through the "old-school" (literally) system, that's something I would've loved to have --- not notifications per se, but the ability to get feedback much faster, to satiate the "how did I do?" feeling I got immediately after submitting anything.

I think it really depends on the psychology of the student and their perception of their performance for which they are awaiting results.

Huh, given all the answers here - I guess I might be different from the average, I never considered a different experience.

At my Alma Mater, we were always "mass-mailed" when grades were released. The email didn't have our grade specifically, but we could go on the University's portal, navigate to that class, and see whatever grade just got released - tests, exams, projects, anything we could be graded on, really. I loved this system, because the alternative was the grades being released and me not knowing about it, which would result in either having to check every X period of time, or, most likely, coding my own script to do it for me.

I've been told by family that my old High School also works similarly nowadays, as well as other high schools and middle schools in the same district. I can't imagine it working any other way, given the increasing integration of technology.

I'd like to know, though, isn't it just as anxiety-inducing to go in every morning after an assignment, knowing this could be the day it's delivered? Mine were delivered that way back in HS, sometimes at the beginning of class, others in the middle, sometimes we thought we weren't getting it that day, and the teacher would remember at the very end of class, or be reminded by someone. Is it because it's an "it could come at literally any time" thing, instead of being restricted to the class schedule?

Is it because it's an "it could come at literally any time" thing, instead of being restricted to the class schedule?

I think that's exactly the difference. With in-class grade reporting, you know it's coming inside a 6-7 hour block of time. Even more precise if the assignment was for a given class. With real-time grading, you could receive the grades at the breakfast table on a Saturday morning.

And the real-time grading is likely tied into how unhealthy other online forums can be. The student could get in the habit of just waiting for the grade (refresh, refresh, refresh if it's a web page).

I finished high school before there was any automatic grade reporting (for assignments). And report cards were sent on a known schedule (and received a day or two later in the post). It wasn't stress free, but at least you could mentally prepare for the bad news.

I suppose I understand your (and others', here) point of view. It's a different experience for me, grading-wise, not because receiving my grades is stress-free, but more because I'm never expecting it - so I don't think about it too much, just live my life, and when that e-mail comes, I check things, and it's done with. It's a superior experience than waiting for a specific day, or time of day. But, of course, that's my experience.

Perhaps a solution would be for these school portal systems to take this into consideration, allowing students to pick how they prefer their grades to be 'released'/delivered - 'unexpectedly', or on a timed schedule.

Quick question... how old are you (college or HS)? And did you grow up in a super-competitive school district?

Watching my son and his peers go through high school (he finished about 5 years ago) in the DC suburbs and the stress level is insane. The good state schools have become increasingly selective since the 90s (when I attended UVA). And it shows in the kids mental health.

>Is it because it's an "it could come at literally any time" thing, instead of being restricted to the class schedule?

I would like to hope that grades delivered in class also come with some modicum of qualitative assessment and psychosocial support. You might be giving Johnny a D grade, but you also tell him that he's making good progress and you know he'll do better next time if he keeps trying. You know that a B grade feels like a catastrophe to Anne, so you remind her that she's a good student and this is just a minor blip. John barely scraped a C, but for him that's a damned miracle and he deserves a resounding attaboy.

All too often, we in tech find a more efficient way of facilitating the core function, but we strip out vitally important secondary functions. Automating the process of grade delivery removes or substantially defers the opportunity for interaction between student and teacher at a critical psychological moment. The grading app doesn't know if a student is pleased with their grade or devastated. It can't see the pride in their smile, it can't see the hope drain out of their eyes. That simple human interaction is infinitely complex and vitally important, but we've reduced it to a couple of bytes of data.

> I can't imagine it working any other way, given the increasing integration of technology.

Just wait to release grades until a set time (maybe at the end of class), so students can all check their grades together? It could still be all online and tech savvy.

Yeah - I did not mean that line in the sense of "it cannot work any other way", but more that I hadn't imagined people could feel differently than me about that topic, so I didn't conceive of it evolving any other way.

This topic opened my eyes a bit - and that feature is definitely something I'd push for, if ever given the opportunity to work in that kind of system.

As someone who was a perfectionist to an unhealthy degree as a kid (and had high anxiety tied to that), this would have been a nightmare.

Our grades and weekly averages were posted on a schedule for certain classes, and I would obsessively search the sheet for my student number to make sure I hadn’t fallen below my personal threshold of acceptability (which was often far too high), but at least I knew the date/time grades would be posted.

If I was especially freaking out, I could sometime cajole a teacher to grade an exam or something early — but having that “you could find out at any time your world is still spinning or perilously out of balance” would have been awful. And my parents weren’t even part of this —- if anything they actively tried to make me care less —- but plenty of parents when I was in middle/high school were obsessed with kids grades and just the thought that my mom would get a text the same time as me as to my grades is flat-out horrifying.

I went to a high school without public course grades. We’d get qualitative feedback often, and quantitative feedback on tests (eg 78/100) but it was never translated into a letter grade. It was great.

Letter grades were given at the end of the semester to the parents in a session with the teacher. Up to the parents if they shared that with their kids. Many didn’t.

we also have a web portal where they notify us of pending homework (well, in reality its the teachers who are not always filling out the reports). When I saw that my reaction was: thanks goodness they didn't have these in my time...

It really is horrible to do it that way - at University, our final grades were often released on a particular day but at an unknown time, ruining the day until around 5pm on one occasion.

The reason is probably because teachers are frustrated by parents who are too busy to take interest in their child's education, so they overcompensate and over-communicate, thinking it may help. And if done properly, it might.

Tangential but reading this thread I feel many words have apparently changed meaning. Parent mentions that receiving the notifications are 'agonizing'. Another post in this thread calls it 'horrible'

According to the Cambridge dictionary agonizing means: 'causing extreme physical or mental pain' or 'causing extreme worry'. Horrible means 'very bad unpleasant or disgusting'.

These are very strong words, when I hear agonizing I think of a crushed leg, or seeing your daughter tortured, I would use horrible for similar circumstances, not a kid getting a bad grade in a notification..

And I personally think learning your kids to grow a thick skin to cope with the adult world is a good thing, so in conclusion I don't really see a problem here and people are way overreacting.

I think it's worth reflecting on different attitudes to education. For a lot of parents and young people, education is perceived as a high-stakes, zero-sum game that determines whether you get to live a decent life. If you don't get the grades you need to proceed to the next level of that game, you're doomed to poverty, misery and hopelessness.

That perspective isn't particularly rational, but it's not entirely baseless either; if you come from a disadvantaged background, your statistical life prospects really are very poor if you don't get a decent credential. The difference between scraping a C and flunking a class might have a real and meaningful impact on the rest of your life.

I can fully understand why some people might experience a bad grade as "agonizing" or "horrible". If you don't have a great deal of confidence in your academic abilities or you have an underlying anxiety disorder, that notification on your phone might feel like confirmation that you're worthless and useless and completely doomed. It might feel like another dash of salt in an old and purulent psychic wound.

> And I personally think learning your kids to grow a thick skin to cope with the adult world is a good thing,

What does this actually mean?

My reading of it is- "as adults kids will be stressed, so don't try to keep them from being stressed when they're kids or else they won't be able to deal with stress later."


If so, I have a modest proposal for you. Instead of providing the grades immediately, delay them by a random amount- weeks or months. Then, immediately notify both parent and child, at a random time of day. Perhaps weight it more heavily during mealtimes.

Additionally, grade a small fraction of assignments- say, 5%- as zeroes regardless of actual performance- this will ensure that academically gifted children, even those whose parents don't pressure them- are also stressed.

Since children are likely to outlive their parents, we should also randomly select some children, tell them their parents have died suddenly, and let them start to come to terms with that loss before it happens.

Finally, all shoes and socks must surely be banned, to ensure the proper development of calluses on children's feet.

Surely this will help make kids more resilient. Suffering is part of life, so children must suffer early and often or they'll be too weak.

> Finally, all shoes and socks must surely be banned, to ensure the proper development of calluses on children's feet.

Banned sounds kind of harsh, but in moderate climates going barefoot as much as possible is a good idea, especially for children.

Instead of a ban, it would be better to run a public education campaign, do more serious research about the effects of wearing shoes, etc. In particular it would be nice if people were better educated about the possibility of using thin flexible shoes and ditching stiff-bottomed shoes, which are quite terrible for foot development.

Development of calluses is one minor effect of going barefoot, but also the bottoms of the feet do not become hyper-sensitized (as they are for the habitually shod), the feet do not become deformed into a weird shoe shape with the toes crushed inward (as sadly happens for most people in our society), and perhaps most noticeably the muscles of the feet and lower leg become much stronger and more coordinated and motor control develops quite a bit better. Kids who habitually walk around barefoot learn to move quickly, efficiently, gracefully, with good balance.

Source: my 2.5 year old kid has 1.5 years of experience walking around the city, about 90% of that barefoot, and is about as fast and coordinated as the typical 3.5 year old around here. (I’m sure he would be below average among some hunter–gatherer tribe; surpassing typical American city kids is a pretty low bar.)

You’ve mostly been referencing physical ailments like a “crushed leg” or physical disease (in a subsequent reply). Most of this discussion is revolved around psychological ailments and psychological trauma. Which affect a significant number of people and their loved ones. I don’t think we should discount psychological health so much merely to contrast it against physical health.

Also, isn’t the physical world and your experience of a crushed leg a product of your brain?

Chronic stress and anxiety are also a product of the brain and in the physical world it ends up shortening your life span. It could be equally reasonable to say, “This bad grade is killing me.” - because with modern science we know there is possibly a literal truth to that.

Cambridge English dicctionary has “causing extreme worry” as the 2nd definition of “agonizing”: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/agonizin...

An example they give for this definition of the word is: “She went through an agonizing few weeks waiting for the test results.” — which is how the GP used it.

You are not wrong, but I think the 'test results' in the example refer to medical testing for a serious disease, and not a school test.

Most people have never had a crushed leg so their scale is limited to what they have experienced. Think back on all the insignificant trauma that seemed so important in high school.

Within the range if the average American student, these things are a big deal.

But you can disable notifications for the app on the OS level, right?

>“It’s sad, but the good news is there's a simple intervention — don't give report cards on Friday.”

Yeah that avoids the one instance of child abuse but that's not the big picture here. How is it that there are that many people that struggle to cope that this is common enough to show up in this research. I feel for both the parents and the children here. If something like grades are causing the parents to lash out at the kids it's a sign that the parents are struggling to cope. That makes things horrible for these poor children. But how on earth does this get fixed? How does society change to provide enough support and training to these parents to give them the resources to handle these situations?

> If something like grades are causing the parents to lash out at the kids it's a sign that the parents are struggling to cope.

I think that's starting from a mistaken premise. Why expect parents to cope? Parenting takes an amount of empathy and patience and care that many people simply do not have and will not have.

In pre-modern society the nuclear family made sense, but at what point do we say, being someone's biological source gives you no particular right to control their life and the task of guarding and raising children should actually be given to those who can do so humanely? Why try to retrain inhumane parents instead of just not subjecting kids to them in the first place?

If you look at the much bigger picture—children who are gay or trans, children who date outside their race, children born into cults or to antivaxxers, children born with disabilities that expect particularly uncommon levels of support from parents, etc. etc.—the problem is simply that we assue that your physiological ability to engage in tbe reproductive act means that you're fit to be a parent. There's zero reason to believe that.

Have you read Plato's "Republic"? He had some ideas along your lines. Copied here from a dubious online summary:


In the first of several radical claims that he makes in this section Socrates declares that females will be reared and trained alongside males, receiving the same education and taking on the same political roles. Though he acknowledges that in many respects men and women have different natures, he believes that in the relevant respect—the division among appetitive, spirited, and rational people—women fall along the same natural lines as men. Some are naturally appetitive, some naturally spirited, and some naturally rational. The ideal city will treat and make use of them as such.

Socrates then discusses the requirement that all spouses and children be held in common. For guardians, sexual intercourse will only take place during certain fixed times of year, designated as festivals. Males and females will be made husband and wife at these festivals for roughly the duration of sexual intercourse. The pairings will be determined by lot. Some of these people, those who are most admirable and thus whom we most wish to reproduce, might have up to four or five spouses in a single one of these festivals. All the children produced by these mating festivals will be taken from their parents and reared together, so that no one knows which children descend from which adults. At no other time in the year is sex permitted. If guardians have sex at an undesignated time and a child results, the understanding is that this child must be killed.

To avoid rampant unintentional incest, guardians must consider every child born between seven and ten months after their copulation as their own. These children, in turn, must consider that same group of adults as their parents, and each other as brothers and sisters. Sexual relations between these groups is forbidden.


We don't have a strong alternative. You are tasked with providing for your progeny in no small part simply because no one else will.

The nuclear family is born in industrial modern society. In city in fact. Remember the one to be jailed - it takes a village.

No. Not sure in western society but in the old village (even to this day all those chinese has a village in their passport marked), you have a place where the punishment to be held.

Come on. Treating kid well is a modern concept. Whilst I think parent could be and should be lovely. It is not so in history and around the world. So is not your social environment.

If a minor deed like Friday the best no report card, please do.

> The nuclear family is born in industrial modern society. In city in fact. Remember the one to be jailed - it takes a village.

This isn't true. The nuclear family was well established in Western Europe by the 1500s and it was known though uncommon in Eastern Europe. The clan or extended family is clearly older and more common in human history but the nuclear family was not born in cities.


> The Western European marriage pattern is a family and demographic pattern that is marked by comparatively late marriage (in the middle twenties), especially for women, with a generally small age difference between the spouses, a significant proportion of women who remain unmarried, and the establishment of a neolocal household after the couple has married. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered that Europe is divided into two areas characterized by a different patterns of nuptiality. To the west of the line, marriage rates and thus fertility were comparatively low and a significant minority of women married late or remained single and most families were nuclear; to the east of the line and in the Mediterranean and particular regions of Northwestern Europe, early marriage and extended family homes were the norm and high fertility was countered by high mortality.

Just to clarify a bit here, when it reads "all those chinese has a village in their passport marked", you are probably talking about the Hukou system. Well, everyone in the world has his place of birth in his passport, but, ok, the Hukou system is more then that, but is at risk of being misunderstood here, It's primary reason of existence has nothing to do with punishments, note that physical punishment at schools is currently forbidden, hated and smashed and scorched by social media and news and by the majority of parents in China. The very Hukou system itself has it's Demise "announced" by the Chinese lawmakers for years now, they are handling the update of a huge Legacy society organization and citizen identification System update and this system has already suffered many minor cuts and shut-downs of collateral ancient, obsolete regulations. To add some anedacta: I was a guest of a certain facility for a couple months in China. Any kind of physical punishment by the enforcement or the crew or the guests themselves was impossible. dozen cameras 24 h a day, no milimeter out of the Written Law. And the law doesn't predict physical punishment there, besides of the Death Penalty, that is exactly the top of the scale of Ancient physical punishment, off course. :edit adding some bit to the anedacta, I was the only non-chinese there, among hundreds.

What kind of crazy leap of logic does it take to go from we can't assume everyone can be a good parent to nuclear families don't make sense?

There is a world of things society and government could do, beyond what is done today, to try to ensure the well-being of children -- everything from better education programs to drastic things like requiring parents to be licensed -- before one gets to the idea of dissolving the concept of families completely.

If logical arguments exist that supposedly support such an exotic and questionable idea, you should probably not leave it to the rest of us to guess at them.

> If you look at the much bigger picture—children who are gay or trans, children who date outside their race, children born into cults or to antivaxxers, children born with disabilities that expect particularly uncommon levels of support from parents, etc. etc.

I'm confused about what you are saying is the connection between these four groups?

Those children are quite often mistreated or abused by their parents in often quiet ways, and offering resources to the parents to learn how to parent better is unlikely to help.

Got it. Makes sense.

I think the point is probably "children who's experience ends up being very different from their parent's". Parenting is (relatively) easy when it's problems you faced as a child and teaching things you already know.

When you don't understand what your child is going through, helping them through it is a lot harder, and in some cases, parents simply won't be capable of it.

The abuse that they are subjected to by their parents.

If parents aren't expected to cope (with appropriate support), life is a lost cause.

I feel like we are kind of doing a disservice to children by even having grades K-8. I don't really see what the value is in having them. Parents over focus on it and seem to measure their own child's worth based on grades and children also seem to measure their own self worth based on grades. IMO there is no case where a child that young should be failing anything, if they are failing a class that young there is something seriously wrong going on with the child which needs to be addressed ASAP or there is something wrong with the teacher. (I'll also add that it could be something wrong with the pedagogy if the majority of the grade is determined by homework assignments but I still think that falls in the category of something going on with the child)

I think it is a shame to give a student a D or F in some building-block subject, then pass them on to the next level. There should be two grades: "ready for the next step" and "not ready".

If a student struggles identifying nouns and verbs, it's probably not useful to push them on to prepositions or all the forms of participles. If you haven't memorized times tables up to 5x5, moving on to 12x12 might not be wise.

On the other hand, struggling with subject/object shouldn't prevent you from taking a turn at haiku.

So it would be helpful to have a decent graph of dependencies. But letting everybody progress along the graph of their proficiency would make instruction and administration very challenging. Especially when you throw in social aspects. Having a 10-year-old in the same welding class as the 17-year-olds could be problematic regardless of welding aptitude. And repeatedly putting a 17-year-old with the 12-year-olds studying geometry is also questionable.

But in the end, a grade should mean something useful. It should lead to some useful action that facilitates better education. If it does not, then it is only useful to signal potential employers. And that use is indeed dubious for 8-year-olds. But not so dubious for 18-year-olds who did not progress past their 8-year-old level of proficiency.

So I say grade everyone, then make the grades matter. If a 17-year old wants to take one more shot at geometry, let them. If they want to quit after the third try when they are 15-yo, let them. If they want to quit after the first try, let them. But once you quit, you can't move along the dependency graph for that subject.

Of course, "geometry" is much too broad. You could get stuck on one small concept. You take as much time as you need to go back over it again and again until you get it well enough to be able to study the next concept that depends upon it. This might take one hour or it might take 2 hours per day for 3 days. It doesn't have to set you back 15 weeks or half a school year.

But again, that level of individualized instruction is expensive.

Edit: spelling

You might be interested in the idea of Sudbury schools. Though there's not exactly a dependency graph of subjects, they do emphasize learning things appropriate to the individual student at the student's own pace, rather than forcing subjects based on the student's age. And it would certainly not be abnormal for a 7 year age difference.


It is expensive but not doing it seems expensive as well, just not in the education budget.

One of the promises of IT in the classroom was to help with these sort of problems but it doesn't seem to have delivered.

That's because IT isn't "properly trained in the nuance of teaching."

There's so much dissonant crap in teaching that nobody really knows exactly what the days pedagogy is. And AB testing is right out. So what do you do? You do the minimum effort to make sure the state or feds don't cut your funding.

Its an ugly spiral, and the students suffer.

I think some feedback system is important, you need a mechanism to let the parents know Johnny is struggling and need something to help them.

That said, letter grades are useless to gradeschoolers (K-5).

Letter grades are largely useless as an educational tool, even in high school – they provide delayed, coarse, not very actionable feedback, while inflicting a lot of unnecessary emotional stress/pain which directly interferes with learning. The real purpose of letter grades is largely bureaucratic and they are designed for the convenience of teachers and school administrators. What they are good for is sorting and labeling the students, though as a side effect they are also quite effective at directing student effort toward gaming them rather than caring about the quality of their work.

My primary school eschewed grades in favor of detailed written progress reports. These took a whole lot more work for the teachers to prepare, but were much more valuable. (In particular, knowing that they would need to write them caused teachers to pay attention to the progress of every student and take notes about it on a regular basis.)

Our school district administers SBAC tests. Students are given a general score, but nothing specific. Nobody is allowed to know which questions a student was given, let alone which ones they got right or wrong. The tests are completely adaptive, so every student gets a different set of questions.

The school district uses cumulative results to assess students, teachers, and entire schools. But it's all meaningless. You don't know which areas a student struggles in. You don't know what topics a teacher doesn't explain well. You don't know where the specific holes are in a school's curriculum. You fire teachers, shuffle classes, and fund schools without useful information. There is no way to take a teacher and make them better. You can only replace them and hope for the best, shooting in the dark. You can make a student feel generally bad about themselves, or good about themselves, but not help them assess their specific strengths and weaknesses.

It all seems so pointless to me that I specifically pull my children out of testing days. If an entire day or three has no educational value, there's no point in attending.

That sounds a bit like the InCAS assessment[1] used in the UK and some international schools that follow the British system. In my experience, the teachers are a bit reluctant to share the results because it takes some effort to get reports out that are parent-friendly, and it takes a bit of explaining what the reports mean. But I have been able to get them upon request. Perhaps it is the same issue with SBAC tests, too much effort for the teachers to provide meaningful reports.

1. https://www.cem.org/incas

The argument for grades is "Well, I suffered through them, so should you".

We can look at engineering disciplines, medical at all levels, and many more. "Since I suffered, you should have to as well."

When we finally kill that idea, we can move forward with what real education is, and how to better measure it. Right now, we measure compliance and rule adherence, and we should instead be measuring understanding.

A lot of the schools where I live do the detailed progress reports. The thing is, the quality of the reports varies a lot from teacher to teacher. Some of us parents share the reports with each other and there are always lots of questions about what the heck the teacher is trying to say. Some teachers just are not good at writing assessments. Some reports are so weasel-worded you can't get to the real meaning of it. I used to write a lot of performance appraisals when I worked at a government contractor where we were strongly discouraged from directly criticizing certain classes of employees. So I got good at writing and decoding weasel-worded assessment.

Fortunately we have one-on-one meetings with the teachers when the reports come out so we can get straight answers from them.

I think if the feedback was more along the lines of the teacher getting in touch with the parent to discuss decline in performance or something it might go better for the child. There is something just really indifferent and also ambiguous about letter grades and more specifically the Unsatisfactory/Satisfactory/Outstanding rating system for younger children. I believe the age range they measured was children 5-11 so pretty young in this context.

1. Grades are a strong motivator for many students.

2. Grades help you gauge how well you did, which can be useful for self-improvement.

3. Grades in early years can help train you to gain the study habits to get good grades in later years. Suddenly being expected to study in grade 9 might be harder.

In my university we were allowed to take some classes pass/fail instead of graded. I can tell you exactly how much effort students would put into those classes: enough to pass. Even the way students would take about these classes would emphasize this. We'd say things like, "yeah, I have 4 courses this semester, and econ, but it's pass/fail".

Yes, I often hated the stress of homework and grades in school. But the unfortunate truth is if nothing were at stake (i.e. bad grades), I would have much rather spent my energy playing video games than learning. Which is exactly what I did when I didn't have homework or a test (and often even when I did).

Is it grades specifically that mattered? If the consequence for not learning algebra was to repeat lessons until you learned it, wouldn't you get bored and want to score well and move on? Isn't level of progress as motivating as a grade in terms of competitive motivation?

Yes, just like with the pass/fail courses at my university, students would want to pass. Also like those pass/fail courses, most students would put the minimum effort required to pass.

If you're proposing a system where each student gets to progress at their own pace, then:

1. I would have loved to have that in my school.

2. But it demands more resources from schools and creates logistical problems. Every student now graduates with different knowledge.

3. You've recreated the problems problems we were trying to solve by eliminating grades to begin with. Parents will still be angry if their kid has only completed 4 levels of progress when all the good students have completed 10. They'll say they aren't applying themselves. Kids will be under stress to complete as many levels as possible each year. And of course, if each level is pass/fail, it encourages superficial learning of each level. What have we accomplished by eliminating grades?

To answer your first question, grades are not the only possible motivator. Anything that can be measured could be used to motivate. But if you measure the wrong thing, you encourage the wrong behaviour.

This week I had 2 assessments. Firstly I did my HR truck licence (large trucks, non articulated) and secondly I upgraded my industrial rope access certification. Neither of these have a grade on the official record other than pass or fail. On both examinations I actually had much finer grained assessment, and specific feedback on areas that could be improved.

I'm not sure why adult assessment works this way but school doesn't.

I assume that you mean having grades in grades K-8, and not that schooling should not start until 9th grade.

I went to a K-12 school for high school (transferred in at grade 9); and they didn't give any grades in K-8 [0]. Having said that, I do not think the concept of grades for younger students is inherantly bad, it is just that parents and students are terrible at receiving them.

I assume you do see the value in report cards in general. The problem with gradeless report cards, is that it is easy to misunderstand them. For instance, if a teacher says "Johny should improve in X", it is not clear if there is a problem, or if Johny is actually doing amazing, and X is just the place where there is the most room for growth. Ideally, the teacher would be able to communicate this information perfectly; but having a simple grading system can be a valuable to to accurate communication.

[0] And their reasoning for giving any in 9-12 was primarily for college applications.

Wow I had no idea K-12s still existed. What was the profile / location of your school?

Private school in Maryland; about 50 students/grade in K-8 and 80 in 9-12

This reminds me of ads they ran in the UK about domestic violence going up when a team lost a football match. I’m not sure what to make of it. Are we going to have an ad for any and every generic stressor in this life? If a report card or sporting event is enough to induce a physical beating there are some more serious problems going on.


If there’s a fire, you don’t try to put it out with gasoline. The proposal makes perfect sense.

Whatever the solution is, it's definitely not to lower the standards further in an attempt to raise grades, because that just continues the cycle of decline.

Schools just sort of happened at the behest of industrialists. There isn't actually that much thought put into the concept of schools much less all that follows from them. They are simply taken as granted despite the fact that they are a relatively recent invention.

"The Founding Fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on parents. So they provided jails called schools, equipped with tortures called an education. School is where you go between when your parents can’t take you and industry can’t take you."

—John Updike, 1963

School is not a recent invention. Public school is recent invention.

Also, there is much thought put into schooling. Curriculum (what to teach), instruction (how to teach), school administration, etc.

I am not saying schools are perfect, but claim schools are the same as jails, education is the same as torture, it's just bullsh*t.

> school is not a recent invention


In relation to the biological history of our species, schools are very recent institutions. For hundreds of thousands of years, before the advent of agriculture, we lived as hunter-gatherers. In my August 2 posting, I summarized the evidence from anthropology that children in hunter-gatherer cultures learned what they needed to know to become effective adults through their own play and exploration. The strong drives in children to play and explore presumably came about, during our evolution as hunter-gatherers, to serve the needs of education. Adults in hunter-gatherer cultures allowed children almost unlimited freedom to play and explore on their own because they recognized that those activities are children's natural ways of learning.

In sum, for several thousand years after the advent of agriculture, the education of children was, to a considerable degree, a matter squashing their willfulness in order to make them good laborers. A good child was an obedient child, who suppressed his or her urge to play and explore and dutifully carried out the orders of adult masters. Such education, fortunately, was never fully successful. The human instincts to play and explore are so powerful that they can never be fully beaten out of a child. But certainly the philosophy of education throughout that period, to the degree that it could be articulated, was the opposite of the philosophy that hunter-gatherers had held for hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

With the rise of schooling, people began to think of learning as children's work. The same power-assertive methods that had been used to make children work in fields and factories were quite naturally transferred to the classroom.

In recent times, the methods of schooling have become less harsh, but basic assumptions have not changed. Learning continues to be defined as children's work, and power assertive means are used to make children do that work.

> schools are the same as jails, education is the same as torture, it's just bullsh*t.

Meant in jest.

"Don't let schooling interfere with your education."

- Mark Twain

There was also much thought put into phlogiston and epicycles.

See also: the police. (Relevant book: The End of Policing)

If that's the approach they're taking, why not just cancel the day Friday all together?

Seriously, instead of finding and fighting the root causes of the problems, they treat the symptoms.

Reminds me of the old Jewish folk tale/joke: when people in the town of Chelem complained to the city council that many people fall off the broken town's bridge, the council got together, deliberated for a week, and decided to build a new hospital under the bridge.

I'm thinking report cards released on Friday increase parent-child interaction across the board, both good and bad;that a child is more likely to be encouraged for good grades, disciplined for bad ones, or simply asked how their day was.

>> If something like grades are causing the parents to lash out at the kids it's a sign that the parents are struggling to cope.

And they strike their children because they can't cope? If they can't cope without striking their children, well, then, maybe they shouldn't have any. That'd be best for their children, and for the parents also. The children won't grow up damaged (and having learned that this is the way to raise children) and the parents won't have to experience such pressure that they absolutely have to strike someone to make it better.

Sometimes you find out too late.

Weren't you a kid?

Serious answer: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

This will solve the problem on every level.

I agree with that being the first and greatest commandment, but it's for individuals. What do we do as a society when other people do not keep that commandment—or more relevantly, the second, to love their neighbor as themselves? Where is the line where we intervene for the sake of others?

Perhaps these problems can't be solved by society? The amount of misalignment of (putative) intent and effect in education I've seen, especially at the policy level, at least suggests this. If that's true, the question you should be asking is what should I do when other people do not keep that commandment.

Very good comment.

The difference left and right start here though. Sadly.

Looking at the states still condoning corporal punishment, it seems those god-lovers spend all their love on god, and have only the stick and paddle left over for their neighbors and children.

I don't think the actual study[1] takes the kind of correlation=causation approach this snippet does.

That said ...

> In addition to distributing report cards earlier in the week, schools could consider including messaging to help prevent corporal punishment that crosses the line into abuse. But that’s a sticky issue in Florida, where some counties still allow corporal punishment in public schools. (Florida’s not alone: 19 states still allow schools to hit students, according to the Gundersen Center for Effective Discipline.)

This is absolutely insane. It's 2019. I grew up in Florida and remember "the paddle" from my elementary school days but had assumed it had been stricken by now.

[1] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abst...

What is absolutely insane? The existence of "corporal punishment" or "physical abuse"?

According to the quoted sentence ("prevent corporal punishment that crosses the line into abuse"), corporal punishment is not the same as abuse. The article also says: "Corporal punishment may include pain but is not supposed to result in injury; corporal punishment resulting in injury is physical abuse."

So the line is whether the punishment resulting in injury. But it is not clear what is counted as "injury".

> What is absolutely insane? The existence of "corporal punishment" or "physical abuse"?

Corporal punishment as administered by schools.

It is just not illegal, it does not mean the schools or teachers are actually doing it.

Schools and teachers are actually doing it.

Yeah. What about punishment resulting in emotional injury?

All that corporal punishment teaches is that it's OK for the powerful to punish the weak.

All punishment results in emotional injury. That's what punishment means...

Of course. And punishment tends to produce damaged people, who hate themselves because they're bad. Because, you know, they must be bad, because they've been punished. And because they're bad, and hate themselves, they take it out on others, whenever they can get away with it. So it's a recursive cycle of punishment.

Citation needed for that statement. Corporal punishment has been a part of human societies for thousands of years, so you need stronger evidence for such a statement.

Crime and war have also "been a part of human societies for thousands of years".

> deMause, L. (2002). The emotional life of nations. London, England: Karnac Books.

> Abstract

> Describes a psychogenic theory of history, arguing that childrearing and the interpersonal expression of love impact upon the national and international arenas with greater force than any bomb. The author discusses the role of mothers in political progress, our psychological dependency on our enemies, and the concept of the "social alter"--that part of the mind that infinitely restages social trauma. Furthermore, he delineates the ways in which inadequate parenting and overabundant technology interact to produce the crises of our age. Part I of this book describes how shared early personal experiences determine political behavior. The three chapters describe historically recent political events to demonstrate how shared emotions can cause political violence. Part II details a psychohistorical theory of history, first as it applies to politics and second as it explains the causes of war. Part III is a history of how child rearing has evolved and how more loving, trustful parenting has produced new kinds of human psyches, which in turn have resulted in new social and political institutions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Also: https://scholar.google.de/scholar?hl=de&as_sdt=0%2C5&as_ylo=...

What's funny is that your comment alluding to the generational persistence of punishment indicates the very cyclic nature that you are seeking proof of. Its persistence does not prove its worthiness ('appeal to nature'), only its ability to survive as a trait. What we have to decide is, whatever the mechanism of its survival, what is its efficacy and moral value in today's society.

I didn't make a statement as the parent as to the effects of punishment. Making statements requires proof, making extraordinary statements requires exteaordi ary proof.

"In a review of research on emotions and moral development, the psychologist Nancy Eisenberg suggests that shame emerges when parents express anger, withdraw their love, or try to assert their power through threats of punishment: Children may begin to believe that they are bad people. Fearing this effect, some parents fail to exercise discipline at all, which can hinder the development of strong moral standards."

Here is a very good read: Raising a Moral Child. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/opinion/sunday/raising-a-...

Yes, "no punishment" <> "no training re moral principals and values". And when you do that with love, without punishment, you get people who actually have moral principals and values, rather than just pretending, in order to avoid loss of love or punishment.

This seems like a pretty extreme viewpoint.

There is actually another more important lesson, which is that there is always someone bigger and more powerful than you.

Well, yes. And so you need better weapons than they have.

Funny story. So I'm a little wiry guy. And back in the day, I used to carry a buck knife in my back pocket. As Logen says, you can never have enough knives ;) But anyway, a bunch of us were sitting around a fire, BSing, and I start cleaning my fingernails with the knife. And this big jolly dude says "It's always you little guys who pull a knife, when we're just having a friendly brawl!"

Funny, no?

Edit: But global nuclear war? Not so funny :(

The weak clearly can't punish the powerful. If the powerful can't punish the weak, there is no check against criminal activity.

Criminal activity by the powerful is a far greater problem than criminal activity by the weak.

Corporal punishment is insane.

Corporal != Abuse. I was a teacher. Kids were not turning in homework. I gave out about 15 minutes worth of it because independant practice is important. Most kids would just not do it. So I instituted a 5 push up policy. You did 5 push ups for every day in a row you did not turn it homework. So your third day would have been 15 push ups. It worked great. Only three or so kids per class would skip homework, and few kept up the trend. This lasted a very short time. When administration heard, they shut that shit down fast as it was considered corporal punishment. Students stopped turning in homework for the most part after that.

Hmm, I'm not sure this is as good of an example as you think it is. If the only way to get kids to do their homework was to essentially threaten them with physical "labor" (obviously 5 push-ups isn't much) it definitely feels like there may be larger issues at play.

Oh, for sure. The larger issues are all the issues that come with being in a poor, inner-city school where there are no real examples of how doing well in school could actually help one's life. Where gangs, violence, and going to prison or jail is assumed to be normal. I had students confused by the idea I've never been arrested and where all the adults in their family (including grandparents) are members of gangs. At this particular school, 4% would go onto any post secondary education. Less than 1% would attain a four year degree. The (majority of) students and their families had zero buy in for school meaning much of anything.

It is strange that the study does not report raw numbers of instance. How many happened after post card release vs. not after post card release? I can't find the raw numbers of such. Only raw number of breaking down by race.

Also, "Of the 167906 calls to the child abuse hotline for children aged 5 to 11 years, 2017 (6.7%) were verified as physical abuse cases". Only 6.7% verified???

>Only 6.7% verified???

I have complaints about the quality of the study, but this is not one of them. Keep in mind that anyone in Florida who suspects abuse is required to report it to the hotline. Probably more significant is the more traditional mandated reporters, who are trained to report any suspicion of abuse, out of both an abundance of caution and to protect themselves from liability. By design, such hotlines have a high false positive rate.

I am not blaming the high false positive rate (although itself is problem). The problem is that this kind of high false positive rate has a huge impact on the quality of the study. Be aware the followed analysis does not account for the error in reporting and verification. There are simple too many noise.

I wonder if it could just be that the child abuse workers can more easily verify cases over the weekends. Maybe they need to talk to parents (who are likely working other days) before they can mark it as verified?

This is such an obvious explanation that it makes me doubt the whole study.

> Only 6.7% verified???

Verified "as physical abuse cases", meaning that the rest were deemed to not be.

Could be. Then the study should report how many were verified as abuse, how many were physical abuse.

That's a lot of overlap of those confidence intervals in Table 3.

> 19 states still allow schools to hit students

As one living in a country that bans parents from hitting their own children, I find that number shocking. Do they actually hit the kids in practice, or is this some left-over regulation from the past (like the French ban on women wearing trousers in Paris that got formally repelled a few years ago)?

Public schools sure don't hit kids. Private schools might. I know Catholic schools were infamous for smacking the crap out of kids, but I don't know how much they've mellowed on that since my Dad and uncles went through Catholic school in the 70s. I think parents would be pretty irate if a public school administrator hit their kids, even if they themselves hit their kids.

Edit: I looked at a map and the states that don't forbid hitting kids in school are all the South: https://amp.businessinsider.com/images/533438e769beddc92a184...

That's a pretty big cultural disparity, so while I can't imagine hitting kids to fly in a million years in any state that I've lived in, I suppose my account could be biased. There can be a pretty big divide between southern states and northern ones sometimes.

> Public schools sure don't hit kids.

They for darn sure do. On the ordered list of reasons why I yanked my kid out of the school he was in, number three (will shock you) is that one of his friends "received corporal punishment" (the polite euphemism for "was struck") and the school and school district had no mechanism for parents ordering the school to not do that to our children.

> I looked at a map and the states that don't forbid hitting kids in school are all the South


> There can be a pretty big divide between southern states and northern ones sometimes.

You're not wrong. High up on the list of reasons why my immediate family does not now and never will again live in the state listed on the top of all of our birth certificates is cultural differences like this. My "home" state shows no real signs of changing this or many other of these things. I sincerely hope they do but me and mine will be witnessing it from afar, at least until my kid becomes an adult and chooses for himself where to live.

I went to a public school in the south and was hit as part of a punishment for something I was falsly accused of doing.

I do think it's a bit misleading for you to say "all in the south" when that map stretches all the way to the Canadian border, but I digress...

One anecdote, not that it paints much of a picture, is that I have a much younger cousin in Catholic school right now (in one of the states on that map) and, from what I hear, it sounds like corporal punishment is completely off the table.

As a kid, living in a time and State where that was permitted, I found the idea so basically wrong that I made it perfectly clear that day would be my last day if required, as in no holds barred, do what it takes.

Looked that guy right in the eye, ready... told him it was not gonna happen.

It didn't, and I was the only one that it did not happen to.

Let's just say the events that followed after I made that statement were not pretty. But, I also must say I have not experienced that clarity and strength of resolve since.

7th grade. I was scared by it. What the whole scenario triggered. What I was capable of in that moment.

That person transferred to another school system shortly after.

We met again 20 some years later at a wedding reception. Of course we immediately got drinks and caught up. Both of us eager to revisit that time as different, and better people.

I was that serious problem kid, he remarked at how ill equipped the staff were at that time. Was a real mess.

Some laughs and a handshake later, both of us got some much needed closure.

I think when it comes down to basic physical means we have failed as people. It can work. Does sometimes. But there are costs, scars. Not physical ones so much.

But, when it does not work? I really do fear the state of mind I arrived at that day. Unnecessary too. What of others, their states of mind? What happens when they can't process it, or it builds up over repeated events?

Our talk healed both our scars amazingly well. I consider both of us lucky in that respect.

Edit: I had it super rough as a kid. Turned out fine after middle school though. Was a mess like I said. I did gain something high value. I can often reach troubled kids. I have been in very dark, scary places. And I, at times, had little to no meaningful help.

It was another person reached me. That is what does the real work, and it does not require beatings to accomplish.

It does require understanding. That is harder than a beating, but far more potent.

This seems to me like a sincere and uplifting post; why was it downvoted?

I didn't vote on that post, but it says that physical violence against a child can work.

> I think when it comes down to basic physical means we have failed as people. It can work. Does sometimes. But there are costs, scars. Not physical ones so much.

You're probably right. It's pretty childish to upvote/downvote a comment because you have the same/different opinion rather than based on the value it adds to the conversation.

Suggesting that physical violence against children "works" is a low value contribution.

And you misunderstand the voting culture on HN.

I just added some clarity that should rebut the "low value" part of that contribution.

Ugly truth isn't low value, it's ugly. There is a difference, and that difference was made clear.

What happened was people saw that, went full stop. That's OK. I will rarely refrain, when I deem it necessary. I don't think I should as that is actually a disservice to me, and readers here.

Again, I didn't vote on that post and I was just guessing at the motivations of people who did downvote.

I know. Written in context, for passers by as much as anything.

Implying anything about you is not my intent.

It does say that. I was being brutally frank and honest in that post.

Now, it also says "can work", but there are COSTS and SCARS, as well as saying, "not physical ones." Cutting off a limb to avoid some disease progressing works too, but the costs and scars point very clearly to better ways, for those who need an analogy.

Let me make that part even more clear:

It works by damaging people. Some people, me, were not too damaged. Having a parent do it was enough. The school? I found out there was absolutely no way I was going to permit that. Primal.

I think our nature impacts this. I have a sort of core, "I am in charge of me and what that means" that runs super deep. Others don't, or work really differently.

Hitting a child can work, given that context, should not be offensive, just real, frank.

The latter part of the post highlights the real work, and that is understanding a child well enough to reach them.

Here's an example:

One troubled kid would just not open up much. I asked their parents if we could go on a road trip. I let them know my intent well in advance of what I was about to do.

What I did was get in the car, score some road food, set the scene up nicely enough, not threatening at all.

Then I started driving, and we talked. I was getting BS. After about 100 miles (no joke), it dawned on the troubled kid we were a long way from home.

I looked at them, and said the drive home begins when the real conversation does.

It took a while, and we talked about a lot of stuff. Girls, school, jokes, TV. At some point, the scenery really changed, and a while after that, out it came.

They had told no one.

At last, I could understand, said that, and we really talked on the way home.

Reached 'em. And where that happens, we can fix people, get them back to a place where they can grow, do, play, develop, and be as they were largely intended. I myself was reached by a perceptive person. I love her for it. All the physical stuff did was generate rage and resolve in me. Both ugly. Through that, I understood the power of seeking understanding and have employed it in my (much better than it was going to be) life. I do not feel these statements carry the weight they do, sans the reality of beating on kids. Like I said, frank, brutally honest. Moving on...

Prior to that, this kid was in all sorts of trouble and had every punishment you can name. Nothing worked.

Nobody bothered to ask why nothing worked. Nobody knew to ask. That kid had to offer up something new, and that's the understanding, the first understanding and why we went on a road trip in the first place.

On the way back, lots of other understanding happened. Parents, school, other kids. Lots of ugly stuff going on.

End example.

I worried about the content of that post and kept it brief in places. Maybe I should not have.

The other reason I wrote it was to highlight the danger in just hitting younger people. Who really knows what that does? I shared a little of what I felt that day, and it was pure, clear, scary.

We see school shootings all the time now too.

There are days when I think, "is there any wonder, given the pressure cooker type systems we've got running all over the place now?"

I think every one of those has a root cause, and a significant contributor to that root cause is lack of understanding that kid.

And we need to do the work to understand the kids, or we end up with people we just don't understand at all!

My elementary school did have a process for corporal punishment. It was only done with the approval of the parents and in practice I can't imagine that there was more than a handful of parents that filled that form out. I know that in the administration office they had a couple of those forms printed out and I can't imagine that those would be printed and ready just sitting out if they hadn't ever filled any out in years though...

This was in Florida around 2000.

You might be even more shocked if you leave first-world countries.

Human brutality runs deep, and you can still find it displayed openly on the majority of Earth’s land mass.

A number of developing countries ban all forms of corporal punishments on children. Swaths of Latin America does so, as do a few African and Asian countries.



All developing countries have ineffective enforcement of laws, as well — that’s one of the defining criteria.

I think there's a significant difference between the practice being banned but there being "ineffective enforcement of laws", and being somewhere where it's still allowed and seen as perfectly acceptable.

The US is the only country that has not signed the UN convention on childrens rights.

Even developing countries ban corporeal punishment.

The US is the outlier.

> The US is the only country that has not signed the UN convention on childrens rights.

I looked it up on Wikipedia; seems like a lot of nations don't consider it to forbid child corporal punishment. ("The Committee's interpretation of this section to encompass a prohibition on corporal punishment has been rejected by several state parties to the Convention, including Australia,[14] Canada and the United Kingdom.")

> Even developing countries ban corporeal punishment.

Most countries seem to forbid corporal punishment in schools, with varying levels of enforcement, but many do not forbid parental corporal punishment; China is one example, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1083321.shtml.

If my years of adolescent beatings for anything less than an A taught me anything, it was: don't bring report cards home on Friday and sign your own progress reports.

It taught me something else: deal with similar situations for my kids in a better way.

Some things I have inculcated as a part of my children's education:

1. Lots of peer interaction and physical playtime.

2. Pomodoro technique: just 10-15 minutes of assured focus to cover exam topics starting several weeks before the exam date.

3. Treat all grades with praise of hardwork! Because they did put in the time and effort. And briefly go over mistakes and skipped questions.

4. Treat the school curriculum as a secondary medium of instruction and push parental instruction as primary without speed limits.

Great points, especially #4 (reminds me of the "No Speed Limit" post from Sivers), but I wonder about #3. It was (maybe still is?) common for lazy nerds to bemoan "Why couldn't I have been praised for effort instead of smarts as a kid?" as if that was the major cause of their laziness. I've suspected that even if they were praised differently it still wouldn't have helped many such lazy nerds because the effort required would still have been very minimal up until they hit their limits where things weren't so easy anymore without working hard (AP classes, college, sometimes all the way to grad school). As far as the effects of praise can shape someone I've figured getting praised for something you didn't do is worse than being praised for a trait, even if being praised for something you did do is better than for a trait.

> Some things I have inculcated as a part of my children's education:

> 1. Lots of peer interaction and physical playtime

Also known as being a normal human being...

Bingo. For me, it was different when parents handed out a beating. The school? Just no.

My own kids were through school before the portal and notification systems arrived in our schools.

In some ways, it is good to know problem areas early. There is time to make changes. As a parent, I would have appreciated that.

As a student? Ugh. Many parents are busy and I can see the whole thing suffering from the same "5 star" problem we see in rating systems all over the place.

It all gravitates to 5 stars being the constant expectation.

Maybe I am glad I didn't have to deal with that mess. Being involved in my kids education was work, maybe more than today.

Or maybe not. I wonder how many overcorrects happen due to a kid just having a bad day. Or the stress of just having a bad day amplified?

One possible cause I haven’t seen mentioned is that abusive parents are perhaps more likely to get drunk on a Friday, and the report card provides them a timely justification to beat their kids.

Yes. I don't think bad grades make parents violent. Alcohol does.

I do wonder if there is any chance that the reason that there is a spike in reports of abuse on the Saturday following report cards coming out on a Friday is because it is more likely to be reported?

It's not mentioned anywhere in the article, but if someone said to me that 2 things are true: 1. There is some correlation between report cards being returned and child abuse 2. There is a spike in reports of abuse on Saturdays when report cards are returned on Friday

I wouldn't immediately think "cool, lets return report cards earlier. Problem solved"

Other than not really solving the problem of abusive parents, this also doesn't actually rule out child abuse happening accross the board but not being reported on weekdays.

This isn't something designed to solve the problem. The actual problem is really, really complicated and solving it is difficult.

It is unlikely that all the abuse simply shifts to during the week and stops getting reported.

What it actually is, however, is a change schools can make to lessen child abuse, even if it is just a little. It isn't something difficult or expensive to do.

They had 2,000 data points... so they looked at the proportion of points on a given day when there was a report card released the previous day and when there wasn’t. Assuming Saturday’s accounted for, let’s say 20% of the population (blindly assuming) then they had about 400 data points and got a p value of 0.02. I’m assuming they did something to normalize for the number of days because there’s going to be far fewer report card days... idk. I think their statistics are probably shaky. Their confidence interval places the effect size at (20% to 1100%) if I’m reading correctly.

I might believe that report cards increase rates of abuse but the idea that Friday is something special is probably just due to not having enough data for other days.

Perhaps, but a report card is likely to get more attention on a Friday than another day of the week, and I could see consequences stretching into the weekend, which is supposed to be a time for a child to relax from the school week.

That being said, I think we should put far less emphasis on grades and report cards in general, so I'd rather just not give out report cards on a regular basis. Grades and reports cause a ton of stress for kids that just gets in the way of learning. I also think children should be allowed to go at their own pace and have some level of control over what they learn. It's okay if a child lags in one area and excels in another for a year or two. Interests change, and children learn far more rapidly in subjects they're interested in.

I agree that just moving report cards may not solve the problem. We need to reexamine why we give report cards and decide if there isn't a better way (and there are a lot of alternative teaching methods that may do better than the way most public schools are run).

Maybe, but, it’s not especially convincing evidence that this is a widespread problem. This is pure assumption, but if report cards effected rates regardless of day they probably would have mentioned this. We shouldn’t assume it is the case, and then even if it is the case, we should really take a hard look at whether is a meaningfully large number.

Seems ok to me but the usual problem as pointed by others whether other factors is in play, as most social studies do.

Alcoholic Friday ...

This is a great example of how contemporary medicine's obsession with measurable outcomes produces interventions that are completely devoid of humanity.

> “It’s a pretty astonishing finding,”

Is it?

I was never abused, but my parents were definitely not pleased by bad school reports. It's not hard to imagine that people who look for excuses to abuse their children, do so after getting a school report.

Why is it so astonishing?

I'm going to put my money on alcohol being a factor. People drink more on weekends, and of course the link between alcohol and child abuse is strong and incontrovertible.

It’s rather simple. Abusers are conscious of what they’re doing. They think if they abuse their child during the week they’re more likely to get caught because the effects of the abuse (physical and emotional) are still fresh the next day. If they do the abusing on Friday night, by Monday they think they have much less likelihood of getting caught.

This may actually work a few times. But eventually they go too far.

To protect kids, we could create a new system of grades that involves more data than just numbers and scores. Maybe that could be a long-term solution for a lot of seemingly unrelated problems.

Some schools are trying "Standards-Based Grading", where each class has 5-10 semester objectives. Students receive a proficiency rating (4,3,2,1) for each objective. Essentially a more granular report of your skills, vs a single letter.

Example: https://www.teacherease.com/standards-based-grading.aspx

How many Fridays follow a report card release vs. those which don't?

If it is the weekly release schedule that I experienced in Elementary School, then this statement is effectively "people beat their kids less on public holidays" which seems much less surprising.

Also, where are schools that do "non-standard" reporting located? This seems like a geographically confounding factor.

This one requires a little lateral thinking. Why not get rid of report cards, or grades, altogether? The use of online platforms where teachers are expected to enter grades in real time sounds like a massive burden on the teachers, not to mention a privacy/security risk. Terrible.

I didn’t see an explanation (or theory) given for why there isn’t a problem on the other days of the week. Did I just miss it?

The obvious guess would be people go get drunk on Friday night then come home mad their kid got a bad grade... But I am surprised that it’s somehow not an issue on other weekdays.

Another plea to change the behavior of the many because of the criminal actions of the few. Can we please go after the criminals and not remove a parenting tool from the law abiding?

How would sending report cards home on a day other than Friday be removing a parenting tool?

I don't understand why this would help at all. Is it better to be beaten in the middle of the week?

Actually, yes, for two reasons. Firstly, because you'll be beaten on (say) wednesday night, rather then friday night and potentially also saturday morning, saturday night, sunday morning and sunday night. Secondly, because you'll be beaten less severely, for fear that there might be a teacher who cares enough to notice if you show up thursday with bruises and a limp.

Bruses and limps don't vansish afet Sundays service. Anything requring a doctor to look at is going to last days.

I don't think there is any evidence that changing the day will change the outcome.

In fact. If you randomized the day schools sent this info then you will probably keep this stat hidden.

Seems like the solution is to hold parents who abuse their children accountable.

From the article:

> "After comparing a year’s worth of verified child abuse cases to the dates elementary school report cards were issued, the researchers found a correlation between report cards and child abuse — but only when grades went home on a Friday."

Sadly the study is behind paywall. If there are more details and the data is more open ...

what is it report card? when i was young we had books with grades we were taking home every day, so parents could follow progress and see our grades every day, nowadays grades are published online do parents can check them whenever they want

is this another case of some archaic american technology?

American schools do that as well to varying degrees. In addition to that, they send out cumulative grades every semester or half semester. In theory, these grades should not be a surprise, but parents don't always follow the daily grades their child gets; particularly those parents which might be abusive.

How is this at all related to programming?

This is not a programming website.

>She and her colleagues suspect that the increase is due to children being physically punished for their grades, “but it might be something else we don't know about,” she said.

Fucking duh. How could they have this statistic be accurate at all but not have anyone ask any of the kids? We would have told them "FUCKING DUH". Got into a #1 grad program for my major, dropped out because by then my parents chilled out I realized I have ZERO motivation for anything unless someone is going to beat me up if I don't do it. Tried getting a comp sci degree, all the profs told us the degree was useless, profs and students cheated rampantly, and I didn't see a single company in the industry making the world better rather than worse. Now I live in my parents' basement and when they die I will be homeless.

You have zero motivation now but that can change. A friend of mine was similar. Super bright, amazing grades but out from under the thumb of his parents and things feel apart. It took him a few years but he got motivated to change. Now he's serving in the Air Force, way happier than he was and doing great. Don't give up hope you can turn this around.

Not like kids won't get beat on a weekday, but if my mom was mad on a weekend I would have to hide under the bed all weekend and stay silent so she wouldn't be reminded I existed.

Glad somebody loves to vote down abused kids here, thanks.

You seem to be in a bad place, I hope you don't get stuck there. I know how hard change can be, there's nothing easy about it, and personally - I wouldn't have been able to even get started alone.

Maybe you have already tried it, but if you have the means, see if you can find a psychologist, or essentially any professional you feel is interested in listening, and be prepared to at least consider their words.

An bad environment can corrupt both how the world looks and how we see ourselves, that's why it's so important to get someone who can help you/us see again.

I any case, whenever you do throw off the tiniest part of what is keeping you down. Give yourself credit for it, and celebrate as a madman. Preferably as a respectful and kind madman, but give yourself credit.

I didn't downvote (and wouldn't have). I suspect that you are being downvoted because you are no longer a kid. You are an adult. You do now have agency to make you own decisions. Personally (and I am not a doctor so I could well be totally wrong!) I think it sounds like your lack of drive/ambition could be worth speaking to a doctor about.

“Now I live in my parents' basement and when they die I will be homeless.”

Is that the fate someone else picked out for you? Change it.

Yes, but it's not that simple. Our daughter was abused, by a relative that we were trying to help. It can take years to (at least somewhat) undo the damage.

Yes, the GP needs to get to work - not primarily externally, but on the internal damage. But it's not nearly as simple and easy as you make it sound.

daodedickinson: This may be too hard to do alone. There are people who can help. Find them. Stick with it. It's a long road, but worth walking.

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