Foreword Communications

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!


Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was missing a few necessities, so I ran to the local discount store this evening with my daughter, my son, and one of his friends (for clarification, my daughter came along to make sure that old mom didn’t forget anything; the boys only came to see what they could talk me into buying for them).  The store was one of those small discount chains that stocks everyday items but is famous for selling closeouts, buying in bulk, and passing the savings on to the customer.  Once we hit frozen foods, I realized that I had forgotten to snag some butter. 


I told my daughter to stay put and turned back to procure the Parkay (the boys were off searching for one of those cheapie legal fireworks collections).


I only had to go two aisles over; two very narrow aisles.  I would technically not even be out of sight of my daughter.  But my successful navigation of those two narrow little aisles was just not to be.  Halfway there, I encountered a sea of liquid which had crept across the floor, and down I went. 


As falls go, it was relatively graceful; a kind of scissors splits.  One leg behind, bent at the knee, the other in front, I was splayed across the floor like some sort of grotesque parody of a hurdle jumper.  At least it wasn’t one of those tailbone breakers where your legs come right out from under you and you land, unceremoniously, flat on your back.  I suppose it must have looked more like a feet-first slide into third base.


I never saw the offending liquid.  The “Caution – Wet Floor” sign was a good two feet away from where I fell.  I suppose perhaps the liquid may have originated where the sign was placed but, as liquids often do, it spread from the point of origin into the middle of the aisle where, lucky me, I met my fate.


So, what did I do?


After checking to be sure nothing was broken (I’m not as young as I used to be), I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed my fall.  In my younger days, as most still-young people can attest to, that process would have been reversed – i.e., I would have checked around to see if anyone saw me fall before it even occurred to me to wonder if I was hurt.  But alas, broken bones trump embarrassment when you’re over forty.


This is not to say I wasn’t embarrassed.  Once I confirmed that nothing was indeed broken, the embarrassment set in.  Turns out two people saw me fall.  One was a store employee who was stocking shelves a mere four feet away and, in the other direction, a shopper who was planted in the pasta aisle, probably lamenting the ever-increasing price of noodles.


The shopper and I exchanged somewhat nervous glances, smiles, and chuckles, not sure exactly how to behave.  I’m sure that some part of that woman really wanted to laugh out loud, like so many of us who witness someone else’s splat.  What is it about someone else taking a tumble that we find so terribly amusing anyway?  Maybe we’re just relieved that we ourselves thankfully avoided such an apparently close call.


The store employee, however, kinda ticked me off.  She offered nothing more than a mere glance in my direction and then went back to her job.  Well, I’m so glad I didn’t interrupt.  Now, I know a gentleman who is a manager at another of the store’s locations, and I know for a fact that their employees, though dismally underpaid, do receive basic training in such issues as call-the-manager-immediately-if-there’s-a-clean-up-needed-in-aisle-five, even if the cleanup required is human.  And, doesn’t common courtesy warrant at least an “are you ok?”  Geeze, the pasta shopper gave me more attention than the store employee!


There I was, sprawled out in all my glory, thinking “what the heck?”  So, me, being notoriously unable to just keep my big mouth shut, spread my arms, looked squarely at the store employee, and said “excuse me?!”  I wanted to say “yo, dingbat, a little help here!,” but I refrained.  The fact that I restrained myself from saying what I really wanted to say, I believe, warrants a pat on the back for me.  But, what did I get for my efforts?  She glanced over at me, said “oh, sorry,” and went back to stacking the string beans.


Huh?  Is “oh, sorry” in the training manual?  Me thinks this one missed the help-the-customer-off-the-floor in-service.  And she’s definitely missing the empathy gene.  In her defense, however, she was pretty young.  This chain frequently hires high school kids because they’re cheap labor.  And most young people just haven’t reached the point yet where they feel comfortable reaching out to help us old folks; it’s just not cool.  So, she did what teenagers are programmed to do; she ignored me.


But that made it even worse.  I suppose maybe it was the embarrassment that made me want to wring her neck.  I probably needed someone to be annoyed with.  After all, when your own display of clumsiness puts you in a position of embarrassment, it’s only human to lash out at an innocent bystander, right?  Of course, I was probably more embarrassed than I once would have been.  There’s just something different about falling when you’re middle-aged than falling when you’re young.


Compounding my embarrassment was the fact that I ran to the store without putting on any makeup.  After all, I just needed to grab a couple of things.  I wasn’t going to the policeman’s ball.  It’s bad enough being caught without your makeup; being caught falling without your makeup is even worse.  I was wearing sweats too.  And a man’s t-shirt.  It’s not like I was dressed for the occasion.  Falling in public does require some decorum, and I just didn’t have it.  Nope, no fashionable falling for me.


And, when I was younger, I fell ever so much more gracefully.  The fact that I can no longer fall with finesse probably has something to do with the old bones, lack of flexibility, or the fact that I’ve given birth to three children (when in doubt, always blame everything on childbirth).  Falling when you’re younger is far less humiliating.  Maybe it’s because, when you’re younger, you’re already convinced that you’re the center of attention, so the extra stares that you are rewarded with when you unceremoniously land on your arse are just icing on the cake.  When you’re young and beautiful, everyone wants to help you up.  When you’re approaching menopause, people would rather pretend they don’t see you.  Whatever the reason, I think that I was a much better-looking faller when I was younger.


So, it was probably my lack of falling prep that made me more hostile than I might otherwise have been.  Caught calling attention to myself with no makeup, wearing sweats and a t-shirt; that’s no way to behave!  Still, WASP that I am, I picked myself up off the floor (a two-handed job now that I’m not as limber as I once was) and continued my quest for the butter.  Finally, prize in hand, I was headed back to where I left my daughter when I decided that keeping my mouth shut just wasn’t in the cards.


Oh, that poor girl!  Off I marched to that unsuspecting store employee who, by now, had probably completely forgotten about me, and squared off with her right in front of the canned carrots.  I firmly announced to her that “you can tell your manager that, if that mess is not cleaned up by the time I come back around this way, he and I will be talking lawsuit.”  Yep, that’s what I said.  Guess I told her!


Now that all humanity was safe from further falling faux pas, I was off in search of pizza rolls.  When next I checked, the young lady had vanished (whether to find the manager or escape from me, I’m not entirely sure) and a couple of aisles away, a young man was strolling toward the scene of the crime with a rolling mop bucket.  I suppose he could have acted as if he really had someplace to be before the store closed, but I’d had enough excitement for one day and didn’t want to be caught on every store security camera hysterically haranguing a mop boy to boot.  One humiliation was enough, thank you.  Best to leave well enough alone.


Still, one doesn’t easily get past falling in public.  Through the store, in every aisle, and especially at the checkout, I was firmly convinced that everyone present was a witness to the events.  Although, logically, I know that only the store employee and the pasta lady actually saw what happened, my natural human sense of self-centeredness insisted that every store employee must have seen the video footage already being played in the break room and that all of the customers in earshot had heard them all talking about the crazy falling lady.


The boys never saw the fall, and didn’t find out about it until a discussion ensued as a result of the word “lawsuit” when my daughter and I were talking about what happened.  Luckily for the store, I’m a firm believer that the nation’s courts are clogged with frivolous lawsuits and that accidents happen through no fault of anyone in particular, so filing a lawsuit is not my style.  Of course, the store employee didn’t know that or my words wouldn’t have felt so satisfying.


My daughter, however, is a different story.  After the fact, when we’d returned home and told my other daughter all about it, it dawned on me that she must have seen the whole thing!  I’m sure that I blocked it out due to the trauma, but I vaguely remembered seeing her out of the corner of my eye.  She looked right at me, there on the floor, and walked away!  She left me!  That silly little teenager abandoned her old mother in her hour of need!


She said that she didn’t really see me fall.  She had only glanced my way, just at the moment I caught her in the corner of my eye apparently, and wondered if I was picking something up off the floor.  She was actually surprised when I told her I fell, so it must be true that she didn’t really see the whole thing.  Although she did admit that something in the back of her mind made her wonder if I had fallen, her teenage brain must have preferred to deal with the sight of her mother sprawled on the floor of a public place by fooling her into thinking that I was “picking something up off the floor.”  In her defense, however, if it’s a dilemma for a teenager to figure out what to do with a middle-aged stranger who’s in obvious need of assistance, that dilemma becomes more than the mind can bear when the faller is one’s own mother!  The teen brain is just not equipped to deal with such an embarrassment.  Parent’s are embarrassing enough as it is without being firmly convinced, as teens tend to be, that everyone must be looking at you thinking “poor kid; mom just can’t stay upright, can she?”  My younger daughter (she’s 14) would have been mortified, but my older daughter (almost 17), being the rock that she is, allowed her mind to trick her into thinking she saw something completely different.  Gotta love her.


Luckily, I’m no worse for the wear.  A sore knee, easily managed with painkillers and a bottle of scotch (nah, just Tylenol), and a wounded pride were the only casualties.




I don’t have all the answers either.


©2008 ForeWORD Communications    

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Natural Reading: Helping Children Acquire Reading Skills…. Naturally

Filed under: CULTURE, EDUCATION, FAMILY, PARENTING — forewordcommunications @ 11:49 pm



A lot of debate exists on the teaching of reading. Researchers spend decades studying how children and adults learn to read. Educators implement the latest trends in the classroom to ensure that students learn reading skills as early and as thoroughly as possible. And the nation’s lawmakers rush to back proficiency-based testing that supports whatever research and trends are in vogue at the moment.


But, the truth is that, for most children, reading happens, or should happen, naturally. Like many other skills that children master, reading is no exception. Natural reading is less the result of a specific and goal-oriented drive to ensure that kids read by a magical milestone date than the result of natural reading development.


In many ways, language acquisition and reading go hand in hand. As parents and educators, we rarely dedicate much time to teaching language unless a child needs to learn a non-native language. Most people just assume that language develops as a natural part of normal development. And they’re right. For most children, reading is as natural as speaking and happens in much the same way.


Children learn by watching and doing. They learn to walk, talk, smile, and play all as a result of modeling the behavior of the people around them. Most children, given the opportunity, will learn reading just as naturally. This means that adults and older siblings who model reading behavior are actually teaching reading.


Parents who enjoy reading and read the daily newspaper, magazines, books, and other reading material, model reading for their children. Preschool and early grade teachers who read to the children in their classrooms and create enjoyable story time scenarios model reading for their students. And, siblings and other children that early readers spend time with that enjoy reading and read to younger children, model reading behavior. Young children want to do the same!


Natural reading opportunities abound for young children. And savvy parents can watch as the miracle of words not only spurs a child’s verbal development, but that child’s joy of reading as well. It’s amazing to watch as a child naturally challenges him/herself to learn to read. Anyone not convinced of this need only watch a child engrossed in an educational television show or exploring an older sibling’s book or magazine.


Children are natural learners. They need little incentive to acquire new skills. All a parent or other adult needs to do is to make sure that each child has the tools they need to explore the world around them. We know that children naturally develop language skills. What most people fail to consider is that language develops as a result of being exposed to language. Just as a child would never be expected to develop normal language skills without ever hearing spoken words, it is nearly impossible for a child to naturally develop reading skills without books, educational television, or some other form of exposure to the written word.


So, in addition to sharing the written word with children through story time, shared reading, modeling behavior, and schooling, parents and other adults can encourage natural reading by intentionally planting opportunities for reading such as tuning in an educational television show that explores reading, leaving the cereal box on the table for children to explore, and stocking the home and learning environment with books, educational toys, and a genuine love for reading.






But, I don’t have all the answers either.


©2008 ForeWORD Communications    

All Rights Reserved


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Monday, June 23, 2008

why cant kids write rite?

Filed under: CULTURE, EDUCATION, FAMILY, LIFE, MODERN LIVING, RANDOM, RANDOM THOUGHTS, THOUGHTS — Tags: , , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 10:22 am











My daughter has elected to complete a couple of extra academic credits toward her graduation requirements via a reputable online school this summer.  One of those credits is an English III credit.  The course focuses on grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.  A week before the course began, the teacher, we’ll call her Madame English Teacher, placed the following message on her site: 


“Welcome to English III.  I’ll be posting a discription of the course soon.  This class is defenitely harder than the regular version because it is much shorter, so be prepared to work a lot harder.” 


Now, my degree isn’t in English, it’s in Psychology, but even I can see that Madame English Teacher has two very glaring misspellings in those three short sentences.  And this individual is teaching high school seniors! 


So, anyway, I called the school principal listed on the website and although she seemed unconcerned about the errors, she promised to point them out to the instructor.  My daughter informed me later that day that the blurb had been removed and the English III home page was now blank.  I also received a call from Madame English Teacher herself explaining that the Science teacher had written the contents of the page because Madame English Teacher herself was busy trying to wrap up her end-of-semester duties from the regular school year.  I’m wondering how the Science teacher managed to pass English herself. 


My daughter has since completed the first unit and taken the unit quiz.  The quizzes are teacher-generated and then loaded into the online system.  During the regular school year, my daughter earned a perfect grade in English.  She does well in all of her subjects, but she’s an exceptional English student.  But this summer school course has her ready to pull her hair out, and here’s why: 

Quiz One, Question 3…

Select the option that best completes the sentence. 

The librarian _______ _______ work long hours.

a.      do not

b.      does not

c.       doesn’t not

d.      can’t not


My daughter, being a veritable genius, selected option “b”.  Her answer was marked wrong.  Thinking “what the…?”, my daughter emailed Madame English Teacher and, trying not to sound like she thinks the teacher is a complete moron, worded her email as such. 

Hi, Madame English Teacher.

I just took the unit one quiz and, maybe I’m tired, but it seems as if some of the questions might be scoring incorrectly.  I’m not sure but I think I got question three right even though the system said I got it wrong.  Can you take a look at it?


Genius Daughter


This is the reply she received from the teacher… 

i think youre just tired ill reset the quiz so you can take it again 


Ok, is it me or is something very wrong here?


I believe that the above written communication from Madame English Teacher contains two separate sentences, yet there is no placement of periods or capitalization that would indicate such.  Also, last I checked, the “word” youre is supposed to contain an apostrophe indicating that it is the product of two separate words; you and are.  Ditto for ill.  Although, “ill” is a word, I believe that the teacher meant to write I’ll, to represent “I” and “will”.  I don’t believe she was trying to tell my daughter that she wasn’t feeling well.  And shouldn’t there be a line of greeting such as “Hi, Genius Daughter” and a closing such as “Thanks, Madame English Teacher”?  I seem to recall, way back in the dark ages when we were expected to communicate correctly, actually studying how to write a letter.  Emails are electronic letters, not an invitation for sloppy written communication; especially on the part of a teacher!  Hello!


The ongoing inability of this teacher to communicate effectively using good written English indicates that she may have told a little fib about the Science teacher.  Either neither teacher can spell worth a darn or Madame English Teacher just needed to divert blame from herself.  Additionally, the fact that the English teacher cannot seem to recognize that there is a significant problem with the quiz indicates that, like my daughter suspected, the woman is far from qualified to teach the course.  And, finally, it scares the bejesus out of me that Madame English Teacher sent my daughter a reply email that was completely devoid of capitalization, punctuation, and proper grammar.


Shouldn’t English teachers, heck, teachers in general, be held to a higher standard? 


No wonder we’re raising a nation of people who can’t spell, write, or communicate effectively; or even adequately.  When even a teacher can’t manage to make the effort to set a shining example of proper use of the rules of the English language, something is very wrong.  One of the first things we learn – in psychology, in education, heck, as parents – is that children learn by example.  What kind of example is Madame English Teacher setting for her students?  How can she possibly correctly judge the standard of a student’s work when she obviously doesn’t know what such work should entail (as evidenced by her inability to display the standards in her own communications)? 


And, please don’t make the argument that teachers are overworked and underpaid.  First, that’s the state of most employees these days.  Second, that’s no excuse for an inability to do one’s job properly.  And, third, it’s not true.   


I spent several years working in the human resources department at a local urban school district and most of them were paid nearly twice what I was making, and I was making pretty good money.  Our human resources director used to say that teaching was the only profession where you could make more from year to year merely by virtue of staying alive.   


And, summer school teachers…!  Forgetaboutit!  They got paid their regular daily rate plus a premium for teaching summer school.  Teachers would actually fight to be placed in a summer school position!  It was like earning double-time plus.  Now, to be fair, beginning teachers weren’t paid a whole lot, but because of union rules, teachers got what was called a step increase every year, plus, because of contract negotiations, they received regular cost of living increases (those of us who worked in administration, at the time, had not seen a cost of living increase or a raise in more than five years).  Additionally, teachers had a top-of-the-line health care plan which included dental and vision coverage (they paid less than $50 a month for this superb coverage!), they received a certain number of free sick days, got winter and spring breaks and summers off, worked less than seven hours a day, got one free period for “planning”, and received numerous “bonuses” for any perceived extra duties they performed.  For instance, a teacher would receive extra pay if he or she had to cover another teacher’s class, even if it was for mere minutes.  Teachers were also paid their daily rate for taking professional development classes and received what was called a “schedule” increase once they earned a higher degree (i.e., anything above a B.A.). 


I’m not saying that teachers don’t work hard.  I could never do the job.  I would never want the job.  Still, being overworked is no excuse for the poor performance of teachers such as Madame English Teacher.  And, I don’t believe that this teacher is performing poorly because she’s overworked.  I believe that she performs this way because; first, she obviously doesn’t care; second, she’s not held to a higher standard; and, third, she’s not good at her job. 


The quality of my daughter’s education depends on the quality of the individuals who provide that education.  If a teacher can’t be bothered to facilitate a quality educational experience for every child, they should find another profession.


I don’t have all the answers either.


©2008 ForeWORD Communications


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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fair is a Place…

Filed under: FAMILY, FUN, FUNNY, HUMOR, HUMOROUS, LIFE, RANDOM, RANDOM THOUGHTS, THOUGHTS — Tags: , , , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 9:00 am


Kids are always whining about how unfair life is.  When I was growing up, I was told that “fair is a place where men go to throw cow pats to win prizes”.  I’ve also heard “fare is what people pay to ride the bus”.  Either way, the point is that life just isn’t fair; at least not in the way we’d like it to be.


We obviously gauge what we consider fair by how things affect us personally.  It’s normal to feel that you’ve been dealt a raw hand when you don’t get the raise or promotion you’ve worked so hard for.  It’s understandable for anyone who has suffered a debilitating life event to feel as if someone or something is out to get him.  And we know such happenings as Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Thailand tsunami, and the massive earthquake the Earth released on China earlier this year are definitely not “fair”.


Yet, there’s a difference between how children and adults define fairness.  If a kid doesn’t get what he wants, no matter what that thing is, the situation is declared unfair.  Little Billy didn’t get that third ice cream cone – ding, ding, ding, unfair!  Polly doesn’t get to play with her friend Betty’s new doll – come on people!  Unfair!  Cindy didn’t get a new car for her sweet sixteen – alert the authorities!  Unlike children however, most adults realize that fairness requires more than our mere existence and desire to stack the deck in our favor.


In his book, Nine things you simply must do to succeed in love and life: A psychologist probes the mystery of why some lives really work and others don’t, Dr. Henry Cloud indicates that people shouldn’t “play fair”.  Now, before we all go off and rail about how unfair it is to others not to be fair, or, even worse, take the suggestion at face value and just start taking everything we want regardless of how doing so would affect other people, let’s look at what Cloud means by “playing fair”. 


Cloud actually believes that we should be more than fair.  Kind of like, if we make sure that we do unto others better than we want others to do unto us, we’ll trigger some sort of Karmic reaction that will lead to a better life for us.  Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get my meaning.


Now, I have an incredibly rigid sense of fairness.  I’ve always tried to make sure that the people around me get more than they are required to give in friendships, business transactions, etc.  But, all that my rigid sense of fairness has earned me is a head full of grey hairs, most of which I swear are caused by people who frustrate the bejesus out of me with their ability to take advantage of other people.  And it’s that darn fairness rigidity that leaves me open-mouthed most of the time, thinking “what the devil did I do to deserve this/that?” 


Something else I was always told when I was growing up?  “You will receive your reward in heaven.”  In other words, don’t expect it here.




But I don’t have all the answers either.




©2008 ForeWORD Communications     All Rights Reserved


For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at


ForeWORD Communications
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Biological Altruism: Are we Hard-Wired to Behave in a Socially Caring Manner or to Maximize Personal Gain

Filed under: FAMILY, GLOBAL LIVING, LIFE, MODERN LIVING, SELF-IMPROVEMENT — Tags: , , — forewordcommunications @ 2:55 am


There exists a current debate over whether behaving in a socially caring manner, or social altruism, is a learned behavior or whether human beings are hard wired, or genetically predisposed, to behave in such a way. There are surely rational arguments for each side. However, some studies indicate that altruism is indeed hard wired into the human brain as well as the brains of several other species. In essence, humans can’t help the urge to help. 

Social altruism is a form of behavior in which an individual places the needs or benefit of another over the needs or benefit of the self. The individual must give something of himself such as money or time, in order to have fulfilled the requirements for altruism. Essentially, by losing something, time or money, another person, or persons, gain something. It can be argued that altruistic behavior occurs out of a sense of duty or out of some sort of inner compassion, and the answer is both. Scientists have uncovered evidence that animals may behave in an altruistic manner. Animals such as birds and insects such as bees and ants have been shown to care for the young of their groups at the expense of their own good, and sometimes even their own lives. However, this type of altruism is clearly instinctual. 

Although human beings often behave in a way that places the needs of others before their own, scientists often call this pseudo-altruism because it mimics true or instinctual altruism. Human beings may also behave in a socially altruistic manner due to a connection between empathy and compassion. In other words, the human ability to imagine one’s self in the position of another (empathy) results in a feeling of mutual suffering (compassion). This form of compassionate social altruism is as close to instinctual altruism as humans can get, and is indeed hard wired. 

This ability to act on behalf of someone else in a similar manner as one would act toward one’s self is not merely a duty bound process. If this were true, there would not be so many instances of an instinctual-type of altruism amongst any number of animals, including humans. Science has used the explanations of kin selection and reciprocal altruism to explain altruism. The theory of kin selection as relating to altruism indicates that altruism assists in the perpetuation of the species genes. Science argues that the extension of altruistic behavior in animals exists because certain altruistic actions ensure that the species survives and passes along its genes. Additionally, the closer two organisms are related, the more likely it is that altruism will be considered. In essence, as altruism is defined as a cost to the altruistic organism and a benefit to the recipient, the closer the relative the more the altruistic behavior is seen as a greater benefit to the recipient and a lesser cost to the giver. Kin selection indicates that an organism is less likely to act in an altruistic manner towards non-kin as such acts do not ensure the natural selection of one’s own genes. 

Because evidence of kin selective altruistic behavior has been noted in animal species, science assumes that the behavior may be generalized to include human behavior as well. This theory however, does not however explain why, if humans are hardwired to behave in an altruistic manner only toward kin, humans will display altruistic behavior toward a spouse. In essence, if genetic strangers are at the bottom of the altruistic chain, then humans should display altruistic behavior toward a spouse no more often than they would a complete stranger. It is, however, interesting to note that proponents of kin selection also include everyone in a general area as being members of one’s kin. One can assume that kin selection favors how human society views itself as a social entity. Since one’s society could be assumed to consist of the whole of one’s kin, the theory would preclude that an individual’s altruistic behavior would extend to all members of the human society, i.e., the entire world. Kin-based systems require little thought and may be a stepping stone to other forms of altruistic behavior. 

Reciprocal altruism, much like the evolutionary ideology of kin selection, also has its roots in an organism’s self interest. Reciprocal altruism assumes that an organism engages in an altruistic act because that organism will receive a similar consideration at some point in the future; a kind of quid pro quo. In this kind of altruism, the giving organism does so knowing that the balance of altruistic behavior will remain unequal until that organism’s altruistic behavior has been reciprocated. In other words, the theory of reciprocal altruism indicates that both the giver and the receiver realize that, over time, the benefits outweigh the costs of the altruistic acts so that, in the end, both the giver and the receiver realize a net gain. Although the giver will not realize any immediate benefits from his altruistic act, the understanding is that there will definitely be something in it for him, if not now or in his lifetime, then for his descendents or relatives. 

Reciprocal altruism asserts that, for an altruistic act to be completely reciprocal, there must be some cost to the giver and some benefit to the recipient, the altruistic act must be performed contingent upon the presumption of receiving something in return, and there must be a separation between the individual’s altruistic act and the receiving back of a benefit. This type of altruism is marked by indirect benefits that are presumed to be received over a period of time and not immediately. Additionally, reciprocal altruism is a risky venture as the giver must trust that the recipient will indeed reciprocate and that, if the recipient fails to do so, that organism will be subject to any number of social sanctions. Unlike kin-based altruism, reciprocal altruism allows for a sort of altruism exchange or social surplus of altruism and assumes more than mere cooperation. In essence, reciprocal altruism indicates that human beings operate in a cooperative manner with each other because there is an equal likelihood that he or she may, throughout the span of a lifetime, be equally able to give and also in need. Using the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as an example, if, for instance, one segment of a society, in this instance those affected by the hurricane find themselves in a situation where they are low on, or devoid of resources, then reciprocal altruism dictates that the segment of the society that posses resources, in this instance those not affected by the hurricane, will share the resources with those who need them regardless of the pinch in their own resources that may occur as a result, and with the understanding that the recipient, in this case the victims of the hurricane, will reciprocate in some way in the future. 

Reciprocal altruism assumes that the organisms involved in the transaction will remain familiar for a period of time sufficient to realize a return on the giver’s investment and assumes that, should the transaction go awry, i.e., that the recipient fails to reciprocate, the giver has sufficient social status to initiate some form of social sanction against the transgressor. Some researchers argue that humans are the only species able to develop or profit from reciprocal altruism as humans are the only species that are capable of realizing sufficient benefit from the altruistic reciprocity, the only species that is capable of maintaining a record of altruistic balances, and the only species that is capable of maintaining a social connection long enough and stable enough to initiate and benefit from reciprocal relationships. 

Both theories of kin selection and reciprocal altruism provide rational arguments for altruistic behavior in humans. However, neither completely explains why humans will engage in such acts. Kin selection only works if the entire world community is seen as one’s kin and reciprocal altruism only works if one assumes that the recipient has the resources to return the favor, which, in many instances such as the world’s response to the tsunami in Thailand, is simply not feasible. The chances that Thailand will have the resources any time soon to reciprocate on a similar scale is highly doubtful. Additionally, the example of the individual who can help out on a global scale, yet pass by the homeless person on the street corner, must be addressed. Altruism has a bit of cynicism attached to it. Although one could assume that an individual tends to ignore the beggar on the street because of that recipient’s perceived inability to return the favor, so to speak. However, one could also assume that the giver fails to acknowledge the needs of the street beggar because of a learned cynicism that dictates that the street beggar does not truly need one’s services. Many individuals have heard of the stories of individuals who pose as beggars who are not truly needy or who will likely use any donation toward a non-essential purpose. Because of this, it can be assumed that, although altruism is hardwired and biologically determined, it can surely be influenced by social learning, i.e. that certain individuals are not worthy of our altruistic acts. As humans are presumably higher-thinking organisms, one can justly argue that their altruism is determined by a number of internal and external factors.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wherever Two or More Are Gathered…

Filed under: FAMILY, FUN, FUNNY, HUMOR, LIFE, MODERN LIVING, RANDOM, RANDOM THOUGHTS, THOUGHTS — Tags: , , , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 8:51 am


Driving to pick up my son from a friend’s house this afternoon, I saw a group of men gathered in a yard.  These men had fashioned a couple of small ramps out of plywood and some other odds and ends.  The ramps were facing each other.  At the time I was driving by, the men appeared to be standing around discussing how to utilize their creations. 


I saw this and I was reminded that wherever two or more are gathered… there’s bound to be trouble.


Men, especially when gathered in groups of two or more, have an almost childlike ability to create chaos.  I was reminded of this universal truth because each of the men in the group I witnessed today had assumed his own version of the man stance.  The man stance is a physical positioning of the body a man assumes that he apparently thinks makes him look more intelligent, better looking, or like an important contributor to the task at hand.  Although the man stance varies according to the individual man, there’s no doubt that it signals impending doom.


Any woman who has witnessed such a gathering of men can attest to the fact that they should never be allowed to gather in groups to do man stuff.  When they do, someone is bound to get hurt or something is going to get broken.  Why is it that during this mine-is-bigger-than-yours contest, men are immediately drained of any sense that they may have had before coming into contact with another man/men?  It’s like there is some sort of inverse correlation between the amount of testosterone in any given area and the amount of intelligence being employed.


So, back to the group of men gathered in the yard.


I imagined that one of those men was going to be brainless enough to ride those ramps in some manner that was likely to prove disastrous.  I had a friend, years ago, who, whenever he said the words “watch this” he ended up in the hospital.  The words “watch this” were only uttered in the presence of other men and they always preceded his doing something completely stupid like back flips off a springboard (During the back flip incident, my friend was showing off for some cheerleader friends at a local university).  Add alcohol to the man-stuff-and-stance soup and the inverse correlation I’ve already mentioned becomes increasingly proportionate to the amount of alcohol that has already been ingested. 


I’ll bet at least one testosterone tarzan in that yard got hurt and I’ll bet a group of wives and girlfriends are sitting around at this very moment shaking their heads and thinking “he/they did what?!”


Sigh.  I look at my son and wonder if he will ever really mature past his current chronological age of ten.





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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Aging Across the Generations

Filed under: AGING, FAMILY, HEALTH, LIFE — Tags: , , , — forewordcommunications @ 1:35 am


As an entire generation of baby boomers ages, this unique demographic draws attention to aging in general just as it drew attention to the concept of generation merely due to the sheer size of the generational cohort. Interestingly, the baby boom generation has been relatively easy to define. And it is the comparison of certain patterns and events that allow sociologists to define generations. Generations can only be separated from one another by comparing them to one another; the cohorts that came before and the ones that come after. Generations also desire to demarcate themselves from one another. Because generation x and generation y are certainly far too young to be considered in terms of aging, the study of aging across the generations, in order to produce conclusions that are adequate, must entail baby boomers and those that came before. 

Each generation produces an identity that is separate from previous generations and those that follow even though many of the characteristics may be similar. Certainly, baby boomers will age just as previous generations aged and just as all other generations have aged. However, it is the way that the generations age, the ages that each generation reaches, and society’s response to the aging that varies across time. Additionally, the aging of the baby boom generation is expected to place a significant strain on global resources as they are one of the largest cohorts to age concurrently. Baby boomers have also had a significant effect on the world’s politics, and they are likely to continue to do so. 

One of the most interesting effects of the aging baby boomers has been on the world’s politics. The baby boom generation was particularly attuned to politics as young adults. This political activism has affected their voting preferences and political engagement as they have grown older. This, of course, has caught the attention of many a politician as the sheer number of baby boomers must be appeased and attended to. Another interesting aspect of baby boomer aging has been the impact upon their own aging parents. Certainly the numbers of baby boomers that will be available to care for their aging parents will likely be adequate. However, the priorities of this generation have been significantly different in regard to finances, parenting, and social obligations, and are therefore likely to be different in regard to elder care as well. Additionally, the baby boom generation reflects the larger family size of their parents. Therefore, there will be the additional variable of multiple siblings to add to the mix. 

As the baby boomers themselves age, the makeup of their own families will come into play. The baby boom generation has experienced the highest rates of divorce and remarriage in modern history. As families have separated and reformed, the addition of step parents, step siblings, and half-siblings has been increasingly prevalent. Additionally, the wider acceptance of same-sex families and women having children well into their forties has further broadened the concept of family. This wider interpretation of the family unit will have a significant influence on how baby boomers will experience aging and how the nations of the world plan for their needs. 

Interestingly, studies of aging have traditionally paid little attention to the concept of the generation. Some experts assert that baby boomers will have a significantly different aging experience than did their parents. Part of the problem is that some experts have intentionally tried to downplay the differences between generations, as well as the concept itself, ultimately seeking to render the concept unimportant in terms of analysis of aging, morality, politics, etc. However, as baby boomers age, the concept of generation becomes all that much stronger. Some researchers believe that this is because the original interest in this cohort as a generational concept is likely to resurface creating a resurgence of research on the topic. And as the concepts of generations and aging are linked, the shared experience of aging has a host of fresh research subjects. 

However, one cannot assume that, just because they are one of the largest generations, baby boomers are likely to have an aging experience that is significantly different from previous generations or that this group will somehow redefine aging itself. Some experts have asserted that aging is the one experience that bridges the generation gap; that aging is does not, as once thought, differ from one generation to the next. These same experts insist that previous generations have already provided all of the information on aging that policy makers will need to predict the needs of the baby boomers. However, other research indicates that this is largely untrue as attempts to predict other trends of the baby boom generation, such as work trends and political trends, have been mostly unsuccessful. Certainly it is likely that a larger number of baby boomers may choose to work well past the age where their predecessors may have retired. A focus on financial success that was not prevalent in other areas may be a factor in this trend. Conversely, many baby boomers saw their parents work into their sixties, and may be willing to sacrifice material benefits for the enjoyment and freedom of early retirement. 

Other factors in the aging of generations surround the previously discussed area of caregivers. The parents of baby boomers have access to a wide array of caregivers in their children. Baby boomers have not been as prolific in producing the next generation but do have the benefit of blended families which may widen the responsibility of generation x when providing care for the next generation of the elderly. Baby boomers, by waiting longer until having children, unlike their parents, reduced the number of potential caregivers in addition to producing younger caregivers than their parents. It will be interesting to discover whether generation x, as a younger set of caregivers, will be willing to take on the responsibility of caring for their aging baby boomer parents or the extent to which they will access caregiving services that are not provided by family members. These are factors that will influence and effect the decisions of national governments to plan for and distribute services. 

There are other considerations that add further complexity to the issue of aging. It is generally agreed that the generation previous to the baby boomers were benefited in their retirement years by a relatively stable economy and a large pool of caregivers in their baby boomer sons and daughters. It is also generally assumed that baby boomers will not have the benefits of a stable economy, a large pool of caregivers in their generation x sons and daughters, and will likely live longer due to better medical care than did their parents. Therefore, most experts assume that there will be a shortage of caregivers for baby boomers in addition to assuming that the trends surrounding these issues will be almost unpredictable. An additional issue, as previously intimated, will surround the willingness of generation x to provide care for their aging baby boomer parents. 

Generational aging effects are widespread and, unlike some expert opinions, obviously differ. The size of the generation alone, as evidenced in the case of the baby boomers, will have a significant impact. Additionally, the age of the next generation as the parents reach caregiving age and the attitudes of that generation regarding their caregiving responsibilities not only vary by generation, but, as sociologists already know, vary by culture. Certainly, there will be some instances where the aging process will mimic that of previous generations, however, there is no way to reliably predict whether baby boomers will mirror their own elders completely; in fact, it is likely that they won’t. Additionally, time has borne witness to the concept of personal independence. As much as this concept has been prized by the aging parents of baby boomers, it was also prized in the younger years of the boomers themselves. It can therefore be assumed that the concept of independence will be equally as prized by aging baby boomers as it was for their parents, if not more. 

The only predictions that can be made regarding the aging of baby boomers, as well as any other previous or future generations, are in what year they will reach a certain age. All other factors are as unpredictable as the generation itself. Because statistics can only provide black and white figures regarding firm numbers, predictions regarding the behavior of any generation must be undertaken from a purely hypothetical standpoint. As society changes with each generation, as well as the ideals and goals of the generation, the importance of predicting aging becomes more unpredictable. Certainly generational aging has been as alike as it has been different, but it may be largely guided by differences within generations than by the generations themselves. Already, it has been shown that baby boomers have experienced life differently from previous generations and subsequent ones. With this information in hand, it can be therefore also assumed that their experience in aging, retirement, and elderly caregiving will be just as different.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Budgeting for College

Filed under: ECONOMICS, ECONOMY, FAMILY, MONEY — Tags: , , , — forewordcommunications @ 11:26 pm


If you have kids, you probably worry about how you will afford to send them to college. With a college education currently averaging about $22,500.00 per year, finding enough dough in the budget to set aside a piece of change to help finance your child’s future involves more than just basic math.


Even if you are lucky enough to have a child that can earn scholarship money, you should plan to contribute a significant amount of your own savings toward the college budget. Some estimates of financing a total four-year college education, and by total we mean the cost of tuition, books, food, room and board, etc., run as high as $200,000. With this in mind, you’d be wise to begin adding to the college piggy bank as early as possible.


What exactly is the best way for the average parent to put together enough pennies to add up to a college degree? Even if you are not able to finance the entire four years, any help you can give your college-bound child will result in a smaller post-college repayment bill. Don’t sacrifice your retirement fund however. Just contribute what you realistically can and let Junior worry about the rest.


So, think about your options. Socking away even $100.00 a month can yield up to $50,000.00 by the time your child reaches the halls of knowledge. Many people find that stocks and mutual funds are a best bet for college-bound investing and others swear by 529 savings plans. Your college savings route will likely depend on how much of your own personal budget you can reasonably contribute to the cause. Whichever route you choose, rest assured that there are many tax breaks to help you manage those tuition bills and student loan repayment plans are now more flexible than ever.



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Public School Safety

Filed under: EDUCATION, FAMILY, LIFE, MODERN LIVING — Tags: , , — forewordcommunications @ 10:21 pm







 The recent rash of college campus shootings has overshadowed the ongoing violence that has become an unwelcome addition to the nation’s primary, intermediate, and secondary classrooms. In some urban areas, violence in schools is so common that children have become somewhat desensitized to its presence and may no longer view violence as something that should actually be rare within the educational environment. This speaks volumes about our public school system, but the problem may be even worse than imagined.




·         One Cleveland, Ohio elementary school classroom erupted in violence when students, unhappy with a substitute teacher’s disciplinary practices, bombarded that teacher with books and other objects, sending the teacher to the hospital with minor injuries.

·         One six-year-old boy in Flint, Michigan shot and killed a female classmate.

·         One Indiana second grader used his shoe to pummel a teacher.

·         One kindergartener in Philadelphia attacked a pregnant teacher, punching her in the stomach.


Although the chances that any one child will be the direct victim of in-school violence is still relatively small, the chances that he or she will witness such violence is nearly 100%. And the reality is that such violence has progressed from what was once the common schoolyard scuffle to altercations between students, students and teachers, and students and security that may send one or more of the participants to the hospital for treatment – or worse.


While some experts argue that school violence has always been a problem, especially in urban school districts, others insist that the problem is becoming more pronounced, particularly in the lower grades. Regardless, the number of assaults on children and adults in the nation’s schools has reached what can only be called epidemic proportions. When our children cannot attend school in a reasonably safe environment, education suffers and childhood is sacrificed.


Competition and conflict between peers has led to some minor physical altercations throughout the ages. Perhaps what is most alarming is that not only are children attacking each other with increasing ferocity, but they are attacking the adults who are there to teach them as well. To many, this complete lack of regard for authority signifies a much larger underlying problem.


Undoubtedly, children are bringing significant stressors into the classroom. Single-parent households, abusive home environments, economic hardships, and mild disabilities are only a few of the factors that haunt our children even during the hours when they should be concentrating on education. Yet, it can be argued that these factors have always been present and children were not shooting their classmates or stabbing their teachers.


It makes sense to adjust some of the present school violence statistics for the “overkill” factor. Suspensions for assault have skyrocketed within almost all of the nation’s school systems, even at the lower grades. For instance, in a two-year period, Minnesota suspended more than 4,000 kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders statewide. News reports of suspensions for minor infractions of zero-tolerance policies abound, but we must remain aware that these suspensions and disciplinary actions are understandably skewing the statistics a bit higher than they should be. This, in no way however, should minimize the fact that in-school violence is a very real and growing problem within the nation’s academic environments.


Obviously, parents cannot keep their children out of school. Many schools have implemented programs that teach children about bullying and about what is considered appropriate behavior. Still other programs concentrate on emphasizing the rights of others and encouraging a school-wide atmosphere of respect. Yet, most experts agree that, without the help of parents, schools, the children who attend them, and the adults who work within them, will be forced to deal with violence as a daily standard.


As helpful as many anti-violence programs are for students and faculty, children need to also be taught how to avoid situations that may become violent and how to protect themselves from becoming victims of school violence. First and foremost, the zero tolerance policy of non-violence that exists within schools must also extend to the home. Children who are permitted violent outbursts at home, are likely to continue such behavior in other settings as well.

Apparently, school suspensions, expulsions, and other current disciplinary practices are not working. Therefore, while school administrations consider how to deal with school violence, children must be taught how to recognize a potentially explosive situation in order to avoid the fallout.


School violence is not cool, funny, or acceptable. Children who believe this and speak out against violence are more likely to avoid violent situations. Children who fail to remain firm in this belief and who participate in violence because of peer pressure are more likely to be caught up in violent situations. Peer pressure is a mighty sword for adults and children. Therefore, children who exert positive peer behavior can have a significant effect on their schoolmates.


Be a tattle tale. Children are often faced with the difficult decision of telling on another student who may be considering violence, who may have brought a weapon to school, or who may be behaving in an unacceptable or threatening manner. Early on, we teach children that being a tattle tale is annoying and undesirable. Additionally, peer pressure teaches children that it’s not cool to inform adults of another child’s activities. However, all bets are off when it comes to school violence. Children need to be taught that the repercussions of withholding information from teachers and other adults of another child’s unsafe activities can lead to irreversible consequences for that child and those around him. Adults are often kept in the dark about situations that are preventable. Communication between school students, parents, and school officials is crucial for keeping schools as safe as possible for everyone.


Listening. All threats of violence should be taken seriously; especially in today’s current environment. Children and adults must work together to end school violence. Children must feel as if their school administrators are not only willing to listen to their concerns but that they take those concerns seriously. When school violence erupts, children often know beforehand. Therefore it is imperative for every adult to build trust through communication with students in order for everyone to feel safe in school.



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