Dear Melinda Gates, an open letter on breastfeeding

Breastfed

Dear Ms. Gates,

I hope I can take a moment of your time to talk about an issue that it is dear to both our hearts, albeit for different reasons.

You’re a mother of three children; I’m a mother of four. You breastfed your children; I breastfed mine. You promote breastfeeding worldwide to improve the health of babies; I’ve come to the conclusion that the aggressive, world wide promotion of breastfeeding is harming babies.

The aggressive, world wide promotion of breastfeeding is HARMING babies.

You and your husband invest in promoting breastfeeding because you believe that the scientific evidence shows it saves lives. I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that the scientific evidence is weak, conflicting and riddled with confounders; that there’s no evidence that breastfeeding rates have any impact on infant mortality; and, most importantly, that because of aggressive promotion, women are literally breastfeeding babies to death.

You have written:

Breastfeeding is the absolute gold standard in infant nutrition. Studies suggest it prevents everything from diarrhea to pneumonia to diabetes to obesity.

But the scientific evidence shows that breastfeeding DOESN’T prevent most of those things.

Many breastfeeding studies do not correct for confounders. Since, as you know, breastfeeding is correlated with maternal education and economic status, most of the benefits attributed to breastfeeding are actually benefits of being wealthier and having greater access to insurance and medical care.

No less an expert than Dr. Michael Kramer of the PROBIT studies that established that breastfeeding prevents colds and diarrheal illnesses has acknowledged that breastfeeding benefits have been grossly exaggerated. In an interview on Canadian radio he was emphatic that breastfeeding does NOT prevent obesity, does NOT prevent allergies, and does NOT prevent asthma.

When asked why lactivist organizations continue to insist on benefits that have been shown not to exist, he explains that these organizations rely upon preliminary data and simply refuse to accept anything that contradicts it. He is quite blunt that lactivist organizations won’t accept scientific evidence that doesn’t comport with what they believe and he worries that their insistence of exaggerating benefits will undermine women’s trust in healthcare providers.

I’m hoping that when apprised of this, you’ll go back to your experts and ask them for hard evidence that breastfeeding is really the miracle elixir they claim. They won’t have it.

Breastfeeding rates have no impact on infant mortality rates.*

I realize that’s not what you have been told, but what you’ve been told isn’t true. Studies that claim to show that breastfeeding saves lives (including the highly influential studies in the The Lancet) are based on mathematical models and extrapolations of small studies that assume that correlation is causation. But that’s not what happens in the real world. In other words, while breastfeeding saves lives in theory, it doesn’t do so in practice.

We know this from population data in both industrialized countries and the developing world. In the US, breastfeeding rates have varied widely in the past 100 years, starting at over 80%, dropping to a nadir of 24% in 1973 and rising again to rates to over 76%. At no time during those 100 years have breastfeeding rates had any impact on infant mortality rates, which dropped steadily throughout.

Both in the industrialized world and the developing world, countries with the highest breastfeeding rates tend to have the highest infant mortality rates and countries with the lowest breastfeeding rates have the lowest infant mortality rates.

During World Breastfeeding Week you posted the following on Twitter:

Enlight86

You noted that between 2009 and 2014 breastfeeding rates tripled to 57% in Vietnam, soared to more than 80% in Bangladesh and increased to more than 80% in Ethiopia. But what happened to infant mortality rates in response?

As far as I can determine, the change in breastfeeding rates had no impact in the trajectory of infant mortality rates. Perhaps you can ask your experts why, if breastfeeding purportedly saves lives, it hasn’t made any difference in those countries.

As a result of aggressive breastfeeding promotion, we are literally breastfeeding babies to death.

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative was implemented around the globe without any evidence that it increases breastfeeding rates. The Ten Steps of the initiative directly violate both scientific evidence and medical ethics. There is no evidence that locking up formula improves breastfeeding rates; there is no evidence that banning supplementation improves breastfeeding rates (and there is evidence that supplementation increases breastfeeding rates); there’s no evidence to justify banning pacifiers and considerable evidence that pacifiers reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); and it is deeply unethical to restrict what providers can say when counseling patients about infant feeding.

Worst of all, there’s a growing body of evidence that aggressive breastfeeding promotion is leading to brain injuries and deaths of infants from hypoglycemia, jaundice, dehydration, starvation and infants falling from or being smothered in their mothers’ hospital beds because well baby nurseries have been closed. It’s such a significant problem that 3 major papers have been published on the issue in the past year alone:

In the developing world infants are literally starving to death because the WHO and UNICEF refuse to provide formula for them. As Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on CNN: Don’t make babies rely on breast milk in war zones. Babies in Iraq are starving to death even though they could easily be saved:

The surprising thing is that Lannaud and his colleagues at [Doctors Without Borders] didn’t place the blame for these underfed little ones just on war and the fact that the city was under siege. They also put the blame on other international organizations and policies that seek to do good.

“It isn’t a problem of access to food. The malnutrition we see here is primarily due to the scarcity of infant formula,” Lannaud wrote. “International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding … and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition.”

This is phenomenon known as white hat bias:

‘White hat bias’ (WHB) [is] bias leading to distortion of information in the service of what may be perceived to be righteous ends… WHB bias may be conjectured to be fuelled by feelings of righteous zeal, indignation toward certain aspects of industry, or other factors.

Babies are dying because the WHO and UNICEF are fired by righteous anger against formula manufacturers and their tactics of 50 years ago. But surely those charged with saving infant lives wouldn’t let them die just because they hate formula manufacturers? Actually they would.

In a remarkably tone deaf press release, Nurture Project International, “an international NGO providing technical lactation and nutrition support in Northern Iraq” insists:

Expertise, not milk powder, is the key to saving Mosul’s babies …

But babies cannot eat expertise; they need formula. A war zone is no place for ideologues who value process over outcome.

I’m writing to you, Ms. Gates, because you are deeply influential and profoundly committed to infant health. Breastfeeding, while a good thing, is not a magic, lifesaving elixir and those who claim otherwise have misled you.

I implore you to go back to your experts and ask them to address the fact that while there is no real world evidence to show that breastfeeding saves lives, there is considerable real world evidence that aggressive, unreasoning promotion of breastfeeding is killing babies.

Babies everywhere are depending on you.

 

*The major exception is the case of extremely premature infants where breastmilk lowers the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a deadly complication of prematurity.

  • sapphiremind

    Beyond preterm infants, the area where there is the most research to support the importance of breastfeeding is areas that do not have consistent access to clean water, which are the areas that this is trying to impact.

    Also, with more research on bilirubin and jaundice that’s been done, kernicterus almost exclusively happens in infants with hemolytic disease – they are revising the recommendations on phototherapy/exchange in the next year or so, because of this. It’s been well documented in many countries that total bili in the 40s and 50s do not cause kernicterus, if there is no hemolytic disease (or potentially other sepsis to weaken the blood/brain barrier.)

    For most of these people in war-torn areas, encouraging them to keep breastfeeding is the safest thing, with uncertain access to clean water for infants, uncertain ability to pay for any formula, and the normadic lifestyle they are forced to adopt.

  • mabelcruet

    No worries, I’ll keep an eye out. It might have been done routinely, but I know some departments manage placentas in different ways. Sometimes they are ‘processed to blocks’, meaning that the placenta is examined by naked eye, weighed, measured and described, then tissue samples are chosen, processed and made into wax blocks which preserves the tissue, and the left over placenta can then be disposed of. The wax blocks are stored as part of the medical record, they last indefinitely like this. If the clinician decides that the microscopy needs to be done, they would request that so the lab would get the blocks out and cut sections (about 4 microns) and stain them for pathology assessment.

    Some departments will do microscopy automatically on all placentas that are sent to the lab (there are national protocols about which placentas should be examined, we don’t need to look at everyone because a lot of pregnancies are healthy and uncomplicated so placental examination wouldn’t add anything. But if there are any issues with mum, baby or pregnancy, then it should be looked at. So there probably will be a microscopy report somewhere.

  • CSN0116

    While it has never been a research area of interest for me, coming here frequently has peaked my curiosity regarding the actual, statistical effects of (coerced/forced/BFHI style) EBF. I have a little experience with obtaining and working Medicaid data, but my research partners are very good at it. I also know PRAMS data.

    If one wanted to look at the effect, what’s important to have?

    SES/demographic factors, if available
    37/38+ week delivery
    Baby health issues during PP stay(?)
    Healthy at discharge
    EBF or not at discharge
    Re admitted within 14(?) days
    Diagnoses when readmitted (jaundice, hyperbilirubinemia, hypernatremia, dehydration, FTT, ?, ?, ?)
    Length of stay
    NICU or other?
    Treatments given

    Or would just looking at EBF vs not EBF readmission rates for feeding related issues in the first couple weeks be compelling enough of a story?

  • Regularlurker

    OT: Anyone familiar with the book “Cure” by Jo Marchant? It’s a general-audience look at the science on placebos, hypnosis, and other mind-body techniques in medicine. I was pretty impressed with the early chapters, but then I got to the one on childbirth. She’s very satisfied with her home water birth VBAC with non-NHS midwives who let her push for more than 2 hours. She had a good outcome, so she thinks they saved her from an unnecessary repeat C-section.

    Then she parrots the old WHO C-section rate figures and says “research shows” C-section rates should be between 1 and 15 percent. The rest of the book seems to be well-referenced, so it’s pretty glaring that there’s not a single footnote for that “research shows” claim.

    Anyway, is the whole book crap, or does she just have a blind spot around birth?

  • CSN0116

    OT: Who is the resident pathologist I see post? Want a pop quiz? 😀 I have a (redacted, anonymous) placenta pathology report a friend is trying to understand. It’s a weird one!

    • BeatriceC

      Mablecruet is the fetal/infant pathologist that posts here.

      • CSN0116

        Perhaps he/she will see this, thanks!

        • mabelcruet

          That’s a fairly standard twin placenta-it looks fairly
          lengthy but most of it is describing a relatively normal twin placenta (apart from
          the obvious pathology).

          Monochorionic, so monozygous (identical twins). It’s quite small though (reduced weight for that gestational age, but that’s not uncommon for
          twins)

          The lacerated cotyledons at the maternal surface sounds worrying, but it’s not really. The maternal surface of the placenta should be reasonably
          smooth with a clean plane of dissection of the base of the placenta from the endometrial cavity of the uterus-in a mature placenta the maternal surface is
          divided into areas with dividing septae, so any areas where there are gaps or apparent holes in the cotyledons could suggest that there is placental tissue retained in utero. However, we often see a raggedy maternal surface with little bits of placental tissue hanging off, so when you reconstruct it and smooth all the raggedy bits back into place you can see if there is any missing, and in this one the pathologist says it appears complete.

          At the back of the second placenta there is a clot-placental abruption is the clinical term, retroplacental haematoma is the pathology equivalent. From the pathologist point of view, the typical features of retroplacental haematoma/placental abruption are:

          1.
          Well defined crater at the maternal aspect of the placenta with a defined crater margin

          2.
          Laminated blood clot at the base of the crater adherent to the maternal surface of the placenta

          3.
          Infarction of the placental tissue over the crater

          We don’t actually see these features that often-if placental abruption is picked up clinically, delivery is expedited and these typical features may not have had time to develop-it takes several hours at least to
          see microscopic signs of placental infarction (dying and dead placental tissue).

          So if the features are clearly present, that suggests the abruption began several hours ago at least.

          The dissecting pathologist has described a crater and clot with changes of the placental tissue which appear to be infarcted, so that fits with the clinical presentation.

          However, there isn’t a microscopic description-this is just the gross (naked eye) appearance of the placenta. The second page is a block listing-the pathologist has described where he has taken the samples from for microscopic examination, but the microscopy description not been included.

          It would be important to see a microscopy report as well-unfortunately we don’t have a good handle on what causes placental abruption except in a few
          cases. It is associated with maternal trauma/rapid deceleration injury, but in the vast majority of cases it is spontaneous. It is more common in multiple births.
          It can be associated with high blood pressure too, and with this placental weight being a bit on the small side, I would be keen to know what the maternal
          blood vessels look like microscopically (sometimes you can see features of maternal vasculopathy, blood clotting disorders, hypertension etc which are
          important to know about for future pregnancies).

          Because we don’t know exactly what causes it in many cases, we don’t know what the risk is to future pregnancies,but there is an increased risk of it happening again in some mums, that’s why
          future pregnancies should be treated as high risk. In my area, these women are induced at 38 weeks.

          Hope that helps-I’d need the microscopic description to be more definite.

          • mabelcruet

            It’s quite possible the ‘hole’ was the blood clot-on ultrasound scan it looks like a darker area. However, clinical correlation between what is on the scan and what is in the placenta is fraught with difficulty-for some reason I get loads of placentas sent because they are ‘fatty’. I have no idea what the obstetricians, midwives or ultrasonographers think is fat in the placenta, there is no fat at all in them!

            A bleeding disorder is a recognised risk for placental abruption, so she will definitely need careful monitoring next time round.

          • CSN0116

            This is amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time. I will forward!

          • mabelcruet

            You’re very welcome-if she’s got any follow up questions let me know and I’ll do my best. It would be good to see what the maternal blood vessels are like (we usually see them in the membranes and at the base of the placenta)-if there is a maternal vasculopathic problem then we can sometimes see clots in the spiral arteries, or changes related to hypertension of pregnancy which is helpful to confirm a diagnosis. We used to lump a lot of placental issues under an umbrella term of ‘placental insufficiency’ but we now recognise there are more specific diagnoses we can make. Except, there is no real treatment for many of these other than just keep a very careful eye on fetal wellbeing and get them out at the first sign of trouble.

            We now talk about ‘terminal villous maldevelopment’ which is being used as an umbrella term for when the villous tree (the part of the placenta where oxygen and glucose transportation takes place between mum and baby) doesn’t develop properly-it can be hypermature,mature too quickly, mature too slowly (used to be called villous dysmaturation but now called delayed maturation), or the villi can be just plain odd looking (dysmorphic), or oedematous. Sometimes you see the whole lot in one placenta, and its what I like to call ‘manky placenta disease’ (!) Its as good a term as any, because we really don’t know why a lot of this happens, we can’t diagnose it before delivery (as the diagnosis is made on microscopic examination of the placenta), and we can only infer its presence by looking at how well the baby in utero is doing and often babies same to be able to hold on and just about cope, until all of a sudden, they don’t.

            Flipping weird organs they are. Heart-dead easy, mechanical pump. Liver-biochemical factory on steroids. Kidneys-sewage disposal. Placenta-I think its probably magic.

    • mabelcruet

      It’s me I believe, can I help?

  • MaineJen

    Holy shit. What kind of monster would deny formula to the desperate mother of a hungry baby in a war zone??

    I’m disappointed; Melinda Gates always seemed refreshingly sensible to me. She and her husband do great work with their promotion of vaccines and mosquito nets.

  • Mel

    Living in a society where breast milk actually directly affected infant mortality would be a glorious place to live, really.

    We’d have dropped to near zero all the other major causes of infant mortality besides NEC in extremely preterm infants.

    Almost no deaths from congenital abnormalities, premature lungs, sepsis in preemies, side-effects from pregnancy complications or accidents….. that’s a world worth working towards.

    But….we are not there yet. Not at all.

    • CSN0116

      Magic needs to become real.

    • Roadstergal

      We’d have conquered SES inequalities, too.

  • Jenna

    Slightly off-topic question: When a hospital is trying to go Baby Friendly do they allow the lactivists to “educate” other departments? I went to an appointment in a department completely unrelated to maternity the other day and was astonished to hear my doctor say that of course I wouldn’t want to re-start my medication immediately after delivery, since I’d need to breastfeed to bond with the baby and pass on immunities.

    I’d been counting on that prescription, and her support, to keep the lactivists away from me. I made that clear and she said that it was completely my choice and not to worry. Still, I feel shaken by the conversation. This was a doctor who had been very matter-of-fact about, “You can’t breastfeed, of course” at the last visit. Also, she’s brilliant and has published lots of papers, so how did the “bonding” and “immunities” lies work on her?

    • Sheven

      Maybe she felt she’d gone to far in the “no breastfeeding” direction on the last visit and was overcompensating.

      I’m not a doctor but I am socially awkward. Sometimes I think I’m too formal/casual/loud/quiet/adamant about one subject when I talk to someone, then I stew about it, then I go too far the other direction on the next meeting. In any case, you being clear on the fact that you wanted your medication probably helped.

    • CSN0116

      I think Sheven is being too kind 😉

      I think these lies legitimately work on brilliant doctors because it’s all they’re bombarded with all day long — women wanting to breastfeed and all major organizations preaching the benefits (lies).

      Plus it “feels good” to say out loud.

      I’m not a real doctor 😉 (PhD), but if I had 1,000 things to tend to each day, many of which were literally life or death, I wouldn’t have the time nor the desire to pick apart what all the governing bodies, which I trust, are telling me to tell my patients. It wouldn’t even hit my radar. I would imagine they are reporting accurate claims, read/skim and regurgitate.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      This was one of the issues with my first shrink. She didn’t press, but even one comment to someone in my situation could be bad.

  • Guest from Suisse no more

    I am so grateful to you Dr. Tuteur for taking this on. I have great respect for the Gates Foundation, but the posts by Melinda Gates last week during World Breastfeeding Week were cringeworthy. It was frustrating to see a woman and an organization I respect peddling mistruths (that is the kindest way I can put it). Thank you.

  • LaMont

    A few typos/errors: “breastfeeding the scientific evidence” in the first bold statement, while a hilarious image, probably not what you meant!
    “theit tactics of 50 years ago” instead of “their”
    And the final note “majar” instead of “major”

    Also, Chelsea Clinton also was flogging this and I follow her – very upsetting stuff!!

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      My husband pointed out all the errors and I made changes but I forgot to save them. Sorry.

  • CSN0116

    Yet again, a necessary major vaccine proponent for whom the last thing we need is her credibility reduced, is reducing her credibility for the almighty breast. (See also WHO, UNICEF, AAP, CDC…)

    • CSN0116

      *I despise that the same people spouting such profound truth also dabble in outright lies. It makes me leary to trust them l, and I love 99% of what they represent; I don’t need convincing. But we live in a time when many others do. This collision of ethics is so harmful. I wish they understood that.

    • Roadstergal

      That’s so disappointing. I’m generally so happy about the Gates Foundation’s goals and initiatives.

      I wonder if, on some level, this was a response to the woo backlash against their vaccination campaigns? I might be overthinking it, though. The Breast Uber Alles message is so pervasive.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        They are hit or miss. I obviously greatly admire their efforts regarding childhood vaccinations. Their ed reform agenda is a disaster.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          nothing obviously wrong with the theory, but one of my professors, who was teaching when this was implemented in her school system, would definitely agree with you about the education thing.

        • BeatriceC

          As a teacher, I’ve despised the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for years. They may do some good, but that’s more than overshadowed by the harm caused by their education reform agenda, and now this breastfeeding bullshit. I’m over it. I don’t have anything positive to say about them.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            Ed reform is one the reasons I didn’t stay a teacher–I ended up going into social work. I love my choice (just finished my masters degree) and it allows me to work with kids in ways that jibe much better with my values but I remain in awe of the people who have chosen to stay teachers and try to work within the system. I don’t know how you guys do it but we need you so very much.

          • BeatriceC

            I left teaching to go into analytics at a major bank, then quit to become a housewife. My primary reasons had more to do with needing more flexibility to take care of two medically intense kids, which the corporate world could provide, but the state of public education after all that ed “reform” is the overriding reason I don’t go back now that the medical stuff with the kids isn’t as intense as it used to be. I’ve been thinking about it though. My preferred teaching position would be 7th grade math in an inner city/gang infested/high crime neighborhood. That’s three hard-to-hire areas all in one position, so I’d be able to find a job with relative ease. But the thought of dealing with the bullshit from the government keeps me from going back.

          • Roadstergal

            It makes me so massively sad to read all of this. I went to public school, and had some amazing teachers and an all-in-all highly educational experience that helped round out my critical thinking. I hate to think that poor kids just plain can’t get that anymore. 🙁

          • BeatriceC

            Most of my former colleagues were wonderful teachers and amazing humans. We all tried really hard to sneak in great lessons whenever we could. Unfortunately, we had our hands tied more often than not. I got away with a lot more than most because I was the college professor and already had a certain reputation for miracle working with math-resistant students. My principal didn’t write me up for some of my more unorthodox methods that would have gotten any of my fellow teachers in trouble. But here’s the thing. Why was I the only one who was given that sort of freedom? Most of my colleagues would also have shown to be wonderful and creative teachers if they’d been given the freedom to actually teach in a way that catered to their students needs while also fitting in with their own personalities as teachers. When we hog-tie teachers we hurt the kids. And that’s just wrong.

          • Heidi_storage

            I have been toying with the idea of trying to homeschool. (We’ve got a very nice, project- and experiences-based charter school that seems to do really fun and interesting STEAM stuff, but you’ve got to get in a lottery for it.) I worry about my daughter in the environment you’re describing; I can see it making her massively anxious and frustrated, and the pity of it would be that she really is a very motivated learner. But I fear the damage I could do if I screwed up her education, so I just don’t know….

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            Well, it’s not quite that bleak. There are still amazing teachers. I know some of them. But they certainly have many hurdles to jump and doing so is a job in itself. And it certainly the case that many teachers are kept from their full potential by the way the system is now.

          • Mac Sherbert

            My background is in sp. ed. and I’ve been a stay at home mom for 10 years. I want to go back to work, but I just can’t see myself working in the current system. I’m trying to come up with something else to do!

          • Heidi_storage

            Could you explain? I’ll probably be feeding my oldest to the school system in a year.

          • BeatriceC

            I’d need a dissertation to explain fully, but in general schools have become developmentally inappropriate, teachers are prevented from actually teaching, and the focus of the administration is all on “the test”. My last year of teaching I had to give up one classroom period every week (in each class) to administer “practice tests”, and then lost an entire week for the actual state tests. Districts are moving more and more to scripted or semi-scripted curriculums, which means teachers are literally supposed to read from a script with no variation and no room for student questions. I know a first grade teacher who was disciplined because his principal walked in and he was “off script”. He’d stopped to explain to his inner city Los Angeles students what FAO Schwarz was. While inner city kids in NYC might know it’s a famous, high priced toy store, inner city, and even middle class kids in LA probably don’t, yet it was mentioned in a story they had to read without context clues a typical 6 year old could use to figure it out. I could keep going, but we don’t have all day.

          • CSN0116

            All of this. It’s why we pay stupid money for private schooling for our children.

          • Charybdis

            I’m not too fond of the private schooling scene at the moment. DS spent 7 and a half years in a private school, for the “better” education it supposedly provided. This was during the economic crash, where we became a 1-income family for a few years. It was hard, but we sacrificed and did it.
            Pulled DS out last December after uncovering a particularly nasty culture of cyberbullying and mental/emotional bullying with DS being one of the main targets. It was disgusting and eye-opening and when the Principal indicated that DS was the one at fault for finally having enough of turning the other cheek and said something back to one of the bullies and that he *might* be considered a menace by other parents, we pulled him out. We were getting ready to move, so DS got an extra-long Christmas vacation and we enrolled him in a public school. He was ahead in most of his classes, and right with the rest of the class on a couple of classes. His education has not suffered, but his psyche and mental attitude has done a complete turnaround. He is looking forward to school starting on Friday for the first time EVER.
            We were lucky that the public school is one of the top ones in the state, as is the high school he will be attending.

          • CSN0116

            Wow that is terrible! Right now our school has a principal with a hard core zero tolerance bullying policy, cyber or otherwise. She has gone so far as to dismiss the children of some very prominant, big donor families. Sadly, we see the opposite trend here. Public school kids with the means transfer in droves, even mid-year, to escape rampant bullying, even the physical type.

            But we will have issues with this come high school. The leading all girls HS (I have 4 daughters) is notorious for encouraged bullying, severe eating disorders, suicide attempts– a total no go. The co-ed ones aren’t rumored much better. I worry about what we will do all the time :/

          • Charybdis

            That’s the rub, right there. The school and principal had a zero tolerance policy on bullying, cyber or otherwise, both ON school grounds and off. It is even in the student/parent handbook that everyone has to read and sign each year. Until they were smacked in the face with proof of the bullying, then it became about how DS was not safe and that it was clear that they were more concerned about getting rid of the victim instead of dealing with the problem.
            Now, DS was certainly not blameless in the situation, he occasionally went word for word with the group who was doing the bullying. However, after discovering the depth, viciousness and unrelenting taunting these kids were subjecting other kids to on a daily basis, I was proud that DS held his temper for as long as he did. I took screen shots of the worst of the bullying, had DS give me the names associated with the screen names some of the kids were using (some used their real, actual names) and gave the list to the Principal at our meeting. I also read aloud some of the worst of the messages and asked how that sort of behavior was okay by him. He looked as if he had been hit by a wrecking ball. We ended the meeting with us withdrawing DS from school and me leaving the list of students and their screen names with him and emailing him my file of 110+ screen shots of the social media bullying, inappropriate memes/websites (fuckjerry.tv., booty.pipe.memes, etc), racial slurs being tossed around (black people have got to be stopped, how many niggas in my store, Asian fukboi, etc), threats (you SHOULD be scared to come to school, I’ll kill you with my knife, a line of revolver pictures posted, you need to drink bleach and die, go die in a hole, die you freckled albino freak) and other scintillating conversational gems.
            I am not *that* parent, the helicopter one who is convinced that their child can do no wrong, but really. Constant, day in and day out mental, emotional and cyberbullying by kids who think it is a sport of sorts is enough to make a saint cuss. We had been trying for at least 5 years to have the school address the fact that there was a core group of kids who constantly got kids in trouble and would gang up on other kids, lie outright and do whatever they could to get others in trouble. DS just happened to be a target. Was he a perfect little angel all the time? No, nor did we expect him to be. But when we brought the situation up at conferences, etc, we were told (by a few teachers, at least) that they were aware that this was a problem, but they couldn’t be everywhere all the time and it was hard to address/stop. We counseled DS to not rise to the bait, to ignore them, not to retaliate because it is always the one who responds who gets in trouble and to NEVER get physical with someone unless he was in danger or defending himself. Why is it always up to the victims to de-escalate the situation? Why are the ones doing the bullying never held accountable for their words/actions?
            For all the “zero-tolerance” for bullying out there, there is still plenty of it going on and it seems as if addressing/confronting the bullies is not considered part of the solution. (Sorry for the novel. It still bothers me deeply)

          • Mac Sherbert

            That’s terrible. At least you did find out. That kind of stuff is why there are helicopter parents…sometimes you just don’t have any other choice.

          • Charybdis

            DS didn’t get a cell phone until the middle of last September (7th grade). He is on the leadership team and competition team at his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school and my phone was blowing up with requests, communications, etc. from BJJ. So, DS got his first cell phone, with the caveat that we (parents) were to know his unlock code and/or pattern and that his phone would be subject to random, unexpected parental inspections and perusal of his social media. Texts, Instagram, Snapchat, etc would be checked as would be any browser history. He was in a group on Instagram that consisted of kids at his school. He didn’t participate in that group much, but since he was in the group, he received all the messages flying back and forth among everybody. This is where I found all the evidence (or 2 and a half month’s worth, anyway) of the cyberbullying, threats, drug references (black tar heroin, steroids), racist slurs, porn sites/references, , etc.
            I remember being that age, full of hormones and early teenage angst and I would have DIED if my parents knew of some of the conversations I had with my friends. Trying out new words (usually four-letter ones), talking about who has kissed anyone, how was the kissing, cramps, periods, sex, sex education, dirty jokes, who is cute, who likes who, etc. All the stuff that kids talk about with each other . I’m not going to invade DS’s privacy too much (I don’t / won’t read every. single. text. message/Instagram/Snapchat, but I will randomly spot check a few. We have had discussions about being safe online and on social media: You don’t give your full name or address out to strangers, you don’t volunteer your daily routines, NO DICK PICS, EVER, no sexting and to remember that there is a person on the other end of the phone/computer who will be reading what you write/post. And, that the internet is FOREVER. We talk about the 11 year old boy who committed suicide because of bullying on social media, the girl who was convicted and sentenced to jail time for texting her boyfriend to kill himself (he did), and how it is our (parent’s) job to rear him into a decent, functional human being and that some things are not negotiable. His cell phone and computer use are privileges, not rights, and if he is using either one or both in an unsafe manner, he will lose those privileges. If use is required for school, he will be supervised (parent in the room, not necessarily looking over his shoulder).
            I couldn’t believe that other parents weren’t checking their kid’s phones/social media usage. If I found 110+ heinous posts over a 2 month period, what was out there that was not being discovered by other parents? Were they aware of what their kids were posting on a multiple-times-per-day basis? Did they care? Did they have any inkling of their child’s behavior? That the kids had duplicate accounts so if one was found, they could use the backup to continue? Or was I just overreacting to “kids being kids”?

          • Mac Sherbert

            Sounds like a reasonable approach to it to me. My oldest is only nine so I can’t say how it will for us, but surely teenagers still need some kind of check on their behavior. Compared to my reaction to that kind of thing you sound calm. Those other parents have failed their kids by allowing such behavior as it will follow them and eventually isolate them once they leave the little private school
            Bubble.

          • Roadstergal

            That’s seriously fucked up. 🙁 I’m glad you were there for your kid, but man. When I was in high school, the ‘internet’ (mostly BBSs at the time) was where the nerds went to escape the bullies. The fact that they’ve taken that from us is maddening.

          • Roadstergal

            My parents scrimped and saved and put me in private school for a year because of bullying, and yeah – it was a different flavor, but just as bad, and I didn’t get as good an education. That was for 8th grade; I went back to public school for high school, and things were much better. Part of it was simply getting to a _bigger_ high school, where even the outcasts could have a group of friends – and a school that had AP classes, which solved a lot of my academic issues (I was bored in class and got bad grades until I was challenged).

          • Cat

            I have to admit to a bit of prejudice against fee-paying schools because a number of my close friends and family had horrific experiences at UK fee-paying boarding schools – we’re talking experiences ranging from severe mental and emotional bullying, to physical violence/torture with a sexual element between kids, to witnessing systematic sexual abuse of fellow pupils by teachers. However, I’m conscious that this is probably all (i) twenty years out of date and (ii) characteristic of a certain type of elite British same-sex boarding school, so not really comparable to the US system.

            Wishing your DS all the very best for the new school term, anyway! I was bullied pretty much all the way through high school (I somehow managed to get cyberbullied in the early 90s – pretty much the first thing anyone did on one of our school computers must have been sending me an email threatening to kill me for being a “lezzer” – but it does heal, and he’s a lucky kid to have parents who were looking out for his interests.

          • Heidi_storage

            Bleah. Sounds grim.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Which is why kids from poorer backgrounds used to consistently fail the old IQ tests. The only reason I know about FAO Swartz is because of BIG, but I bet few enough kids these days have watched that movie.

          • CSN0116

            A fave I use in class to highlight how the SAT is bias toward higher SES populations:

            “runner is to race” as…

            The answer is “boat is to regatta.”

            With origins stemming from the tradition of elite universities, how many inner city kids, shit even middle class kids, know what a fucking regatta is?

          • Roadstergal

            They should cut to the chase and just ask “What is the proper port to request from the butler after a steak dinner?” :p

            ETA: Also, fuck all of the studies showing correlations between breastfeeding and IQ. :p

          • Heidi_storage

            I don’t know, but just make sure that you do NOT light your cigar at the same time as your port; this is a big no-no. (Dorothy Sayers, forget which novel. Not that it matters anyway, because as a woman I’d be away from the gentlemen smoking and passing the port.)

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Pretty sure you aren’t supposed to light your port. 😉

          • BeatriceC

            There was a study in the 90’s in Chicago (I think on both counts…I haven’t been able to locate it again and can’t recall exactly who did it) on standardized testing performance disparity. They took two groups of students and gave each group two different “standardized” tests covering the same material. The two groups were middle/upper middle class suburban students, and blue collar/lower class inner city students. One exam was a typical standardized test and the other one was the same material but reworked so that the vocabulary, readings, and situations presented were more in line with the experiences of a city dwelling and low income person. The results almost completely switched. The inner city kids performed more poorly than their suburban counterparts on the traditional exam, but the suburban kids saw massive drops in performance while the inner city students saw massive increases in performance on the exam with the phrasing more in line with the experiences of the inner city students.

          • Roadstergal

            There needs to be yet another re-release of The Mismeasure of Man, because that shit will just not go away.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            I vaguely remember that one.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Yes, but Common Core will fix that. Now all the kids in every state and city are taught the exact same thing at the exact time. (sarcasm)

          • maidmarian555

            I was a member of a sailing club (long story- posh ex, didn’t end well, still never been sailing ever although I did get to go on a speedboat once and that was cool) for two years and they never held any regattas. Plenty of races (my ex used to sail in them) and I never heard that phrase used once.

          • BeatriceC

            I think I might have known the word regatta before I knew the word race. But then again, this is where I went to school from age 4 preschool through 7th grade. It’s right on Biscayne Bay smack in the middle of the wealthiest section of Coral Gables, FL. (Check out the shot looking towards the building with the pool in the foreground..my kindergarten classroom was the room with the double doors on the far left. One hell of a view to distract a five year old who hated the nun teaching the class)

            http://www.carrollton.org/

          • maidmarian555

            Wow, that’s so pretty. In fairness to my school, they did have a program there so that us poorer kids could have a go at sailing if we were so inclined (and tbf many of the local sailing clubs don’t really charge that much for their kids programs- although it’s still probably out of reach financially for many families) but I wasn’t interested back then. Socially, I’ve never really mixed with any of the sailing community outside of the time I was in that relationship. Some areas round here are beautiful but we also have one of the busiest shipping lanes in the country so in amongst the pretty sailing boats, you get cruise liners and container ships going past if you go down to the shore……

          • BeatriceC

            Yeah, the campus is absolutely stunning. I went looking for a picture looking the other way from the pool. It’s even more stunning. It’s a large lawn that stops at a sea wall directly on the bay. I spent many, many hours in Kindergarten staring out at that pool and the bay. I recall being extremely upset to find out my 1st grade classroom did not have a bay view.

          • Dr Kitty

            My dad was a Cox, so I’m afraid my childhood association with regattas is a lot of parents drinking in a bar in a marquee near the river while kids ran riot. I think I was about 10 before I realised that there was a race involved.

            Rowing in Ireland, at least as practised by my father and his friends, was more about the craic than the sport.

            See also
            https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/aug/14/ireland-odonovan-brothers-internet-sensations-silver-medal-win-rowing-rio-olympics

          • Heidi_storage

            Readers of Agatha Christie books?

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            I’d only be able to remember regatta if it’s multiple choice, and because I have a British Mystery obsession.

          • MaineJen

            I used to get “regatta” mixed up with “ricotta.” LOL I definitely would have missed that one…

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            And forget it if you, as the teacher, make the judgment that it might be more important at some moment to address a child’s emotional needs than continue to cram them for the high-stakes tests!

            Social work as a field has its own load of problems and constraints but at least when I work with kids, I’m supposed to be prioritizing their wellbeing and not just their arbitrary academic performance, as evaluated by people who were never teachers.

          • Anna D

            I love this quote by Arthur Costa: “What was educationally significant and hard to measure has been replaced by what is educationally insignificant and easy to measure. So now we measure how well we taught what isn’t worth learning.”

          • Kelly

            My favorite classes were when we went off topic. I taught government, so I got to talk about taxes, current events, and other things of interest that were relevant to my kids. This was when my kids were the most interested in what I had to say and they always asked the best questions. Those were the moment that were few and far between that made me feel like a real teacher instead of a teacher who had to get through the material so they could pass the class. The entire last quarter was about my students taking the state tests over and over again so they could pass and graduate at the end of the year. Overall, I had it easy because the kids did not have to take a state test to pass my class. On the other hand, they manipulated the letter grades so that as long as a kid got a C on the semester exam, they would pass the semester. They could have failed everything else but we got pressured to pass every single kid for our numbers. I never want to go back to teaching because the politics and stress that are placed on teachers are too much. I had painful cystic acne all over my cheeks and neck for all five years of teaching and once I quit, it disappeared. I will have one or two pop up when stressed or near my period but nowhere near the amount I had while teaching. Sorry for such a long rant. I keep up my license in case my husband can’t work but I hope to never have to use it again.

          • Busbus

            I think your anecdote also shows how important principals are. They don’t do the teaching, and they can’t necessarily do anything about state-mandated testing, but in my experience they set the tone and atmosphere for the entire school and have a huge amount of influence over how empowered individual teachers feel who want to do things a different way.

          • Charybdis

            Common Core BS and not allowing teachers to actually TEACH their students. Having checklists and checklists of the checklists so that they have boxes to tick off so they can show “proof” of things being followed. No flexibility in the way teachers teach. Less about “X, Y, and Z must be covered in this class” and letting the teacher get on with teaching “X, Y and Z” and more about “X, Y and Z must be covered in this class and it must be done in this specific manner”. Teaching to the test, not for actual knowledge of the subject. No allowance for nuances or things going off on a bit of a tangent. Students not encouraged to ask questions or really think independently about their subjects. Pressure starting at the earliest levels of schooling (pre-K and kindergarten) to sight read, count, know colors, write legibly, sit still and pay attention. Less time for recess and PE, more time in classrooms doing “work”. Major pressure for reading comprehension and fluency in early childhood. Reading logs for kindergarteners and first graders. Homework for the sake of homework, every night, not just things that didn’t get finished in class or an occasional assignment to reinforce a new concept. Funky weird ways of teaching math that is supposed to be “better” and teach the students HOW to approach a math problem. Less memorization and rote learning, because that is bad. (Multiplication facts, diagramming sentences, etc). Stressing sitting still and being quiet at all times. Passing the standardized tests was more important than the students learning.
            When DS was in 4th grade, his teacher stressed that she was there to prepare them for 5th grade and that in 5th grade, things were different, so it was up to her to whip them into shape, instead of concentrating on what they should be learning in the 4th grade.
            It is awful, and I marvel at those who do teach in this batshit crazy environment. (Both my parents were teachers and we have a large number of ex-teachers in the family).

          • Mac Sherbert

            Dear me. My son just started 4th grade and that sounds exactly like his teachers. Yet, I’ve been told that when the kids move up to the middle school next year it will be less strict that the 4th grade teachers.

          • Kelly

            I taught high school for five years. It has been my experience that they push the kids really hard in elementary school and then coddle the crap out of them in middle and high school just to push them through.

          • MaineJen

            I’m actually running into this with my son who is going into SECOND grade. He had a tough year last year, in part because I thought the teacher was putting way too much emphasis on proficiency (timed math quizzes in first grade?). She even made similar statements to the kids, like “You’ll have to know this for next year, the work will be much harder in 2nd grade!” Now I’m wondering if it was entirely the teacher’s fault.

            His kindergarten teacher mentioned to me, the year before, that the new standards are difficult for a lot of students to attain. Particularly those who struggle with reading.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            It was not entirely the teacher’s fault or probably even mostly. She likely hated it at least as much. People blame teachers a lot because they are so visible but, in my experience, most of them really care about the kids and most of them are fighting an extremely uphill battle to do their best by them, with varying degrees of success.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            My experience too. I don’t know any teachers who’re pleased with this sort of thing for kindergardeners.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            This is why my niece “red-shirted” both her kids(they will be 6 starting kindergarten). Her older kid is autistic and while he has done very well in nursery school he still has trouble focusing and sometimes trouble following directions, frustration causes major meltdowns some days. His younger sister was premature and her mom feels she would be too small and too immature to deal with all day kindergarten until she is older. In some ways I wish I had done this with my daughter.

          • Mac Sherbert

            “Red-Shirting” has been increasing. It’s getting to the point that kids that aren’t red-shirted will be at a huge disadvantage. In my state school is not mandatory until age 6 and Kinder is actually not required at all! (but most don’t know that!) The cut off date for K for us is 5 by Sept. 1. So, when my youngest starts K she will turn six shortly after school starts.

          • Charybdis

            There’s a sinister side to that practice as well. Parents hold kids back so they will be bigger, heavier and stronger for sports.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            There can be. On the other hand when my daughter started school kids had to be 5 by 31 December. She has an October birthday but because she was always very verbally advanced we figured she would be fine. Turns out that having a large vocabulary and doing OK at simple math does not help if you are not ready to learn to read. She was 6 1/2 before something “clicked” and she could really read.

          • Dr Kitty

            My kids have July and August birthdays, where we live this means they’ll be the oldest in their year.

            My daughter is very bright, and if anything I worry she is bored at school (the school does try- her classes are seated in different tables by ability, and her little table gets different, more challenging work).

            I did have a bit of a barney with the teachers about their weird maths teaching. #1 has always had wonderful maths skills and can do mental arithmetic that I would struggle with.
            They were fixated on teaching “sets” and “number lines” and she was getting frustrated because it was slower than whatever she was doing in her head (don’t ask me- she says it’s just obvious what the answers are).
            So I told the school that I would prefer they let her solve problems her own way, and if it got to a point where she no longer could, then they were free to show her other methods of working things out.

            With #2, I have a feeling he’s going to need that extra year to get the focus and attention span, although based on the fact that he’s speaking full sentences (most of which involve variations on “I want a biscuit mummy. Please, I get a biscuit now. Thank you. No mummy, I get biscuit. Put it down mummy. I get it out the tin. Let me! Please!”) I have a feeling he’ll be A-OK on the social skills.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Ah, yes I do have issues with my first in school because he is “gifted”. He learns so fast that he is frustrated with the slow pace it takes everyone else to learn. He tells everyone that will listen that the standards are too easy.
            I will actually ask him how to spell or do some problem in his head for me because he can do it faster than I can. lol Sometimes I do think he would have been better of to have started Kindergarten a year earlier.

            And my #2 is only concerned that her shirt has a unicorn and that her shoes are pink. 🙂

          • Dr Kitty

            I was your son in school.
            I was a terrible student- in that I could put in almost no effort and still get straights As, so I never learnt to work in school. I’d do assignments last minute, awful handwriting and all and still get great grades- it is not motivating.
            I suggest you find other ways to push him, both academically and otherwise.
            Make him do some activity out of school that he enjoys, but isn’t gifted at. Make him keep doing it even if he wants to quit.
            If he gets 90 and he usually gets 95, let him know that you know he could do better.

            It sounds harsh, but medical school was a shock to the system, and I’d much rather have been pushed a bit earlier and taught to persevere.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            My spouse got that shock in senior year of college. How they thought it was a good idea to put him in regular classes rather than college prep in high school I’ve no idea.
            Me, I’ve always had to work for it
            eta: well except for those 2 professors, but that’s another story.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Thank you for the advice. It is overwhelming to sometimes to know what do for him. We have pushed him to play hockey because he does have to work at it to be good. He has said that he doesn’t know why everyone tells him he works so hard for all those A’s or 100’s. He loves science. At nine he already wants a PH.D in something and I am worried that first time he fails it will throw him for a loop. Thankfully, the schools do offer some enrichment for the gifted kids and that teacher does NOT give him high marks for just showing up.

          • Kelly

            Sounds like you are looking for ways to help him learn about failure while he is young. I am sure since you are worried and are looking for ways to remedy it, he will be fine.

          • BeatriceC

            There’s good reason to insist she still master the traditional algorithms. As a teacher, I’m all for alternative methods, so long as they’re algebraically sound (even the arithmetic, as the theory is still based in algebra), and not a shortcut that’s going to fall apart as soon as a different sort of number is introduced. We see this all the time in the secondary grades when we start introducing negative numbers, and to some extent in the elementary grades with the introduction of fractions. The students have worked out or been taught an alternative or concept theory that simply doesn’t work with anything except positive whole numbers, and the student then gets confused an determines that math “makes no sense”. Additionally, the algorithms for arithmetic with polynomials is absolutely identical to the arithmetic with “regular” numbers. They look a little different because we can simplify base ten numbers, but it’s still the exact same set of algorithms for all the basic arithmetic operations. Having a solid understanding of the traditional algorithms makes algebra a whole lot easier. (Explaining via text without a decent equation editor is difficult, so I wrote one out and took pictures. Forgive my terrible handwriting.)

          • BeatriceC
          • BeatriceC

            I’m going to leave turning this into the the distributive property using polynomials as an exercise for the reader. 🙂 Also, sorry for the wrong orientation. I have no idea why pictures are uploading that way. They’re normal in my phone and computer.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/529d7679cfa0ad799b318afa1e4ea1db940a59f27bb06f25058be2c5e0ab89b6.jpg

          • Dr Kitty

            Thanks.
            Although so far doesn’t seem to have an issue with negative numbers or fractions.

            This child like us to give her sums to do for fun on car rides. We had to stop unless both of DH and I are in the car, because I can’t get the answers as fast as she can, and obviously can’t check with a calculator while driving.

            I’m going to show her this- I bet she’ll enjoy it and start asking for new problems to try out.

          • BeatriceC

            It’s not at all unheard of for gifted kids to almost intuitively figure out what’s going on before they acquire the vocabulary to express what their brains are doing. But it’s also not unheard of for them to get some things partially incorrect, and then struggle for a bit when presented with a topic that breaks the rule that their brains have settled on. A gifted teacher will pick her brain in age appropriate ways to figure out what she’s doing and either give her the vocabulary to explain herself or correct her if what she’s doing has some sort of flaw that will wind up giving her trouble down the road. And if she’s interested in that little bit I wrote out, perhaps she’d be better served by introducing her to a little bit more of the theory. There’s quite a number of topics that can be introduced to young kids, though it’s difficult to impossible to find published teaching resources. Let me know if she’d like to explore further and I’ll see what I can find or create.

          • Busbus

            Oh my, we were so happy about saving $10,000 in daycare costs a year when my oldest finally started kindergarten (she had just turned 5)… There was never going to be any redshirting for us. That’s really only an option for relatively wealthy families or those that have a stay-at-home parent.

            That’s why I’m really big on making sure public schools everywhere are given the chance to respect age-appropriate needs and development. And also on making sure there is affordable (and fun!) afterschool care for anybody who needs it. Yes, school isn’t daycare, but families in the US aren’t given a lot of breaks and financing daycare is a huge and unresolved problem for anybody with young kids who isn’t upper middle class. In fact, I get kind of aggressive when people complain about parents “treating school like daycare”… There is so much subtext of classism and privilege there, be it consciously or not. (This is not at all about you, Mac, you’re just the person I happened to respond to on this thread!)

          • Gæst

            I have been calling school “free day care” since my kids were born, and I can’t wait. I’m worried about all sorts of things with school, but the cost of care in the NYC area is astronomical, and I’m a single parent. I make more than the median salary for NYC, but that’s not saying much. I simply could not pay for both rent and childcare – I didn’t take home enough money to cover even just those two things. My parents have had to help. Free daycare can’t come soon enough. (Two more weeks!)

          • MaineJen

            My kid has a November birthday, so he’s one of the oldest in his class anyway. That’s probably one of the reasons he hasn’t had as much trouble with the work.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            All this, not to mention the work environment for teachers themselves and the discipline systems they’re meant to enforce with the kids, especially at charter schools, which were supposed to be the saviors of education and…don’t get me started.

          • Madtowngirl

            I taught in a “choice” school. Virtually everything you and Charybdis listed are the reasons why I’m no longer a teacher.

          • BeatriceC

            These are all the reasons why I really have no desire to go back into the classroom. There’s a couple biotech companies expanding in my area. I’m really considering applying. MrC can be a stay at home stepfather…

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            These are a big portion of why, despite going through post-bac certification, I’m reluctant to teach for real.

          • Anna D

            That is terrifying. My daughter is starting k this year and I already can feel that the school she is in is not right for us but it is too late for this year. I hope they wont screw with her too much though. Because there is a large amount of poor and immigrant kids in the school the memo about homework, uniform and other things was stinking to high heaven of paternalism and plain craziness. K grade they expect at least 30 minutes of homework daily including a reading log; and that is after a full school day. There not a single shred of evidence that supports any homework in elementary school and especially not at those levels. Current emphasis on reading and writing at a very young age is plain inappropriate developmentally. Some kids can do it, mine will have a lot of difficulty with it, even though she is brilliant in math. Just so frustrating….

          • MaineJen

            Yeah, I didn’t always make my kid do the kindergarten/first grade homework. Especially on the days he really seemed wiped out. They’re still so little!

          • Anna D

            I pointedly asked what are are repercussions of not completing homework, and parent coordinator told me that the student will be demoted to lower performing class, as it will be a marker of her not being able to do her work. Not sure how true is that though.

          • MaineJen

            WTF? In kindergarten? That’s ludicrous.

          • Anna D

            yeah, I know, I was scraping my jaw off the floor. Not to mention that my daughter will be 4 for the first semester.

          • MI Dawn

            I thought the suggested amount of time was 5 minutes per grade level, not 30!

          • Mac Sherbert

            This is my angry face.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Not to mention that no teacher in their right mind uses HW to determine mastery.

          • Heidi_storage

            My dad always called homework “the effort grade.” But he taught middle school, high school, and college, and would never have countenanced this kindergarten-homework nonsense.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            The local “homework” for kindergarten is to read with a parent 20 minutes a night.

            Considering we have been reading with the kids every night since they were born, it is not an issue for us. However, not all kids have that kind of support. That was my role in volunteering last year, to read with the kids who weren’t able to do it at home.

          • Heidi_storage

            Aw, that’s sad. My dad read to me every night until he fell sick with colon cancer when I was eight. I still love reading.

          • Heidi_storage

            Actually, this kind of makes me think of Kate Tietje and her “damaged” 9-year-old daughter, who apparently cannot read at grade level. I have no way of knowing whether she’s just had to deal with educational neglect, but if she were to have some special needs issue I could EASILY see that being overlooked; I doubt Modern Alternative Mama would do evaluations and therapy for this child.

          • Gæst

            *That* homework I can get behind at that age. We don’t always read for 20 minutes, but I’d make the effort to read longer for homework. But yeah, home life comes in a wide variety and not all parents can pull off having to supervise homework of any kind.

          • BeatriceC

            I had a 20 minute rule for my 7th graders. I assingned a number of problems that would have taken me about 5 minutes (or less). They were to work diligently until they finished or for 20 minutes and not one second more. If they were unable to complete the homework after 20 minutes, then they were to turn in what they were able to do (even if it was wrong..I just wanted to see the effort), with a one or two sentence note telling me why they were having trouble. This did a couple different things. First, it forced the students to think about what was causing them to trip up. Did they understand the easier problems but got tripped up when they got more complex? Did they just not understand the concept at all? Did they understand the concept but had difficulty in the arithmetic that was supposed to be a prerequisite skill but they were still having trouble with? Identifying your problem is half the battle in solving it. Second, it allowed me to more quickly identify troublesome areas and allowed me to be able to cancel that day’s lesson and re-teach the previous day’s lesson if most of the class still wasn’t understanding, or quietly and privately identify students who were having more trouble than most. Third, and most importantly, it increased student willingness to actually do their homework and not copy off the one student in the class who aced everything. I was only grading for completeness (and the aforementioned note counted), not correctness, and I sold homework as just an opportunity to try concepts on their own, without a safety net, to see if they really understood a concept, and it was okay if they didn’t. This was the time to find out, and not on a graded quiz or test. The increased cooperation made my students more successful in general. An unplanned bonus was we actually had some really great analytical discussions as a result of students having to put into words what they were having trouble with.

          • Busbus

            I love your system! What a great way to turn homework into something that makes sense. And I can see how the system would work for both weak and strong students – the strong ones are probably done pretty quickly, and the weak ones have the added bonus of figuring out what the issue is without being driven nuts by problems they can’t solve. I wish my teachers had done it that way!

          • Busbus

            I might actually steal your idea in case my kids ever have trouble with a certain subject and encourage them to treat their homework that way (maybe after telling the teacher that that was what I was doing). 🙂

          • When my kids were in school, I was told (in a rather patronizing manner, as it happens) that I should spend “at least an hour a day” with each of my three children “helping” them with their homework. I retorted that MY parents had been cautioned never to assist me; the quality of the homework submitted was a way for the teacher to know if she’d gotten her message across (I didn’t bother to ask how I could work full-time, and run a house as well). However, many parents seemed to accept this; one father even told me that he “corrected” his son’s homework after the boy went to sleep, “so it would always be perfect”. (!!???)

          • Gæst

            If anyone tries to tell me that I should spend and hour helping my twins with their elementary school homework each night – after I pick them up at 6 PM! – I’m going to ask them what time they’re coming over to prep my college class lectures for the next morning. Never mind how tired my kids are going to be by the end of the day, *I* am too pooped to do more work than I already bring home with me on a daily basis. I’m going to be the most obnoxious parent.

          • Gæst

            I mean, competitive parents will just do their kid’s homework for them.

          • Kelly

            I only did homework with my kindergartner if she wanted to and she did either average or above average in everything. 30 minutes is way too much for a kid that young. I can’t believe they expected that. I am thankful that my oldest only got half day kindergarten but now they are changing it to all day due to parents complaining about day care.

          • Anna D

            Day care is a problem for full-time working parents regardless of full time or half-day kindergarten, as no one I know leaves work at 1 or 2 p.m.

          • Kelly

            I recognize that. I think that if the problem is daycare that the city should have figure out a program or a subsidy to help the parents out. Teachers are not day care providers.

          • Anna D

            absolutely, one of the downfalls in pre-k for all in NYC is they are making it academic, and while it ameliorates cost of quality day care, most of the people still need to finance half day of child care.

          • Gæst

            My experience with NYC pre-k so far is that it’s not very academic – but it probably varies a lot by school. I toured three local UPK programs and in all of them they had “themes” that they studied, but it didn’t seem rigorously academic. They would have stations where kids could experiment with water for the”wind and water” theme, for example, but the kids choose the station they want during station time, and some were playing with blocks, others were drawing, etc. No homework for pre-K. Lots of outdoor time. Lots of art and singing.

            I’m worried about how academic kindergarten will be, but so far very pleased with UPK.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Exactly, there is no evidence that homework other than reading does anything for elementary kids. (Told this by an education professor no less!) 30 minutes a day for Kinder is ridiculous. I think it is driven by desperation on the part of the teachers. They are trying to make up for everything the kids haven’t gotten up to Kindergarten. Our school always just sent home a list of what they were working on and a couple of worksheets to work on all week. My kid didn’t need it and I didn’t make him do it up until 3rd grade at which point he was labeled gifted, so I made them give him homework appropriate for him. Ha! I originally choose a school with a diverse student population because I wanted my son to have that interaction, but as you say the assumption that all kids come for terrible homes is driving me crazy and I’m thinking the next one may go to school somewhere else.

          • Anna D

            We do not have any choice as far as public elementary school goes, unless your child qualifies for gifted and talented, then there is a lottery for city-wide and districted programs. We qualified for both, but did not win the lottery for our top 3 choice schools. I would not hesitate to go a private route if there was a school that aligned with my educational priorities with reasonable tuition, sadly there are no schools like that in NYC, partly because tuition starts at around 35k a year for kindergarten. I think this strange desperation to whip 4 and 5 year olds into reading and writing robots is really not producing results they want to achieve since they are creating cohorts of kids who are afraid to question authority and are conditioned into reflexive compliance and memorization vs autonomy and intellectual inquiry.

          • Gæst

            This. The Gates’ are the enemy of public education.

        • susannunes

          Thank you. Can’t stand the Gateses for that reason.

    • Russell Jones

      You can almost hear the whackadoos’ heads exploding. On one hand, they despise Gates for the vaccine advocacy (part of a depopulation plot, according to Ranger Mike Adams and other assorted Internet nutjobs/charlatans). On the other hand, they love her for the breastfeeding advocacy (based, presumably, on blind adherence to the demonstrably false notion that natural = inherently good, I suppose).

      • If vaccinations are part of a depopulation plot, it’s a plot that really sucks. The world population keeps growing.