Check out ‘The Finland Phenomenon

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Read Time:2 Minute, 41 Second

When I heard the news last week that the Department of Education is aiming to subject 4-year-olds to high-stakes testing, all I could do is shake my head in disbelief and despondently mutter a slightly altered riff off Walter Sobchak of “The Big Lebowski.”

Four-year-olds, dude.

You don’t have to be as dyspeptic as Walter to know this is madness. According to Stanford University’s Linda Darling-Hammond, who headed President Obama’s education transition team, though we already “test students in the United States more than any other nation,” our students “perform well below those of other industrialized countries in math and science.” Yet the Obama administration, backed by corporate foundations, is nonetheless intensifying testing at all levels, as if doing the same thing and expecting different results is innovative “reform” rather than what it’s always been: insanity.

In light of this craziness, it’s no wonder we’re being out-educated by countries going in the opposite policy direction.

Though bobo evangelists like David Brooks insist – without data, of course – that reduced testing “leads to lethargy and perpetual mediocrity,” Hammond notes that “nations like Finland and Korea – top scorers on the Programme for International Student Assessment” – have largely “eliminated the crowded testing schedules used decades ago when these nations were much lower-achieving.”

Finland’s story, recounted in the new documentary “The Finland Phenomenon,” is particularly striking. According to Harvard’s Tony Wagner, the country’s modernization campaign in the 1970s included a “transforming of the preparation and selection of future teachers.”

“What has happened since is that teaching has become the most highly esteemed profession” in Finland, says Wagner, who narrates the film. “There is no domestic testing … because they have created such a high level of professionalism, they can trust their teachers.”

Where Finland rejects testing, nurtures teachers, and encourages its best and brightest to become educators, we fetishize testing, portray teachers as evil parasites and financially encourage top students to become Wall Streeters.

Just as important, Finland’s tax and social welfare system have made it an economically equal society, and its education quality doesn’t vary across class lines. By contrast, America’s low taxes and meager social safety net have made it the industrialized world’s most stratified nation – and our Separate And Unequal education system is better funded and better performing in rich neighborhoods, and grossly underfunded and therefore underperforming in poor areas.

This is the ugly secret that America’s education “reformers” seek to hide.

As Joanne Barkan reports in Dissent magazine, data overwhelmingly show that “out-of-school factors” like poverty “count for twice as much as all in-school factors” in student achievement. But because economic inequality enriches wealthy titans like Walmart’s Walton family, and because those same titans fund education policy foundations and buy politicians, the national education debate avoids focusing on economics. Instead, it manufactures a narrative demonizing teachers and promoting testing as a panacea.

It’s certainly a compelling fairy tale. Unfortunately for “reformers,” Finland, Korea and other successes prove the story’s dishonesty – and too bad for America’s kids that those successes are being willfully ignored.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

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Read Time:1 Minute, 46 Second

PARIS — The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

Researchers looked at mortality data provided by 10 European Union countries.

They comprised six countries — Austria, Britain, Finland, Greece, Ireland and the Netherlands — that had been EU members before 2004, and four — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania — that joined afterwards.

In 2008, suicides among people aged younger than 65 in the pre-enlargement states rose by almost seven percent over 2007, the letter said.

The rise was especially marked in Greece (+17 percent) and Ireland (+13 percent), two of the worst-hit economies.

“This is… consistent with historical studies that show immediate rises in suicides associated with ‘early indicators’ of crisis, such as turmoil in the banking sector, which precipitates later unemployment,” the epidemiologists said.

In the four post-enlargement states, the number of suicides rose by one percent in 2008, but accelerated from 2009 when job losses started to bite.

In that year, the relative increase was higher than among the pre-enlargement states, which have a wider social safety net.

The unemployment rate across the 27-nation EU rose by 2.6 points, a relative increase of 35 percent, between 2007 and 2009.

Only Austria bucked the suicide trend, with five percent less self-inflicted mortality in 2009 compared with 2007.

Unexpectedly, however, Finland — which like Austria has widespread support for the unemployed — saw an increase in suicides of just over five percent in the same period.

Overall, mortality from all causes in the 10 countries remained stable.

This was because deaths from road accidents fell substantially, especially in the eastern countries, as car use retreated due to the economic crisis and unemployment.

A macabre footnote to that decline is a slump in the availability of organs for transplant.

The letter is authored by five specialists in public health, led by David Stuckler of the University of Cambridge. The data is preliminary, and further research will cast a wider net across Europe.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Big brother Amplified: July 10 -It’s kickout day

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Read Time:3 Minute, 27 Second

The heat is on in the Big Brother Amplified house before the first eviction since the Tailshouse and the Headshouse mates were brought under one roof last week.

Indications are that Botswana’s talkative and nauseating Miss P has overstayed her welcome and will have to walk after 7pm tonight, but with Africa viewers voting anything is possible. Also on the chopping block, as Biggie would say, is Nigeria’s carefree Karen, who is rumoured to have had a boob job done, the highly opinionated and gravel-voiced Weza from Angola, the reserved but beautiful and gorgeous Sharon O from Uganda and the only man, Alex from Ghana, who is a sly and smooth operator.

  • The bold Karen, this week’s head of the house, did not try to save herself.

    She decided to test the African viewers’ love for or resentment of her by not replacing herself.

  • Alex has been accused by his female housemates of using their sexual vulnerability to get his way – either favours or avoiding nomination.

    What is certain, though, is that the stakes are becoming higher, the mates are watching their backs and alliances are being formed with the aim at reaching the end of the tunnel and the pot of gold – the R1,2m prize to be earned by two finalists.

  • Weza and some of the girls are stunned at how Karen managed to get close to Zeus, despite him being very standoffish with everyone else.

    Weza led a conversation in the bedroom, before lights out, in which Karen and Zeus were the topic of discussion.

    Weza wondered out loud how Karen managed to break down Zeus’s walls and get close to him.

    Weza revealed how, since the game started, Zeus was always going on about his girlfriend and didn’t even want to dance with any of the female housemates.

    She mentioned, however, that Karen seems to have worked some kind of magic on him because he allows her to get away with a lot of stuff.

    Weza then went on to discuss how there are many relationships in the house that she did not see coming, citing Bhoke and Ernest’s relationship in particular.

    “Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would date Bhoke,” she said, without batting an eyelid.

    Could Zeus be warming up to Karen because he has confessed to being faithful to his girl in the outside world, or is this just a friendship deepening?

  • Weza reached a decision that she and Luclay were finished.

    Their friendship is officially over and she doesn’t want anything to do with him.

    Out of the blue, Weza approached Luclay upstairs and gave him a piece of her mind.

    She told him to forget about their friendship, insisting that she’s had it with him, but the South African housemate resisted.

    Luclay stopped her in her tracks and told her she is the one who has been playing him.

    He wanted to know why she had been trying to make him jealous by being close to Alex, but Weza took the sarcastic route and ignored the calm Luclay.

    Weza eventually gave Luclay her ear and he poured his heart out, blaming her for betraying him after he had confided in her.

    Luclay said he trusted Weza and never thought their friendship was based on playing each other.

    This angered the Angolan housemate and she stormed out of the bedroom.

    Is it over or not?

    Playing to the cameras, maybe!

  • After toy-boy Lomwe professed he is worried about Kim’s mental health, we might be saying goodbye to yet another couple in the Big Brother house.

    Lomwe was cornered by Miss P earlier in the evening and she wanted to know how Lomwe really felt about Kim.

    Lomwe was straightforward and said Kim was not his girl or woman.

    He then said he was a bit worried about Kim because she seems unstable.

    Lomwe the psychiatrist, perhaps?

  • About Post Author

    Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

    Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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    Big Brother Amplified: Mumba playing game smartly

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    Read Time:5 Minute, 6 Second

    ZAMBIA’S envoy in the Big Brother Amplified house Mumba, is seemingly playing her game so unexpectedly well and smartly with only three weeks in between before the finals.

    Tomorrow the house will again crumble and cry as one if not two of the nominated housemates will be shown the way out of the Big Brother house in the evening during a live eviction show on the dedicated DStv channel 198.
    Should you happen to miss this power packed action, log in to www.mnetafrica.com/bigbrother and get amplified.
    A sigh of relief for Zambia though, as both Mumba and Kim are not on the nomination list.
    Though many enthusiasts wrongly predicted an early exit for the 25-year-old Zambian radio DJ and that she would not last more than four weeks in the highly competitive amplified house, she seems to be proving the critics wrong.
    Mumba is getting stronger while keeping her strategy cards close to her chest.
    Mumba seems to be reading fellow housemates’ moods and character very well such that they have failed to find reasons of nominating her ever since she entered the house.

    In fact we can safely say Mumba is the only housemate who has until now not tasted the bitter pill of nomination except the time when Miss P as head of house then, swapped her for Karen.
    That was not a nomination.
    Clearly, Miss P is the only fault finder in Mumba’s life. Could she be threatened by the calm and collected Zambian girl? Perhaps yes.
    Well, everything has its own ending. Tomorrow we see Mumba’s stumbling block, Miss P, more likely to face the eviction door together with Angola’s Weza.

    This will then mean that the Zambian diva would have less if not no persecutors at all in dying weeks of the show.
    This again will depend on how Mumba carries herself. If she continues with how she has been doing it all along, Mumba might just find herself among the finalists better still one of the winners.
    Mumba’s character has proved to be interestingly unique in that she is not an attention seeker and only speaks when it matters, though she too like any other housemates would have her challenging and light moments in the house.
    We received your comments and this is what you think about the Zambian girls;
    Javier Hernandez from Nkana West Kitwe writes; Mumba, Kim and Sharon O are the best girls in the Big Brother Amplified House. Mumba you can make it with your composure. Go girls.

    Another keen Lusaka follower of the Times Big Brother daily updates, Sophie, who on Monday morning predicted correctly that Mumba and Kim would not be nominated writes: “I told you that the Zambian girls would survive this week’s nominations especially Mumba. Mumba has proved to be very smart in this game. As for Kim I love her romantic kind of lifestyle in the house. It just feels amplifying to watch the ‘Kimumba.”
    Tamara from Kitwe writes: “I just want to say that I love Mumba very much and enjoy the way she is playing the game unlike Kim. Kim is just being used by men in the house. I think she should come back home now but Mumba deserves to win.”
    Mulenga from Lusaka writes: “It is a shame to have Kim in the Big Brother Amplified house. What kind of Zambian woman is she who can comfortably change men on continental TV? She better learn from her sister Mumba before it’s too late for her. As for Mumba, I am so proud of her and will always reserve some talk time to vote for her.
    Interesting, it’s only hoped that many African enthusiast see what kind of deserving winner the 25-year-old Zambian radio DJ is.
    With her county mate Kim, drama which is surrounded by uncertainty seems to be taking it peak-not a very good sign for the Zambian beautician though.

    Around 00:25 hours on Thursday morning, Lomwe told Miss P that Kim was not his girl despite the two sharing romantic moments in the recent past days.
    Lomwe now claims that Kim is unstable and that she seems not to be very okay in the head! What an insult from the Malawian.
    One wonders how the Zambian girl will cope with the new development having been once disappointed by Kenya’s Nic to an extent of contributing to his eviction after she nominated him.
    We have received a number of concerns about Kim’s relationships so far. Anyway, who knows, Kim might have already smelled a rat and trying to change the game plan.
    In our yesterday’s daily update, we told you how Kim is planning to pull out of the relationship with Lomwe claiming that she does not want to bring about misunderstanding among the female housemates.
    She was again heard telling Alex how shy she feels to seek the face of God in prayer going by the mistakes she has been making in the house that are not pleasing before God-obviously the Lomwe and Nic affair.
    Kim, however, said she was inspired by Weza who despite having fallen short of the glory of God whilst in the house, she has had time to sit and seek the face of God in prayer.

    Kim better put her house in order for there is surely no more time of trying out strategies.
    The game is getting hot and highly Amplified as tonight some housemates will be dancing and partying their last in the amplified house as Big Brother brings Uganda’s finest DJ Okecho from the happy world of Sun U FM to blow up the roof from 22:00 to 23:00 hrs.
    You can’t afford to miss this AMPLIFIED ACTION!
    samphiri77@yahoo.com.

    About Post Author

    Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

    Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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    Big brother Amplified: Will Africa save Karen for her meek heart?

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    Read Time:1 Minute, 16 Second

    The dream of one of Nigeria’s two representatives at the ongoing TV reality show, Big Brother Amplified , Karen Igho to win the star prize of $200,0000 may not be visible after all, as she is up for eviction this weekend.

    Karen, Alex, Miss P, Sharon O and Weza are up for eviction after Head of House, Karen sensationally refused to nominate anyone, and then, she didn’t use her save and replace to alter the nominations.

    By that regrettable action, the 27 year-old controversial Hosuemate made herself a sacrificial lamb as the knives surely come out for Miss P.

    Karen revealed her shocking decision during her nomination session in the Chat Room early in the week. She told Big Brother that everyone deserves to take the money home and it was not up to her to make the decision on who leaves the House.

    The Housemates had a reminder of how tough life in the Big Brother Amplified House is on Monday, when they were forced to begin nominations again after getting last week off, following the merge.

    A graduate of Theatre Art from Southwark College, London, Karen hit limelight following some of her provocative pictures on the Codewit World News. She had gone for breasts enlargement shortly before the commencement of the BBA, and she flaunts her newly refurbished endowment indiscriminately. While she lasts in the House,, Karen set the house on fire, bringing glamour and glitz to bear in the House with her carefree lifestyle.

    About Post Author

    Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

    Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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    Nigeria can achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015’, says UN report

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    Read Time:4 Minute, 9 Second

    Nigeria stands a good chance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, according to the 2011 UN MDGs report.

    The report, which was released in Lagos on Thursday, identified significant progress made on each goal over the last ten years, and expressed confidence that the country has a realistic chance with achieving the goals by the target date.

    Nigeria received credit for integrating the MDGs into national development strategies and leading the continent in introducing initiatives aimed at reducing poverty and improving public services.

    Such initiatives pioneered by the country, include compulsory free basic education, conditional cash transfers to the vulnerable for social protection, and federal grants given to support state and local government investments.

    However, efforts in other areas such as improving access to safe water, empowering women and ensuring that births are attended by skilled health workers, still scored low.

    The report suggests that more efforts should be put into having innovative governance reforms, and providing more financing and coordination.

    Success story

    Of the eight goals, Goal six which seeks to ‘Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases’, has had one of the most impressive improvements.

    According to the report, Nigeria has almost eradicated polio by reducing the number of cases by 98 percent between 2009 and 2010.

    The prevalence of HIV was also said to have fallen from 5.8 percent in 2001 to 4.2 percent in 2008, with improvements in its awareness and access to HIV/AIDS treatment doubling from 16.7 percent in 2007 to 34.4 percent in 2008.

    The UN also reports that twice as many children have been protected from malaria through the initial phase of the nationwide distribution of 72 million long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets.

    Goal five, which aims to ‘Improve Maternal Health’ has also had a success story, with maternal mortality falling by 32 percent in five years.

    According to the latest UN report, Nigeria’s maternal mortality, which used to be one of the highest rates in the world, fell from 800 deaths in 2003 to 545 deaths per 100000 live births, in 2008. The report states that recent progress has been promising, maintaining that the country will reach its target by 2015 if such improvements are sustained.

    Another remarkable success made towards achieving the MDGs in the country, was in the health sector.

    The UN observed that infant mortality rate has fallen from 100 deaths per 1000 live births in 2003 to 75 deaths per 1000 live births in 2008.

    Also in the same period, the mortality rate of children under five years has reduced from 201 to 157 deaths per 1000 live births.

    Speaking at the launch of the report, Isaac Aladeloye, head, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Lagos office, described all the MDGs as interwoven, stressing the importance of poverty alleviation to achieving all the goals.

    “Without eradicating extreme poverty, you might not be able to reduce child mortality or achieve any other goal, and they are all inter-related that without one, you will likely not achieve the other.” The report also scored Nigeria fairly in the first goal, which seeks to ‘Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger’, with the proportion of underweight children reducing from 35.7 percent in 1990 to 23.1 percent in 2008.

    This success was attributed to recent economic growth, particularly in the country’s agricultural sector.

    Other notable achievements were recorded in the promotion of universal primary education, and gender equality and women empowerment.

    Nine out of ten children are now said to be enrolled in school, however, with regional differences and low completion rate in some parts of the country.

    More work to be done

    The report also identified that the number of girls enrolled in primary schools is improving, but not yet impressive, calling for a need to raise teaching standards in schools.

    “Regional variations in the determinants of gender inequality mean that state and local government efforts will be critical to the achievement of this goal (Goal three),” the report reads.

    Encouraging the country’s government to double its efforts, the report identified its ’large and diverse population’, ‘stark inequalities between regions’, ‘human resource and funding gaps’, and ‘complex federal system’, as some of the challenges confronting the nation.

    Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, the head of the Nigerian Network of NGOs, said achieving the goals by 2015 requires the collective efforts of everyone.

    She said, “Nigerians need to be angrier; we need to demand more accountability from our leaders. We also focus too much on (President) Goodluck Jonathan and the people on top, but we leave the councillors and the local government chairpersons to do what they like.”

    About Post Author

    Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

    Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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    United states wants Iraqi Lawmakers to extend US Troop occupation in Iraq

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    Read Time:1 Minute, 6 Second

    Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says political parties will decide within two weeks whether to seek an extension of the U.S. troops presence in the country beyond the December pull-out date.

    Mr. Talabani announced the decision Saturday after meeting with political blocs in Baghdad.

    About 45,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. They are due to withdraw by December 31st under an agreement between Washington and Baghdad.

    However, top U.S. officials have said they would be willing to consider leaving some troops in the country, if requested by Iraq.

    Both U.S. and Iraqi officials have expressed concern about Baghdad’s ability to completely handle security after the pull-out.

    On Thursday, the top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said Iraqi security forces would have “capability gaps” in areas that include air defense and intelligence.  He told reporters the two countries had been discussing the concerns.

    In April, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki said his country might need assistance with external security after the withdrawal date.

    Some Iraqis have voiced opposition to a possible U.S. extension – including supporters of Iraq’s anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

    The U.S. has maintained a military presence in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that resulted in the ouster of leader Saddam Hussein.

    About Post Author

    Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

    Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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    What happened to the American flags on the moon?

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    Read Time:3 Minute, 0 Second

    (CWN News) As a symbol of the Fourth of July holiday, it is easy for the conversation this time of year to turn to iconic American flags, like the flag the Marines raised at Iwo Jima; the one firefighters put up at ground zero; and the one that flew over Fort McHenry and was the inspiration for what would become our national anthem.

    As the space shuttle program comes to an end this week, CBS News decided to look into the flags the astronauts left behind on six trips to the moon. What’s become of them?

    CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the first flag on the moon, it was an act of pure symbolism. A U.N. treaty would not allow the U.S. or any other country to claim the moon as its territory.

    Smithsonian curator Allan Needell says the flags planted by the crews of all the Apollo missions that landed on the moon were goodwill gestures to the world.

    “By and large, the symbol was very much understood for what it was, as a symbol of pride, but also a symbol of humanitarian accomplishment,” Needell says.

    As Tom Moser knows, it was also a politically sensitive symbol. An engineer on the NASA team that designed the first flag to go to the moon, Moser was told to keep it hush-hush.

    “It was not a military, Department of Defense secret. It was just the fact that politically we didn’t want the word out before the event happened,” Moser says.

    From the beginning, there were technical problems. The Apollo 11 astronauts had difficulty getting the pole deep enough into the lunar soil. And they had trouble extending the full apparatus, designed to keep the flag upright and outstretched in a place where there is never any wind.

    Things did not turn out perfectly on the moon, as the flag ended up being bunched up a bit anyway, curator Needell says.

    However, the minor malfunction made for an even better effect, the sense that old glory was waving in the breeze.

    The flags waving behind are now among the most defining images of our time. But what happened to them is a question University of California Santa Barbara librarian Annie Platoff has been trying to answer.

    Her research can account for four of the flags, including the one planted by the Apollo 17 mission. She believes the first two from Apollo 11 and 12 did not survive the ignition gases of the lunar liftoff.

    “It wasn’t the intention for the flag material itself to last. It was just to be there during the, the event – the landing and departing from the moon. We didn’t have a requirement that the flag, the U.S. flag, had to withstand all the environments for eons,” Platoff says.

    Made from nylon just like the ones at a dime store, though ordered off the shelf from a government supply catalogue, Annie Platoff’s theory is they are probably darkened and maybe more than a bit tattered.

    “I would guess, over time, 40 years, the combination of sun-rot and micro-meteor impact is probably devastating. I mean it’s not a pretty picture to paint. The only way you’re going to test these theories is to go back to the Moon and look at the flag,” Platoff says.

    Chances are, with so much of the space program coming to an end, it is not likely that American astronauts will be the ones to discover whether, after the rocket’s red glare, our flag is still there.

    About Post Author

    Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

    Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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    The Divorce Generation

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    Read Time:12 Minute, 38 Second

    Having survived their own family splits, Generation X parents are determined to keep their marriages together. It doesn’t always work.

    Every generation has its life-defining moments. If you want to find out what it was for a member of the Greatest Generation, you ask: “Where were you on D-Day?” For baby boomers, the questions are: “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” or “What were you doing when Nixon resigned?”

    Every generation has its defining moment. For Generation X, it could be: “When did your parents get divorced?” Susan Gregory Thomas, author of the memoir “In Spite of Everything,” explains what she sees as its long-term effects on marriage and parenting.

    For much of my generation—Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980—there is only one question: “When did your parents get divorced?” Our lives have been framed by the answer. Ask us. We remember everything.

    When my dad left in the spring of 1981 and moved five states away with his executive assistant and her four kids, the world as I had known it came to an end. In my 12-year-old eyes, my mother, formerly a regal, erudite figure, was transformed into a phantom in a sweaty nightgown and matted hair, howling on the floor of our gray-carpeted playroom. My brother, a sweet, goofy boy, grew into a sad, glowering giant, barricaded in his room with dark graphic novels and computer games.

    I spent the rest of middle and high school getting into trouble in suburban Philadelphia: chain-smoking, doing drugs, getting kicked out of schools, spending a good part of my senior year in a psychiatric ward. Whenever I saw my father, which was rarely, he grew more and more to embody Darth Vader: a brutal machine encasing raw human guts.

    Growing up, my brother and I were often left to our own devices, members of the giant flock of migrant latchkey kids in the 1970s and ’80s. Our suburb was littered with sad-eyed, bruised nomads, who wandered back and forth between used-record shops to the sheds behind the train station where they got high and then trudged off, back and forth from their mothers’ houses during the week to their fathers’ apartments every other weekend.

    The divorced parents of a boy I knew in high school installed him in his own apartment because neither of them wanted him at home. Naturally, we all descended on his place after school—sometimes during school—to drink and do drugs. He was always wasted, no matter what time we arrived. A few years ago, a friend told me that she had learned that he had drunk himself to death by age 30.

    “Whatever happens, we’re never going to get divorced.” Over the course of 16 years, I said that often to my husband, especially after our children were born. Apparently, much of my generation feels at least roughly the same way: Divorce rates, which peaked around 1980, are now at their lowest level since 1970. In fact, the often-cited statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce was true only in the 1970s—in other words, our parents’ marriages.

    Not ours. According to U.S. Census data released this May, 77% of couples who married since 1990 have reached their 10-year anniversaries. We’re also marrying later in life, if at all. The average marrying age in 1950 was 23 for men and 20 for women; in 2009, it was 28 for men and 26 for women.

    Before we get married, we like to know what our daily relationship with a partner will be like. Are we good roommates? A 2007 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that, among those entering first marriages in the early 2000s, nearly 60% had previously cohabited with their future spouses. According to the U.S. government’s 2002 National Survey of Fertility Growth, 34% of couples who move in together have announced publicly that marriage is in the future; 36% felt “almost certain” that they’d get hitched, while 46% said there was “a pretty good chance” or “a 50-50 chance.”

    I believed that I had married my best friend as fervently as I believed that I’d never get divorced. No marital scenario, I told myself, could become so bleak or hopeless as to compel me to embed my children in the torture of a split family. And I wasn’t the only one with strong personal reasons to make this commitment. According to a 2004 marketing study about generational differences, my age cohort “went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in U.S. history.” Census data show that almost half of us come from split families; 40% were latch-key kids.

    People my parents’ age say things like: “Of course you’d feel devastated by divorce, honey—it was a horrible, disorienting time for you as a child! Of course you wouldn’t want it for yourself and your family, but sometimes it’s better for everyone that parents part ways; everyone is happier.”

    Such sentiments bring to mind a set of statistics in “Generations” by William Strauss and Neil Howe that has stuck with me: In 1962, half of all adult women believed that parents in bad marriages should stay together for the children’s sake; by 1980, only one in five felt that way. “Four-fifths of [those] divorced adults profess to being happier afterward,” the authors write, “but a majority of their children feel otherwise.”

    Many Generation X parents are all too familiar with the brutal court fights of their parents, and today, ‘friendly divorces’ are increasingly common. Here, Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in 1989’s ‘The War of the Roses.’

    But a majority of their children feel otherwise. There is something intolerable about that clause. I can’t help feeling that every divorce, in its way, is a re-enactment of “Medea”: the wailing, murderously bereft mother; the cold father protecting his pristine, new family; the children: dead.

    When I had my first child at 32, I went into therapy for a while to sort through, among other things, just why the world—as open and wonderful as it had become with my child’s presence—had also become more treacherous than I ever could have imagined. It wasn’t until my daughter was a few months old that it dawned on me that when the pediatricians and child-care books referred to “separation anxiety,” they were referring to the baby’s psyche, not to mine.

    The thought of placing her in someone else’s care sent waves of pure, white fear whipping up my spine. It occurred to me that perhaps my own origins had something to do with what a freak show I was. After hearing about my background for some time, my distinguished therapist made an announcement: “You,” she said, “are a war orphan.”

    Orphans as parents—that’s not a bad way to understand Generation X parents. Having grown up without stable homes, we pour everything that we have into giving our children just that, no matter how many sacrifices it involves. Indeed, Gen-X’s quest for perfect nests drove us to take out more home equity loans and to spend more on remodeling, per capita, than any generation before it, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

    Marketing surveys reveal that Generation X mothers don’t seek parenting advice from their own moms. Why would we take counsel from the very people who, in our view, flubbed it all up? Instead, says the research, we depend on the people who actually raised us, albeit wolf-pack style: our friends.

    To allow our own marriages to end in divorce is to live out our worst childhood fears. More horrifying, it is to inflict the unthinkable on what we most love and want to protect: our children. It is like slashing open our own wounds and turning the knife on our babies. To consider it is unbearable.

    My husband and I were as obvious as points on a graph in a Generation X marriage study. We were together for nearly eight years before we got married, and even though statistics show that divorce rates are 48% higher for those who have lived together previously, we paid no heed.

    We also paid no heed to his Catholic parents, who comprised one of the rare reassuringly unified couples I’d ever met, when they warned us that we should wait until we were married to live together. As they put it, being pals and roommates is different from being husband and wife. How bizarrely old-fashioned and sexist! We didn’t need anything so naïve or retro as “marriage.” Please. We were best friends.

    Sociologists, anthropologists and other cultural observers tell us that members of Generation X are more emotionally invested in our spouses than previous generations were. We are best friends; our marriages are genuine partnerships. Many studies have found that Generation X family men help around the house a good deal more than their forefathers. We depend on each other and work together.

    Adultery is far more devastating for us than it was for our parents or grandparents. A 2003 study by the late psychologist Shirley Glass found that the mores of sexual infidelity are undergoing a profound change. The traditional standard for men—love is love and sex is sex—is dying out. Increasingly, men and women develop serious emotional attachments with their would-be lovers long before they commit adultery. As a result, she found, infidelity today is much more likely to lead to divorce

    Call us helicopter parents, call us neurotically attached, but those of us who survived the wreckage of split families were determined never to inflict such wounds on our children. We knew better. We were doing everything differently, and the fundamental premise was simple: “Kids come first” meant that we would not divorce.

    But marriages do dissolve, even among those determined never to let it happen. After nine years, my husband and I had become wretched, passive-aggressive roommates. I had given up trying to do anything in the kitchen and had not washed a dish in a year. My husband had not been able to “find time” to read the book I had written. We rarely spoke, except about logistics. We hadn’t slept in the same room for at least two years, a side effect of the nighttime musical bed routine that parents of so many young children play in semiconsciousness for years on end.

    Yet I never considered divorce. It never even entered my mind. I was grateful that my babies had a perfect father, for our family meals, for the stability of our home, for neighborhood play dates.

    But then, one evening, I found myself where I vowed I’d never be: miserable, in tears, telling my husband that we were like siblings who couldn’t stand each other rather than a couple, and listening as my husband said he felt as though we had never really been a couple and regretted that we hadn’t split up a decade earlier. “I’m done,” he said. It was as if a cosmic force had been unleashed; the awful finality of it roared in like an enormous black cloud blotting out the sky, over every inch of the world. It was done.

    That was four years ago. Even now, I still wonder every day if there was something that I—we—could have done differently. Like many of my cohort, the circumstances of my upbringing led me to believe that I had made exactly the right choices by doing everything differently from my parents.

    I had married the kindest, most stable person I’d ever known to ensure that our children would never know anything of the void of my own childhood. I nursed, loved, read to and lolled about with my babies—restructured and re-imagined my career—so that they would be secure, happy, attended to. My husband and I made the happiest, most comfy nest possible. We worked as a team; we loved our kids; we did everything right, better than right. And yet divorce came. In spite of everything.

    I don’t know what makes a good marriage. I am inclined to think that Mark Twain was right when he wrote in an 1894 journal: “No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” But I did know something about divorce, and I wanted—and my former husband wanted—to do it as “well” as possible.

    Many of us do. The phrase “friendly divorce” may strike some as an oxymoron, but it is increasingly a trend and a real possibility. Relatively inexpensive and nonadversarial divorce mediation—rather than pricey, contentious litigation—is now more common than ever. Many of us are all too familiar with the brutal court fights of our parents, and we have no intention of putting our kids through it, too. According to a recent University of Virginia study, couples who decide to mediate their divorce are more likely than those who go to court to talk regularly about the children’s needs and problems, to participate in school and special events, daily activities, holidays and vacations.

    We may not make it in marriage, but we still want to make it as parents. In the ’70s, only nine states permitted joint custody. Today, every state has adopted it. It was once typical for dads to recede from family life, or to drop out altogether, in the wake of a divorce. But dads are critical in helping kids to develop self-esteem and constructive habits of behavior. A 2009 study published in the journal Child Development found, for example, that teenagers with involved fathers are less likely to engage in risky sexual activities.

    Joint custody also reduces family strife. According to a 2001 study, couples with such arrangements report less conflict with their former spouses than sole-custody parents—an important finding, since judges have worried, historically, that joint custody exposes children to ongoing parental fighting. Some divorced couples have even decided to continue living together in different parts of the home—or to “swap out” each week—in order to maintain some measure of stability for their kids.

    I have yet to meet the divorced mother or father who feels like a good parent, who professes to being happier with how their children are now being raised. Many of us have ended up inflicting pain on our children, which we did everything to avoid.

    But we have not had our parents’ divorces either. We can only hope that in this, we have done it differently in the right way.

    —Adapted from “In Spite of Everything: A Memoir” by Susan Gregory Thomas, to be published by Random House next week. Copyright © by Susan Gregory Thomas.

    About Post Author

    Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

    Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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    Oprah Winfrey as Oscar host?

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    She’s given up her platform as a daytime talk-show host, but could Oprah Winfrey be back in front of a national audience as the host of the Oscars?

    The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday morning that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has Winfrey “topping the list of candidates” to host next year’s show, which ABC will broadcast from the Kodak Theatre in late February. “Academy honchos firmly believe Winfrey could greatly expand the show’s audience,” wrote columnist Bill Zwecker. An academy spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request seeking comment.

    Winfrey has a history with ABC, whose affiliates carried her long-running syndicated program before it went off the air earlier this year.

    It remains to be seen whether Winfrey would accept the gig, of course; according to Zwecker it could come with preconditions for behind-the-scenes access for OWN, the Winfrey-founded network that has been struggling to attract viewers.

    If Winfrey indeed presides at the Kodak, she’ll join an elite group, becoming only the third solo female host in Oscar history. (Whoopi Goldberg has hosted four times and Ellen DeGeneres once.)

    A Winfrey hosting would mark the latest attempt to expand the audience for the show; organizers attempted to draw a younger audience by choosing James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host the telecast this year. Winfrey appeared as a presenter at the 2011 ceremony, handing out the statuette for best documentary.

    About Post Author

    Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

    Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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