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In Case You Missed It – March 20, 2015

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Welcome to In Case You Missed It, a weekly roundup of news articles related to issues of psychology, health and mental health, social justice and the public interest that you may be interested in.

This week, we have stories including the widening opportunity gap for low and middle-income earners, the criminalization of children by the school-to-prison pipeline, and the backlash over Starbucks ‘Race Together’ campaign.

At a South by Southwest Interactive panel earlier this week, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson got called out for repeatedly interrupting their fellow panelist U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.  “Given that unconscious bias research tells us that women are interrupted a lot more than men, I’m wondering if you are aware that you have interrupted Megan many more times,” said audience member Judith Williams.  Williams also heads up the unconscious bias program … at Google.   The panel discussion on how to create more innovation in technology led to a discussion on how to involve more women and minorities.

In America, every child is supposed to be born with an equivalent chance at success. However, a new book and separate report released on Tuesday disprove that theory. According to Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of the new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, an “opportunity gap” has emerged in recent years making upward mobility increasingly difficult for children born to single or lightly educated parents. The numbers are even more sobering when we consult a new study by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Their analysis of state-by-state data since 1960 shows that the children of affluent families have seen their incomes rise steadily, but the poor and middle-income earners have only seen their wages stagnate since 1970.

When it comes to the intersection of poverty and race, the recession has not been kind to minority families. According to a new report by the Working Families Project, working families headed by Blacks and Hispanics are twice as likely to be poor or low-income as those headed by Whites and Asian Americans. What’s more over 1 in 2 Latino families and nearly 1 in 2 Black families were earning less than 200 percent of the poverty level, a stark difference compared with less than 1 in 4 White families. Although educational differences may partially explain these disparities, White workers still tend to earn higher wages than Blacks and Hispanics at every educational level. For more on the interaction between race and socioeconomic status, check out our fact sheet.

This touching account tells the story of an Italian father’s journey from shame and fear to acceptance and support after his two teenage children came out to him. When his 17-year old son and 14-year old daughter told Ettore and his wife they were gay, he took them to see a psychotherapist for seven years in hopes of finding a ‘cure’. It took a few years for Ettore to overcome his unfounded fears and prejudices and to embrace that his children had nothing to be ashamed of. He went on to become president of Agedo, the Italian association of parents of gay children. For more information, read our resource on the role of ‘coming out’ in reducing sexual prejudice.

This article by Jody Owens of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) provides a deep dive into the alarming ways the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ is severely curtailing the futures of many of our nation’s children, particularly low-income minority children attending public schools. Teenagers are being arrested for simple violations of school rules. Infractions that might have earned them a trip to the principal’s office in the past now result in a trip to juvenile detention thanks to ‘zero-tolerance’ policies. An arrest may equal probation and any subsequent suspensions may be considered a probation violation and constitute even more jail time. And as the SPLC reports, many of these children are subject to gross civil rights violations while being arrested or detained, e.g., being transferred to adult jails, pepper sprayed, held in isolation, and more. For more on this topic, read APA’s report on whether zero tolerance policies are effective in schools.

Today’s parents are focused on making sure their kids are well-versed in things that will bring them success, whether that means learning a language or playing a sport. However, household chores that they did themselves as children have fallen off the priority list. There is a wealth of evidence to support that doing household chores provides academic, emotional and professional benefits for children. According to Dr. Marty Rossman, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, giving children household chores from an early age helps them to build “a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance.” Based on her own longitudinal research, she found that young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were likelier to maintain good relationships with family and friends, have academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient versus those who didn’t have chores or only started doing them as teens. The article provides a handy list of the “best ways to get your children properly motivated to do chores.”

In this column, The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf provides an overview of the swift backlash that Starbucks received to its “Race Together” campaign. Launched at the start of the week, Race Together, was intended to encourage conversations about race between baristas and customers at Starbucks locations around the country. While, perhaps a well-intentioned attempt to start “a conversation” about race, the campaign was harshly mocked on social media prompting the company’s senior vice president of communications to temporarily suspend his Twitter account in the face of attacks. Friedersdorf condemns the harsher backlash but credits social commentator, Jay Smooth for making a more substantive critique of the campaign:

“You’re talking about institutional, systemic issues. The emphasis on talking about it misleads us about where the problems are. This focus on conversation comes out of our assumption that racism manifests on a personal level in our individual feelings toward each other.”

For more information on the psychology of racial dialogues, check out the video below featuring eminent Columbia University psychologist, Dr. Derald Wing Sue.

What do you think of these stories? Did we leave anything out?

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