Does early self-control determine a child’s future success?

If so, can self-control be taught?

When I read that The Marshmallow Experiment was replicated yet again, it got me thinking about why this is.

The Marshmallow experiment is one of the most famous social science experiments. The first time this experiment was carried out was in 1960, by a professor at Stanford University.

In this experiment, young children were offered a marshmallow to immediately consume or 2 marshmallows if they waited 15 minutes. The results were then linked to educational attainment, higher SAT’s scores and even lower BMI. In other words, the children who were able to wait for the 2 marshmallows generally did better in later life.

This would suggest that behaviours such as self-control cannot be taught. If you extend that to education, does it mean that every child is born only with fixed traits in learning?

This experiment has been replicated with some sort of twists over the years. Almost all of them have drawn different conclusions from the original.

 

The Marshmallow experiment has been repeated yet again, this time to test results looking at social and economic conditions, and this time, the conclusion is that children from poorer backgrounds fared worse.

Yet in another very similar experiment, Cameroonian children showed that they waited twice as long and complained a lot less.

To my mind that puts the social equality theory into question.

Also, what if the child does not like marshmallows, or they simply think that two marshmallows are not worth the wait, and they may have waited if there were more?

I would also say that this has not taken into account the massive impact of things like social media and the internet. It also does not take into account the differing personalities of each child.

Young children are said to be impulsive and to live in the present moment, with no concept of the future. To add insult to injury, children are said to grow up with a sense of entitlement and the need for instant reward. There is the perception that the more technology reliant a child is, the shorter the attention span.

If we extend this to academic success, does it mean that this will lead to poorer grades in school?

 

Across my many years of tutoring, I have seen and worked with children who had set their goals and were determined to achieve them- whatever it took, while others were simply happy to coast. Some children are simply not academically inclined.

As a tutor, I believe that whilst self-control is important, determination is equally as important, if not more so. This along with guidance and practice is surely the key for any achievement, academic or otherwise.

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Writing Realistic Newspaper Articles

Recently, the year 6s have been learning the difference between facts and opinions. They have been using this information to learn how to write realistic newspaper articles.

We spoke about how newspaper articles are a mixture of facts, opinions and even persuasive writing. The writer of the article will have an opinion (every person does) on the subject and they use facts, opinions and opinions masked as facts to try and convince you, the reader, to agree with them.

The task this week was was to write two newspaper articles relating to London Zoo closing down; one where the writer agrees the zoo should close and one where the writer doesn’t agree.

We discussed several techniques such as masking your opinions as facts and using survey data to sway your argument. For example “9 out of ten people agree the zoo should stay open”. This could be true however what if the only people you asked were people who worked at the zoo and wanted it to stay open so they weren’t out of a job!

The class were very involved and interested in the topic and all did very well!

‘Gender-neutral’

The trend toward making everything gender neutral (unisex in old money) is gaining momentum.

Canada is introducing gender-neutral passports. Citizens will have the option of M, F or X on their passports.

John Lewis has announced that all its children’s clothing range will be ‘gender neutral’ from now on. This means that instead of the label reading boy or girl, it will now read ‘boy and girl.’

When I heard this, my first thought was, is there a third category that I am not aware of? Are we heading towards every child being called it, rather than he or she in order to not offend anyone? Does it mean that boys will have the option of wearing skirts to school, or that girls will no longer have the option to wear skirts? Now that would be true equality, I thought!

It seems some schools are also following suit. The TES reported that Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex has banned girls from wearing skirts to make their uniform gender neutral. It reports the reason is ‘to make the uniform gender neutral for transgender pupils and to deal with complaints about the decency of short skirts.’

Bishop of Llandaff Church-in-Wales High School in Cardiff has introduced unisex toilets. It is reported these toilets have cost the school up to £20,000.00. (Many would argue that money would be better spent on classroom resources). The school has said these toilets have been installed as a practical solution and it is not about gender.

For me, this raises more questions than it answers. For example:

  1. How will this neutrality transfer into job equality?
  2. What difference will it make to your job prospects if you wore a skirt or trousers to school?
  3. Does that mean that girls will be objectified less and be treated as serious prospects for top jobs?
  4. Most of all (being a cynic), what is the reason behind this new trend.

The answer lies in economics. We are now, more than ever competing on a global scale, so our workforce is compared to the global workforce and in the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Goals (17 of them to ‘transform our world’) with a target of achieving them by 2030. Gender equality is goal number 5.

In the UK, equal pay was only made statutory 37 years ago, yet currently, according to Prowess only 17% of UK company owners are women, whilst in 2015 a survey found that 5.5% of company CEO’s were female. In 2011 there were more than 20 boards of FTSE 100 companies, that were all male. Today there are none.

On average, men still earn 16 to 18% more per hour than women.

Academically, girls consistently outperform boys, but when it comes to the workplace, women consistently fail to keep up. However, on closer inspection, it is much more complex.

65% of boys compared with only 43% of girls take up Maths at A Level out of those that have achieved grade A’s in their GCSE Maths. Only 29% of all students are female Further Maths students; a crucial subject if you wish to study a STEM subject at degree level.

More than likely is the role of family responsibilities, which are not shared equally. Women are much more likely to take career breaks and often will not go back to a full-time job. But as women begin to gain financial parity, will this become less relevant?

Surely, rather than worrying about skirts and trousers, the focus should be more on hidden gender biases in the curriculum. For example, look at the historical stereotypes of men and women, or the tokenisation and objectification of women in our class resources.

If the underlying structures are reorganised to create and promote gender equality, this will surely have a much greater impact than what style of uniform is being worn to school.
It is clearly a mammoth task, but one that I feel cannot be avoided if true gender equality is to be achieved.
Rupa Radia