Archive for: July, 2013

Science books for parents

Jul 29 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

"Having a baby is a lot like having a dog that very slowly learns to talk"

Though it is not my area of research I get a lot of questions from new parents. How does the whole infant development thing work? What about language learning? Brain development? There are plenty of books directed at parents out there in the "using this amazing method! it works" style. Much of it skimps on, or misrepresents research, and leans towards evangelizing. Books by researches tend to be less prescriptive and more descriptive, though if you read between he lines they all have their own perspective. Here are a few written by researchers:

Roberta Golinkoff

Einstein Never Used Flashcards

How babies talk

Alison Gopnik

The philosophical baby

Joan Stiles

The fundamentals of brain development

Sara Hrdy

Mother Nature
(Not about infants per se but comes highly recommended)

These are all pretty basic how X works books. There's not too much "what to do when you toddler jumps behind to butcher shop counter and starts licking raw chicken" sort of advice. That's a post for another day.


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Managing your otherness

Jul 02 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

(Adventures in code switching. This post is a bit rambly)

Back in the day I attended a prep school on the other side of town (0n my first day, in my naivete I asked "Are the other black kids sick today?"). There were a few, but not many. Some years later we had an interesting new addition from my side of town. Right away I could tell there was something odd about her. She always acted and talked the same. Sitting at the (black) lunch table or in math class. Always pretty much the same. We didn't know the term code-switching but we certainly knew it. It's not something we discussed any more than you'd discuss breathing. It's so normal you don't talk about it until someone isn't doing it. The new girl wasn't doing it at all. She had no practice in what I and the other black kids were quite adept at: managing our otherness.

I am no expert on code-switching or AAVE. During graduate school I saw a talk by a professor who studies code-switching and literacy in African-American children. She spent some time going over some examples of AAVE. Many folks when asked to describe AAVE basically do a bad impression of a character from The Wire, often focusing on "they be". As the professor goes over these examples at first I recognize all of them. Then she slips one last one in that I didn't get.

"That's not standard English?"

Everyone looks at me funny. Nope.


Somehow that was embarrassing. Not in the moment. I thought back to all the times I'd spoken using that phrasing (countless) thinking it was standard when it wasn't. Did everyone else know this? Did I use that during talks? Yes. Job interviews? Yes. Why didn't any one tell me? The idea that I wasn't fully aware and in control of how I spoke was disconcerting. I needed to know when I was being other and when I wasn't.

What's the big deal if you can't code-switch at all? My highschool classmate had trouble being taken seriously by people who associate standard English with intelligence. I even know of an academic who is AAVE all the time. She ended up stuck in the lots of interviews but no job offers limbo. Goods good on paper, doesn't do well in interviews. She suspects a lack of code-switching skill is hurting her prospects.

It-shouldn't-be-that-way's aside it's clear that managing your otherness is a career, if not life skill.

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