At least we beat the British.
This week, UNICEF released a report on child welfare (a PDF of the report is here). First, the good news: the children of the United States are doing well—compared to third-world countries! Now for the actual news: in the rankings of 21 industrialized countries, we’re, hmm, second to last. Ouch. Here’s the list, from best to… us and the British.
15. Czech Republic
20. United States
21. United Kingdom
The six aspects of child welfare measured were material well-being, health and safety, education, relationships, behaviors, and subjective sense of well-being. The United States performed poorly in all categories, and dead last in health and safety. We’re second to last in infant mortality, just ahead of Hungary. And I’m fairly certain that Hungarians eat their young. Incidentally, no country featured in this study made it to the top third in all categories, indicating that there’s some serious need of improvement pretty much everywhere. We’re not the only ones who suck. And that’s the best news of all.
Next up: is that mold in your desk? Is your cell phone teeming with staph? And hey, are you storing fecal matter in your purse? Yes, yes, and yes, you filthy thing. According to researchers at the University of Arizona, women’s offices are dirtier than men’s. This is due primarily to their habit of using the wastebaskets in their offices for actual human waste, despite all the memos indicating where the restrooms are.
Kidding! Actually, according to “Germ Guru” Dr. Charles Gerba, working women are icky creatures for the following reasons: “First, they tend to use hand lotion more often, which gets on surfaces and traps germs. Then, they tend to be around children more often then men, and we all know how easily kids transmit germs. And finally they use makeup, which tends to absorb germs. Then it rubs off the face or gets scattered by brushes and sponges.” Also, he added, “women, in particular, are more likely to put food in [desk drawers]. I’m not sure exactly why — maybe because they are more likely to be secret snackers.”
(“Men,” he added, in my imagination,“tend more to snack out in the open–unashamed, virile, breaking open ripe pomagranates using their dry, wind-chapped hands. Then washing off the juice by placing their hands against freshly mined slabs of granite and dousing them with bleach. Meanwhile, your average woman smears her powdered–sugared hands across her decolletage and calls it a day.”)
In conclusion, we are furtive, clammy, children-loving creatures. In other words, disgusting. But now that you know all about the flesh-eating bacteria and microscopic pooplets (technical term) inhabiting your girl-office, what do you do about it? According to the Germ Guru, if you want things to be clean, what you need is a good disinfectant. Not soap, which according to Dr. Gerba, “just pushes the dirt around.” Yes. That’s why soap has failed us for so many centuries. By the way, Dr. Gerba’s study was funded by Clorox. I’m sure this is just a coincidence.
In other news, if you teach your kids how the brain works, they’ll get smarter. Well, sort of. A study published this week showed that students who learn that intelligence can increase actually perform better in school. According to the study, students who believed in a “fixed mindset” of intelligence—that how much smarts you have is innate and static throughout life—didn’t perform as well as students who had an intelligence “growth mindset.” The researchers then split a group of low performers in math into two groups: one group was taught basic study skills while the other was taught the nature of the brain and intelligence: the growth mindset. By the end of the semester, the kids who had been given the neuroscience primer had higher grades than the other group.
I have no jokes to make about this. I just picture these kids finally getting what “potential” means, and I get a litte giddy. You go, growth-mindset kids!
Finally: fewer kids these days are abusing pot (good!) but more teens are getting drugs from our medicine cabinet (bad!). That’s the conclusion of a White House report, which showed that in 2005, 2.5 million teenagers abused prescription drugs, with Vicodin and Oxycontin topping the list. (Adderall and Xanax are also popular choices.) Many teenagers incorrectly perceive the drugs in their parents’ medicine arsenal to be relatively safe. So parents: keep track of your presciption bottles, and throw out the pills you’re not using anymore. Of course your cabinet isn’t the only place where kids can get prescription drugs, so as always, keep those lines of communication open. Make sure your kids know that just prescription drugs can kill, just as surely as any street drug. And now a star with a rainbow trailing it will sparkle its way across your screen, as you realize that the anti-drug—is you. You’re entirely welcome.