Women at risk
I was excited to see that attention was given to such a plaguing topic in the African-American community in "African-American women at risk" (January Monitor). The article discussed the innovative intervention programs designed to engage real-life women by providing them with actionable steps and a network of support to empower them to lead healthier lives. Because of the success of some of the intervention programs such as the 12-week "Prime Time Sister Circles," it appears that such programs can be benchmarked and used to combat other pressing women's issues.
Interestingly, within one intervention program, the Christian participants held the idea that taking care of their own health was selfish; and therefore, they did not put the effort into eating healthy or exercising. The experts within this program cited this as the hardest hurdle to overcome when coaching these women. I would posit that it is not only African-American Christian women who put their own health and well-being as the final priority, but many women from a variety of races, religions, geographic locations and socioeconomic backgrounds.
With this theory in mind, it may be beneficial for psychologists to make more efforts to appeal to women on the importance of self-preservation. Because what women need to remember is that we are no good to anyone unless we are at our best, and that means taking care of ourselves first.
The January "Psychological hjinks" article brought back a humorous incident of my early doctoral student days in 1960 at Wayne State University. My office mate was working on his master's and had been an undergraduate student of James V. McConnell's at Ann Arbor. Herb's project was to replicate McConnell's "slice-and-dice" earthworm studies. So, one warm night, we went out looking for worms and as happenstance would have it, they were popping up all over the campus. There we were, running around the campus stuffing earthworms into old ice cream containers. We then took the containers back to my apartment and put them in the freezer. The next day, my bride came home from a long day of teaching and was pleased that I had bought and stored some ice cream for her. You can imagine the rest of the story. Fortunately, she didn't file for divorce and 52 years later we still laugh about the incident. Perhaps, as a result of that experience, Herb left the graduate program for his first love, music, and opened a well-known guitar studio in Ann Arbor under his name, Herb David.
By the way, Harry Harlow published his humorous "Fundamental Principles" paper in the December 1963 issue of the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology as his parting shot as the editor. For many years, I required all of my graduate students to read and take the lessons to heart in writing up their research papers. I also adapted it as my final act as editor, after 35 years, of the International Journal of Intercultural Relations. I once asked Harry if readers got the point of the paper. He gave me his sly grin and shook his head, "no."
Emeritus professor of psychology, University of Mississippi
Affiliate professor of psychology, University of Hawaii, Hilo and Manoa
More family ties
In response to our December article on psychologists whose family members followed them in the field, several members alerted us to their own family ties:
Monroe Gottsegen, PhD (father)
Gloria Gottsegen, PhD (mother)
Abby Gottsegen, PhD (daughter)
Leonard J. Haas, PhD, VA Salt Lake City (son-in-law)
Milton Schwebel, PhD, Professor & Dean Emeritus, Rutgers University (father and grandfather)
Andrew I. Schwebel, PhD, Professor, Ohio State University (son, deceased)
Robert Schwebel, PhD, private practice, Tucson Ariz. (son)
David C. Schwebel, PhD, Professor & Associate Dean, University of Alabama at Birmingham (grandson)
Frank Schwebel, graduate student, clinical psychology, University of Washington (grandson)
Helping the diverse at community colleges
Reading about the obstacles many nontraditional students face in the community college setting ("Diversity at community colleges," September Monitor) did not seem to strike me as a "diversity issue," but more a classroom-management issue. The strategies presented in the article did not seem to provide any flexibility in allowing teachers to support their students. For example, if there is a single parent in the class who has trouble with attendance, why would a teacher not utilize technology in hopes that the student could be successful with online postings? To demonstrate flexibility and hold students accountable, I suggest the teacher could mandate attendance as a percentage of the overall grade. This small change in classroom expectations would allow the single parent a chance to be up to speed if they are absent and a motivator to have a "plan B" in order to earn the attendance points. This would also be a way a psychology professor could ensure a successful class due to attendance being a motivation, decreasing the need to address issues of chronically absent students.
In reference to the other identified challenges of the students, whether it is immigration status, shelter, time management or difficulty with understanding material, I'm curious as to what policies community colleges have to assist the students and the teachers in the stated categories. I agree that it is not a psychology teacher's job to be a counselor, but it is a teacher's job to recognize the importance of the teacher-student alliance. In secondary schools measures are put in place, such as individual education plans and special education, to give children the help needed to be successful. And these same children grow up to be the adults at these community colleges. I would hope community colleges could assist these types of students with the same type of concern and help them be successful versus challenging them to greater failure.
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