Friday, July 22, 2016

The role of civil society in the rise of Nazism

The Role of Civil Society in the Rise of Nazism

   The Weimar Republic was a name given to the Federal Republic and semi-presidential representative democracy established from 1919 to 1933 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government. The official name of the state was “German Reich” (Deutsches Reich). “The Weimar Republic was a bold experiment” (Weimar Republic, web source) since it was the first democratic government in Germany’s history. The new constitution for the German Reich was written in 1919 in a national assembly in Weimar. It “attempted to blend the European parliamentary system with the American presidential system” (Weimar Republic). There was no monarch, instead there was a president whose power was limited by the Reichstag. The president appointed a Chancellor who “led the government of ministers from within the Reichstag” (The holocaust explained, web source). The freedom experienced during the Weimar Republic led to artistic innovation and experimentations. Germany was at the center of developments in film, the visual arts, architecture, theater, and music. But on the opposite side of democracy, innovation, and freedom lay the opposing forces of the conservative side of society. Weimar society had a “rigid class separation and considerable friction among the classes” (The Weimar Republic, web source). Class distinction included the aristocratic landowners, the middle class, the working class, and the lower classes. “Tradition and the civil and criminal codes were still strongly patriarchal” (The Weimar Republic, web source) and this contributed to disputes regarding gender issues, equality between the sexes and the role of women in the Republic. Political parties in the Weimar Republic represented the interest of the different sectors of society, depending on the class, occupation and religion. They possessed very narrow bases of support based on the different ideologies, which made compromising very difficult. During the Weimar years 
political institutions were weak and this often led to instability, disorder, and violence.            Economic problems and an ineffective political system led the German people to “throw themselves into clubs, voluntary associations, and professional organizations out of frustration” (Berman, 1997, 402). In her article, Civil Society and the Collapse of The Weimar Republic, Sheri Berman states that the conventional wisdom regarding the sustainment of a democratic government considers civil society a crucial and key element to make democracy work. Alexis de Tocqueville and neo-Tocquevilleans as Robert Putnam argue that a flourishing civil society always has beneficial effects on liberal democracies. It is the purpose of this paper to explain how, following Berman’s argument and contrary to conventional wisdom, the Weimar Republic’s flourishing civil society helped to further fragment German society, undermined the democratic system and helped to bring the Nazi party into power. This paper will first explore Weimar civil society, and the stratification of the different classes. It will then explore the different political parties and their different bases of support. It will briefly explain neo-Tocquevillian theories, and it will then show the key role of civil society in the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the consequent rise of the Nazi Regime. 
   During the two decades following the adoption of the constitution by the new German Reich in 1871, "Germany was at a historical turning point, poised between a traditional agricultural existence and industrialized modernity" (Berman, 1997, 409). The tension between these two sectors stimulated the formation of many organizations. Patriotic societies, sports and reading clubs, neighborhood associations were joined in large numbers. Heavy industry, small business, and white collar groups formed their own organizations reflecting their particular interests. Weimar Germany had a rigid class 
separation. "Aristocratic landowners looked down on the middle and working class Germans and only grudgingly associated with wealthy businessmen and industrialists" (Weimar Society, web source). The middle class looked down on the factory workers and constantly battle to preserve a higher status over the working class. Members of the middle class actively participated in associations through which political influence, social identity and economic advantage could be achieved. 
   During the years between 1924 and 1929, the Weimar Republic saw improved living standards, stability and economic security. The democratic government implemented plans to control the hyperinflation crisis. With the aid of foreign loans and a growing industrial production a number of social reforms were implemented. Services like unemployment welfare and housing assistance, benefited the young, the aged and the unemployed. But the increase in production and better wages for industrial workers did not fare well with the middle class of managers, bureaucrats, bankers, clerks and white-collar professionals. Unemployment remained high for the middle class and in most cases members of the middle class did not qualify for the benefits of the social reform. This increased the resentment of the middle class or Mittelstand who felt that the system was favoring the working class at their expense and fueled their antisocialist sentiment. The lack of a strong and efficient political party representing the interest of the Mittelstand "drove many citizens looking for succor and support into civil society organizations" (Berman, 1997, 414) which were highly organized and vertically fragmented. The agricultural sector and German farmers were devastated after the War, and continued to struggle during the Weimar years. 
   During the time of the Weimar Republic there were about forty different political parties and they were generally based on class, occupation, and religion. The parties on the left supported progressive taxation, government social welfare programs, labor unions, and equality for women. They favored greater government involvement and control of business and industry. They were less militaristic and less nationalistic than the parties on the right. The two parties on the left were the Communist Party (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The German Communist Party was supported by radical workers and a small group of radical intellectuals. The KPD was opposed to the existence of the Weimar Republic and favored a "Russian style dictatorship" and had a "strong feminist agenda" (Weimar Political Parties, web source). The Social Democratic Party (SPD) represented the interest of blue-collar trade union skilled workers and more progressive white-collar workers and intellectuals. It attracted large number of Protestants and women from the working class. The Social Democrats were strong supporters of the Republic. The Social Democratic Party received the most votes from 1919 to 1932. 
   The parties on the right were nationalistic and supported large military. They were opposed to social welfare, labor unions, and progressive taxation. "They favored an economy directed by industrialists and landowners with large states. They were antisemitic and favored traditional roles for women." (Weimar Political Parties, web source). The German Nationalist People's Party (DNVP) attracted Protestant landowners and industrialists. It also received support from civil servants, white-collar clerical and retail sales workers. The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) or Nazi Party, was also at the extreme right. Its principal speaker and leader was Adolf Hitler. It 
attracted young veterans unable to reintegrate to civilian society, the lower middle class, artisans, and white-collar workers. Antisemitism was at the core of the Nazi ideology. 
   The parties in the center were the most moderate of the political parties. The German Democratic Party (DDP) represented the Protestant middle class, such as lawyers, doctors, and liberal academics. The party was supportive of the Republic. The Catholic Center Party (Z) represented the interests of the German Catholics and it had a left-liberal wing and a right-conservative wing. "The Center Party was vital to the stability of the Republic". (Weimar Political Parties, web source). The German People's Party (DVP) represented the Protestant middle class of small and middle-sized businesses and white-collar workers. The People's Party was closer to the parties on the right. It lacked the support of the rural workers the Nationalist had, and it was less extreme in antisemitism. Sheri Berman quotes Alexis de Tocqueville in his warning that if society is to remain civilized and democracy to survive "the art of associating together must grow and improve" (Berman, 1997, 403). Neo-Tocquevillean theories argue that civil society is key in the development of the legitimization of democracy and that "mass society" leads to the disintegration of democracy. The theory of "mass society" tries to explain the reasons why people, in a greatly industrialized, highly bureaucratized, impersonal society, participate in social movements based on the assumption that the movement offers them a sense of belonging. The social scientist William Kornhauser argues that people in impersonal societies feel isolated and alienated from one another. Social movements, like the Nazi movement, take away the feeling of isolation by offering a sense of belonging. According to this theory, "the key reason for the collapse of the Weimar Republic was its status as a classic mass society" (Berman, 1997, 404), and it suggest that Hitler was able to attract large numbers of people because they were "alienated individuals who lacked a wide range of associational membership and saw in the NSDAP a way of integrating themselves into a larger community" (Berman, 1997, 404). This theory implies that if German civil society had been stronger, the Weimar Republic would not have collapsed. 
   In contrast with what neo-Tocquevillean theories would predict, the flourishing associational life in Germany did not help legitimize the democratic government. It is not accurate to label the people in the Weimar Republic as a "classic mass society". Civil society in the German Reich during the 1920s and up to 1932 was highly active and organized, but for civil society to have a positive effect in the democratic system, political institutions must be strong and responsive to the demands of the population. The political and economic context drastically changed after the American stock market crashed in 1929 resulting in a disastrous economic world depression. "This development added to Germany's economic hardship. Mass unemployment and suffering followed." (The Weimar Republic, web source). People grew increasingly frustrated with the failures of the national government and political parties to control the situation. Middle-class groups became suspicious of liberal and conservative parties as they were seen as "the tools of big capitalists and financial interests." (Berman, 1997, 416), and "as the Great Depression spread throughout Europe, Germany found itself with weak political institutions and a fragmented but highly organized civil society" (Berman, 1997, 416) 
    As voters became disillusioned with the traditional bourgeois parties, the NSDAP, or Nazi party, started to exploit the dense network of civic organizations recruiting highly skilled activist and infiltrating their members into bourgeois organizations such as sports clubs, occupational associations, and student fraternities. The Nazi party oriented its appeal towards the middle class attracting bourgeois "joiners" with leadership skills and strong social ties. "Civil society activists formed the backbone of the Nazi's grassroots propaganda machine" (Berman, 1997, 420). The propaganda the NSDAP designed made them "seem sympathetic and responsive by contrast with the elitist and out-of-touch liberals and conservatives" (Berman, 1997, 421), which gave the Nazi party the legitimacy and the massive support it previously lacked. The NSDAP also decided to attract the agricultural sector, or peasantry, focusing "on the particular demands of rural inhabitants" (Berman, 1997, 422). Having focused on the neglected groups of German society, infiltrated every social and political area and eliminated the competition, the Nazi party was able to create an "effective political machine and a true-class coalition" (Berman, 1997, 424). Having failed at gaining power through force, Adolf Hitler was able to infiltrate the institution he wanted to destroy by legally gaining power through elections and in 1932 he was named Chancellor. 
    Weimar Germany had a rigid class separation. Aristocrats looked down on the members of the middle class and working class. The bourgeois middle class looked down on the working class and lower classes. Different political parties based on class, occupation, and religion had very narrow bases of support and represented the interest of each fragment of German society, making compromising very difficult. As political institutions grew weak and ineffective, the people actively turned to civic associations, specially the middle bourgeois class who felt the working class was benefitting at their expense. The NSDAP propaganda targeted the neglected sectors of society and was able to unify the distinct subcultures or communities under one cross-class political coalition. Contrary to neo-Tocquevillean theories, the active civil German society did not help legitimize the democratic system, in fact, when faced with weak and unresponsive political institutions, the highly mobilized German civil society helped to undermine the legitimacy of the democratic Republic and had a key role in bringing the Nazi party to power. As Berman points out: "Had German civil society been weaker, the Nazis would never have been able to capture so many citizens for their cause or eviscerate their opponents so swiftly" (Berman, 1997, 402). 

  • Sheri Berman, "Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic," World Politics, Vol. 49, No. 3 (April 1997) pp. 401-29. 
  • Facing History and Ourselves. Weimar Political Parties. (last accessed on 05/15/2015) 
  • Facing History and Ourselves. Weimar Republic. 1929: A Turning Point During the Weimar Republic. (last accessed on 05/18/2015) 
  • The Holocaust Explained. How was the Weimar Republic Governed?. (last accessed on 05/22/2015)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Causes of the Great Depression by Vanesa Caban. August 7, 2015.

The Causes of the Great Depression (1929-1939)

“Everybody ought to be rich”
-John J. Raskob. August, 1929.

            The Great Depression of the United States refers to the economic decline that followed the stock crash of October 1929. During this sustained and severe recession, unemployment hit a previously unseen record high. By 1933, close to one-quarter of the total civilian labor force was out of work (Graebner 169). The American people, who had always seen themselves as self-reliant and resourceful, fell into a deep hole of despair, watching their families and neighbors slowly starve on the streets. The Great Depression had devastating effects on countries all around the world and its causes have been greatly debated and investigated in order to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. The story of the greatest economic depression in US history serves as a cautionary tale to the working class, about the interconnectedness of consumers and their purchasing power, labor, wages, and the relentless pursuit of wealth. 
     It is perhaps incorrect to assume that the Great Market Crash of 1929 caused the Great Depression. Some economists argue that if the economy had been sound, the effects of the crash would have been small (Evans 222). There were several warning signs during the 1920’s such as overproduction, growing consumer debt, uneven distribution of wealth, the “Great Bull Market”, the failing banking system, and a shaky corporate structure, all of these preceding the market crash. The conservative government’s policy of the time was to do nothing and to let the business cycle run its course (Evans 224). The Federal Reserve did little to aid in the crisis. America’s farming industries were deeply affected by a severe drought. Bank panics sent ripples through the system which led to a systemic failure of the Bank system. The liquidity crisis caused many banks to close and many more businesses to fail, which exacerbated the already record high unemployment level. By 1931, the deflationary spiral was out of control. The depression reached its peak by 1933, but the economic trouble persisted until 1939. For the people that lived through the Great Depression, it seemed it would never end.
     Expansion of boom industries such as construction and automobile led to record profits and a growing middle class, but stagnant wages decreased the purchasing power of consumers, who made up the difference by borrowing. During the 1920’s, the construction and automobile industries perfected the practice of maximizing profits and productivity while curbing wages and material costs (Davidson 957). Instead of investing some of the profits into higher salaries, corporate earnings went into plant expansion (Davison 957). The uneven distribution of wealth between the rich and working class deepened. With the increase of available credit during the 1920’s, consumer debt rose 250% as people bought more products by borrowing (Davidson 957). The gap between supply and demand caused industries to overproduce and over-expand, and workers’ debt to rise.
The Great Bull Market of the 1920’s was driven by aggressive sellers of stock spreading a speculative fever. In Wall Street parlance the “bulls” refer to buyers of stock, and “bears” to those who sell (Davidson 954). A bull market causes prices to increase and is driven by speculation, or the buying and selling on the expectation that the rising prices will yield quick gains (Davidson 955). On the other hand, a bear market causes prices to decrease, and is driven by fear that lower prices will result in loses. “Everybody ought to be rich” was the premise that led corporations, businesses, and regular consumers to invest in the stock market with massive amounts of borrowed money.
An obsession with quick money infected the American culture of the 1920’s”, and in 1929 a wave of speculation caused the “Great Bull Market” to crash. Businesses invested money in the market, and banks also invested unsecured deposits made by regular costumers in risky stocks (Davison 958). In the morning of Tuesday October 24, 1929, a flood of sell orders overwhelmed the New York Stock Exchange and prices plummeted. A week later, the speculative bubble finally burst with a record $32 billions lost (Evans 228). As panic set in, hundreds of thousands lost their businesses, their homes, their life savings, and their hope.
The Federal Reserve System, or FED, was created to act as a lender of last resort for their bank members, and to prevent inflation or deflation by increasing or decreasing interest rates respectively. The Fed was a new Central Bank created by Congress in 1913 to avoid banking crises. A bank crisis or bank run is a sudden withdrawal of deposits of just one bank, and a bank panic occurs when several banks suffer runs at the same time. Banking institutions are required to hold only a fraction of the amount deposited by costumers, and the majority of the funds is usually invested. In this fractional-reserve system, when many customers attempt to withdraw all their deposits simultaneously, the bank needs to borrow money from another institution to be able to pay back. The FDIC, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, acted as insurer of bank deposits, supervisor of banks, and administrator of bank failures (Lacoue 18). The FED’s main responsibility was to prevent Bank panics by acting as last resort lenders.  
During the Great Depression, there was a collapse of the United States banking system. In the early 1930’s, half of the 25,000 banks in America were outside the Federal Reserve System, and many banks diverted their funds to risky investments that later failed (Davidson 958). About 6000 banks failed due to illiquidity, or lack of cash, and insolvency, or inability to repay their debts. Almost all the banks that failed were liquidated at a loss (Richardson 40). During the time after the Market Crash, the FED failed to intervene when it was necessary to stop the banking panic (Evans 224). The ensuing contagion of fear, contracting economy, and massive withdrawal of funds pushed the bank system into a systemic failure.
During the 1920’s the corporate structure was plagued by fraud and lacked any kind of governmental monitoring. Big business and the rich benefited from a conservative political environment that favored insider trading, tax-cuts on high incomes and corporate profits, and mass production economy (Davidson 940). Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary, and President Hoover believed that Government should be in service of business and that prosperity of the rich would “trickle down” to the poor through investment, which would lead to production and employment (Davidson 940). The Government worked to serve Big business and believed that direct help to workers was demoralizing.
The “Black Blizzards” were one of the worst ecological disasters of modern history and caused millions of farmers to lose their farms. During the 1930’s, a combination of severe drought, heat, and farming in semiarid areas not suitable for intensive agriculture, triggered a series of terrifying dust storms. Gigantic clouds of dust moving at speeds of more than 100 miles an hour and sometimes lasting through days, displaced tons of topsoil from Montana and Wyoming to the East and South of the country (Evans 232). Following the example of industrial America, farming and agriculture increased production by mechanizing, raising profits, and cutting costs. The gigantic “Dust Bowl” area, Oklahoma to western Kansas, was a man-made catastrophe caused by sixty years of abuse on the land (Davidson 970). The “dirty thirties” as it is known caused the migration of millions of rural refugees to California where very few found work, and those who did had to survive on meager wages.
The Great Depression was the longest economic recession in the history of the United States. Several competing theories have attempted to explain its causes, but most agree in that the market crash of 1929 precipitated the failure of an already weak banking system, and triggered a deflationary spiral. American culture, infected with an obsession with quick profits, created an illusion of prosperity on borrowed money and speculation. The government served Big business and did nothing to improve worker’s stagnant wages. Millions lost their jobs, homes, businesses, and savings. President Herbert Hoover’s aid plan relied on private charities and failed to provide any kind of direct help to the people. It was not until President Franklyn D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” that extreme measures to recover the economy were taken. Many of the warning sides preceding the Great Depression, such as speculation bubbles and the extremely uneven distribution of wealth, look eerily similar to the ones that precipitated the 2008 Great Recession. It seems that the story is destined to repeat itself for as long as there is a profit Big business will reject governmental interference, but when the bubble finally bursts, regular people will always be the ones left to pay the price.

Works Cited
Davidson, James West; William E. Gienapp, Christine Leigh Heyrman, Mark H. Lytle and Michael B. Stoff; Nation of Nations. A Narrative History of the American Republic. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1994. Print.
Evans, Harold; Gail Buckland and Kevin Baker; The American Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1998. Print.
Graebner, William; Leonard Richards; The American Record. Images of the Nation’s Past. Volume Two: Since 1865; Third Edition; New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1995. Print.
Lacoue-Labarthe, Dominique; “In Search of the Banking Regulator amid U.S. Financial Reforms of the 1930s”; LAREFI Working Paper N°2014-01; CR 14EFI01. 2014. <>
Richardson, Gary; “The Collapse of the United States Banking System during the Great Depression, 1929 to 1933. New Archival Evidence.” Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal (2007) 1(1). Web. 15 July 2015 <> 

Performance of Boys in Schools by Vanesa Caban. July 22, 2015.

Single-gender classrooms: Improving the performance of boys in schools.

Boys across the United States are underperforming in school. Making up 80% of disciplinary problems, and accounting for the majority of D’s and F’s, boys in schools are in a serious crisis. Lagging behind girls in reading and writing, boys are overrepresented in special education classes, and average 80% of high schools drop outs (Gurian 22). The educational system currently in place does not take into account the important differences in the way in which each gender learns and develops, as a result, boys face increasing challenges meeting developmental expectations. Poor performance in early academic life leads to poor self-esteem and feelings of failure. As boys feel unable to succeed, they become increasingly pessimistic and more likely to misbehave. Studies show that single-gender classrooms, and a curriculum that favors a boy-friendly environment are very successful in closing the gap between the performance of boys and girls. If we are serious about fixing our failing educational system, we should consider a system that allows all of our children to succeed, and does not punish our sons for their biological make up.
Important developmental differences present in boys and girls shape their very different learning experience and attitudes toward school. Reading, writing, and verbal abilities, which are emphasized in school, normally develop more slowly in boys than in girls (Kindlon 23). The average boy is developmentally disadvantaged in the early school environment, and faces a greater struggle to meet the developmental and academic expectations of the school curriculum (Kindlon 23). Girls mature earlier than boys, which means that girls achieve cognitive milestones at younger ages (Kindlon 31). A performance-based curriculum that focuses on reading in the early school years puts boys at a serious disadvantage (Kindlon 33), and more likely to be miscategorized as learning disabled (Kindlon 32). The early age at which schools focus on reading performance favors girls, and does not take into account the natural cognitive development of boys.
There are also fundamental differences in the way boys and girls see and hear. The retina of boys is wired for tracking movement, while girls’ retina is wired for detail and color variations (Piechura np). Additionally, girls are born with a more acute sense of hearing for higher frequencies and speech discrimination (Piechura np). Further, male and female nervous systems react differently to stress. When the male nervous system is faced with a stressful situation, the “fight or flight” response is activated by a release of adrenaline, which can trigger violence or confrontation (Piechura np). On the other hand, when the female nervous system is confronted with a stressful situation, the release of acetylcholine causes mental slowing and a feeling of dizziness (Piechura np). The implications of these differences would help to explain why boys look like they are not paying attention, or why teachers need to redirect them to the task much of the time. When the educational system does not take in to account the biological differences in the learning experience of the two genders, many boys who display normal male behavior are miscategorized as ADHD or emotionally disordered.
Higher activity levels and lower impulse control are also normal behaviors that get boys in trouble in school.  By the start of kindergarten, most boys in any classroom are more active, more impulsive, and developmentally immature when compared to girls of the same age (Thompson 167).  Many younger boys who have not yet fully develop verbal skills tend to get frustrated and use their body to communicate, which sometimes results in hitting or biting (Thompson 170). Boys are usually more active, enjoy learning through action, and do not show much interest in sedentary behaviors. The ability to sit still for reading and doing homework develops slowly, which can be very frustrating for parents and educators. From the boy’s perspective school becomes a negatively charged environment where he feels trapped and unappreciated.
During the first years of school, and up to around the third grade, children develop a pattern of learning that shapes their entire lives. Most children, boys and girls, are born with great potential to learn and succeed in the academic environment, but something deeply disturbing happens to boys in the current educational system. When schools set up boys to fail by demanding a level of maturity not yet attained, boys are more likely to feel shame, resentment, loss of motivation, and anger. Recent studies suggest that by the time they reach high school, many boys’ confidence as learners has been impaired, their self-esteem destroyed, and have low expectations about their professional future (Gurian 24). The damaging effect of underperformance of males in school is particularly problematic in the African-American and Hispanic populations, but this trend extends to all races and economic levels as well. The failure of the educational system to recognize the detrimental effects of the current curriculum on boys’ performance and self-esteem could account for the drop in male college enrollment.
Looking for alternatives to close the gender gap in academic performance, many schools are offering single-gender classrooms as an option. Some districts offer single-sex academies; others incorporate optional single-sex classes in certain areas or certain grades. Single-sex classrooms attempt to address the specific challenges each gender faces. By focusing on literacy and reading skills, single-gender classrooms help boys succeed in high school and better prepare them for college entrance (Stabiner 237). Studies suggest that a boy-friendly environment that accommodates normal boy activity levels and typical developmental pattern allows the boy to experience a feeling of belonging and acceptance that can not be experienced in a coeducational setting. Participation in single-gender classrooms improves males’ behavior and involvement in schools (Piechura np). Free from feelings of inadequacy and shame, a boy is free to learn without being judged as being different or deficient in some way (Thompson 47). Successful curriculums for boys-only classrooms provide a combination of support and structure designed to help the more distractible students, while improving the performance and attitudes of boys toward school.
During the past decades, efforts have been made to encourage gender equality and to recognize women’s contributions to the academic world. Some critics to single-sex classrooms argue that women’s success in schools is the result of the fight for gender equality and coeducational environments. However, some studies show that in a coeducational setting, some areas tend to become more gender-stereotyped (Smyth 52). Coeducational settings usually result in boys having a more dominant presence in participation and “hands-on” activities, such as laboratory work and computer sessions (Smyth 47). Single-gender classrooms benefited the performance of girls in certain subject areas, such as mathematics and physics, which are usually seen as “masculine” (Smyth 48). In single-gender mathematics classrooms, girls reported less distraction and more self-confidence in their mathematical ability (Smyth 52). Research suggest that for many students, participation in single-gender classrooms with effective teachers improves academic performance of both genders.
     Some critics of single-gender classroom options argue that “sex-segregation” in schools is illegal and violates women’s civil rights. Claiming to be based in disturbing gender stereotypes, critics worry that girls are considered bad at mathematics and less able to work under stress, perpetuating “antiquated gender stereotypes” (“Sex Segregated Schools” n.p.). However, single-gender programs in coeducational schools in the U.S. are offered as a choice, and based on the idea that school curriculums should accommodate the student’s needs, and that parents should have a choice in their children’s education.
     Boys across the U.S. are underperforming in elementary school, dropping out of high school, and not enrolling in college. Because of biological and developmental differences between boys and girls, boys face many challenges in meeting increasing academic expectation in the early educational environment. As a result of trying to accomplish tasks for which they are not yet developmentally ready, boys suffer from loss of motivation, shame, resentment, low self-esteem, and frustration. Research shows that once these feelings of failure are established, they are likely to persist through life. Single-gender classrooms with a boy-friendly environment that accounts for gender differences in learning patterns, could help reverse this trend. By accommodating the emotional and academic needs of every child, we could help our boys become successful, self-confident students, fully prepared for the challenges of adulthood.

Works Cited

Gurian, Michael; Stevens, Kathy; Daniels, Peggy; “Single-Sex Classrooms Are Succeeding”. Educational Horizons, v87 n4 p234-245 Sum 2009. ERIC. Web. 15 July 2015 <>
Kindlon, Dan; Michael Thompson; “Raising Cain. Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys”. Ballantine Books. New York. 2000. Print.
Piechura-Couture, Kathy, Elizabeth Heins, and Mercedes Tichenor. "The Boy Factor: Can Single-Gender Classes Reduce the Over-Representation of Boys in Special Education?" College Student Journal 47.2 (2013): 235-243. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 July 2015. < direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=nypl&db=aph&AN=88413455&site=ehost-live>
Smyth, Emer; “Single-sex Education: What Does Research Tell Us?”; Revue Françoise de PĂ©dagogie, 171 | 2010, 47-58. Web. 15 July 2015. <>
Thomson, Michael; Teresa Barker; “Its a Boy! Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18”. Ballantine Books. New York. 2009. Print.
“Sex-Segregated Schools: Separated and Unequal”. American Civil Liberties Union (2015). Web. 22 July 2015. <>

On Childhood Obesity by Vanesa Caban. July 18, 2015

Who is to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic?

Obesity can be described as an excess of body fat. Overweight is also described as an excess of body fat, but less severe than obesity. Childhood obesity and overweight are major public health problems in the developed world and are also becoming a problem in many developing countries. The issue has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. with an estimated 9 million overweight children, including 4.5 million children affected by obesity (Wieting 545). Obesity increases the risk of chronic medical problems and psychological issues that can persist into adulthood. The causes of pediatric obesity are complex and highly debated. Some groups in the medical community argue that obesity is a form of child abuse. Most parents blame the media and the aggressive advertisement directed to their children. On the other hand, fast-food and Soda corporations deny their role in the epidemic, and challenge any type of effort from the government to regulate their practices or products. There are also societal and economic factors that influence the incidence of obesity.
Patterns of weight gain in children suggest that pediatric obesity has increased substantially in the past decades. Between 1971 and 2010, it increased 3.3-fold (from 5% to 16.9%). Some articles indicate that children in the U.S. are 40% larger today than they were 25 years ago (Stasia n.p.), and others indicate that one third of children aged 2 to 19 are overweight or obese (“Way Beyond Weight” n.p.). The percentage of overweight children in the U.S. remains historically high.
Federal legislation recognizes that parents have the primary responsibility for raising their children, but morbid obesity can be a justification for the government to intervene. Some doctors argue that morbid obesity is the result of parental neglect. As such, the state could intervene charging the parent with abuse and placing the child in a foster home (Lang n.p.). On the other hand, critics of this approach argue that it is unfair to place all the blame on the parents, noting that there are other societal factors who share in the blame.
Parents have probably the most important role in the incidence of childhood obesity. Pre-pregnancy weight and obesity in pregnant women correlates with pediatric obesity. In the U.S. 32% of reproductive age women are obese and 56% are overweight, and up to two-thirds of them gain excessive weight during pregnancy (Katzmarzyk 7). Children’s obesity risks are established by particular family patterns that include diet, activity levels, and sedentary behavior. Many parents model poor eating habits by eating junk food, or giving in to kid’s demands of unhealthy food to avoid arguments or using them as rewards. Parents recognize the very important role they have in modeling healthy behavior, but argue that it is becoming increasingly difficult to fight the effects of the millions of dollars spent by the fast-food industry in aggressive advertisement directed to their children.
The fast-food industry denies or minimizes their role in the growing epidemic. Since the early 1970s, concerns have been raised regarding the media and television advertisement directed toward children. Children in the U.S. spend an average of 5.5 hours per day exposed to one ad every 5 minutes. Most of these ads present highly addictive foods heavy in fat, sugar, and salt, incorporating popular cartoon characters, toys, and videogames. While most parents try to regulate the amount of time spent on digital devices, children are very vulnerable to manipulation through advertisement and more likely to adopt negative behaviors as a result. Attempts to reduce or ban this direct type of advertisement, which many critics consider deceptive and unfair, have been fiercely opposed by the food industry citing the First Amendment (Wieting 546). The food and beverage industries deny any responsibility in the obesity epidemic and point to lack of exercise and an unbalanced diet as the real culprits.
 The Government has attempted to curve the obesity epidemic with policies that fail to control the amount of advertisement directed to children, and has failed to regulate the nutritional value of food products. The Department of Agriculture’s focus on subsidizing production of commodity crops like corn and soybean and neglecting the production of fruits and vegetables has caused healthy food’s prices to more than double the price of energy-dense, unhealthy foods like sugar, sweets, fats, and oils (Novak 2347). The US policy response to obesity has been focused on an increase in physical activity and increase in the intake of fruits and vegetables. Any attempt to reduce the amount of advertisement targeted to children, taxation of sugary drinks, and mandated recommendations for nutritional quality standards have been heavily resisted by the food and media industries with millions of dollars spent in lobbying against such policies.
Schools have also been criticized for serving junk-food and sugary drinks in their cafeterias, and cutting their physical education programs. School cafeterias have seen a proliferation of junk food where children are exposed to an increasing number of processed meats and and sugar ridden items (“Way Beyond Weight” n.p.). From 1990 to 2000, commercialism and food advertisement in schools has increased 395% (Wieting 546). School-exclusive contracts of drinks and fast-food vendors are the fastest growing product sales in schools (Wieting 547). Pressure to improve the performance of students on state test has pushed many schools to reduce and sometimes even eliminate their physical education classes and recess time, drastically limiting exercise time.
Societal factors also play a role in the obesity epidemic. Many urban neighborhoods do not possess enough open spaces for physical activity like sidewalks, trails, parks, and paths for walking or biking (Wieting 546). Many families living in urban areas find it difficult to find outdoor produce stands and supermarkets with healthier and inexpensive alternatives to fast food restaurants. Many parents who are not able to afford healthy foods feed their kids value meals from fast food restaurants because they are low cost and do not require preparation. Fast-food industries suggest that parents should teach moderation, as opposed to the government attempting to regulate the nutritional value of their products.
Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and the rest of the developed world. The causes of the epidemic are complex and hard to treat. Changes in the price and availability of energy-dense foods and a decrease in physical activity, combined with aggressive advertisement targeted to children has created a very difficult environment where healthy habits are hard to implement. If left unchecked, the cost of managing obesity related diseases among children will increase astronomically, while life expectancy rates will significantly decrease. A combined effort is necessary to stop the obesity epidemic; one in which parents, schools, law makers, media, and food companies have a vital role to play.

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