Teen suicide: parents CAN make a difference!



“There is nothing more painful than losing a child to suicide, and many parents feel powerless to do anything to prevent it except hope that it doesn’t happen. A new study by the University of Cincinnati reveals that parents can play a tremendous role in helping their teens avoid self-harm.

“Parents ask us all the time, ‘What can we do?’” said King, who coordinates UC’s health promotion and education doctoral program and serves as Director of the Center for Prevention Science. “You can tell them you’re proud of them, that they did a good job, get involved with them, and help them with their homework.”

“A key is to ensure that children feel positively connected to their parents and family,” added Vidourek, who serves as Co-Director of the Center for Prevention Science.

The results of the study were startling. In particular, 12 and 13yo children whose parents rarely or never said, “I’m proud of you” were nearly five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, nearly seven times more likely to formulate a suicide plan and about seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Similarly, 12- and 13 year olds with parents who rarely or never told them they did a good job or helped them with their homework were at excessively high risk for suicide.

Likewise, 16- and 17-year-olds whose parents rarely or never told the children they are proud of them are about three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and almost four times more likely to make a suicide plan and attempt suicide than peers whose parents sometimes or often did.

The key, as with many problems associated with kids and teens, is attachment, attachment, attachment. The stronger the emotional bond you have with your children–and more specifically, the stronger the emotional bond your kids feel like they have with you–the more likely it is that your children will choose healthy options for dealing with their problems and avoid more dangerous, and deadly, choices.

For more information on how you can strengthen your emotional bond with your children whether they are toddlers or teens, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids. Or, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about how our Catholic tele-counseling practice can help you transform your marriage, family, and personal life.”

An Engineering Dean’s Response to Bryan Caplan’s “The Case Against Education”


“Each year as we suit up for college commencement, donning our regalia of fanciful robes, velvet berets and silk tassels, I make a point to interject to my colleagues the John Steinbeck quote from the Sea of Cortez, “it is a rule in paleontology that ornamentation… precedes extinction.” We certainly have major issues within our higher-ed organizations and ever growing threats in the education market. And in that light, I welcome provocative assessments of the current state of higher education. But in reading Bryan Caplan’s recent essay, What’s College Good For? (The Atlantic Jan/Feb 2018) previewing his pending book, “The Case Against Education,” I can honestly say that Caplan’s views will only metastasize our ills and accelerate any institution’s demise.

Caplan’s main thesis is that our higher ed system teaches only a minimal level of useful job skills, and as such, the value of a college degree, for the most part, comes from signaling one’s “pre-existing” traits to the job market. He estimates the mix of value at about 20% job skills and 80% traits. The pre-existing traits Caplan says one signals by attaining a college degree include: the ability to learn quickly and deeply, the commitment to working on something until it is finished, and the ability to adapt to new systems of management and work with others on teams. Caplan concludes that since higher education isn’t really responsible for the development of what would be viewed by most as highly desirable traits, and in the absence of any significant job skills training, that college “is a big waste of time and money.”

Completely missing from Caplan’s seemingly new revelation about poor job-skill training in college is the fact that the world renowned 4 year higher educational system that we have built in the U.S., from its dawn, has never endeavored to promote “job skill training.” Caplan’s estimate of 20 % job skills is about right (even for degrees as practical as engineering I would target about 30%), but the minimal influence that he claims education plays on the balance of the other critical traits is woefully inaccurate. Even with the 100 year plus tradition of teaching what Caplan describes as irrelevant subjects, there is little doubt about the role that U.S. higher-ed has played in inspiring our workforce to advance America’s political, cultural, technological and economic dominance over the past century. Higher-ed has thrived in discovery, fostered the synthesis of new ideas, and advanced both technological, medical, and social innovation at almost every level. And in the process, demanded of its students through its inherent pedagogical structure the repeated and rapid mastery of new subjects. And, yes, even mastery of subjects that Caplan finds “useless” and “irrelevant” like rhetoric, economics, history, and literature.

In the long term, employers care far less about the specific factual knowledge that a 22-year-old graduate brings to their company’s collective knowledge-base. But they do care about whether they have the humility and confidence to quickly learn something new and adapt to the incredible array of forces that are changing the landscape of their business at increasingly faster rates. And for outstanding employees, there is the expectation that they should be able to repeat this process of learning something new at a high level again, and again, throughout their careers. To me, this seems very much like the well-tested expectations of a college educational experience. It might be called the “knowledge” economy, but the reality is, it is the “ability to attain knowledge” economy.

During the course of a 4-year degree, a college student will engage-in and repeat the process of going from little-to-no knowledge in some subject and advance to some measureable level of mastery about 30 to 40 times. And by design, with each new course, the student has had to learn from someone new, in the midst of different groups of people, while needing to access different types of resources, under different sets of rules, and with increasingly difficult expectations of performance. The higher-ed calendar also provides ample time for meaningful internships and extra-curricular activities, like sports, student government, volunteerism, and study abroad, that bring real-world balance to an education.

Now, how much time we take to complete this transformation from high school graduate to adaptable learner, how much it costs, who we are serving, what teaching methods to employ, or how technology could improve this process are front-and-center of strategic planning at most universities. There is nothing sacred about the current 4-year college degree or structure. A four-year degree, as it stands today, with 130 credit hours and 40 different courses of high level learning involves about 4,000 to 5,000 hours of study. What various students do with that “practice” time is what brings distinction. But even with 5,000 hours of study, a college grad has merely walked along the shore of a great ocean of knowledge that humans have discovered in any subject. Some, like Caplan, would say “that they haven’t learned anything,” but others, like those that I work with, would say “that they know that they have a lot more to learn.” Students will benefit just as much from understanding the limits of their knowledge, as they will in drawing from the core.

As one might expect, everyone involved in Caplan’s higher-ed storyline is just in it for themselves. The big ruse called college he describes couldn’t be sustained without it. He is cynical about everyone around him. He is cynical about students (“the vast majority are philistines”), he is cynical about his fellow teachers (“the vast majority are uninspiring”), and he is cynical about the administration, “the deciders – the school officials who control what students study.” If I sensed the same level of self-interest that Caplan feels hanging over his academic environment, I would be equally disillusioned with higher-ed. But I don’t, so I am not.

Despite what some think, even in degree tracks viewed as practical as engineering, we do not engage in “job skill training.” In the St. Thomas School of Engineering, we promote and celebrate a 30% job skills / 70% traits balance that Caplan finds wasteful. I tell our students that there are no “Mechanical Engineer” jobs. However, there are incredible careers that can begin for those who have had the experience of learning the array of new subjects, from Philosophy to Thermodynamics, in our Mechanical Engineering curriculum. The products, the markets, the science, the customers, the designs, the finance, the regulations, the equipment, the timing, the documentation, the history, the communications, the manufacturability, the software, the laws, the cultures are so different for each company in each product sector, that we could not possibly “train” you for any specific job, because training you for one, would ill-prepare you for the vast majority of other possibilities. Let alone those that will emerge 4 years from now.

As engineering educators, the worse thing we could do for our students is to have them be surprised by what little they know as they walk through the door to their first job. Or, even worse, be over confident in what they think they know when they walk through the door of their first customer. And, in that light, the best thing we can do is to prepare them to walk into any new environment, fully knowing that you must first deeply listen, learn, question, understand, and as quickly as possible move to mastery. And then, plan on repeating that process again, and again, throughout their career. Much like they successfully demonstrated during their college education, regardless of the subject.

There are plenty of angles to constructively criticize and dramatically improve the current state of higher education, but the views in Caplan’s “What’s College Good For?” essay are no place to start.”


“The Biddies” — Irish Domestic Servants in Early America

Dan Bryan, May 18 2012

Irish Servant Humor, 1861
-1861 cartoon from Harper’s Weekly

The accepted ideal for American women in the early 1800s was that of the virtuous housewife. A body of literature and thought sprung up to support this notion, as an increasing number of families became prosperous enough to avoid the drudgery of farm labor.

The immigrant women who arrived from Europe did not share in this luxury. Many became domestic servants, and they sometimes did so in a state of debt bondage. Because they usually spoke English, Irish women were hired for these jobs in large numbers.

Working conditions of domestic servant women

Wages were generally low in the early United States. There was not a lot of physical money in circulation, and most people made their living on farms. Because labor was cheaper, it was much more common for families to hire domestic servants — some of the wealthiest houses kept a staff of ten or more on hand. These women cooked meals, cleaned house, cared for the children, made the beds, and other tasks of that nature.

Many of them came as indentured servants or “redemptioners” — meaning that they worked for room and board to pay for their passage to the United States. After a no-frills journey, they would begin a labor term of four to seven years. During this period they were treated the same as slaves — they could be tracked down by bounty hunters if they fled. Women generally had their term extended if they became pregnant. Until mid-century, debtor’s prisons were common and anyone deemed not to fulfill their end of the agreement could be thrown into one. Women were also vulnerable to sexual assault, since they had almost no legal recourse to pursue claims.

Complaints by American women of the insolence, ingratitude, and ignorance of their Irish maids were commonplace in written works. The domestic skills of these immigrants were said to be lacking. For instance, in this passage by Harriet Beecher Stowe

“For some time, therefore, after the inauguration of the new household, there was trouble in the camp. Sour bread had appeared on the table; bitter, acrid coffee had shocked and astonished the palate; lint had been observed on tumblers, and the spoons had sometimes dingy streaks on the brightness of their first bridal polish; beds were detected made shockingly awry: and Marianne came burning with indignation to her mother.”

For those who weren’t indentured, turnover was high. Invariably this was blamed on laziness and insolence.

Anti-Irish Catholic Prejudice as an Excuse for Lurid Fiction

The Catholicism of the new arrivals was disconcerting to most native American women. Their ethics and religion were deeply Protestant. The contradiction of trying to raise Protestant Republican children with Irish Catholic servants was never quite reconciled, though it was frequently alluded to as a problem.

Five Points by George Catlin (1827)
-George Catlin – Five Points (1827)

Some authors began to print lurid descriptions of Irish life, ostensibly for public education. A genre of literature emerged in which the lascivious traits and heretical religion of the new immigrants. The men who wrote these books were probably opportunists — for they had a near monopoly on the publishing of content about drunkenness, promiscuity, and other such taboos. One such example cited is George Bourne’s 1834 book, Lorette: The History of Louise, Daughter of a Canadian Nun, Exhibiting the Interior of a Female Convent.

In general, these works reinforced the notion of a Protestant-normative America, while presenting Irish and Catholics as outsiders and usurpers. Among men, this would eventually lead to the Know-Nothing Party, but it’s a mistake to think that women were oblivious to this strain of thought, or that they did not participate in it.

Off the Job — Living in Poverty

Most of these Irish women worked in cities on East Coast, such as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Once they landed in the new country, they often didn’t have the means or the knowledge to venture elsewhere. In these cities men, women, and children were crammed into sprawling, degraded tenements. The problems were worst in New York.

Tenement Life Harper's (1881) -A tenement interior as drawn in Harper’s Weekly.

The tenements functioned without sewage and sanitation. Families with children were crammed into rickety wooden buildings and often into the basements, which had no protection from the ground water. The floor was usually flooded with several inches of stagnant water, and mixed with garbage. On any level, the rooms were subdivided with artificial walls, to the point that many had no windows or ventilation. This caused boards to rot, disease to flourish, and mold to fester. Rats were endemic and scurried amongst the rooms as people lived and slept.

Typhoid fever was the most common disease, followed by tuberculosis and cholera. Infant mortality was very high — no public health statistics are available, but it was perhaps 30-40%.

When there were downturns and the jobs became scarce, it became even worse in the Irish slums, as idle men listed about, drinking and starting fights with each other.

This is just a brief overview of the degradation that awaited Irish women for their first years in America.

Teens & laundry pods




Too much time & money.  Not enough work.  Imho.  They could get started on paying & saving for college, a car, etc., instead of poisoning themselves.  Sports, volunteering to help the less fortunate if one is independently wealth, which is a shame.  The formation earning your own money, paying your own bills provides is priceless.  Or, the military is an outstanding option for young people to serve the nation and communities.  Better to be killed by enemy fire and die a hero to your country, than a useless moron who wasted their young life and poisoned themselves and destroyed the lives of those who cared and loved you most in this life.  May God have mercy on young people and on their foolishness. May He give strength, patience, wisdom, faith, grace, hope, compassion, and gentleness to their guardians.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.  You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole mind, heart, and soul.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” -Deut 6:4-9

I look to the mountains;
from whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not let you fall;
your protector is always awake.

The protector of Israel
never dozes or sleeps.
The Lord will guard you;
he is by your side to protect you.
The sun will not hurt you during the day,
nor the moon during the night.

The Lord will protect you from all danger;
he will keep you safe.
He will protect you as you come and go
now and forever.

-Psalm 121

K12 is a racket – 2

Dahn Shaulis

Dahn Shaulis

Without understanding the cutthroat business of education, and all of the financial and political players, it’s difficult to see the enormity of corruption in the system–and how it devalues the nation as a whole.

The more I learn about US education, the more I understand how much of a racket K-12 and higher education have become. If students (and their families) are serious enough about their studies, they can still learn valuable skills in college. But college teaching and learning have become secondary to business, bureaucracy, and dealing with the “savage inequalities” of K-12 that feed into higher education “degrees of inequality.”

In the US, education at all levels increasingly reinforces a social system of “winners” and “losers” based less on potential and hard work and more on family position in the existing class structure.

In my previous articles on the US College Meltdown and America’s Most Endangered Colleges, I mentioned some of the “winners” and “losers” in American higher education. The list on both sides is long and growing as the US College Meltdown becomes more apparent.

Big losers:  About 10 million Americans are in deferment, forbearance or default with their student loans

[Image above: Working class students and poorly compensated adjunct teachers rarely engage in solidarity, though both groups are big losers in the US College Meltdown.]

Even Bigger Losers: Young (and even middle-aged) adjuncts may be the biggest losers, if they have large grad school debt and rely financially on dead end teaching jobs.

According to Peter Cappelli, 1/4 of all colleges offer a negative rate of return.

[Image below:  Margaret Spellings has been a “big winner” of neoliberal education: as Secretary of Education, Apollo Group board member, and President of University of North Carolina system.]

The “savage inequalities” we see in K-12 schools are inextricably linked to the“degrees of inequality” we see in America’s colleges.

In this analysis, it’s important to examine powerful private, non-profit, and public players as well as for-profit operations.

It’s also important to look at money and favors changing hands at the state, county, and local levels.

So who makes big money in US education?  The list of participants at BMO Capital Markets gives us a Who’s Who in the business of education.

But there are many more people making money from the US education racket: in K-12 education management, higher education management, online and software services and other forms of outsourcing, publishing and curriculum, real estate, construction, accreditation, advertising and marketing, banking and finance, and political lobbying.

Two-thirds of the officials responsible for policing the quality of the nation’s colleges and universities are employed by schools their agencies oversee, highlighting potential conflicts of interest in a system that faces reform efforts in Washington.

[Image below: From ISpot.tv. Higher education marketing and advertising are big business. Marketing firms win big with contracts from Penn State University and other brand name colleges.]


It’s believed that hundreds of billions of dollars are held in college slush funds and endowments, with limited transparency and oversight.


Private Student Loan Lenders include Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, Discover, and SoFi.

Student Loan Servicers: ECMC, Navient.

[Image below.  Navient makes billions of dollars by buying and selling student loans, and coercing students to repay their student loans.]

[The big educational spenders on K Street are mostly elite schools, with a few subprime colleges.]