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Education: fact or myth?

1 Look at the headlines of the five articles.
Without reading the articles, decide whether you think they are facts ( F) or myths (M)
  1. The early bird catches the worm.....
  2. Pushy parents help children succeed
  3. The happiest day of your life
  4. Watching TV is bad for toddlers
  5. We all have genius within us
2 Read the articles and find out what the latest research suggests.
Were you right? Are the headlines correct summaries of each article?
3 Tick the best summary of each article according to the information in the texts.
  1. Watching TV programmes
    1. seems to benefit all children up to the age of 16.
    2. is particularly beneficial for 2- and 3-years olds.
    3. is good for toddlers whatever the programme.
  2. According to Richard Roberts, 'evening types' do better in intelligence tests because
    1. they sleep more.
    2. of their genetic inheritance
    3. they did the test in the evening.
  3. According to Matthew Melmed, the best way for parents to help their children would be
    1. enrol them in extra classes
    2. to spend more time with them
    3. to put less pressure on them
  4. According to Dutch scientists the children's stress disorders are probably mainly caused by
    1. the inability to sleep.
    2. problems at school.
    3. being separated from their parents.
  5. It appears that the 'brain zapper'
    1. has only been successful in some cases.
    2. had a negative effect generally.
    3. useful for teaching young children.
4 Find the nine words and phrases in bold in the texts.
Suggest an alternative word with the same meaning. use the context to help you Example: a head start in life - a better start in life 5 Discuss these questions.
  1. Which research did you find most surprising?
  2. Do you think any of the findings might be dubious?
  3. Are the trends described in articles 3 and 4 happening in your country too?
6 The early bird catches the worm .....

The early bird may catch the worm - but people who lie around in bed in the morning and work into the evening are more intelligent, according to Richard Roberts of the university of Sydney. The scientists asked 400 volunteers to fill in questionnaires to work out if they considered themselves early-rising 'morning- types' or late-working 'evening types.' Each was then subjected to mental agility and memory tests. The researchers discovered that the 'evening types' had significantly better mental speed and memory. "The results indicate that, contrary to conventional folk wisdom, evening types are more likely to have higher intelligence scores," Roberts told The Sunday Telegraph. He also suggested that the link between intelligence and working late may be a hang-over from prehistoric times, when those who were still alert after dark would be more likely to survive attacks by nocturnal predators.
7 Pushy parents help children succeed
Pushy parents may be doing their children more harm than good, says Washington-based childcare expert Matthew Melmed. Professional parents frequently overstimulate babies and toddlers and buy them educational toys that are too old for them in the belief that they are improving their prospects. In fact, faced with such demands, the children may become frustrated and give up completely. Worse still, the children recognise that they are disappointing their parents and this sense of failure eats away at their self-esteem. The warning comes as an ever-increasing range of educational material is being produced for the very young in the US, 'hyper-parenting' is rife, says Johanna Coles in The Times. Expectant mothers are pressured into buying CDs such as Mozart for mother to Be ('Build your baby's brain!') while no self-respecting newborn would be without educational videos including Baby Einstein and Baby Shakespeare. By the age of one, enrolment in a plethora of classes, from Languages to arithmetic, is de rigueur.
8 The happiest days of your life
One in five modern children suffers from anxieties so severe that they should be classified as psychiatric disorders, say scientists from the university of Maastricht. The researchers interviewed 290 Dutch primary school children aged between eight and thirteen; 20 per cent of them were beset with worries so serious that they limited their ability to lead normal lives, reports The Daily Mail. Many had trouble sleeping; some were afraid to leave their homes; others had problems interacting with their peers. "Nobody is really sure exactly why this is, but these disorders are caused by children internalising their anxiety," said child psychiatrist Peter Muris. 'This could be caused by parents being away from their children for long periods or by children being stressed at school. A parent who does not spend time with their child could miss out on the fact that the child has the problem, meaning it can be go untreated and get worse.'
9 Watching TV is bad for toddlers
To give your children a head start in life, sit them in front of the television. A study of 200 American preschoolers has revealed that toddlers who watch TV for two hours a day develop more quickly than those who do without. On average, the two- and three-year-olds who watched TV scored 10 per cent higher in reading, maths and vocabulary. However, the programmes have to be aimed at their age group - children derive no benefits from watching TV designed for adults. "Television opens up the word to many young children and gives them a head start, which is sustained in improved academic achievement throughout their school lives;" said Aletha Huston of the university of Texas. But the positive impact of TV declines with age, reports The Sunday Times. Older Children who watch more than 16 hours of TV a week perform worse than their peers.
10 We all have genius with us
For years, scientists have speculated that the talents possessed by so-called 'idiots savants' - as depicted by Dustin Hoffman in the film Rain Main - may be accessible to us all. According to professor Allan Snyder of the university of Sydney, it is just a question of switching off the conscious part of the brain. "I believe that each of us has non-conscious machinery to do extraordinary art, extraordinary memory, extraordinary mathematical calculations," he told The Daily Mail. Now, Dr Robyn Young of Flinders university in Adelaide has tried to prove the theory by using an electronic brain zapper to release the artistic and mathematical skills of 17 volunteers. Using a technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation, Dr Young switched off the conscious part of the volunteers' brains, then tested their skills in calculation or drawing. The process did not turn them into geniuses, but five showed performance. Dr Young believes that the technique could eventually be used to help children learn to read, or adults to pick up a new language. In the meantime, however, the 'brain zapper' seems to do as much damage to the brain as it does good. "We had a hard time recruiting volunteers to get their brain zapped," admitted Young. "One guy got lost on his way to work the day after the experiment."
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