Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cynthia Hudley's "You Did That on Purpose"

Cynthia Hudley is professor, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara.

She applied “Page 99 Test” to her new book, You Did That on Purpose: Understanding and Changing Children's Aggression, and reported the following:
I had never heard of the Page 99 test and was sufficiently intrigued to open my own book to p. 99. I honestly say that while it does nothing to capture the sense of the book as a whole, it does speak well of the quality of the book. That page, as do all pages, I hope, speaks in a conversational, jargon-free tone that presents scholarly evidence to a non-academic audience.

You Did That on Purpose is a reader friendly look at an important scholarly topic – the theory and practice of reducing childhood aggression. Then heart of the book is an intervention program directed toward elementary school students that I have developed, although my desire was to present a much broader discussion of the issues than this single intervention program. Thus, by page 99, I have moved beyond a review of the presence and problems of aggression in elementary school for children, their families, and the schools and also beyond a comprehensive discussion of the intervention program.

Page 99, which falls in the chapter “Looking Beyond the Individual Child”, is a part of the discussion of what schools can do to change an environment that supports childhood aggression.

“Highly aggressive recess games (e.g., dodge ball) or intensely competitive activities with no adult supervision (e.g., basketball games during physical education class) might be either structurally altered or eliminated from the recess repertoire.”

“New contingencies might also include changes to instructional routines. It may be that aggressive students are most disruptive on test days in a given middle school. The school might stagger exams across various days, rather than having all classes test students on Fridays (a very stressful practice for teachers and students). Or perhaps, as discussed earlier, teachers’ efforts at cooperative learning are creating conflict among students, and some students are being actively rejected by peers in academic tasks and in the broader social environment of the school.”

I do believe, as my book states elsewhere, that interventions must attend to the many environments (families, communities, peers, schools) of children or they will be of limited usefulness. The best programs will be those that positively and comprehensively engage the individual, family, school, peer group, and community. Page 99 accurately represents that belief, and so is entirely consistent with the spirit of the book.
Read more about You Did That on Purpose at the Yale University Press website, and learn more about Cynthia Hudley at her faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue