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Speaking Up For Patient Safety, And Survival

By Tina Rosenberg

On Tuesday, I wrote about a new technological system that might help hospitals to accurately track whether health care workers are washing their hands, and remind them to do so in real time. The reason hospitals might want to spend the money to install such an expensive fix is that so far, very few hospitals have been able to get their hand-washing rates above 50 percent.

Health care workers’ failure to clean their hands is the most important cause of hospital-based infections, which are the fourth-leading cause of death in America and cost our health care system some $40 billion a year.

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Better Hand-Washing Through Technology

By Tina Rosenberg

Why can’t hospitals get health care workers to wash their hands?

Hospitals in the United States enjoy access to running water. Virtually all of them have alcohol-rub dispensers, hundreds of them, in the hallways. Using one takes a few seconds. Yet health care workers fail to wash hands a good percentage of the times they should. Doctors are particularly bad.

A health care worker’s hands are the main route infections take to move from one patient to another. One recent study of several intensive care units — where the patients most vulnerable to infection reside — showed that hands were washed on only one quarter of the necessary occasions.

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When Math Makes Sense (To Everyone)

By David Bornstein

In response to Tuesday’s column about Jump Math, an approach to math education that is showing impressive results in schools in Canada and England, a great many readers wrote in to share stories of how they or their children have struggled with math (or, in some cases, were almost traumatized by it). “I failed math as a school-aged boy,” wrote Rob Blake, from New York. “I avoided math like one of the 10 plagues.”

Many asked how they could get more information about Jump. Parents or educators can get teaching guides and lesson plans free from Jump Math’s Web site (registration is required). Workbooks are available for sale; proceeds support the organization, which is a nonprofit. John Mighton, a mathematician who is the founder of Jump, has also written a book called “The End of Ignorance,” which details the program’s philosophy and explains how it contrasts with current teaching approaches.

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A Better Way To Teach Math

By David Bornstein


Is it possible to eliminate the bell curve in math class?

Imagine if someone at a dinner party casually announced, “I’m illiterate.” It would never happen, of course; the shame would be too great. But it’s not unusual to hear a successful adult say, “I can’t do math.” That’s because we think of math ability as something we’re born with, as if there’s a “math gene” that you either inherit or you don’t.

School experiences appear to bear this out. In every math class I’ve taken, there have been slow kids, average kids and whiz kids. It never occurred to me that this hierarchy might be avoidable. No doubt, math comes more easily to some people than to others. But the question is: Can we improve the methods we use to teach math in schools — so that everyone develops proficiency?

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Ethical Businesses With A Better Bottom Line

By Tina Rosenberg

On Tuesday, I wrote about B Corps, or benefit corporations.  These are companies that have changed their bylaws to take into account the impact of their decisions on the environment, community and employees, as well as profits.  To become a B Corp, a company must also get a passing score on an assessment of its business practices administered by a nonprofit group called B Lab.  About 400 companies have become B Corps, and the idea is spreading fast.

Readers had a lot of praise for the idea of the triple bottom line: people, planet and profits.   But many businesses are wary.   It’s great to be socially responsible — but not if it means you won’t be around next year.  Businesses want to know if they can become B Corps without sacrificing their more traditional bottom line.

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Who Else is Joining the Club?

Do you know of others who are using Join the Club solutions?   How about people who should be thinking about it?   Do you have an opinion about the book?

Let’s talk about it!

 

A Scorecard for Companies With a Conscience

By Tina Rosenberg

Eleven years ago, the Vermont-based ice cream-maker Ben and Jerry’s found itself in a position other companies might have found enviable. Several firms were bidding to buy it. The top bid was from the Dutch conglomerate Unilever.

But Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield didn’t want to sell to Unilever. They had built the company with the mission of serving what has come to be known as the “triple bottom line” — profits, people and planet. The company offered voter registration along with its ice cream, paid employees living wages and good benefits, donated 7.5 percent of its profits to charity, and bought Brazil nuts from a cooperative of indigenous Amazon farmers and brownies from a bakery famous for hiring people fresh out of prison. Ben and Jerry worried that a Unilever-owned company would quickly become focused purely on profit.

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The Power of the Playground

By David Bornstein

Ask a young child, “How was school today?” and you’re likely to hear about recess. My son is 7 years old, and like many children his age, recess is the emotional core of his school day. Whether he comes home light- or heavy-hearted depends on what happened during play time. This is common. Researchers say that one of the best predictors of whether kids feel happy in school is whether they feel comfortable and competent during recess.

This is not exactly a groundbreaking insight. Philosophers and child development experts have been trumpeting the importance of play for centuries. Piaget said that children discover the world through play. Friedrich Froebel, who opened the first kindergarten in 1837, called play “deeply significant.” And Plato believed that children had to grow up in an atmosphere of play to become virtuous citizens.

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Hard Times for Recess

By David Bornstein

More than 150 years ago, Charles Dickens published “Hard Times,” a novel centered around the students of an English schoolmaster named Thomas Gradgrind, who had no use for play or any sort of imaginative pursuit. For Gradgrind, if something did not demonstrably add to the productive capacity of the nation and could not be justified with facts and statistics, it had no place in a child’s education.

Dickens invented Gradgrind (and introduced him in a chapter entitled “Murdering the Innocents”) to dramatize what he saw as the soullessness of utilitarianism, a school of thought prevalent in England during the Industrial Revolution that emphasized rational pursuits and quantitative measures over all else.

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