Get the Lead Out Thursday, Jun 11 2015 

Poverty, education, drugs, and family structure all play roles in the crime rates in cities such as Chicago. However, studies on children poisoned with lead may indicate the greatest factor of all. Brain scans of toddlers exposed to lead, even in small amounts, were found to have significantly less gray matter in parts of the brain that control attention, emotions, and impulses. Also, the production of white matter that transmits signals between different parts of the brain was scrambled.

According to a June 7, 2015 Chicago Tribune article by Michael Hawthorne, studies show that kids with higher levels of toxic metals in their systems not only struggle in school but also commit more violent crimes. This is particularly important information in consideration of the high crime rate in low-income areas where the potential for lead exposure is significantly greater due to the number of older buildings and vehicles there, as well as the expense of removing lead paint.

The former Chief of Lead Poisoning Prevention at the Chicago Department of Public Health, Anne Evans, compared the results of lead levels to the performance on standardized tests of more than 58,000 children born in Chicago from 1994 to 1998. Those exposed to the metal had a significantly higher failure rate in reading and math.

Harvard University researcher Robert Samson conducted a two-year study on education and crime in low-income areas of Chicago. When he added data from lead testing he was shocked to find the similarity between the rate of children younger than six in 1995 with lead poisoning and the rate of aggravated assault in 2013 when those kids were 17-22 years old. Other studies are finding similar results.

We’ve known for decades that lead in paint, gasoline, and pipes is dangerous to our health. But perhaps, like me, you didn’t understand exactly what that meant. Now we know that no child should ever be exposed to such a toxin.

©2015, Mary K Doyle


Earning Potential Tuesday, Oct 28 2014 

Statistics consistently show that the more education we have the more employment opportunities are available to us and with a greater earning potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma is 7.5% whereas those with a Bachelor’s degree is down to 4%. In addition the average weekly earnings for those with only a high school diploma is $651 while those with a Bachelor’s degree earn nearly twice that much. And the earning power continues to increase with higher education.

The more education we have the more choices we have for employment, although today many graduates are experiencing disappointment in their ability to acquire employment of their choice. We are at a time in history when the debt of tuition has to be weighed against the time it will take to earn enough to pay it off. I’m a strong advocate for education and personal growth but for many, college is not possible for a number of reasons.

The Careerbuilder section of this past weekend’s Chicago Tribune listed five of the best jobs without a college degree. The positions include Dental Assistant with an annual salary range of $28,820-$41,980; Elevator Installer with an annual salary range of $62,060 to $91,240; Health Information Technician with a salary range of $27,520 to $45,260; Massage Therapist with a salary range of $24,380-$51,820; and Carpenter with an annual salary range of $31,550 to $55,340.

I was particularly surprised about the elevator installer. It isn’t a position I’ve ever thought of and don’t know the risks or skill level needed for it, but if you’re physically able and up for the challenge, it just might be a career to consider.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Hats Off to the Grads Friday, May 10 2013 

Congratulations to all the college students graduating this month. Whether you progressed from high school right through college, or took the long road as I did (18 years from the start of an Associate’s Degree to graduation for my Masters Degree), the completion of a degree program indicates your determination to march on and follow through tremendous challenges.

College demands a significant investment of time, energy, and money. Class after class, we rack our brains to understand and retain mountains of information while maintaining an already full work and daily life schedule. We work on projects with peers who do not contribute their fair share. We endure boring lessons and professors. And we leave with a student debt that takes decades to repay.

So why do we do it? Why are so many middle-aged adults joining younger generations in pursuit of a degree? Because education is never wasted. It becomes enmeshed in our daily thought process, our point of reference. A college education is an investment in our personal-development, our future, and our family.

It opens doors to career opportunities and increases job satisfaction and earning potential. And believe it or not, a college degree lowers blood pressure and the risk of developing colorectal, prostate, lung and breast cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute.

So walk proudly, graduates. You worked hard. Congratulations and best wishes for a very bright future.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

The Empty Future Brain Monday, Mar 25 2013 

I finally tossed my college biology notebooks. Granted, I didn’t go to college after high school. I started after my youngest child entered preschool. But still, I haven’t opened those books in many, many years. Thumbing through the mega-binders of my own handwritten notes, I was impressed with how much I once knew. They were full of information and diagrams on cell structure and animal and plant life.

I received straight “A’s,” so I must have known the material at one time, “at one time” being key words. Most of the information in my notes is now totally unfamiliar to me. I wonder if it is all buried deep in my brain or completely vanished. How disappointing to recall so little of it.

In the 1970s comedian Don Novello played a character named Father Guido Sarducci on Saturday Night Live. He did a bit titled, “The Five Minute University.” He said that the average college graduate remembers about five minutes of information after five years of graduating, so that is all he teaches. His school is an alternative to spending tens of thousands of dollars in tuition on a wasted education that we will never recall or use. For $20 Father Sarducci provides the classes, a cap, gown, snacks, and photo. He even includes an Easter vacation where he turns on a  sun lamp and offers students a glass of orange juice. You can see this humorous take on college education in its entirety on YouTube.

To some extent, Father Sarducci is correct. We memorize so much information for tests and then quickly forget it. My father used to say that it was more important to know how to gather information than to retain it. Knowing where to go for the most current data is all that is required.

That statement is truer today than ever. With all of our technological tools we don’t need to remember much these days. All we have to do is use a calculator or search the Internet for the right people and sources to instantly get our answers.

I wonder if this ability is changing, or will change, the educational approach. If so, the empty brain of the future will have plenty of room for the gentleness and beauty of the arts and other understandings we lack as a society such as ethics, justice, and morality.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Women’s Colleges Monday, Jun 4 2012 

Women’s colleges create an atmosphere conducive for success. Studies show that women who attend all-women colleges graduate with a higher level of confidence and ability than their co-ed peers.

As late as the early 1970s few colleges allowed entrance to women.This gender discrimination prompted the founding of colleges specifically for women from as far back as the early 1800s. Oberlin College in Ohio was the first to accept female applicants in 1833. Four years later, Wesleyan College in Georgia became the first all-women’s college and the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania opened in 1850.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana, consistently ranks as one of the best Baccalaureate Colleges in the Midwest. The school opened in 1840 and is the oldest liberal arts college for women in the country. It was founded by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, (also known as Saint Theodora), and the Sisters of Providence to offer higher education to women. The sisters believed then, and still do, that education assists in solving issues of poverty and inequality.

Early curriculum at women’s colleges focused on skills such as baking, dancing, and sewing but this shifted to a competitive academic concentration in the 1960s when more colleges became co-ed. As women were accepted more in mainstream universities, enrollment in women’s colleges declined resulting in many of them closing or being absorbed into other institutions.

According to the Women’s College Coalition website,, there are 48 women’s colleges currently in the United States, nine of which are in five Midwest states. Indiana has two women’s colleges: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in St-Mary-of-the-Woods and Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame. Minnesota has College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph and Saint Catherine University in Saint Paul. In Missouri we find Cottey College in Nevada and Stephens College in Columbia. In Nebraska there is College of Saint Mary in Omaha. Wisconsin also has two women’s colleges: Alverno College and Mount Mary College, both in Milwaukee. There are no all-women’s colleges in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, North Dakota, or South Dakota.

Even though women are accepted in the majority of colleges today the benefits of women-only schools continue. Studies show that women who attend a women’s college are significantly advantaged in terms of the nature and frequency with which they engage in educational activities. They also interact more with faculty.

These colleges create an atmosphere that encourages and supports women in realizing their potential. The fact that women are in all leadership roles on campus is inspiring. Since all students are female, the editor of the newspaper, class president, and team captain are, of course, women. This translates into the mainstream after graduation and is believed to contribute to the high rate of success and initiative from graduates of women’s colleges.

Some of the “firsts” accomplished by graduates of women’s colleges include:

  • Madeleine Albright (Wellesley College). First woman Secretary of State in the U. S.
  • Emily Green Balch (Bryn Mawr College). First woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Cathleen Black (Trinity Washington University). First woman leader of the American Newspaper Publisher Association
  • Dorothy L. Brown (Bennett College for Women). First African American woman judge in the U.S.
  • Dorothy Vredenburgh Bush (Mississippi University for Women). First woman secretary of the Democratic National Party
  • Barbara Cassani (Mount Holyoke College). First female CEO of a commercial airline
  • Sherry Davis (College of Notre Dame of Maryland). First woman announcer for a  major league baseball team
  • Geraldine Ferraro, (Marymount Manhattan College). First woman Vice-Presidential candidate
  • Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford (Texas Woman’s University). First civilian woman scientist on a space shuttle mission
  • Ella Grasso (Mount Holyoke). First woman to be elected governor of a state (Connecticut)
  • Katharine Hepburn (Bryn Mawr College). First woman and only person to win Academy Awards for acting
  • Army Brigdier General Elizabeth P. Hoisington, (College of Notre Dame of Maryland). First woman general of the U.S.
  • Dorothy Klenke (Bryn Mawr College). First woman neurosurgeon in the U.S.
  • Nancy Pelosi (Trinity Washington University). First woman elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Retired Rear Admiral Louise Wilmot (College of Saint Elizabeth). First woman to command a naval base and highest ranking woman in the U.S. Navy

©Mary K. Doyle

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