Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Self Esteem or Self Marginalization

SC&A about the state of our self esteem educational system
(Here and Here) and the disaster that it is bringing upon us. This article about how teachers are changing the color of their pens so as not to damage their precious little egos just re-enforces my belief that we are raising a generations of marginalized kids. We have replaced achievement with just "showing up" as a mark of excellence.

Enough already with kid gloves
By Christina Hoff Sommers
Wed Jun 1, 6:33 AM ET

Purple is replacing red as the color of choice for teachers. Why, you may ask? It seems that educators worry that emphatic red corrections on a homework assignment or test can be stressful, demeaning - even "frightening" for a young person. The principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary in Pittsburgh advises teachers to use only "pleasant-feeling tones."

Major pen manufacturers appear to agree. Robert Silberman, vice president of marketing at Pilot Pen, says teachers "are trying to be positive and reinforcing rather than harsh." Michael Finn, a spokesperson for Paper Mate, approves: "This is a kinder, more gentle education system." Which color is best for children? Stephen Ahle, principal at Pacific Rim Elementary in Carlsbad, Calif., offers lavender "because it is a calming color."

A calmer, gentler grading color? Are schoolchildren really so upset by corrections in primary red? Why have teachers become so careful?

It seems that many adults today regard the children in their care as fragile hothouse flowers who require protection from even the remote possibility of frustration, disappointment or failure. The new solicitude goes far beyond blacklisting red pens. Many schools now discourage or prohibit competitive games such as tag or dodge ball. The rationale: too many hurt feelings. In May 2002, for example, the principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, Calif., sent a newsletter to parents informing them that children could no longer play tag during the lunch recess. As she explained, "In this game, there is a 'victim' or 'It,' which creates a self-esteem issue."

Is anything OK?

Which games are deemed safe and self-affirming? The National PTA recommends a cooperative alternative to the fiercely competitive "tug of war" called "tug of peace." Some professionals in physical education advocate activities in which children compete only with themselves, such as juggling, unicycling, pogo sticking, and even "learning to ... manipulate wheelchairs with ease."

But juggling, too, poses risks.

A former member of The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports suggests using silken scarves rather than, say, uncooperative tennis balls that lead to frustration and anxiety. "Scarves," he points out, "are soft, non-threatening, and float down slowly."

Is the kind of overprotectiveness these educators counsel really such a bad thing? Sooner or later, children will face stressful situations, disappointments and threats to their self-esteem. Why not shield them from the inevitable as long as possible? The answer is that children need challenge, excitement and competition to flourish. To treat them as combustible bundles of frayed nerves does them no favors.

(Full Story)

H/T Linnet

Update: Mommak commented about this story over at Michele's place about this and how maybe it should apply to other things in life. Especially stop lights. We shall now change red lights to lavender lights so you feel much better about yourself when you get a ticket for running it.


Michele said...

This is the type of story that makes me check the date buecause I assume it must have been printed on April 1. This line rings very true:
"It seems that many adults today regard the children in their care as fragile hothouse flowers who require protection from even the remote possibility of frustration, disappointment or failure" And THAT is very sad.

I borrowed this item to pose a question on my site...I claimed you were colourful (which is true and a compliment). However I added a U to color. Yes, I am quirky that way.

Please also brace yourself for the harsh reality that you are linked in a red font.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Fuscia. They need to use fuscia. Anything that starts with FU works for us.

MaxedOutMama said...

Dingo, it's darned rare that one reads a post that makes one want to laugh and cry at the same time.

So true, Dingo, so true.

Dingo said...

Maybe they could change the grade from F to something that makes the kid feel good about being a failure.

linnet. said...

instead of F, make it NC for numerically challenged, perhaps?

the school i work at actually has an answer for this dilemma. we're not allowed to put any grade below a 55 (for a quarter grade) or a 50 (for a midterm exam or final exam grade) on the report card. i had one student get an 18 because he was consistently absent and never made up the work he missed, but his quarter grade was 55. there are other ways of accomplishing the same results without the red pen... or the true/factually challenged questions (as opposed to true/false).

MaxedOutMama said...

Linet, is that really a good thing though? Wouldn't it be better for the kid's parents to know that he got an 18? It's very hard to learn if you don't do the work, isn't it?

linnet. said...

no, i think its an awful thing, and i've protested it, and offered other alternatives, but the administration keeps and enforces the policy. it was an example of how extreme the coddling is.

Cara said...

Gimme a break! That is ridiculous. Heaven forbid our children learn "life lessons" from playing games that they will sometimes not win or the comradery of being a part of a team.
Kids are resiliant and I believe that it's the parent's tail feathers that are getting ruffled not the children.