Friday, September 03, 2010

Zombie Part Four - In Pursuit of Cultural Hegemony

Here is part four of Zombie's excellent series on education. So far he has laid out the thesis that there is a battle going on for the hearts and minds of the nation's children as it plays out in how text books are written.  We have seen how the 800 pound gorillas in influencing how they are written, the Texas State Board of Education and the California State Board of Education, approach the task. Today, he takes on the "self-esteem" crowd. An excerpt:

While educators may be unconsciously relying on dubious theories of psychological modeling (as mentioned in yesterday’s essay) to justify the unrelenting ethnic tokenism in our nation’s schoolbooks, their official explanation revolves around the supposed need to boost students’ “self-esteem.” Those kids who do poorly in school, the theory goes, fail only because they have low self-esteem, leading to low expectations. Therefore, the best way to boost performance for struggling students is not to make their curriculum more challenging or to tailor it to their needs, but rather to use the curriculum as a mechanism to improve students’ self-image. If kids love themselves, the educational theorists claim, they’ll want to succeed, and if they want to succeed, they will succeed. Problem solved!

And so the entire educational system has systematically been re-tooled to focus on self-esteem building. In early grades this involves unsubtle classroom activities — assignments, songs, everybody-wins “contests” — directly informing each student how wonderful they are. In later grades, however, kids begin to grow more sophisticated and skeptical of such heavy-handed methods, so the curriculum designers “cleverly” embed self-esteem building hidden messages into the reading material where it can work on each student’s subconscious. Usually this involves praising and glamorizing “heroes” who just happen to share some ethnic/cultural/gender/appearance attribute with kids in the class, the assumption being that the students’ minds will internalize the message, “If this hero who looks just like me can succeed, then so can I!”

Needless to say, this is the biggest crock of baloney ever foisted on the American public. True self-esteem is not a precursor to achievement and success, it comes as the natural consequence of achievement and success. It’s something you earn, not something you’re given. And to the extent that one can artificially induce baseless self-esteem in someone who has not done anything noteworthy to earn it, one has only succeeded in creating a child with a personality disorder whose swollen ego and sense of entitlement will only later serve as a hindrance in adult real-world interactions.

It's all good stuff. Read the whole series, if you haven't already.
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