Friday, January 20, 2006

Self esteem and the education system

One of our favorite TV shows is American Idol. The three of us pick who we like and don't like and pit ourselves against the judges. On Wednesday, on contestant just couldn't believe that the judges did not like her....she thought she was good...a 6 out of 10 - for a couple of mistakes. Simon gave her a .5 out of 10. Another, Zachary was, also disappointed because the judges were prejudice that a man couldn't sing with the same range as a woman on a "woman's song". None of the judges could get a handle on whether it was a man pretending to be a woman being a man or what. The vocal effort was well below any possibility of moving on (Paula's comment).

Ladies and gentlemen: In this ring, 16-25 year olds with no clue they suck. Why you might ask do they not know they suck? Well, no one told them! That would hurt their self esteem. Better they think they are great so that when they are faced with the REAL WORLD, they can stare dumbfounded at the unfairness of it.

And, as I was contemplating this little missive, I heard a story on the radio. A woman was complaining about the school system her children were in. Her second grader came home with a report card and in the comments section were these two gems:

[childs name] is having problems in sciance. (not my misspelling....the teachers)


She is also having a difficult time communicating, both orally and writtenly.

It is a wonder we have any students capable of college work.


urbansocrates said...

Although I agree with you in a general way (students that do bad work should be able to figure it out because of fair, unbiased feedback), as a teacher I know that I get better results with honey than vinegar. Telling a student that his performance sucks all over is no way to get any further work from him, so I find myself giving positive feedback when possible ("some of your ideas are very clearly stated") while giving honest feedback about the most egregiously bad work ("the structure of this essay left me entirely confused; what are you trying to say?").

And because most people don't LIKE to hear bad news, much less bad news about themselves, many people have blinders on about their capabilities. This is especially so of adolescents whose self-esteem is such that they have the highest rate of suicide of any age group in the US. So we have to be careful what we say!

tracy said...

You make my point. Why does stating a failure to perform adequately equate to bad news. Your "fair, unbiased feedback" does not require you to say "you suck". And it doesn't have to be laced with snide remarks.

If a student can not sing (and there ARE those of us so incapable of a carrying a tune the water turns off in protest) then a teacher, friend, parent has an obligation to tell them. If a student can not do basic math, then a parent AND a teacher have an obligation to get the help necessary to learn. (Of course a parent can choose to hire a singing coach too, but it is not a schools responsibility.)

Raising an 11 year old in the public school system, we work with our daughter to help her learn (I love fractions...she doesn't!) When she does not perform at acceptable levels, she hears about it. We work on it. There is no, "well you did your best" acceptance.

She attained her black belt by hard work and a sincere effort to perform at the level expected of her. Some parents complained the instructor was holding their child back when they were "trying their best" but could not perform the required forms. Social promotion is by far the worst aspect of schools over the last two decades. Fortunately, it seems to be getting the boot.

Our daughters school believes in giving every student at least one award during the year. When we called the teacher on it, she suggested we bring it up with the PTG and principal as she agreed with us.

The line from the Incredibles was most accurate:
When everyone is special, no one is.