‘Puter’s just about had it with so-called educators. ‘Puter has watched as nearly everything that worked in public education has been jettisoned for fads. No fad, in ‘Puter’s humble opinion, has had a larger negative impact on public education than a myopic focus on self-esteem.
‘Puter will use as an example the school district in which he resides. By Upstate standards, his school district is large. It encompasses one town, and is one of 19 school districts in his county. The district is overwhelmingly white and upper-middle class. The students mostly (over 90%) attend college. (Whether they ever graduate is unknown. The District refuses to keep statistics that might embarrass it). In many ways, one could pick up the school district and plunk it down in any upscale suburban area in the country. And here’s where the story begins.
The District had exceptional sports teams in the 1980s and early 1990s, including several New York state champions in multiple sports. It also had high achieving students, both on national (PSATs, SATs) and state (Regents) test. As such, there was a high level of competition among students in both curricular and extracurricular activities. The District at the time had a large student body (over 600 students per grade level), further amplifying the stress as there were necessarily a limited number of spots.
At some point in the early 1990s, concerned parents convinced the school board that a change in emphasis was needed. Competition needed to be downplayed, and cooperation and self-esteem for all needed to be emphasized. Enter Principal Dave, everyone’s best friend. Over his thirteen year tenure, self-esteem soared. Unfortunately, academic and athletic performance lagged. The aforementioned adjacent school districts continued their upward academic trajectory.
Perhaps the best indicator of the District’s failure can be seen in its Asset Building Program. This program is based on this educational cult’s belief system. ‘Puter’d link to his own District’s vomitorious webpages, but that’d be betraying too much information.
Did ‘Puter mention that this program is headed by a person without a college degree, making north of $60,000 per year who has no classroom responsibilities whatsoever? Did ‘Puter mention that the position was retained, and classroom opportunities cut in the most recent budget debacle? Further, did ‘Puter mention he agreed with his local teachers’ union Lord High Executioner who advocated for the Asset Building Program to be cut before one thin dime gets removed from the classroom? When ‘Puter and the union bully, er, president agree, one can be assured that they are correct on the issue.
Here are some of the highlights of the Asset Building Program, direct from the District’s own website.
Under the “what are assets” section comes the following:
1. All children and youth need assets. Research shows that all young people need assets regardless of gender, age, race, or ethnicity. While we must continue to pay attention to children and youth who are in crisis and those at risk, our challenge is to embrace and intentionally seek to help ALL young people.
2. Relationships are key. Building assets calls upon every single person to build both formal and informal positive relationships with young people.
3. Everyone can build assets. In an asset building community, everyone works at developing caring relationships with young people even if you have no children of your own or your children are grown.
4. Asset building is an on-going process. Asset building begins at birth or adoption, by equipping parents-to-be with skills and knowledge to care for a baby or child. Asset building continues through childhood and adolescence and into adulthood. Young people need their assets nurtured every day.
5. Asset building requires consistent messages. Young people need to receive consistent messages about what is important and what is expected from their families, schools, communities, clubs, and organizations. Asset building needs to be reinforced everywhere.
6.Duplication and repetition are good and important. Young people need as many asset experiences as possible. This is one time when duplication and repetition are valuable.
Wow. That’s deep, man. Pass the bong and crank up the Steely Dan. But how do we know the program’s working? Where’s the data? Here it is! Just look how good and meaningful our data is! It’s chock full of self-selected participants’ subjective feedback on a program from which they benefit! You can’t get more sciency than that! Even stupid trogolodytic Tea Baggers can understand this data’s validity!
After five years with a community focus on building developmental assets in youth, what are they saying about the initiative? Here are some of the student responses to a May 2003 survey about asset-building activities.
1. I feel a sense of unity I didn’t feel before.
2. I see kids making right choices and working hard in school.
3. Assets are making a difference in people’s lives and many healthy lifestyle groups are growing in members.
4. I see more involvement of youth with the community and more programs being set up to get kids active and use their assets in everyday situations.
5. I see people coming together and becoming friends because of assets.
6. More people are respecting others.
7. I see more good things at school. People always relate to the assets and are kind to other people no matter what they look like on the outside.
These statements reflect hundreds of similar comments. We are committed to continue to focus on this aspect of positive youth development in our schools and our community.
This Asset Building Program is nothing more than a hippie-bullshit, feel-good, make-work job generator for otherwise unemployable sociology majors.
Worse, most if not all of this so-called asset building is a parental job. Here’s yet another example of government intruding into the parental realm. Moreover, as mentioned, ‘Puter’s District is chock full of solidly middle class two parent households. It’s not as if there was a meaningful dearth of good parenting going on. This is not to say that things are perfect, only that perhaps we could do without a feel-good, no-results program better suited to a district with economic and parental poverty.
To return to ‘Puter’s main point, the District has distracted itself from its core task — academics — and meandered into this learning cul de sac. It has stunted its students competitive nature by focusing almost exclusively on self-esteem, cooperation and meaningless educational lingo (“life-long learner” anyone?).
And that’s the problem. Frankly, as a parent and future employer of these precious snowflakes, I don’t give two figs how they feel about themselves. I just care what they can do. I’d rather have Janie the Goth cutter who secretly believes she’s unworthy but nonetheless bangs out hundreds of mortgage assignments a week than Bob the white-smiled Asset Building graduate who aimlessly wanders the cubicle jungle distracting others from their tasks, pausing to fluff up his coworkers’ self-esteem with an amusing I Can Has Cheezburger kitty photo.
Last, self esteem is earned. It cannot be given. Kids know when you’re blowing smoke up their ass. Telling a kid he’s doing well or is special doesn’t make it so. Kids see through this nonsense. I can pin a blue ribbon on a turd pie at the county fair every day for a year, but it’s still a nasty collection of turds crammed into a rancid pie crust. So, too, is it a lie to tell a kid who’s screwing his life up that hey, it’s OK, because you’re special just the way you are.
Kids need to be pushed to their limit, driven to succeed. Note ‘Puter said their limit, not anyone else’s. That’s the trick in education. Figuring out how much a kid can do, and pushing them to get there. And this New Age self-esteem crap just gets in the way.
When everyone gets an award or a trophy just for existing, well, you’re into union compensation territory here. You get ahead in this world by competing, by being better than others in your field. Sure, you can find a job where you can phone it in for 40 years, but you’re never going to be happy, and you’re never going to make much money. Unless, of course, you’re in a UAW shop. Then all bets are off.
Teaching kids that complacency equates to success in life is just plain cruel. It’s not the way the world works, and the so-called educators ought to know that. When little Suzie Special Snowflake runs into the jobs buzzsaw that’s out there in the real world, she will curse the folks who convinced her that she was fine coasting along through life. God forbid she ever darkens ‘Puter’s door looking for a job.
And that’s the fundamental problem with ‘Puter’s District, and with public education generally. It fails to prepare students adequately for the world they will face. ‘Puter’s anecdote shows the impact of misplaced self-esteem based priorities on his District, and he’s certain you’ve seen it near you.
This entire self-esteemy fetishism is nicely paraphrased in The Incredibles: “[a]nd when everyone’s super, no one will be.”