20 February 2005

Best Interests at Heart

I don't think I'll really try to recreate the first post I wrote yesterday, but I am interested in thinking about what is "best" for kids---and who decides.

One of the things that this week's Time magazine cover story gets at is that we have a generation of parents now who were raised with a "feel good" attitude. Hey, I remember growing up with "Free to Be You and Me." I remember all the concerns about self-esteem and teachers making sure that everyone felt good. I've also been directed to teach with this premise. And parents who were raised with it are now using that directive to raise their kids.

Don't get me wrong, I would never advocate belitting or verbally abusing students. But I also think that we do kids a disservice when we don't give constructive criticism because it might hurt their feelings. What other "damage" are we doing to kids by not preparing them to handle life outside their home and the Ivory Tower of Education?

The education pendulum is starting to swing toward the "back to basics" part of the spectrum in a way that we haven't seen in America since the Russians launched Sputnik. Some of this change is seen in the requirements of NCLB. And other aspects are causing to examine the way we interact with kids.

There has recently been a lot of press about the self-esteem issue. Kids brought up with a false sense of positive self-image (given to them by parents and schools) aren't doing very well on their own. Meanwhile, research about the brain is giving educators pause to think about other things, such as the time of day when school should start. Teens need more sleep and current reasoning is that high schools should have a later start (as opposed to elementaries). That's what is best for their brains at that point in development. The author of this OpEd piece wonders if we should really do this for kids. After all, the working world doesn't care if you're a morning person or not. If you have particular hours to be at a job---then that's when you have to be there. Businesses are not going to change their expectations because your brain needs something different. Do we want to train kids for the "real world," or do we want them to feel good?

The truth is, we want both. We want happy, healthy, young individuals with the capacity to pursue what they want. And that only comes from providing them with the tools of communication and knowledge and being honest about their capabilities. If a kid has achieved proficiency in their academic skills, then we should celebrate that. We can boost their self-esteem in a much more real way. With the skills they need and confidence in their ability to use them, I have no doubt that every kid can find success.

1 comment:

EdWonk said...

I enjoyed the way that you tied the educational pendulum into Sputnik. It seems like what is Old is New Again. Glad I found your site, I'll enroll you into the EduSphere. :)