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  1. #1
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    Default Self-Esteem v. Standards

    Thought this was an interesting article.

    Self-Esteem v. Standards | Front Porch Republic

    Below are some key segments.

    The ends of true schooling are also not the good of an individual alone, but of a community as well. When we educate the young properly, we transform them into thoughtful, civil persons, capable of understanding their duties in a well-ordered society, and capable of carrying out those duties. A young person benefits from being so molded, but the rest of us benefit equally by receiving into our midst such virtuous citizens. The traditions of the various learned disciplines are benefited too by true education. Rational argumentation, principled politics, scientific knowledge – all of these things, and the goods that they entail, are preserved when we teach our young correctly. And since the preservation of these traditions is one end of education, we must hold students to the standards derived from those traditions, demanding of them nothing less than the kinds of learned excellence embodied in the “best that has been thought and said in the world.”

    We must often notify students when they fail to achieve that standard, and on occasion, conclude that there are some students who are likely to prove incapable of measuring up to that standard, no matter how much effort they put forth. And because the work which is required to master these traditions is often of the most monotonous variety, we will need to handle students with some form of compulsion, to make them persist in a necessary labor, against which their natures will revolt in the most pronounced fashion.

    Our individualistic culture, with its emphasis on self-esteem, self-affirmation, and self-fulfillment, is at enmity with each and every one of these principles, and will admit none of them into its pantheon of prevailing educational dogmas. A near unanimity of American parents regard a school simply as an institution designed for the benefit of their child, and not also for the community as a whole. As each and every negative appraisal of their child’s performance constitutes a threat to his self-esteem, they will allow his teachers to make no such appraisals. They will allow his teachers to maintain no standards which are beyond the capacities of their child, even temporarily, for fear that the resulting failures will fracture his psychological placidity. Such things confound their cherished conception of education, which is essentially therapeutic – the prolonged cultivation of their child’s emotional ease. As a consequence, rather than holding the students to certain expectations, our schools now frame their expectations to the limits of their students; this is the process of “dumbing down” which has been an unmistakable feature of the American educational landscape for over three generations.

    ...

    What is basically wrong with our schools is that there is simply no way to educate contemporary American children properly, given the cultural presumptions of their parents. The fundamental reason why American children are not educated properly is simply because the American people do not want their children to be educated properly. So they’re not.
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  2. #2
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    The most valuable skill a student can learn is critical thinking: the ability to separate fact from opinion, to evaluate assertions and conclusions, to weigh options for addressing problems and goals. This skill is essential for a democracy, where citizens must evaluate the claims of political candidates and hold public officials accountable for their actions. It is also essential for capitalism, where consumers flooded with marketing claims and product choices vote with their dollars. To the extent that both politicians and big business want to avoid scrutiny and accountability, however, they will have no interest in promoting the teaching of critical thinking skills. This is the status quo in many/most U.S. public schools.

    In a broader sense, education provides a greater opportunity for the classic "win-win" scenario than is usually realized. By this I mean that the interests and talents of the general population generally are sufficiently varied that some catering to individual abilities and desires will produce adults with a wide variety of skills and abilities to contribute to society. People learn best when they are interested in what they do and can appreciate its relevance, yet fascinating subjects continue to be presented in dry, cookbook ways and obvious real-life learning opportunities are bypassed for the comfort of doing things as they long have been done.

    That being said, interest and utility will never be sufficient to motivate everyone to learn everything they will need to be capable adults and productive members of society. Some amount of repetitive, even tedious work will probably always be needed to learn certain things. This is much more manageable, though, when it does not comprise the entirety of the educational experience.

    Perhaps some of the drive to "dumb down" standards comes from the misguided notion that every student must be held to the same set of standards. This, however, would assume that every student has identical abilities and learning styles, something generally accepted as false. Not everyone needs to go to college; not everyone is cut out to excel at a trade or an artistic pursuit. Some learn best in an academic environment, while others would do far better in a hands-on apprenticeship.

  3. #3
    Senor Membrane
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    It wouldn't be too difficult to use individuality as motivation: "Think for yourself, be an individual" To do this the schools need to recognize individuality in students. While I don't think that a society driven by those values is the best, I believe the schools must be ready to evolve to fit the society's standards first. When the students mature into independent thinkers, they will shape the society.

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    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Self-esteem vs. Standards. I think it's a false dicotomy. Both of those choices are wrong.

    Even if the standards are maintained our current education does not prepare children for the modern world. The fundamental way that subjects are taught needs to be changed so that children are prepared for the modern world. When education prepares children for the world around them, then they will naturally have self-esteem because they will succeed. Success is the best source of self-esteem. However I don't believe the current standards, even when adhered to, yield success.
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    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    Perhaps some of the drive to "dumb down" standards comes from the misguided notion that every student must be held to the same set of standards. This, however, would assume that every student has identical abilities and learning styles, something generally accepted as false. Not everyone needs to go to college; not everyone is cut out to excel at a trade or an artistic pursuit. Some learn best in an academic environment, while others would do far better in a hands-on apprenticeship.
    I think you're mistaking the desire to have set standards developed from tradition within each discipline with hard and fast expectations of every individual across the disciplines.

    I wouldn't hesitate for a second to say that far too many people are in college and grad school today.

    But, the dumbing down actually comes from a focus on individualism. Each person can do whatever their heart desires because they will only be judged by their own abilities. Thus we will admit folks to college programs that require critical thinking skills even though they lack those skills and the ability to gain those skills. Nonetheless, they are entitled to a college education because a college education is viewed as a prerequisite for success and we simply cannot deny anyone the right to be successful.

    It is a focus on the individual that enables people to pursue far-flung hopes and dreams when frankly they might very well find the most joy in providing their local community with needed labor for which they are well suited.

    If we impose steep and heavy standards based on tradition in each discipline than it is much easier for people to determine what they can and cannot do. Of course we as a society then benefit from people trying to reach and perhaps even surpass those standards.


    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    Self-esteem vs. Standards. I think it's a false dicotomy. Both of those choices are wrong.
    I think you can have both, but I don't think education should ever be viewed as a means of self-esteem and that standards should be sacrificed for the sake of self-esteem.


    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    Even if the standards are maintained our current education does not prepare children for the modern world.
    The point of the article is that decent standards in education have were forsaken 3 generations ago. He has no interest in maintaining current standards. In fact his argument is that there are hard and fast standards to not exist, because success and failure is always measured by the capabilities of the individual.

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    The fundamental way that subjects are taught needs to be changed so that children are prepared for the modern world. When education prepares children for the world around them, then they will naturally have self-esteem because they will succeed. Success is the best source of self-esteem. However I don't believe the current standards, even when adhered to, yield success.
    This is exactly what america has been trying to do in its education system for the last hundred years and it has totally failed.

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    What does success even mean? Self-esteem seems to me to be developed best through healthy loving relationships that are not dependent on performance. This actually frees parents and educators to be honest with little johnny when he screws up on his piano recital, because he knows his place in society isn't dependent on his his performance. Unconditional love allows for honesty.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Synapse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    The most valuable skill a student can learn is critical thinking:
    No.
    Very unlikely its the most valuable skill a student can learn.
    False premises aplenty in society.

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    Intriguing.... Quinlan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    The most valuable skill a student can learn is critical thinking:
    I'm not sure how many others had the same experience but for me it wasn't untill university that I found critical thinking being encouraged and rewarded prior to that uncritical thinking and regurgitating what you've been told was hugely rewarded. I found the complete flip in expectations jarring, why isn't critical thinking encouraged at younger ages? I suppose accepting what you're told is important up to a point but I think the transition could be more seamless.
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    Intriguing.... Quinlan's Avatar
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    I'd say the most valuable skill these days would be networking, schmoozing, convincing others of your greatness.
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  9. #9
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beefeater View Post
    I think you're mistaking the desire to have set standards developed from tradition within each discipline with hard and fast expectations of every individual across the disciplines.
    No, actually. Where I live at least, K-12 students are held to the same standards across the board. It's the whole premise of the infamous "no child left behind" law. Resources are focused on getting the slowest and least able academic learners to master a list of least-common-denominator material, so the school district can say that "everyone" has passed, succeeded, graduated, whatever. This leaves few resources to challenge the gifted, and everyone else just gets lost in the shuffle. I'm all for being honest and accurate about assessing everyone's ablities and accomplishments, but that's not the same as dumbing down expectations for the more able, or forcing the less able to keep up with them.

    As for developing standards from tradition, I'm not sure tradition is the best basis for standards. Which tradition would be use, anyway? Academics, the arts, and the trades have all changed tremendously just in the past generation, both in content and methods. It would be more useful, and perhaps more engaging and motivational, to develop standards with an eye to what is really useful in today's society, both in terms of general knowledge to be learned by all, and the specific requirements of more specialized areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beefeater View Post
    But, the dumbing down actually comes from a focus on individualism. Each person can do whatever their heart desires because they will only be judged by their own abilities. Thus we will admit folks to college programs that require critical thinking skills even though they lack those skills and the ability to gain those skills. Nonetheless, they are entitled to a college education because a college education is viewed as a prerequisite for success and we simply cannot deny anyone the right to be successful.
    We should teach based upon individual ability, but evaluate based upon an objective standard. Measuring everyone against the same standard is fine; in fact, it's the only way to make meaningful comparisons. My objection is to requiring everyone to reach the same level on that yardstick.

    Quote Originally Posted by Liquid Laser
    Even if the standards are maintained our current education does not prepare children for the modern world. The fundamental way that subjects are taught needs to be changed so that children are prepared for the modern world. When education prepares children for the world around them, then they will naturally have self-esteem because they will succeed. Success is the best source of self-esteem. However I don't believe the current standards, even when adhered to, yield success.
    Agreed. When so much praise is given just for effort, it devalues the praise rightly earned by true accomplishment. There is no substitute for results. It is not enough to try; eventually, one must succeed, at something. Everyone has something they can become good at and contribute to society. Finding and developing this will go far in building self-esteem, and will be much more useful as well.

  10. #10
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quinlan View Post
    I'm not sure how many others had the same experience but for me it wasn't untill university that I found critical thinking being encouraged and rewarded prior to that uncritical thinking and regurgitating what you've been told was hugely rewarded. I found the complete flip in expectations jarring, why isn't critical thinking encouraged at younger ages? I suppose accepting what you're told is important up to a point but I think the transition could be more seamless.
    I suspect people can begin to learn critical thinking skills at a much earlier age than they are typically exposed to them (if they are exposed at all). This will vary quite a bit from person to person, but as with books and reading, if it is part a child's environment, the child will respond when he/she becomes old/able enough, and can then be encouraged. There is a place for expecting children (and even adults) simply to do as they are told. Too often, however, this is a cop-out by adults unwilling to put the effort into explaining themselves, perhaps because they do not want to face how unreasonable their request is in the first place.

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