I was going to write a completely different post today, but after listening to a recording from a lecture that I had missed, I decided to write a continuation from a post I wrote in August instead:
Basically my stance was that the self-esteem movement in schools may be more harmful than helpful to students. And after listening to the lecture for my 'Promoting Positive Learning Environments' class (I am studying Primary Teaching for those that don't know), research is backing up my claim.
To go a little bit off track, I had started to become disheartened with my degree because everyone was so politically correct (both the lecturers and my fellow students). All of the classes were about making the children feel special, building self-esteem, making sure to eliminate any hint of competition in schools etc.
That's not to say that I don't agree with these things..to an extent. But I felt like I was the only one who wanted to explore other avenues. What about teaching them to be the best they can be, not just telling them they already are? What about teaching them to not be completely satisfied with every piece of work; rather, get them to aim higher? Teaching them to work towards being a better person? Teaching them to fight for change?
I don't think that the self-esteem movement is helping anybody. And neither does the research. In fact, self-esteem courses at school have been linked to lower test results. Because after all, if the students are praised for everything that they do and are told that they are the smartest, what do they have to aim for? They're already the best. There is no room for self-improvement, both academically and personally.
I'm not saying the people should not have high self-esteem. I think it's fantastic when people do. BUT there needs to be a reason for it. People need to work towards becoming a person who should be proud of themselves, rather than simply being proud of themselves because the teacher said so.
Now, to move onto something a little bit controversial (more controversial I should say!). I think that this whole self-esteem movement in schools can be linked to (one of many reasons) the increase in depression in children. Think about it. Children are constantly told how special they are, they never experience competition, and they never have the opportunities to amuse themselves (tv does it for them). Then the real world hits. All of sudden you don't get a reward just for competing. You realise that though you are special and unique, the whole world doesn't revolve around you. And it's a little bit disheartening. It makes sense that people are not as happy as they used to be
Another problem with this focus on self-esteem, happiness and well being, is that if a child does not feel happy all the time, or are not seen as 100% 'normal', they are immediately labeled.
I see labeling as one of the biggest problems of the self-esteem movement. The self-esteem movement (as I see it) isn't just focused on self-esteem, it is also focused on well being in general. And if a child isn't happy, or social, or is a late bloomer with maths or english, or has bundles of energy..they are given a diagnosis. Depression, ADD, Aspergers etc. There are pills and courses for all of these, the kids are diagnosed and 'fixed' (I'd love to see the statistics for how often any of these medications or interventions work) and the poor kids carry this label with them usually for the rest of their lives. It is the same with adults. From a young age we are taught not only to be introspective, but to be too introspective. Every mood swing is seen as a problem. Every down stage of our lives is called depression. So much focus is on the self, rather than on the world we live in and the other people who live in it.
*Note: That is not to say that none of these conditions exist, that they don't affect a number of people and that they aren't serious. I was exaggerating for the purpose of this blog!
It has been shown that one of the best ways to raise self-esteem and to combat depression is to help someone else. Even little things can make a huge difference; not only to the person you are helping, but also to your overall happiness and well-being. Maybe it's the huge focus on 'Number 1' that is actually making so many people miserable. Not their lack of self-esteem.
So, if and when I become a teacher, I'm going to ignore all of those PC people yelling in my ear, and I'm going to teach the children to care for others. And I'm going to praise them for trying their best, not for simply existing.
Random blog I know, but these ideas were all running through my head and I just had to get them down! Do you agree? Or do you think there is lot more to it than that? I welcome all criticism because I still haven't fully formed my opinions on any of this yet!