Engaging Culture

The End of The Cult of Self-Esteem?

Culture Watch:  You absolutely have to read this article from Britain’s “The Telegraph” written by Allison Pearson. I picked it up when Kathleen and I were in London this summer helping produce the media for The Salvation Army’s 150th anniversary at the O2 Center. Essentially, it’s the story of a school in Lancashire that has banned naughty children. Actually, what they mean is (ignoring several centuries of compelling evidence) the school had decided there is no such thing as a a naughty child, there is only “unconditional positive regard”.

Please read the entire article, but if you’re in a hurry, here’s some bullet points that will make you realize why our culture is going down the drain pretty quickly:

– Teachers at the school (Barrowford) are not allowed to raise their voices, because it is “not respectful”.  Faced with a wayward student causing havoc in a lesson, they must say something like: “You are having an impact on my emotional wellbeing.”

– Teachers can send a naughty – oops, slightly less adorable than usual – child to another classroom, but to avoid causing humiliation they are told to use the phrase: “You know I think you are wonderful, but your mistaken behavior shows me that it would be best for you to have some time here, where these children can help you to stop making that mistake.”

– And when a student gets kicked, punched, or otherwise hassled by other students, in this educational Utopia, a furious eight-year-old is taught to respond with my favorite line of all: “You’ve emptied my resilience bucket.”

What happens when these students grow up and have to leave their penalty free world? The Telegraph used a famous British illustration from World War II:
“Let’s pause for a moment and picture the global applications of unconditional positive regard. “Dear Mr Hitler, you have emptied our resilience bucket. Please give Poland back or you will have a serious emotional impact on our well being. Love, Britain.”

From now on, if you’re ever critical of my blog posts, I’ll gently remind you that you’ve “Emptied my resilience bucket.”

Any comments about this approach to teaching?  Is this where the self-esteem movement has led us?

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  1. This is poppycock! My oldest daughter taught at a magnet school in Knoxville for close to 10 years. (According to a principal it was 5-7 too long). She was not allowed to criticize or praise a child. She couldn’t tell a child it was a beautiful tree because it might not have been a tree. Stuff like that). She could not discipline a child…even if her favorite word was the “f” word and she ran throughout the classroom yelling it.It is no wonder teachers get out of teaching. She finally moved back home to teach at another school and give teaching one more try (after 17 years). Sad part is this has entered the church as well. Don’t talk about sin. Don’t talk about sinful behavior. etc.

    1. Exactly – it has entered the church. Heck, I’ll admit this stuff has impacted me, and I tend to think I’m fairly aware. I do attempt to stay even-keeled with my kids when correcting them – as much as possible. But sometimes, probably many times recently, a stern word and a long stare are needed, so I use them. I’m ok with my kids fearing me. But I will admit that the culture surrounding me does influence me on this.

  2. Hey Phil…I’d NEVER criticize :-). I do think “Love your neighbor” sounds a lot like “unconditional positive regard.” But what did He know?

    1. The phrase could also refer to raising a psychopath. Plus, your interpretation doesn’t square with:
      A) Spare the rod, spoil the child.
      B) Experience raising children.
      And I’m not sure how you would genuinely love a child and not correct them… 🙂
      (You’re emptying my resilience bucket Rich… )

  3. If we let kids do as they will, they will starve to death within days. They would rather play all day compared to eating or sleeping or brushing their teeth. There is a very well defined line between absurdity and common sense. I suggest using common sense.

    Do not be harsh, do not tie them down, do not hit them, but ask them politely to completely finish their meals and keep them at the table until they do so. Tell them is better for them to sleep so they will have the energy to play the following day. Explain why is better to learn from teachers while at school compared to becoming ignorant the rest of their lives.

    Kids need hugs and kisses, and they need love. Give them love, hugs and kisses. Teach them properly how to live a happy life as well as how to survive during tough times. They do not live in dreamland, it is called life, and kids need to realize that life sometimes is harsh as well as kind.

    I am from a generation where parents, teachers, and priests were strict, and kids may have seen them as harsh and impolite, but I am grateful that they created a generation of savvy individuals that know how to handle thought as well as kind situations, learned how to think for themselves, created great communities, and know how to educate their offspring without the absurdity of today’s so-called experts.

    You are allowed to cry and show tears when someone passes away as well when someone is born, or does something outstanding for the benefit of others. Nobody prepared me to cry out of desperation looking at what is becoming of today’s kids; it is absurd. Millennials will become a generation of rootless, incompetent morons that will suffer throughout their lives more than hell itself.

    Instead of creating generations of whining babies and screaming sheep, we need to find priests, teachers, and parents that have the courage and common sense to educate humans to help them become individuals. Teach them how to think for themselves for their benefit and of their families and communities.

    Go out there and be kind without bending your hands into absurdity, and at the same time be strict and tough without breaking souls using common sense.

  4. ugh. you’re too much, Phil. Introducing Hitler into this particular debate makes you sound silly. Quoting yourself is also silly, btw.

  5. Here’s my wonderment.You ask what will happen to these people when they leave their penalty free world. I wonder if there’s any penalties anywhere anymore. Penalties broadly defined.

    1. That’s true in many areas Jeffrey – but not so much in business. Most business leaders still have deadlines and don’t think very kindly of this type of attitude. But I do agree that it’s more pervasive in our culture than it should be. Thanks for the thought!

  6. Reminds me of Job 5:13, where it is written: “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” The Apostle Paul references this same verse in 1Cor. 3 when describing how the philosophy of men will become their own trap. God have mercy….this approach to raising children is absurd.

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