Apparently there are some New England Schools publishing something the media has dubbed the “Effort Roll”. It’s a list of students who did not make the Honor Roll, but get a pat on the back anyway.
Now, I consider myself a relatively progressive individual, but I believe wholeheartedly and unequivocally that reason and common sense should win out over political affiliation without exception.
I am no parent, but my first real job out of college was teaching English in the good ‘ol American Public School system, and it just so happens I know a thing or two about child psychology.
I hope I don’t need to tell you that this “Effort Roll” is one of the worst fucking ideas I’ve ever heard. Listen up because other than my statement above about reason and common sense, the quote below is the most important thing this post offers:
Self-esteem cannot be given without adversity. It must be built through adversity.
As a blood-pumping human on this planet, one thing life has taught me since leaving the cradle is that I have gained more belief in myself through my failures and pushing past them than I have with the rare successes that just so happen to fall in my lap.
From what I’ve seen, this “Self-esteem as a handout” approach has been around a while and is profoundly effecting our youth in a negative way. That is not how the real world works. The world doesn’t hand you success. If it did, success wouldn’t be worth having in the first place.
Another example of this madness? Kindergarten Graduation Ceremonies. Fucking ridiculous. It’s god damn kindergarten. So, nice job for finding your Cubby every day without pushing Johnny and drawing a mountain with crayons. It must be rough for you parents who actually want to teach self-esteem through adversity.
In Denis Leary’s book Why We Suck, he talks about how there are way too many parents who want their kids to be geniuses, when they are not. His commentary, and I’m paraphrasing here (sorry Denis if I mangle this, I love your work), is you shouldn’t praise your kids for shit they’re supposed to be able to do:
“Look at him, 15 months old and he’s walkin!”
Of course he’s walking. He’s supposed to be walking at 15 months. That’s normal.
If you have a 4 year old who can come up with a convincing and original interpretation of Joyce’s Ulysses, well then, OK, maybe you have something there. Otherwise, if the kid falls within the normal range of performance, then you should accept the fact, that maybe, when it comes to that one thing, your kid might just be (SHOCKER!) . . . fucking NORMAL!
Building self-esteem and letting a child discover their own strengths and talents is a gradual, difficult, and ongoing process. There are very few child-geniuses out there, but everyone has moments of genius or talents that allow them to rise above the rest. But it’s almost always hard work, and one has to want that reward. The real-world makes you work for it, and you do kids a disservice by making them think it can all be handed to them for being normal. It makes them not want to try and whine about it when they don’t get it.
You learn more about yourself when you fail than when you succeed. I hope I don’t need to prove that. And I would purport that proper guidance for a child after failure, rather than just handing them success leads to a more well-adjusted individual.
If the world is really moving toward “Self-esteem (and therefore success) as handout”, then that would be just one more bit of proof that the human race really is doomed.
See you next time.