Self-esteem doesn't make students smarter, writes Dinesh D'Souza in the Christian Science Monitor:

I am the product of a Jesuit education, and institutions like the Jesuits and the Marines have for generations produced impressive intellectual and motivational results by undermining the self-esteem of recruits. One of my Jesuit teachers liked to say that "be yourself" is absolutely the worst advice you can give some people. He's right: This is not the kind of advice that we want to give to a Charles Manson or a Hitler. Both the Jesuits and the Marines are famous for first degrading the pride and self-image of youngsters, and then seeking to reconstruct it on a new and firmer foundation.

Liberal educators defend speech codes and multicultural cheerleading to protect the self-esteem of minorities and women, D'Souza writes. They attack testing for fear the results might lower self-esteem.

All this does no favors to the protected classes. Eventually, their inflated self-esteem will be punctured by reality. Better to let students struggle, learn from their failures and take pride in real achievements.

Teacher Robert Wright reminds me that four years ago he emailed me the words to a sign posted near the faculty room by a school counselor.

"Self love is more than self tolerance, just putting up with yourself. It is a deeply registered sense of the unrepeatable essence that is you. It is a celebration of your inviolate uniqueness -- not only of your graces and perfections but also of the sorrows, tragedies and limitations that have shaped you. Today, allow yourself to consciously consider how truly special you are. Why do you love yourself? What is the sorrow, the bearing of which has beautifully formed your character? Take a good look at yourself. Give yourself a healthy dose of a soul-healing potion of self love, for self love steps across the drawbridge of mere self-acceptance and dances into the castle of compassionate self-treasuring."

My response: "I assume the moat crossed by the 'drawbridge of mere self-acceptance' is filled with the dragons of academic standards."

Wright's response: "I once danced in the castle of compassionate self-treasuring, but I think I was drunk at the time."

I believe there should be zero tolerance for soul-healing potions in our schools.

Don't Know Much About History

Minuteman's seventh grade daughter knows her American history. Her homework was to imagine she was an editorial writer in 1776 endorsing the "Declaration of Independence."

Fellow patriots, a great thing has happened today. The lousy scum bags who call themselves Englishmen received our Declaration of Independence. They claim that their unfair taxes were fair, the liars, and that we are using them. Ha! As if! They had it coming. Not giving us our rights and freedom, not allowing us a representative in parliament, levering huge taxes on us.

...Thanks to our legislature we are free from stupid, manipulative England. So patriots, if you truly love your county then you will join your local militia or the minute man teams to help prepare for the coming war.

Then she had to switch sides.

The lazy, good-for-nothing colonists claim that we are over-reacting about their "civilized" Boston tea party, and that we are putting unfair taxes on them to pay for our war. What war? We fought it for them. Why should we, honest, respectable citizens of England, pay for a war fought for them? They used us. They used us to get our land, food, money, support and protection. Then they turn around and say that we are bad people who mistreat them.

The White House wants American kids to learn more history and civics. A "summit" is planned for 2003. Chester Finn doubts the feds can do much -- except perhaps to make sure reading and math aren't the only subjects tested under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Allegiance to Dirt

James Lileks doesn't want his daughter to pledge allegiance to "healthy dirt." Among the handouts at parent-toddler class was the Earth Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to our Earth, (the planet on which we live). And to fresh air, pure water, healthy dirt, life-giving plants and all the animals! One Earth -- four oceans -- seven continents -- thousands of lakes and rivers! And I accept my duty to be an honorable citizen of this Earth, with respect and consciousness towards all.

Says Lelicks:

...Let me be quite clear on this: my daughter is not going to pledge allegiance to healthy dirt. I will teach her all I believe about stewardship of the world. I will conspicuously recycle the cans and glasses and papers, even though I suspect it’s all a folly. I will teach her that the earth -- lower case, no family affiliation -- requires our care and respect. But I am not going to raise an eco-freak who tattles on Daddy to the Block Captain because I threw away a grocery bag that had a rip, instead of cutting it up for note paper.

She is a resident of the planet earth, but she is a citizen of the United States of America. While that distinction will be meaningless in second grade I will not undercut her eventual understanding of the concept by pretending that we all pledge allegiance to dirt, crabgrass and crocodiles. Respect them, yes. Start the day with an oath bowing our heads to decreased atmospheric particulate levels, no.

With respect and consciousness for all. Not freedom. Not liberty. Respect and consciousness.

The Earth Pledge is required for first graders in Minneapolis public schools, says Lileks.

Blame Lonnie

Joe Bob Briggs has a great column on Why Lonnie Can't Do Squat.

Every time one of those new studies comes out about "Why Johnny Can't Read" -- we'll get to that in a minute -- I wanna whack these people upside the head and ask them why they never do a study on "Why Lonnie Can't Pay Attention."

In other words, the studies are always about outside influences -- class size, educational level of the teacher, zero-tolerance policies, "friendly" curriculum -- and they never once consider that some of the students might be similar to my nephew Lonnie, who's a SCREWUP.

Letters

Brian Colby:

I found the article about "diversity" very refreshing. This form of "diversity" should be questioned by all interested parties, including those who are its most fervent fans. A better term for it would be "smiley-faced racism." 

W.H. Carroll, Williamsburg, Va.:

O'Neill claims diversity education in schools is "phony" but doesn’t consider that perhaps such education prevented the student Khalid from being harassed and attacked. The fact that black children and white children can attend school today without black children's being mercilessly harassed and even physically harmed is the result of decades of diversity education which began in the 50s and 60s. 

Dick Leed:

Your stuff on diversity reminds me of my grand-niece from Wyoming, who shared with me her first impressions of Cornell. She was surprised to see members of various ethnic groups seating themselves, walking and gathering together so exclusively. Meanwhile she was being propagandized during orientation week by multiculturalists touting diversity. Her reaction was: "What good is diversity if the diverse people don't talk to each other?" 

Keith Dubbs, Mineola, Texas:

I was born with a handicap that deserves government solicitude and economic assistance. You see, I was born politically incorrect, which as any liberal can tell you, is a handicap to proper thinking. And of course, without proper thinking, my attainment ability in today's world is handicapped and limited. Therefore, I am thinking of forming an association of politically incorrect white males in order to seek redress and reparations from government funds. 

Ron Manera:

As a parent of five, I have often fought my way through the "edu-babble" of textbooks. Half the time, I simply give up in frustration. I have written more than one note to a teacher explaining that nobody in the household could figure out a textbook question. I have estimated that my children spend almost as much time attempting to understand the textbooks as the subject matter. Who writes this stuff? 

Cory Werkheiser, Cookeville, Tenn.:

I teach 11th grade American History in Tennessee, and I too am a victim of California's stranglehold on textbook production. I am not a silent victim, however, since I choose to ignore the edu-babble about how wonderful life was before white men came along and destroyed everything. (I am a white man, and I must admit to cutting down a few trees once to keep warm. They looked sick though, so I think it was a mercy killing, and not a hate crime.)

Anyway, I use the text on a limited basis, and I turn heavily to my own research from more scholarly works to gain a broader perspective. I also rely on primary sources, mainly eye-witness accounts, to enhance the student's understanding of an event. Finally, I encourage the students to make their own decisions about events we study.

History should not be a study in feeling bad about America, it should be an unbiased look at who we are, and why we're here. Sure, we've done some very stupid things in the name of nation-building, but in the context of the times they are understandable. As far as I am concerned, we, more than nearly any other nation, try to analyze our past objectively. That should not be an excuse to hate ourselves. As a nation we have worked hard to help others, and we should definitely focus on that! 

Mark Jones:

I really enjoyed your article on the edu-babble going on in the public cauldron. I'm sick and tired of it all. Our kids are homeschooled. I really don't want our children in some sociological test-tube administrated by the hierarchy of nonsense. 

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at JoanneJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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