Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On "liberal education."

My son and I relaxing shortly after his birth.
Research shows that physical affection is a leading cause in
promoting pro-social behavior  and self confidence in children.
Welcome to my latest blog titled simply, "Parenting and Education." It's a topic that I know well, and am excited to get to work on this. For my first post, I have actually just cut and pasted something I wrote on a Facebook thread that was started in response to the below link. The gist of this conversation is that some people are saying that Mr. Rogers telling children "You're special because you're you," had a detrimental impact to society because it did not tell children to work hard.


I'm a product of liberal education and an educator at an alternative school. I give advice to parents who are professionals that do not have much time for their children because they are too busy working hard at something other than parenting. All of the education and parenting advice I give is based on research and I have a track record of successfully motivating children and correcting anti-social behavior. Many of my students will grow up to be much wealthier than I can reasonably hope. I work about as hard as I can to raise a family, live by my morals, and educate people to think critically. "Self-esteem education," much like the "you are special," complaint seems like a made up bit of revisionist history to attack people who would educate members of a free society to think for themselves and live to their potential.

Albert Einstein, one of the hardest working, most competitive people to ever contribute to our nation said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Thus, it is much more than a pampered liberal view to say that each person has unique qualities that, if effectively understood and developed, can benefit both society and the individual. It has support from scientific, religious, liberal, and conservative alike.

The problem that I have with some of these arguments is that they are short cut talking points used to avoid citing research about the actual effects that education has on children. There is no doubt whatsoever that blanket praise can be detrimental to a person's education and self concept. At the same time, negative reinforcement is also detrimental. But what's the alternative. Hint: there's more than one.

Education is not a black and white right or wrong conservative vs. liberal issue. In fact, each individual is unique, learns differently, has different goals, has a different view of success, and comes from a unique family/culture. Therefore, education should be flexible and be able to adapt to meet students on an individual level so that they can meet the much broader requirements of school, graduate and become confident contributors to society.