Friday, April 19, 2019

Whatever Happened To the Self-Esteem Movement? | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Whatever Happened To the Self-Esteem Movement? | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Whatever Happened To the Self-Esteem Movement?


For those true believers and wanna-be school reformers enamored with the social-emotional skills that 21st century students must learn if they are to be “successful” in an information-driven economy and social-media-ridden daily life, take a brief look at the self-esteem movement launched in the 1980s.  In subsequent decades reformers stressed that students (as well as teachers) needed confident self-regard and a psychological repertoire of personal and social skills. Not only were they to have high self-esteem but they were also expected to display such attitudes and skills.
Soon enough the phrase “self-esteem” became attached to school and classroom practices of frequent praise for children and emphasis on participation in activities rather than individual academic performance. Ridicule of this reform movement in particular and the self-help industry in general came from cultural conservatives within a few years.
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And cartoonists who took jabs at whether working on self-esteem would undermine academics.

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This tension between boosting the student’s self-image and attaining high academic performance can be traced back to early 20th century progressives who touted the “whole child,” particularly the psychological and emotional parts. Curriculum guides and daily lessons  focused upon the psychological “needs” of individual students and their knowing how to get along with others while at the same time understanding quadratic equations and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” While John Dewey made clear that subject matter was important in the children learning through experience–he often referred to the intellectual development of CONTINUE READING: Whatever Happened To the Self-Esteem Movement? | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

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