All Must Have Prizes In the Quiet Lily Pond Of Progressive Education
Aristotle insisted that a good education was necessary for younger people, because the deliberative process can be so difficult. But what did he know? He wore a bed sheet.
Modern educators, who don’t wear bed sheets, believe that the most important aspect of education is that young people feel comfortable in their prejudices. To achieve this goal no one can be seen to be wrong. Or, as the current parlance has it, “all must have prizes.”
My good friend Barbara Kay has once again pointed out the far-reaching effects of such buffoonery in her recent column in the National Post . (The most savoury part of reading Barbara’s work is imaging the turnip-faced rage of the people she skewers and anticipating their calls to have her censored.)
In this instalment Ms. Kay highlights a recent study done at four Canadian post-secondary institutions that posits secondary schools are turning out a bunch of anxious ninnies who have no skills to cope with the critical thinking needed in university life (the kind of thinking envisioned by Aristotle, not Ariana Grande ). Okay, that’s my take on the study, not theirs.
The dry facts: “only about 44 per cent of students felt they had the generic skills needed to do well in their academic studies, 41 per cent could be classified as at risk in academic settings because of limited levels of basic skills, and 16 per cent lacked almost all the skills needed for higher learning.”
A solution seems simple enough. More rigorous emphasis on the mind, not the self, is needed in the vast sprawl of K-12 schooling, no? Well, it’s not that easy, because the people doing the teaching at those levels— and their unions— are the biggest proponents of it. Pedagogues “are themselves in thrall to the “self-esteem” zeitgeist… They are giving good grades to work that does not merit it, because of the prevailing ‘all must have prizes’ culture they operate within. In a 2008 study, psychology professor Ellen Greenberger found that two-thirds of university students believe that if they’re ‘trying hard,’ their grades should reflect their effort, not their actual achievement.”
The result: “Students with high self-esteem based on false feedback are much more difficult to teach, because many cannot take criticism and feedback without assuming that it is personal. Experimental research suggests that such people attempt to preserve their self-esteem, not by altering their behaviour so that it becomes more based in reality, but by attacking the source of the threat.”
You don’t have to look far in the real world to see how this self-esteem mania has spilled into the wider world. The inability to accept defeat— hello Jerry Nadler— has oozed into every corner of modern life. The need to demonize those who thwart us— I see you Hillary Clinton— and the preening moral smugness of crushing enemies— gotcha’ Bill Maher— pervades our existence.
Modern education has become Facebook, an accumulator of all things that amuse or distract young people. The ability to block or (be still my restless heart) censor messages that disturb the quiet lily pond of the young mind completes the bliss. And the bonding of like-minded woke folk stokes each other’s prejudices.
It is why late-night TV viewing is also imperative in the formation of the non-critical mind. Stephen Colbert’s daily dose of sarcasm and spite in place of critical thinking guides hapless students in the ways of comfortable consensus— achieving intellectual orgasm while bonding with kids like you who just want to belong in an unquestioning environment.
The tranquility of the millennial mind would appall Martin Luther King, the liberal icon. To Reverend King education was not a chat room for trembling teens. In his New Year’s Resolutions for 1967 he said:
“I said to my children, 'I'm going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don't ever want you to forget that there are millions of God's children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don't want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.”
But with educators at the post- and K-12 level conspiring against a classic education, this thought has become— like a colour-blind society— just another of King’s unrealized dreams.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.