Monday, October 01, 2007

Holding self esteem in low esteem

Anyone with a passing acquaintance with Katie's scribblings—and that's all Spot can recommend: a passing acquaintance; Spot's talking to you, Gump—knows that Katie is capable of writing a column without the smallest cognition that what she is writing is contradictory to what she wrote before. It is a charming quality that infuses Katie's writing in a memorable way. We have a nice example of the genre in Katie's column today: Shortage of male teachers shows need for truly wise guys.

Katie's lament de jour is the dwindling number of male teachers in elementary school. Why, they even have trouble finding men to teach at one of Katie's pet charter schools:

Finding male teachers is a challenge even at Boys Academy, a special program of Harvest Preparatory School, a K-6 charter school in Minneapolis. Boys Academy's student body is 100 percent African-American and about 80 percent from low-income families. Its faculty is 40 percent male, and all female teachers have a male classroom aide. But Eric Mahmoud, the school's president, says it's very difficult to find men to apply to teach kindergarten or first grade.

Why the school's Muslim president would talk to the anti-Muslim and xenophobic Katie, Spot has no idea. But never mind.

Katie goes on to say how difficult it can be to teach boys, the little barbarians:

Boys can be the bane of elementary teachers' existence. They are high-energy, impulsive and easily distracted, and have been ever since Cain clobbered Abel. Most would rather wrestle than trace letters at a desk.

Apparently, it's an original sin kind of a thing. Figures. Spot thinks that the boys were mean to Katie when she was in the third grade. What do you think, boys and girls?

Anyway, Katie does write with admiration about one male teacher at Harvest Prep, Erick Owens, who teaches third grade. And certainly based on Katie's description of Mr. Owens, he does sound like a very good teacher. Here's one of Katie's explanations:

Owens understands how to channel boys' energy because he was once a boy himself.

That's it! Why has no one ever thought of this before? Why, Spot remembers being eight or nine years old like it was yesterday! (It wasn't.)

Spot, we thought you said that Katie had written something contradictory. What is it?

Oh, thank you grasshopper. Here's the money quote. This is what Owens does sometimes:

He takes pains to keep the competition relatively equal. "If one team's behind, I give them a question that's worth more points so they feel good and keep trying."

Can you imagine that? He keeps the self esteem of his kids in mind? That's no way to raise social Darwinist hunter gatherers! Katie has put this self esteem nonsense in its proper perspective before; Spot has commented here and here (they are two posts that Spot really liked, by the way; he hopes that you'll check them out) about a couple of Katie columns on the subject where she wrote this:

Years ago, my daughter, then [in] second grade, jumped off the school bus one day with a badge pinned to her shirt. "[Blank] is special," it said, with her name filled in. But my daughter wasn't busting her buttons. "Mom," she told me, "if everyone is special, then no one is special."

Young as she was, my daughter grasped that there is something bogus about the self-esteem movement, which was then taking the education world by storm.

Katie, you must go back to Mr. Owens and explain to him that the only way to encourage children is to punish them when they don't do well.

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