The demi-god of self-esteem

My friend Matt said it best: self esteem is a condition more to be feared in the U.S. these days than mortal sin. ‘

Had a parent conference at the high school today. The student in question, an almost-sixteen year old, is a mainstreamed “Special needs” or “exceptional” child who blew up and went on a rampage in my classroom on Friday.

This is a kid who, despite his “exceptional” status, has an extremely high IQ (part of the profile of his particular designation). He’s been mainstreamed because most self-contained EC classes are for the nearly-retarded, or those kids so behaviorally disturbed that even if their IQ is normal, they are rendered incapable of learning.

So this kid is mainstreamed because the law says it is his “right.” But the rights of the other 33 kids in that particular class, of having their lesson without the distraction and disruption of this boy — whom, truly, I have grown quite fond of! — talking and misbehaving throughout the class, and of being safe from such explosions as he occasionally demonstrates, are totally disregarded.

Why isn’t he assigned a “tech,” or a “wraparound,” an adult aid who can help corral his enthusiasm and excessive social energy into work, or who can see a problem bubbling beneath the surface and remove him from the class before he come roaring through like a dirvish, throwing his book bag onto the floor and ripping the telephone out of the wall?

Because the humiliation of having such an assistant might damage this poor boy’s already-low self-esteem.

The psychologists have conveniently, sentimentally forgotten that self-esteem is just another word for self-respect, and self-respect is gained through self-control and accomplishment — the very things this poor kid is being deprived of because the “experts” have decided that self-esteem is about having one’s own way, about being treated as part of a herd rather than as an individual, rather than about merit.

And people wonder why it’s taking me so long to commit to school to get my certification requirements… It’s because of the politically-charged policies of classroom management and behavioral guidelines our full-time teachers have to put up with on a daily basis.

The ONLY way a sensible change can be effected is if a sufficient number of parents of the other kids in that class call the school administration and express concern and outrage that a regularly violent boy — a boy who evidently has a reduced sensation of pain, so when he punches his fist through a wall, he doesn’t feel the pain — is allowed to dominate their child’s classroom. And I can’t recommend it, and too many of the parents aren’t going to do anything because, like me, they wonder what the use is.

So — if you’re a parent, become an activist, please. Demand reasonable rules and limits in your child’s classroom — from your child’s classmates, and from your child. Don’t get suckered into the “self-esteem” vacuum.

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