Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Self-Esteem in Real Life

Along about my 5th or 6th year of teaching in public schools, the education establishment jumped on a new wave (surfing is one of the activities it does best!). On teacher workdays it seemed that all our workshops dealt with the subject of building self-esteem in children. Giving children a good self-image became the be-all and end-all in education for quite a few years. (I will no doubt write on that topic sometime -- it has long been one of my soapboxes; but I have another objective for this particular post.)

When that silver ring began to tarnish a few years later (yes, I know that is a mixed metaphor), the public and many educators began to talk of what children SHOULD be learning in addition to how wonderful they are. The following list of things children NEED to learn in school began to appear often -- sometimes printed in newspapers, often circulated in email roundabouts, etc. The list was attributed to a variety of sources. I believe Ann Landers printed it uncredited; and I have read that it originated with Bill Gates (not true.)

Here is the list that has been circulated most frequently: (Rule #3 needs updating so as to connect to the economy of 2005.)

  • Rule 1: Life is not fair; get used to it.
  • Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
  • Rule 3: You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone until you "earn" both.
  • Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.
  • Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping; they called it opportunity.
  • Rule 6: If you screw up, it's not your parents' fault so don't whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.
  • Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning your room, and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. So before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
  • Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
  • Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
  • Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
  • Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

The truth is this: Charles J. Sykes is the author of DUMBING DOWN OUR KIDS. He created the list for high school and college graduates. These were things he said that he did not learn in school. In his book, he tells how the "system" may have created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and set them up for failure in the real world. His book is subtitled Why American Children Feel Good about Themselves but Can't Read, Write, or Add.

Most circulated lists did not include the last few of the items on Sykes's list. That's a shame; these are good ones too. Here is the rest of the list:

  • Rule 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.
    Rule 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.
    Rule 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

You're welcome.

So, Dear Reader, bring it on! What would you add to Sykes's list? What vital lesson about living in the real world did you not learn in school that you should have learned?


Carol said...

I WISH I could think of something profound or even semi-meaningful. However, I think the ones you listed pretty much cover it all.

Jane said...

Oh how I wish that kid DID learn those things in school or out. I fear that many students will have a rude awakening when they land in the 'real world' and their boss won't let them do their work over!

Ruth said...

WOW! That was "flat out good," as a friend of mine used to say!