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Keep self-esteem in the education picture

In response to the Oct. 24 Opinion piece "Education's self-esteem hoax": Dinesh D'Souza presents a common-sense argument, clearly stated and grounded in solid research against what he says are educators' efforts to bolster students' self-esteem in America. A teacher for 12 years, I have yet to see or hear of such efforts in any of the schools where I have taught, though I've had students whose self-images have been successfully degraded.

Self-esteem might be, as D'Souza argues, a very American concept, but so is the universal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; or equal protection under the law; or public education for all citizens. Implied in those ideals is the notion that all people deserve respect as human beings.

When we provide a school system that increasingly caters only to the college bound, basing all school success on standards and tests designed exclusively for the college bound, and when we tell all other students that because they are not college bound they are therefore failures, we are forsaking those American ideals.

D'Souza is right to point out the foolishness of such efforts. The other lesson, though, the one I wish D'Souza would take to heart, is that students who see no place for themselves in their own educational system, whose self-esteem (however D'Souza wishes to define it) has been degraded, and who have no adults who believe in them, are doomed to failure and bitterness.
Kas Zoller Gold
River, Calif.

In response to "Education's self-esteem hoax": D'Souza greatly enhances the discussion by being both profoundly right and profoundly wrong.

He is right to take educators to task for promoting an empty kind of self-esteem, one that does not reinforce understanding oneself. But he is profoundly wrong in ignoring the effect that racism or any other kind of "ism" can have on the relationship to oneself. Society convinces many that, because of race, gender, or some other quality they cannot change, they are inherently barred from certain kinds of potential fulfillment.

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