Monday, August 16, 2010

Teaching Values? Or Training Parrots?

Go to the following webpage of the April 5th, 2009 New York Times to see a picture of 8th graders in Scarsdale Middle School in a “Empathy workshop.”

Gossip Girls and Boys Get Lessons in Empathy
(Was this the best picture the photographer could get? Very likely.)

Don’t the students just look so happy and interested? They don’t.

Observe how the kids are sitting; see how their heads are turned, especially behind the teacher. The author of the article tells us that “The privileged teenagers at Scarsdale Middle School are learning to be nicer this year, whether they like it or not.”

Are we supposed to think that because Scarsdale kids are – according to the reporter’s lights – “privileged” that they are getting their deserved comeuppance?

Would the New York Times publish such a photograph – would school administrators permit them? — if the location were an inner city school in a poor neighborhood?

A not small part of the problem is that some educators (parents and other leadership types, too) suffer from delusions of grandeur. Open a dictionary. Find a word that provokes someone’s concern. Lead school kids into a discussion about it. (Often similar to the way police lead suspects into the precinct headquarters, that is, “whether they like it or not.”) Mission accomplished!

Who needs to grow up? Who needs to get real?

To examine these issues further, see WHAT IS WORTH KNOWING ABOUT VALUES?

-- EGR