The Whole Child Learns to Feel

So, not content with our current level of credulity and vacuity and inability to think or judge or question or analyze or reflect, with, not to put too fine a point on it, our score on the stupidity meter, some parents are going to considerable trouble to do better – so that in a few short years no one at all will any longer be able to see what’s wrong with The World According to Bob Jones University Press ‘textbooks’.

Reporter Suein Hwang interviewed white parents who are pulling their kids out of elite public high schools, schools known for sending graduates to the nation’s top colleges. They are doing this, writes Hwang, because the schools are too academically rigorous, too narrowly focused on such subjects as math and science. Too Asian…White parents are putting their kids into private schools or moving to areas where the public schools are whiter, less Asian and less demanding. Where sports and music also are emphasized, and educators value, as one parent put it, ‘the whole child.’

Yes – the whole child. One not all warped and distorted and tipped over on one side by excessive book-thumbing. One not all nerdy and squinty and pencil-necked because of too much reading and not enough tv-watching. One not all defiant and rebellious like that horrible Mark Twain or all presumptuous and disrespectful of authority like that (pencil-necked) Emily Dickinson. We want our kids to be normal, by god – we want them to be ignorant and gullible and thoughtless and inarticulate like that nice fella in the White House. We want them to be ordinary, and humble, and modest, and average, so they can run for president when the time comes.

I sent that link (which Eric Berman sent to me) to Allen and he sent me this one in reply.

According to the Government, parents increasingly can no longer be trusted to teach qualities such as self-worth, restraint, friendliness, empathy and resilience to their children, so schools must assume the burden…Dinah Morley, the deputy director of the Young Minds charity, agrees. “Schools can no longer see themselves as just a place for learning,” she said. “They have to do the nurturing that so many kids are missing out on.”

Note that ‘just a place for learning’. Interesting, isn’t it. As if it were kind of small-minded and parochial of schools to think of themselves as ‘just’ – mere, only – places for learning. As if they really ought to pull their socks up and realize that they have better things to do, because learning is such a trivial, fussy, silly, time-wasting activity.

Actually that is exactly what a lot of people think. I once heard a teacher of my (very short-lived) acquaintance say that schools aren’t just for teaching ‘information,’ as she chose to call it, but at least as much for teaching social skills. The hell they are, I wanted to tell her, rather loudly and impolitely, but I didn’t. (Because I’m no slouch in the social skills department myself, unless I’m in a bad mood or feeling slightly irritable.) But I took note of her opinion, and began that very day to plot the resistance.

The guidance demonstrates the extent to which “emotional intelligence”, a term coined in 1995 by American psychologists to describe the ability to perceive, access and regulate emotions, is regarded by the Government as education orthodoxy. Education inspectors at Ofsted now routinely monitor schools and nurseries for how well they promote pupils’ emotional and social development.

You know…even apart from the ‘no thank you I’d rather be doing something else’ aspect, it just sounds so – revolting. So intrusive, so get away from me, so who do you think you are. It sounds almost Christian in its intrusiveness. The bastards are closing in on us – the Zeal-of-the-land-busy types from one direction and the brow-moppers and hand-holders from the other. We’re going to have Pat Robertson shouting damnation in one ear and some creepy empathist whispering damply in the other. It’s hell on earth, I tell you!

Not every one is convinced, however. Teachers complain that they are not paid to be psychologists, academics are worried that subject content is losing out to indefinable “skills”, while traditionalists think the responsibility lies with parents.

Ya think? Ya think teachers aren’t shrinks, and time spent on bedwetting won’t be spent on reading, and maybe parents should be doing the touchy-feely stuff?

“It is one thing to be sensitive to some students’ lack of confidence, or to refer individuals to a support service. It is another when students must fill in questionnaires about emotions and self-esteem and review these with classmates and teachers. Not only is it intrusive, but it elevates emotional needs as a concern and sidetracks teachers.”

Exactly. Never mind the whole child, never mind emotional literacy – stick with the kind of literacy that people need in a world full of graduates of Bob Jones U.

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