Jewish World Review Oct. 28, 2002 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Joanne Jacobs

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Consumer Reports

Pride goeth before an F | Self-esteem doesn't make students smarter, writes Dinesh D'Souza in the Christian Science Monitor:

I am the product of a Jesuit education, and institutions like the Jesuits and the Marines have for generations produced impressive intellectual and motivational results by undermining the self-esteem of recruits. One of my Jesuit teachers liked to say that "be yourself" is absolutely the worst advice you can give some people. He's right: This is not the kind of advice that we want to give to a Charles Manson or a Hitler. Both the Jesuits and the Marines are famous for first degrading the pride and self-image of youngsters, and then seeking to reconstruct it on a new and firmer foundation.

Liberal educators defend speech codes and multicultural cheerleading to protect the self-esteem of minorities and women, D'Souza writes. They attack testing for fear the results might lower self-esteem.

All this does no favors to the protected classes. Eventually, their inflated self-esteem will be punctured by reality. Better to let students struggle, learn from their failures and take pride in real achievements.

Teacher Robert Wright reminds me that four years ago he emailed me the words to a sign posted near the faculty room by a school counselor.

"Self love is more than self tolerance, just putting up with yourself. It is a deeply registered sense of the unrepeatable essence that is you. It is a celebration of your inviolate uniqueness -- not only of your graces and perfections but also of the sorrows, tragedies and limitations that have shaped you. Today, allow yourself to consciously consider how truly special you are. Why do you love yourself? What is the sorrow, the bearing of which has beautifully formed your character? Take a good look at yourself. Give yourself a healthy dose of a soul-healing potion of self love, for self love steps across the drawbridge of mere self-acceptance and dances into the castle of compassionate self-treasuring."

My response: "I assume the moat crossed by the 'drawbridge of mere self-acceptance' is filled with the dragons of academic standards."

Wright's response: "I once danced in the castle of compassionate self-treasuring, but I think I was drunk at the time."

I believe there should be zero tolerance for soul-healing potions in our schools.


Minuteman's seventh grade daughter knows her American history. Her homework was to imagine she was an editorial writer in 1776 endorsing the "Declaration of Independence."

Fellow patriots, a great thing has happened today. The lousy scum bags who call themselves Englishmen received our Declaration of Independence. They claim that their unfair taxes were fair, the liars, and that we are using them. Ha! As if! They had it coming. Not giving us our rights and freedom, not allowing us a representative in parliament, levering huge taxes on us.

...Thanks to our legislature we are free from stupid, manipulative England. So patriots, if you truly love your county then you will join your local militia or the minute man teams to help prepare for the coming war.

Then she had to switch sides.

The lazy, good-for-nothing colonists claim that we are over-reacting about their "civilized" Boston tea party, and that we are putting unfair taxes on them to pay for our war. What war? We fought it for them. Why should we, honest, respectable citizens of England, pay for a war fought for them? They used us. They used us to get our land, food, money, support and protection. Then they turn around and say that we are bad people who mistreat them.

The White House wants American kids to learn more history and civics. A "summit" is planned for 2003. Chester Finn doubts the feds can do much -- except perhaps to make sure reading and math aren't the only subjects tested under the No Child Left Behind Act.


James Lileks doesn't want his daughter to pledge allegiance to "healthy dirt." Among the handouts at parent-toddler class was the Earth Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to our Earth, (the planet on which we live). And to fresh air, pure water, healthy dirt, life-giving plants and all the animals! One Earth -- four oceans -- seven continents -- thousands of lakes and rivers! And I accept my duty to be an honorable citizen of this Earth, with respect and consciousness towards all.

Says Lelicks:

...Let me be quite clear on this: my daughter is not going to pledge allegiance to healthy dirt. I will teach her all I believe about stewardship of the world. I will conspicuously recycle the cans and glasses and papers, even though I suspect it’s all a folly. I will teach her that the earth -- lower case, no family affiliation -- requires our care and respect. But I am not going to raise an eco-freak who tattles on Daddy to the Block Captain because I threw away a grocery bag that had a rip, instead of cutting it up for note paper.

She is a resident of the planet earth, but she is a citizen of the United States of America. While that distinction will be meaningless in second grade I will not undercut her eventual understanding of the concept by pretending that we all pledge allegiance to dirt, crabgrass and crocodiles. Respect them, yes. Start the day with an oath bowing our heads to decreased atmospheric particulate levels, no.

With respect and consciousness for all. Not freedom. Not liberty. Respect and consciousness.

The Earth Pledge is required for first graders in Minneapolis public schools, says Lileks.

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JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

10/21/02: Diversity adversity
10/14/02: Bad hat day
10/07/02: Inflated sense of worth
09/30/02: The Royal road to knowledge
09/24/02: Sierra's Club
09/20/02: Stupidity Watch
09/03/02: First, win the war
08/26/02: Out of their field, out of their minds?
08/20/02: Fun with failure

© 2002, Joanne Jacobs