Asleep, perchance, to self-esteem

25th April 1997 at 01:00
I despair when I read in your columns that "self-esteem is like sleep, it is best achieved by those who do not make it their goal", and see that this is written by a consultant to the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. Heaven help the education service and all who work in it if this view is being put to members of that august body.

Marianne Talbot (TES, April 11) obviously has no idea of what self-esteem is about, and I would guess little experience of teaching children who have no self-respect and who feel rejected, discouraged and powerless. Such pupils have lost all faith in their ability to succeed and are not prepared to risk further loss of esteem by attempting the academic curriculum.

They cling to the last shreds of their self-esteem by their finger nails and they are certainly not going to get it back from the tooth fairy. If parents will not, or are not, able to restore their children's self-esteem to healthy levels, then teachers must. That is why the enhancement of self-esteem thankfully gets priority in many schools today.

Far from being self-defeating, as Ms Talbot asserts, concentrating on self-esteem will give children the skills to communicate well, to be flexible, to get along with others, and to deal with any problem or crisis they encounter. They are then in an excellent position to embrace some positive values.

In her column in the same issue Hilary Wilce promotes the importance of emotions at the heart of learning - effective education - but implies that this is not recognised in this country.

While this tenet does seem to have escaped the notice of politicians and many who advise them, I can assure her that countless teachers were well aware of this, and adopted school programmes that embrace this approach, long before Goleman's book was published.

They deserve much encouragement for their efforts. These are the teachers who are at the forefront of positive, successful educational change, and we should declare our gratitude to them loudly and clearly.

MURRAY WHITE International Council for Self-Esteem 5 Ferry Path, Cambridge

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