6 down, 1 to go – "I'm having school withdrawals! Grade me, tell me I'm so, so smart…"!


The sixth lesson I teach is provisional self-esteem. If you’ve ever tried to wrestle into line kids whose parents have convinced them to believe they’ll be loved in spite of anything, you know how impossible it is to make self-confident spirits conform. Our world wouldn’t survive a flood of confident people very long, so I teach that a kid’s self-respect should depend on expert opinion. My kids are constantly evaluated and judged.

A monthly report, impressive in its provision, is sent into a student’s home to elicit approval or mark exactly, down to a single percentage point, how dissatisfied with the child a parent should be. The ecology of “good” schooling depends on perpetuating dissatisfaction, just as the commercial economy depends on the same fertilizer. Although some people might be surprised how little time or reflection goes into making up these mathematical records, the cumulative weight of these objective-seeming documents establishes a profile that compels children to arrive at certain decisions about themselves and their futures based on the casual judgment of strangers. Self-evaluation, the staple of every major philosophical system that ever appeared on the planet, is never considered a factor. The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.