Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Being useful

There is all sorts of different kinds of children's programming these days, with all different kinds of themes, styles, feels, and messages. One of the favourites in our house is Thomas the Tank Engine, but I'm pretty sure that's mostly because it's about trains, rather than any artistic or thematic content.

About five years ago, I remember talking with a friend who said she never allowed her young son to watch Thomas. As a mother and a teacher, she objected to the constant message in the episodes that it is important to be "useful." This line of thinking falls into the popular idea today that self-esteem is the top priority when teaching children.

Now, understand that I do not object to the importance of self-esteem. My parents did a fantastic job helping me understand my own worth, and it definitely led to my success and confidence in life thus far. But the more I see the burgeoning emphasis placed solely on self-esteem, the more I start to question this focus.

I wonder in a society where young adults seem less and less able to strike out on their own if the pendulum has not swung too far. Are we so concerned with making sure everyone thinks so well of themselves that they fall into the "entitlement trap?"

Personally, I don't think that the idea of being "useful" in our society is a bad one. It is important for children to grow and take their place in our world, find some way to contribute and enjoy doing it. More than that, they also need to understand it's not just what they do, but how they do it, that is important. This world requires relationships, and relationships have a certain standard of expectations.

Anyway, my two cents, I suppose.

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