A light hearted question:
As a parent of two young children, I struggle with the current mainstream American parenting and educational style which is typically parodied (rightfully so) as the "Everyone gets a medal" approach to child rearing. Some features:
- At various sports and cultural activities and competitions, everyone really does get a medal - it's almost laughable. The idea that there are winners and losers is deemed somehow too harsh. In my son's martial arts dojo, passing to a new belt rank is systematic every few months, regardless of how much karate the kid has actually learned.
- Standardized testing in schools is seen as some sort of fascist evil by many parents and educational institutions. Presumably each child is unique and special in her/his own way and evaluating them against the same set of challenges and questions is somehow unfair.
- Positive reinforcement and protecting the child's self esteem seems to take precedence over discipline. You don't say "You've been a bad boy", you're supposed to say "What you did is not nice". You're not supposed to criticize the kids, instead you need to ask for their reasons and try understand their point of view. Negotiation and explanation are to be used at all times instead of reprimand.
I can't really pinpoint one source. This is the overall message we get from both the various parenting books my wife makes me read and the daycare and education professionals I have to deal with. The approach is probably best summarized in this cartoon:
I call this "mainstream", because it is supposedly a mainly white/anglo approach (I myself am of mixed Irish and Arab descent). Amy Chua contrasts this with the more disciplinarian and traditional approach that Asian-Americans supposedly take with their kids in her notorious "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother".
I object to this approach and my friends are always surprised by this, since my political views are usually to the far left, and this school of parenting and education is somehow associated with liberal and left-leaning thinking.
- Can this approach to parenting and education be traced to a recent philosophical movement or principle in particular?
- Why is this approach somehow associated with liberals and the left? Afterall communist Eastern European countries tended to be much more demanding and disciplinarian in their education than Western countries.