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13 February, 2007

Reflections on Schooling, Effort, and Praise

So I went to a magnet school for high school. (For those unfamiliar with the terminology: a 'magnet school' draws some fraction of its population from a larger region than a normal school for a special program. So, for example, it might draw its students from an entire county rather than a single district. These programs can be arts programs, sciences programs, other academic programs; it varies a good bit. The general notion is for students deemed "gifted" in some way; the schools for problem students are not typically referred to as "magnets".)

A reasonable fraction of the people who went through my high school's program broke down in some way when they hit college. Some needed to take a leave of absence for a year or change schools, or had seriously shaky academic time there, or did what I did and broke down entirely, dropped out, and never returned. To the point that my mother dropped me an email a while back saying, more or less, "Is it just me, or do a lot of people who went through that program wind up breaking down?"

It's something I've seen a reasonable amount in other people, too, who didn't go through that program. Hit a certain point, flame out. And live with the sort of weird, awkward guilt about never living up to that potential that people always talked about, way back when, before the nervous breakdown, or before the really terrible sophomore year grades, or before settling for getting a degree somewhere else just to escape and go seek a quiet, less spotlighted place to hide.

So I see a link to this article about praise, smart kids, and the trend towards mediocrity and mostly spend a lot of time nodding.

And thinking that yeah, I do crave praise at times -- but mostly I want specific things, solid things, not the 'you did that well' or the 'you looked good'. I want to know what and why and how and have something tangible to hold on to, because the generalities just ... aren't ... real.

3 comments:

Vieva said...

You know, that article made a lot of sense to me, too.

I'm glad I saw it now, when I can still change the way I talk to my son. Because I STILL have problems with "needing to work at it" meaning "I'm not smart enough."

*sigh* thank you for this.

Trin said...

This is probably so beside the major point as to be laughable, but the whole praise deal got me thinking about D/s actually and the folks who'd always tell me "Submissives want to be told they're good girls/good boys."

I remember wanting badly to do D/s but thinking it seemed so silly to say "good boy" or "good girl" as if i were praising a puppy. I've since changed my mind now that I have more experience and know what people want and mean by what they want, but I think part of why probably was that I had an inkling of something like what this article is saying: that bland unspecific praise given without a specific purpose doesn't really mean anything.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Trin --

Actually, it's sort of the same thing as some of what was in my head when I was writing it; I found myself looking at the sort of praise-contact I seek in my relationship with my liege and whether or not it fit the pattern they were talking about.

And really, what I want with him is very, very specific -- ranging from 'guidance and critique of what I'm doing so that I can improve', very explicitly, to the more nebulous and yet still specific statements that hit 'this thing here, this I value; I value you giving it to me'.

Back to wanting statements to be real.