Life Blossoms

By Shamus
on Nov 1, 2006
Filed under:
Nerd Culture

StrongBad Emails are fairly surreal and never try to say much. They are usually just humorous nonsense, but the latest actually dabbles in satire with a brilliant lampooning of self-esteem driven education.

It made me laugh.

StrongBad: Soy is Murder
I usually take it for granted that everyone that gets HomestarRunner already reads HomestarRunner. The site was so huge at one point, with everyone telling everyone else about it, that it seemed useless to link it. Everyone that liked HSR was already checking that site every day.

That was a few years ago. The site has slowed down this year. Maybe the brothers who write this thing are getting tired of it. Maybe they went back to their day jobs. It’s hard to tell.

So, I don’t see HSR links much these days, but I can’t tell if that’s because the site is in decline or because people just don’t bother posting links. I think the site is as good as it ever was, although now that the style of humor is familiar (it was really different and innovative to me when I discovered the site years ago) it doesn’t make me laugh the way it used to. Actually, the site is arguably better, since the animations are much more varied and more sophisticated these days.

And now that I’ve gone off on this tangent and then painted myself into a corner, let me just circle back to the original point: This week’s StrongBad email is funny.

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6Six comments, I think. Maybe half a dozen.

From the Archives:

  1. David V.S. says:

    As an educator, I’ll point out there are two different issues, both of which are potentially (and, sadly, too often) taken to ridiculous extremes.

    First, is it a goal of education to promote self-esteem? If so, how high a priority does this goal have?

    Second, how do children acquire/maintain self-esteem? Is it through acquiring successes, avoiding failures, or some combination of both?

    No parent would like their child attending a school where self-esteem had absolutely no priority, or where students are bombarded with opportunities of expected failure in hope for an occasional remarkable success.

    Similarly, schools are absurd if self-esteem is given more priority than learning, or if self-esteem is primarily nurtured by ensuring students only meet opportunities of guaranteed success.

    There is a happy medium. The challenge arises because this happy medium is different for different students.

    Rather than exerting real effort to find the most appropriate overall happy medium, designers of school policy (often the places that educate educators, not the actual schools where these educators wind up working) may take the easier route of picking a policy simple to impliment and then making excuses for it.

  2. Shamus says:

    I agree with you very much here. There self-esteem advocates are in many cases right: Some kids do indeed have low self-esteem. This is sad and sometimes tragic. Some kids come from parents that are not nurturing enough, or not available enough. In these cases, no degree of effort on behalf of the teacher will make it better. Yes, the kid has low grades, but pretending he doesn’t won’t make him feel better about himself. It will just convince him that this education thing is a sham and that effort doesn’t matter.

    And I’ll just show my hand here and say that I was one such a kid.

  3. BeckoningChasm says:

    StrongBad is pretty consistently funny, and the animation on HSR is outstanding. I used to check weekly, then monthly, now it’s every now and then I’ll catch up.

    Part of the problem, for me, is that the humor is SO insular and self-referencing that’s more clever (in an abstract way) than funny.

    As for self-esteem, I think the keyword there is “self.” You’re the only one who can feel good about yourself, and that usually comes from achievement and accomplishment. Tailoring education for that result means making everything easy enough to achieve without effort. It seems to me that sets up a feedback loop, and you end up with students who are happy to learn what they already know.

    I’m not an educator, though, and I do know there are issues of motivation and maintaining interest.

  4. David V.S. says:

    The feedback loop BeckoningChasm mentions is often only partly real…

    For example, most first-graders will prefer to do athletic or crafts activities with which they are familiar and at least normally successful. It is a very rare child of this age that naturally seeks novelty in activity. (Novelty through exploring is a different issue; but note that even here the activity of exploring is usually done in a familiar manner.)

    Thus a primary task of educators of this children of this age, whether parents or teachers, is to motivate and support the child in trying something new, or doing something in a new way.

    At the same time, discovery is so rewarding for most children of this age that the child will naturally enjoy the newness of the activity, often more than they enjoy their typical activities which lack the thrill of novelty.

    Thus the need of an external educator to “break” the feedback loop of enjoying typical activities is a quirk of that age’s personality, not intrinsic to the child’s seeking to maximize enjoyment. Pedagogically it is an issue of “scaffolding“, not self-esteem.

  5. Telas says:

    I’m not an educator. But I do know two things…

    1) The one question not being asked is “What is the cost of focusing on self-esteem in school?”. Schools are constantly harping on their limited resources. Why don’t they use them to teach the children facts, ideas, and how to think, instead of how to feel about yourself?

    2) The best I ever felt about myself was when I was in the military (Army Infantry). I seriously doubt that any educator would ever condone what it took to get me there. Self-esteem and confidence don’t come from positive reinforcement. They come from overcoming obstacles, and knowing that you can handle anything Life throws at you.

  6. person says:

    I know this is a late post, but your article got me looking at the site again. And you’re definitely right. I just watched “Paper” and at the end the scoreboard gives the home side a score of “G”. I mean, really.

    Although, that IS one of my favourite jokes…

    :D

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