Emotion or Aptitude?

A book due to release next month in Great Britain targets the “therapy culture” in schools with producing students unable to cope with rigorous academic standards. In The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education by Drs. Dennis Hayes and Katherine Eccelstone, both university professors, they argue that “universities have created a culture where emotions are accorded the same value as ideas.” Such pandering does not fare well for critical thinking and academic growth.
Dr. Hayes states, “Turning teaching into therapy is destroying the minds of children, young people and adults. . .Therapeutic education promotes the idea that we are emotional, vulnerable and hapless individuals. It is an attack on human potential.” He maintains that free expression of ideas without any criticism actually weakens the academic freedom. Furthermore, academics themselves receive restrictions based upon “the subjective opinions of students, colleagues, and managers.”
As evidence , the authors discuss the number of students who attempt to describe themselves with some disability like dyslexia in order to obtain academic assistance. They also cite a growing number of “helicopter parents” at the university level who continue to insert themselves in their children’s education. While parental involvement at the elementary and secondary level is important, students eventually need to learn to navigate the education system and their world in order to mature and become productive members of society.
However, the problem certainly does not begin at the university level. Students as early as elementary level often receive praise for simply for their ideas. (Of course, no teacher should ever berate students or inappropriately criticize them.) Children typically use “inventive spelling” in the early grades to present their stories, which may encourage them to use their imaginations. Yet they often receive little guidance in correct spelling or sentence structure until much later. Even in the middle and high school grades, their essays receive scores based on ideas, and their teachers score holistically, with little or no constructive criticism to guide them to improve their skills. Grading in “soft sciences” like social studies and sociology is often quite subjective. Teachers are reluctant to offer hard criticism for fear of offending students or lowering their self esteem. So many students receive quite a shock when they finally encounter standardized exams like the SAT’s and ACT’s which involve no personal interaction in the scoring process.
Less attention to emotion and more attention to aptitude will allow students to fulfill their intellectual potential.

One Response to “Emotion or Aptitude?”

  1. Thanasis

    Faculty could help to guide students and ease the tiitsrnaon by informing students of what is expected of them. There should also be more workshops about how to score in University, instead of just peer tutoring and personal help. Not many students would want to invest time in seeking additional academic help which deprives them of the time they could be using to study. Perhaps some tips on websites would be helpful.


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