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Michelle Rhee's advice: Stop overpraising kids

Michelle-RheeStudentsFirst chief Michelle Rhee is a lightning-rod figure in educational reform, and I talked to her at length for my ''Patt Morrison Asks'' column. Her goal of a tough-love, top-to-bottom overhaul of public schools doesn't stop in the classroom or with teachers; even how we reward our children is in need of a makeover, she told me.

As an example, her own daughters, she says in a radio commentary, "suck" at soccer, yet they have so many medals and ribbons, "you'd think I was raising the next Mia Hamm."

And that is not, to her mind, a good thing:

The practice of applauding kids for taking part and trying their best, whatever the results -- you are concerned that we overpraise kids.

I think it's a huge problem. We don't want to make kids feel bad. I tell the soccer story: One of the soccer leagues my kid was in wanted to stop keeping score because they didn't want the kids on the losing team to feel bad. That's so ridiculous. Life is about sometimes losing and being able to tough it out, and if you're not as good, you know you've got to put in the hard work to get better. If we're creating this cocoon for kids where they think that if they just try their best, we can tell them that's sufficient -- that is doing a disservice to kids in the long run.

Shouldn't you also hold the soccer coach responsible, the way you'd hold the teacher responsible?

Saying "we're not going to keep score" is the same as saying "we're not going to look at student achievement levels." A coach's win-loss record is the basis on which [the coach] is paid. If you were to say, "We're going to stop keeping score; we're going to evaluate coaches on how they're inspiring team spirit" -- are you kidding me? People would go ballistic!

ALSO:

An L.A. teacher reviews her review

Patt Morrison Asks: Hard lessons with Michelle Rhee

Does the Miramonte case argue for cameras in the classroom?

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Michelle Rhee is seen at Good Housekeeping's 'Shine On' Women Making History theatrical event at Radio City Music Hall on April 12, 2011 in New York. Credit: Evan Agostini / AP Photo

 

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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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