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Calif. 'Self Esteem' Report Cites School Role in Building Healthy Image

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By Lisa Jennings

Self esteem can be a "social vaccine" against the "lures of crime, violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, child abuse, chronic welfare dependency, and educational failure," a California state task force argues in a report issued last week.

The 144-page report is the product of a $750,000 effort by the California Task Force to Promote Self Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility.

During its three years of work, the panel had been the target of considerable ridicule from pundits and political cartoonists, who suggested it might offer trendy "new age" responses to serious social problems.

But the task force's final document was hailed by many in the4state for offering substantive policy recommendations for schools, family-support programs, governments, communities, and businesses.

School Role Stressed

Although the family is the "incubator" of self esteem and the most crucial influence on a child's life, the report argues, schools can have nearly as strong an impact.

"Schools can sometimes mitigate the detrimental effects of family dysfunction and abuse and even foster self esteem where little previously existed," the report contends. "On the other hand, schools may--through insensitive and overly competitive policies and interactions--undo the sense of worth instilled in a child by his or her parents."

The report defines self esteem as "appreciating my own worth and importance and having the character to be accountable for myself and to act responsibly toward others."

To help children achieve that goal, the task force recommends a media campaign be developed to educate parents on their role in developing their child's healthy self esteem.

In focusing on schools, the task force found that "self concept is the most effective and consistent predictor of academic achievement--even better than test scores."

"The building blocks of self esteem are skills," the report states. "By fostering skills of personal and social responsibility, schools can help students increase their behavioral options."

The study recommends, among other suggestions, that schools:

  • Incorporate the promotion of self esteem into the curriculum.
  • Require course work in self esteem for teacher certification and as a part of inservice training.
  • Provide opportunities for students to do community service.
  • Expand counseling and peer-counseling services to students.

The recommendations of the panel, which included Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig, were endorsed by the state education department. But a department spokesman said last week that there were no plans to establish any mandates on the state level based on the plan.

Copies of the report are available for $4 each from the Bureau of Publications, California Department of Education, P.O. Box 271, Sacramento, Calif. 95802-0271; (916) 445-1260.

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