Self-esteem and learning

Self-esteem is a joy born of the fact that a man considers himself and power of acting. (pp. 108, D. XXV) See also Pride.

Love of esteem is a joy accompanied by the idea of some action of ours which we imagine that others praise. (pp. 108, D XXX)

Overestimation is thinking more highly of someone than is just, out of love. (pp. 107, D. XXI)

I have already examined issues connected with confidence, an affect which I feel the school system produces in its quest for “certainty”. Self-esteem and love of esteem are connected to confidence in the sense that if a teacher feels “confident” in what he/she is teaching then he/she will imagine that their actions might be praised by others which means they feel “self-esteem”. However, inevitably at some point doubt affects the teacher because something goes wrong – a pupil misbehaves, results are bad, a colleague is critical – and the teacher reaches for a new method, or an adaptation of existing method which he/she will be praised, which it often is if it is following the latest “on-message” initiative.

This cycle I believe describes the “affective” cycle which many educational institutions are locked into at the moment. The main point is that an “initiative” is introduced such as a new exam syllabus or way of teaching which is “confidently” presented as a way of helping students learn in a more effective way than before. Teachers are praised if they follow the provided instructions carefully, which builds their self-esteem and ensures that the initiative has “life”. However, at some point, doubt creeps in and a critical mass of people question the initiative or some “better” initiative is suggested, and a new method is introduced, and so the affective cycle begins again. I think what Spinoza’s philosophy of the affects teaches us here though is that education policies have to have a very real “affective life” in order to “live” and “act upon” teachers and students, and that vital to this affective life are confidence, self-esteem and doubt.

Learning and Esteeming Others

I think the affect of “over-estimation” afflicts many educational institutions. This is because people have to believe that there are “experts” that have the answers in a system that produces the fear of failure. Learners seek refuge in the affect of “over-estimation” to believe that they might not fail: they think that if they follow the advice of this or that expert they won’t fail. Their “over-estimation” is a way of avoiding of thinking adequately about a particular situation. The more “high-stakes” tests there are, the more the affect of “over-estimation” occurs. For example, in the UK at the moment, there are countless study guides (and I’ve written a few myself!) which many learners “over-estimate” the power of, believing that if they buy x study guide they will pass their exam.

We live in a culture which nurtures this affect to an absurd extent. You could argue that the world of advertising is predicated upon this affect.

Journey into Joy

When have you over-estimated a teacher or an educational “guide” of some sort of another, having too much faith in them to solve your problems?