‘Educating the emotions’ via extracurriculars

Don’t cut extracurriculars or add fees that make it hard for students to participate, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that one of the reasons American kids do so well in life (starting entrepreneurial companies, embracing a spirit of optimism, creating wealth, etc.) – even though they score poorly on international tests  –is because of what they pick up from sports, theater, band, student council, and the like.

Petrilli is impressed by David Brooks’ New York Times column on “educating the emotions.” Brooks writes:

When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.

Researchers in “neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on” are advancing a “richer and deeper view,” writes Brooks. We are social animals who “thrive as we educate our emotions,” not just our reason.

Children’s emotions are best educated outside the classroom, Petrilli argues.

I’m all for extracurriculars, but I also think we parents care a lot about our children’s character and their ability to form relationships when “we raise our kids.”

Brooks has written about his ideas in the form of a novel, The Social Animal:  The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement. The book is a depressing tale of two boring people “who lead muted, more or less satisfactory lives in the successful pursuit of achievement as it is narrowly defined by their culture,” writes Will Wilkinson in Forbes. PZ Myers got through the “arid wasteland” by repeatedly chanting “Die, yuppie scum, die,” he writes in Salon. Brooks is an acute social observer, but is frequently wrong about the science, writes psychologist Christopher Chabris in the Wall Street Journal. OK, here’s a Christian Science Monitor review that calls Brooks an “able storyteller.”