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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 04/11/2009

I've just realised that weeks have past since my last blog. This is in part due to holidays and to the fact that I'm in the midst of writing a new book. I've now resolved to write shorter and more frequent blogs based on what I'm doing, reading or thinking. This should be easier to do quickly.

I'm just back from Madrid as I was talking at a conference for those working in British international schools. IT was being held at Kings College, an English school in Madrid. I hadn't been aware of how big this sector was. Indeed there were almost three hundred at the event. I had also imagined that these schools would largely teach the children of diplomats or other British people working abroad but this isn't the case. In Spain, 80 per cent of the youngsters attending these British schools are Spanish.

One of the great advantages for me in talking to this audience of people teaching youngsters from a host of European countries is that it confirmed that the themes we're pursuing at the Centre are applicable throughout the western world. The Centre's critique of the self-esteem agenda and how it unwittingly undermines young people academically and psychologically found a very receptive audience at this Spanish conference. Participants from various European countries all had stories of parents overly concerned about their children being challenged in any way.  They also agreed that something had shifted in the last ten years leading many more young folk to say they can't do something before they have tried.

This is a deep cultural change which won't be easily turned round. There certainly isn't a panacea for it but I'm hopeful that Carol Dweck's work on mindset has something important to offer. I'm also convinced that it is vitally important for schools to attempt to counteract some of the messages parents are getting. Unfortunately I think that much of what is happening under the banner of well-being in schools is reinforcing these unhelpful trends rather than counteracting them. Look at England's SEAL curriculum and you'll see how it is fundamentally based on very questionable assumptions from pop psychology - including the self-esteem movement with its emphasis on praise.  Indeed one of the books I'm now reading and I'll blog on when I've finished not only quotes Carol Dweck's research on how praise can undermine young people but also research with prisoners with shows that they score highly on emotional intelligence. SEAL is effectively an emotional intelligence curriculum so I wonder what those who want to make this it the heart of British schools have to say about this. Personally I've always thought that while emotional intelligence can be an asset to some people who work closely with others, we need to be careful  about reinforcing messages about its importance. Emotional intelligence is the strength deployed by conmen and manipulators.

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