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Surely self-esteem can be taught another way

After reading your article in the Citrus Times Feb. 21, "Parents say program is unhealthy," I felt it necessary to clarify certain statements made in the article and provide additional information for thought.

I, too, am a member of Concerned Parents of Citrus County, and strongly believe in the need to rid our schools of the Pumsy and DUSO curriculums being taught in most of our elementary schools.

The first point that needs to be clarified is that teachers do not teach these curriculums; the school guidance counselors do. These self-esteem courses are taught during a period of weeks in the first and second semesters of the school year.

The amount of time devoted to this curriculum depends on the counselor. Each school seems to set its own schedule. There also are various editions of the curriculum at the schools. At some of the schools the teachers are required to stay in the room. But at other schools, some teachers have told us, they were encouraged to leave the room.

The second point, and one of the most important, is that the concerned parents have said from the beginning that our concern is with the curriculums and the offensive techniques contained in the curriculums, not the individual teachers and counselors.

I'm sure anyone who has lived in this county for any length of time is well aware of the quality of teachers and counselors we have, and we're grateful to them for the care and education they provide to our children.

We believe these offensive techniques have been used innocently in most cases.

The Concerned Parents of Citrus County question the fact that all children are automatically subjected to this curriculum without prior consent from parents. If told the school is offering a self-esteem mini-course to their children, most parents would be very accepting of that. But I assure you some of the teachings and statements in these curriculums would offend most parents if they were to go to their children's schools and request to read over the entire curriculum _ and I emphasize the word entire.

Again, there are different editions at the schools, some more offensive than others. Parts of the curriculums deal with teaching relative morality, include stories aimed at disclosing personal family information and can lead the children to believe they can change reality in their minds to what they want by using progressive relaxation, meditation, hypnosis and guided imagery. For these reasons, many other school systems throughout the country have dropped Pumsy and DUSO.

A representative of the School Board office stated, "To my knowledge, we're not teaching any of those things" that the group's literature warns about. We have heard numerous stories to the contrary from parents throughout the county. Some occurrences have been from this school year, but most have been within the last year or two.

At our second meeting with representatives of the School Board, Mrs. Bonnie Skrove did encourage us to have any parents with complaints against the curriculum dealing with their children to contact her or Mary Bray. We have been keeping track of these incidences ourself.

We are certainly not against improved self-esteem. We would like to see children who truly need help with their self-esteem identified by teachers, and parental consent obtained before they are placed in such a controversial course as this.

This is what is done in the case of children in speech therapy, gifted education, special education, reading labs etc. Clearly the majority of children do have parents who love them and place great value on helping their children achieve high self-esteem.

Our ultimate goal is to have the School Board enact a policy stating that no curriculums can contain techniques such as progressive relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, guided imagery or any technique that has the potential or aim of leading a child into an altered state of consciousness.

Each technique would be defined so as not to create confusion, such as what is happening now. I can't imagine the majority of parents, taxpaying citizens or School Board members not supporting such a policy. After all, most of us are parents ourselves.

We are aware that not all schools have had complaints about these techniques. But the curriculums do contain them and we feel the guidance counselor should not have to "weed out" certain material because of its potential detriment to children.

It's important to realize that if the authors of the curriculum had their way, all our children would be subjected to the harmful techniques. They wrote these curriculums with the intent that the progressive relaxation, meditation, hypnosis and guided imagery would be used along with stories and audio tapes. I can't understand adults thinking this is appropriate for elementary school children.

If this county feels it must offer a self-esteem course, we have researched a curriculum titled "character education curriculum" published by the Character Education Institute in San Antonio, Texas. We would very much like to offer it to the School Board to review as a possible replacement for Pumsy, DUSO . . . and any other self-esteem course being taught in the county.

This curriculum offers real-life situations dealing with honesty, patriotism, self-discipline, respect, work ethic etc. vs. the fantasy world of Pumsy and DUSO.

For example, DUSO is a dolphin that lives in Aquatron, a place "deep within ourselves," that we must swim hard to get to. Many of the stories appear so innocent at first, but we fear the ultimate intent of the author is to lead our children into a fantasy world that does not exist.

We feel that a policy is necessary to protect all our children from these teachings now and in the future. One of the scariest aspects is that if a counselor did choose to use these dangerous techniques, he or she could because the curriculum has been approved and accepted for use in our elementary schools. At present, we have no policy forbidding school employees from using these techniques.

We would like to inform parents that they can have a child opted out of these courses by calling the school or writing a letter to their child's teacher.

I also would encourage anyone with concerns, questions or desiring more information regarding self-esteem curriculums to attend a public meeting at 7 p.m. today at the Beverly Hills Recreation Center, featuring Craig Branch, co-author of the book Thieves of Innocence, and Dr. George Twente, chief of psychiatry at Decatur General Hospital in Alabama. Admission is free.

Hollis Roberts is a 23-year resident of Inverness and is the mother of two children, including a pupil at Pleasant Grove Elementary School.

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