Illinois Loop
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Self-Esteem

  • Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth, Scientific American, January 2005, by Roy F. Baumeister, Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger and Kathleen D. Vohs. Subhead: "Boosting people's sense of self-worth has become a national preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, research shows that such efforts are of little value in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior. ... Some findings even suggest that artificially boosting self-esteem may lower subsequent academic performance."

  • "Want to build real self-esteem? ... Expect, even insist on, competence. Don't pretend it's there when it isn't."
    Down With Self-Esteem by Paul Greenberg, February 5, 2007. "... The theory was that promoting kids' self-esteem was going to convince them they were great. And it just might. But that's no guarantee they are great. ... Some of these kids may be all et up with self-esteem, but they're woefully short on self-respect, which is quite another thing. Self-respect flows from self-discipline and the real achievement it leads to. It doesn't depend on psychological gamesmanship. ... Want to build real self-esteem, the kind that is the fruit of self-respect and not just an inadequate substitute for it? Expect, even insist on, competence. Don't pretend it's there when it isn't."

  • Benefits of Boosting Self-Esteem Questioned: Some Efforts May Be Counterproductive, press release of the American Psychological Society, April 8, 2003. "Teachers, parents, therapists, and others have focused efforts on boosting self-esteem on the assumption that high self-esteem will cause many positive outcomes and benefits. A new report challenges the traditional self-esteem model and suggests that efforts to boost an individual's self-esteem might in some cases have the opposite effect. The report, "Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?" in the May 2003 issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest takes an objective scientific look at the effects of self-esteem on academic performance, success in the workplace, and other areas where it has been generally assumed that increased self-esteem leads to achievement. 'We have not found evidence that boosting self-esteem causes benefits,' the authors wrote. 'Our findings do not support continued widespread efforts to boost self-esteem in the hope that it will by itself foster improved outcomes.' ... 'efforts to boost the self-esteem of pupils have not been shown to improve academic performance and may sometimes be counterproductive.'"

  • "Change Your Mind" by Rev. Gilbert W. Bowen, Kenilworth Union Church, Kenilworth, Illinois, Feb. 10, 2002. "...All sorts of hard research indicates now that there is no correlation between the way people feel about themselves and how they perform. Albert Bandura, a psychology professor at Stanford concludes from his extensive study that self-esteem affects neither personal goals nor performance. Some students feel terrible about themselves and become academic and social successes. Others brim with self-confidence and do awful work."

  • Forget Self-Esteem; Set High Educational Standards by J. Martin Rochester And David Rose, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 4, 1999. "Last year, while visiting the University of Michigan, one of us discovered that a well-known international relations scholar required that his undergraduate students buy a pocket manual on grammar and punctuation. When asked why he had assigned such a low-level book, especially at a 'top 25' institution with high admission standards, he responded that he had no alternative since his incoming students were becoming more illiterate by the year.
    "Such anecdotes are becoming commonplace. We have witnessed a similar decline in academic preparation on the part of students entering our own university. If the problem were limited to poor training in core academic skills - the ability to write well, think critically and do basic math - it would be serious enough. But the problem goes far beyond that. Increasingly students exhibit a poor work ethic, an aversion to reading and listening, an ignorance of history, an entitlement mentality regarding good grades and a lack of respect for traditional notions of scholarship and knowledge and for learning itself.
    "...many of the current difficulties can be traced to the 'self-esteem movement' propagated by pop psychologists."

  • "A bizarre disconnect between perceived self-worth and provable skill"
    Self-Help's Big Lie By Steve Salerno, Op-Ed, Los Angeles Times, January 1, 2006. "In U.S. schools, the crusade to imbue kids with that most slippery of notions -- self-esteem -- has been unambiguously disastrous (and has recently been disavowed by a number of its loudest early voices). Self-esteem-based education presupposed that a healthy ego would help students achieve greatness, even if the mechanisms necessary to instill self-esteem undercut scholarship. Over time, it became clear that what such policies promote is not academic greatness but a bizarre disconnect between perceived self-worth and provable skill. Over a 20-year span beginning in the early 1970s, the average SAT score fell by 35 points. But in that same period, the contingent of college-bound seniors who boasted an A or B average jumped from 28% to an astonishing 83%, as teachers felt increasing pressure to adopt more 'supportive' grading policies. Tellingly, in a 1989 study of comparative math skills among students in eight nations, Americans ranked lowest in overall competence, Koreans highest -- but when researchers asked the students how good they thought they were at math, the results were exactly opposite: Americans highest, Koreans lowest. Meanwhile, data from 1999's omnibus Third International Mathematics and Science Study, ranking 12th-graders from 23 nations, put U.S. students in 20th place, besting only South Africa, Lithuania and Cyprus."

  • New Advice for Parents: Saying `That's Great!' May Not Be New York Times, October 18, 2000. "For years, parents and teachers got the message that children should be praised at almost any opportunity... But in a sea change from the gestalt of recent decades, many educators and child psychologists are concluding that less praise is often better and frequent praise for unexceptional actions can actually have a negative impact on children. 'Praising every time lowers a child's motivation,' said Dr. Ron Taffel, a Manhattan psychologist and author of "Nurturing Good Children Now." 'It cheapens the praise, and children become dependent on praise.'"

  • Grade 'em High in Self-Esteem, Low in Realism by Marlene Zuk, biology professor, University of California Riverside, May 30, 2005. (Originally in the Los Angeles Times, syndicated widely.) "In the face of all evidence to the contrary, my students exhibit an unswerving confidence in their own abilities. They earnestly assure me that despite test scores in the single digits and an inability to answer questions posed by their teaching assistant, they really know the material. ... They readily confess to me that they have not consulted the text and do not remember my lecture. They have nothing to say about the concepts we've covered. Yet somehow, a kernel of faith stays resolutely sheltered in each undergraduate bosom -- they believe honestly and with conviction that they get it, and therefore deserve a high grade. Don't get me wrong. I hardly expect all students to understand the material immediately, or even ever, and I also realize that my teaching could be confusing or badly organized. Wrong answers are part of the game. What I find troubling is the lack of concern about their ignorance or poor performance, the epidemic of what a colleague of mine calls unwarranted self-regard. ... Students have always deluded themselves, of course, and hope has always sprung eternal, or at least until final grades appear. ... But confident placidity in the face of error seems to be on the rise. Maybe it's all that self-esteem this generation of students was inculcated with as youngsters, or maybe it's the emphasis on respecting everyone else's opinion, to the point where no answer, even a mathematical one, can be truly wrong because that might offend the one who gave it."

  • When Bad Kids Think They're Great by Carol Milstone, Ph.D., National Post. "There is a fine line between high self-esteem and conceit, and probably no one knows this better than Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) psychologist Roy Baumeister, who has studied the effects -- in fact, the dangers -- of high self-esteem. In his influential 1996 academic article subtitled The Dark Side of High Self-esteem, Baumeister and colleagues point to studies showing that high -- not low -- self-esteem is at the heart of many acts of aggression and hostility against others."

  • The Myth of Self-Esteem by Lynn Woolley, February 28, 2001. "If you visit the locker room of your local middle school or high school, you're much more likely to see a sign that reads 'school pride.' Have you ever thought about why the academic side of the school stresses self-esteem while the athletic department promotes pride? The dictionary definition may be helpful. One of the definitions given for 'self esteem' is 'self-conceit.' For 'pride,' however, the definition is more precise: 'a reasonable or justifiable self-respect.'"

  • Read Two Sonnets and Call Me In the Morning by Jerry Jesness, Education Week, March 22, 2000 "The in-service training session began like so many others. The consultant sang a cute song and then chastised a group of schoolteachers for putting too much emphasis on thinking and not enough on emotions. 'Schools don't need more worksheets,' he said. 'First you must help your students get in touch with their feelings.'... [In] the modern American school ... the importance of knowing facts is trivialized, while feelings have become the focus of much instruction. We teachers are bombarded with suggestions and mandates to 'teach the total child.' Build the self-esteem, we are told, and everything else will fall into place. Do not merely teach times tables, but strive to end math anxiety. Lower the affective filter, and children will somehow magically absorb foreign languages. Teach them conflict resolution and anger-management skills, and good classroom discipline will ensue."

  • Incompetent People Rarely Know They Are by Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters, January 21, 2000. "The truly incompetent may never know the depths of their own incompetence, a pair of social psychologists say. 'We found again and again that people who perform poorly relative to their peers tended to think that they did rather well,' Justin Kruger, co-author of a study on the subject, said. ... Kruger and co-author David Dunning found that when it came to a variety of skills -- logical reasoning, grammar, even sense of humor -- people who essentially were inept never realized it, while those who had some ability were more self-critical."

  • The New Curriculum: Reading, Writing, and Self-Esteem by J. Fraser Field. "One of the most dominant articles of faith pervading the modern curriculum is the notion that children can't achieve and won't succeed unless they have high self-esteem. In parochial and public schools, in reading and writing, in health class and on the sports field, making students feel good about themselves has become a foundational goal in the modern classroom. Yet doubts are now being raised about whole concept of self-esteem."

  • The Trouble With Self-Esteem by Lauren Slater, New York Times Magazine, February 3, 2002. "The discrepancy between high self-esteem scores and poor social skills and academic acumen led researchers ... to consider the unexpected notion that self-esteem is overrated and to suggest that it may even be a culprit, not a cure. ... Last year alone there were three withering studies of self-esteem released in the United States, all of which had the same central message: people with high self-esteem pose a greater threat to those around them than people with low self-esteem and feeling bad about yourself is not the cause of our country's biggest, most expensive social problems."

  • Making a God of Self-Esteem: The Tyranny of Misdirected Sentiment by Kathleen Gow. "These days, taking issue with making a god of self-esteem probably places one somewhere between Atilla the Hun and the early Desert Fathers. But so be it! Of course one is not against self-esteem, simply that the term has become the virtual first principle, the major objective, the excuse for much of what is being heralded as the sine qua non of progressive education."

  • Schools Get Dunce for Self-Esteem by George F. Smith. "Last year a California school banned the game of tag because it created a self-esteem issue. Someone had to be 'it,' and that someone was a victim. ... A junior high school in Ohio posts a daily 'Do not tease' list. ... Parents outraged over these decisions put the blame on self-esteem. It's quack science, get rid of it. Not so fast, says psychologist Nathaniel Branden, who's been writing and lecturing on self-esteem for over four decades. Self-esteem is real, Branden insists, and we need it desperately. But Branden's self-esteem differs radically from the kind government schools are promoting."

  • Self-Esteem Needs Boot Camp by Diane Alden, May 2, 2001. "Before the national self-esteem movement began, kids earned self-esteem or absorbed it naturally from their parents. When they accomplished something, whether or not they received praise for it, they understood they had done something good. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that learning how to ride a bike or roller-skate is good for self-esteem. Long ago and far away, kids often did things for the sheer joy of doing them. From earning a Scout merit badge to plumbing the depths of long division or Latin verbs, from memorizing Shakespeare to memorizing the times tables, these efforts produced something that no one could take away. It did not require phony love-ins with the teachers drumming it into their heads how wonderful they were because they had learned a skill of some sort. That accomplishment engendered self-esteem and not vice versa."

  • Inflated Sense of Worth: "High self-esteem doesn't lead to good social behavior, researchers say," by Joanne Jacobs. "'D' students, it turns out, think as highly of themselves as valedictorians, and serial rapists are no more likely to ooze with insecurities than doctors or bank managers. A review of research linked high self-esteem to racist attitudes, drunken driving and other risky behaviors. Apparently, people with high self-esteem are more likely to take the initiative -- but not necessarily in socially desirable ways."

  • Self-Esteem Is Up, But 'Society Has Little to Show for It' By Michael Smith, M.D.

  • Self-Esteem Programs Get Low Grades by Jay MacInnes. "Research shows having a high self-esteem doesn't always lead to positive or responsible behavior."

  • Bad Attitude (PDF) by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, American Educator (American Federation of Teachers), Summer 2000. "Tired of students who don't hesitate to say how boring they find class, who have replaced self-discipline with unfettered self-expression, and who hold nothing in higher esteem than their own opinions? The author traces the problem to its root: today's wildly excessive emphasis on self-esteem. The symptoms are such 'bad attitudes' as these:
    - 'Being myself makes self-discipline unnecessary'
    - 'If I have high self-esteem I will be successful'
    - 'I have a right to my opinion, so my opinions are right'
    - 'Expressing my negative feelings will relieve them'
    - 'The teacher's job is to entertain me'"

  • Study Reveals Self-Esteem Inflation Among U.S. Kids By Suzanne Rostler, Reuters Health, November 10, 2001. "American kids have a bloated sense of themselves, a new study suggests. ... Self-esteem based on nothing can set people up for disappointment, Dr. Jean Twenge of San Diego State University in California said in an interview with Reuters Health. 'They may also feel that the world owes them something,' she added. Twenge blames the trend on the self-esteem movement in schools, which teaches children slogans and affirmations such as 'I am lovable and capable.' However, 'it is more important that a child actually accomplishes something than that he or she have high self-esteem,' she said. 'Once a child accomplishes something, self-esteem will follow naturally. Children should be praised, but only when the praise has a basis in fact.'"

  • Findings Puncture Self-Esteem Claims by Bruce Bower, Science News, June 7, 2003. "High self-esteem may not live up to its reputation. A strong regard for one's own traits and abilities exerts few of the beneficial effects claimed for it by teachers, parents, psychotherapists, and others, according to a new review of the voluminous scientific literature on this issue."

  • The Pitfalls of Inflated Self-Esteem, June 1997. "It seems prudent to favor what Barbara Lerner calls 'earned self-esteem' in favor of 'feel good now self-esteem' (Lerner, Barbara. 1996. Self-Esteem and Excellence: The Choice and the Paradox. American Educator, 20 (2) p.12). That is, Lerner submits that so-called 'old theories' of self-esteem that view self-esteem as the result of achievement rather than as the prerequisite for achievement are more likely to provide a productive perspective for the educational environment. Similarly, it seems reasonable to suggest that earned self-esteem would be less vulnerable to ego-threats than possibly inflated 'feel good self-esteem.'"

  • Song of Myself: When It Comes To Self-Esteem, More Is Better, Right? by Meta McMillian, CWRU Magazine, Case Western Reserve University, Winter 1999. "The 1997-98 school year proved to be a violent one on the nation's schoolyards. It was notable for the level of violence, the killings by teenagers and even pre-teens. Young people in Pearl, Mississippi; West Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Springfield, Oregon; and other communities opened fire and killed or wounded fellow students and teachers. The incidents come on the heels of an era when schools, parents, and government authorities had devised a range of self-esteem-enhancing initiatives to help youths feel good about themselves-bolstered enough to cope with the hard knocks they were sure to receive later in life. Recent studies indicate such initiatives may have gone too far, or have only limited value."

  • Deflating Self-Esteem's Role in Society's Ills by Eroca Goode, New York Times, October 1, 2002. "Recently, however, some psychologists have begun debunking the notion that a poor self-image is the malady behind most of society's complaints -- and bolstering self-esteem its cure."

  • The Self Esteem Hoax by Dinesh D'Souza. "...But does a stronger self-esteem make students learn better? This seems dubious. ... Several years ago a group called the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem (no, I am notmaking this up) conducted a study to explore the relationship between self-esteem and academic performance. The study found, to its own evident chagrin, that higher self-esteem does not produce better intellectual performance. Nor does it produce more desirable social outcomes, such as lower teen pregnancy or reduced delinquency. These findings have been corroborated by academic studies comparing the self-image and academic performance of American students with that of students from other industrialized countries. Consistently, American students score higher on self-esteem. Yet on actual reading and math tests the American students perform near the bottom. These results show that it is possible to have a healthy ego and be ignorant at the same time."

  • The Problem with Self-Esteem by Paul C. Vitz. "The self-esteem theory, that so many people seem obsessed with these days, predicts that only those who feel good about themselves will do well -- which is supposedly why all students need it. Yet the research has not supported the theory."

  • Can Self-Esteem Be Bad For Your Child? An Inflated Sense Of Self-Worth Can Do More Harm Than Good by Frank Furedi, The Times [UK], January 7, 2002. "But a low sense of self-worth may not be the social ill we believe it to be. Indeed, a report published last November by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation dismissed as myth the idea that low self-esteem drives children towards antisocial behaviour. In a review of research published in scientific journals, the report concluded that it is confident children who are more likely to be racists, to bully others and to engage in drink-driving and speeding. The author, Professor Nicholas Emler, of the London School of Economics, stated that the 'widespread belief in raising self-esteem as an all-purpose cure for social problems has created a huge market for self-help manuals and educational programmes that is threatening to become the psychotherapeutic equivalent of snake oil.'"

  • Just Tell Me I'm Wonderful and Give Me the A! by Tina Blue, April 27, 2006. "In addition to being poorly behaved and difficult to control, most of the children had also learned that no one was ever supposed to criticize them or to say anything to them other than how wonderful and special they were. Their self-esteem had been bolstered not by their having acquired any knowledge, not by learning to manage their own impulses or to develop any skills or accomplish anything, but rather by indiscriminate praise and a total absence of constructive criticism or honest evaluation of their performance at any task."

  • Programs To Raise Self-Esteem Fall Woefully Short by Sharon Begley, The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2003.

  • Self-Esteem: It'S Easier Than Doing Your Homework by Betsy Hart, Scripps Howard News Service, July 24, 1998.

  • Self-Esteem: Why We Need Less Of It by Andrew Sullivan, Time Magazine, October 7, 2002. "Racists, street thugs, school bullies all polled high on the self-esteem charts. And you can see why. If you think you're God's gift, you're particularly offended if other people don't treat you that way. So you lash out, or commit crimes, or cut ethical corners to reassert your pre-eminence. After all, who are your moral inferiors to suggest tht you could be doing something, er, wrong? What do they know? Self-esteem can also be an educational boomerang. Friends of mine who teach today's college students are constantly complaining about the high self-esteem of their students. When the kids have been told from Day One that they can do no wrong, when every grade in high school is assessed so as to make the kid feel good, rather than to give an accurate measure of his work, the student can develop self-worth dangerously unrelated to the objective truth. He can then get deeply offended when he's told he's got a C-grade in college, and become demoralized or extremely angry. Weak professors give in to the pressure - hence grade inflation. Tough professors merely get exhausted trying to bring their students into vague touch with reality."

  • Creating a Psychology of Success in the Classroom by John V. Shindler, Ph.D. Excerpt:
    "A sense of self-efficacy could be defined as one's belief in his or her competence in a given domain. We know that when we feel competent we try harder and more readily trust ourselves in the process. Contrary to popular opinion, self-efficacy does not come from complements or being spared failure. Self-efficacy comes from evidence. Bandura (1977) speaks of self-efficacy as the degree of expectancy that one will successfully perform a desired task. When a young person obtains sensory feedback that he or she succeeded in a given task or has demonstrated a talent, he or she will be confident in applying that ability in the future. In contrast, the braggart or the show-off displays a lack of confidence in that he needs to prove to himself and others that there is reason to view his actions as acceptable or worthy, compensating for unconscious self-doubts. In situations where a student feels a sense of confidence, his or her unconscious has concrete images that support that student's ability and therefore he or she has no need to show-off."

  • Here's a satire from SatireWire.com:
    Educators Fight To Protect Self-Esteem Of Goofy, Loser Kids

"Magic Me" and Expanding Horizons

    Cultish obsession with self-esteem spills over into the academic curriculum, under such banners as "Expanding Horizons" and "Magic Me."

    For more, see Illinois Loop: Social Studies.

Violence and Self-Esteem

  • Key To Your Child's Self-Esteem: Hard Work, Not Shallow Praise (PDF) by John P. Zaremba, Ph.D., president of the Robert Crown Center, Hinsdale, Illinois. Excerpts: "[There is] another potential danger coming from inflated self-esteem. The researchers found that this sort of unjustified self-esteem can trigger hostility and aggression, and may even underlie violence like the recent school shootings. According to the study, high selfesteem that is unjustified and unstable -- also defined as narcissism -- puts a kid at risk of turning violent, because narcissists are supersensitive to criticism or slights -- suspecting deep down that their feeling of superiority is built on quicksand."

  • Studies Find Narcissists Most Aggressive When Criticized: "Excessive Self-Love Could be Related to Recent School Shootings, Researchers Say," American Psychological Association, July 9, 1998.

  • The Columbine Tragedy: What Haven't We Learned? by Leah Vukmir. Excerpts: "The adolescent years are typically characterized as a period of self-absorption. ... What has changed, however, is how we as a society view these teenage preoccupations. Instead of recognizing them as part of a normal process, we have propelled teens toward a heightened awareness of their perceived injustices through our own preoccupation with protecting their self-esteem. The self-esteem movement has become an entrenched feature in our schools and homes. The emergence of a psychotherapeutic culture of cushioning self-esteem at all costs has led to school programs aimed at coddling teens instead of encouraging their growth and independence. The abundance of peer mediation and conflict resolution courses in our schools represent the prevailing view that these programs will benefit teen self-esteem."

  • What is an Indigo Child? It's not bad enough that touchie-feelie psychobabble has invaded the classroom and spawned a generation of self-absorbed, blindly accepting, and empty-headed young people? Now the woo-woo crowd has enshrined these attributes as being those of the "Indigo Child" marking the dawn of a glorious New Age.

  •  
    Columbine High School
    April 20, 1999

Quotes on Self-Esteem

    From our extensive page on education quotations, here are the entries on self-esteem:

    "Prepare youth for the path, not the path for youth."
    -- Ben B. Lindsey, Juvenile Court Judge

    "I don't have any opinions anymore. All I know is that no one is better than anyone else, and everyone is the best at everything."
    -- "Principal Skinner," the Simpsons, "Girls Just Want to Have Sums"

    From the Simpsons episode, "Girls Just Want to Have Sums":

    Women's educational expert Melanie Upfoot begins teaching her first class in the all-girls classroom.
    Upfoot: Now, let's buckle down and do some math.
    Lisa: YES!
    [The teacher turns on an electronic device that plays soft music and projects colorful mathematical symbols all around the classroom.]
    Upfoot: How do numbers make you feel? What does a plus sign smell like? Is the number 7 odd, or just different?
    Lisa: Are we gonna do any actual math problems?
    Upfoot: "Problems"? That's how men see math, something to be attacked - something to be "figured out."
    Lisa: But ... isn't it? I mean, confidence building can't replace real learning.
    Upfoot: Uh-oh, Lisa, it sounds like you're trying to derail our self-esteem engine.
    From the Simpsons episode, "Girls Just Want to Have Sums":
    Lisa has disguised herself to join the "boys" math classroom. The teacher writes the equation Y x Y = 25 on the board.
    Teacher: Now, how many different numbers can Y be?
    Lisa: That's easy - just one, the number 5.
    Teacher: Wrong.
    [Lisa gasps.]
    Martin: There are two possible solutions: 5 and -5.
    Lisa interior voice: Oh my god, I was wrong -- and by being corrected, I learned! [happily] And no one cared about my feelings!
    "People used to say, "'Ignorance is no excuse.' Today, ignorance is no problem. Our schools promote so much self-esteem that people confidently spout off about all sorts of things that they know nothing about."
    -- Thomas Sowell, Ph.D., "Random Thoughts," August 12, 2004

    "Someone once said that the most important knowledge is knowledge of our own ignorance. Our schools are depriving millions of students of that kind of knowledge by promoting 'self-esteem' and encouraging them to have opinions on things of which they are grossly ignorant, if not misinformed."
    -- Thomas Sowell, Ph.D.

    "It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance."
    -- Thomas Sowell, Ph.D.

    "The self-confident moral preening of ignoramuses is perhaps an inevitable product of the promotion of 'self-esteem' in our schools." -- Thomas Sowell, Ph.D.

    "Flattery makes the most effective chains. Hitler told the Germans that they were a master race -- and came very close to making them slaves."
    -- Thomas Sowell, Ph.D.

    "There may often be excuse for doing things poorly in this world, but there is never any excuse for calling a poorly done thing well done."
    -- W. E. B. DuBois (1868-1963), often considered founder of the civil rights movement, and a co-founder of the NAACP

    "The preponderance of the data illustrate that self-esteem is irrelevant in all areas of education."
    -- Maureen Stout, Ph.D., "The Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing Down of America's Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem"

    "Self-esteem policies promote the worst in political correctness. Evaluation is no longer intended to provide feedback on progress but to make the kids feel good, even if that means deceiving them about their true ability and achievement. Curriculum must be organized around student interests; whether or not they are actually learning what they need to no longer matters. And the class environment must emphasize cooperation, never competition, so that all believe themselves to be winners."
    -- Maureen Stout, Ph.D., "The Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing Down of America's Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem"

    "The narcissism that many young people exhibit is caused primarily by teachers and parents who lead them to believe that they are the center of the universe. Student-centered teaching fosters this, as does the idea of teacher as therapist."
    -- Maureen Stout, Ph.D., "The Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing Down of America's Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem"

    "Three decades of research on children with conduct problems indicates that the most effective interventions are not counseling or other 'talking' therapies, but high structure, clear rules, and immediate consequences. In the words of one researcher, what these youth need is not higher self-esteem but more self-control."
    -- Wade F. Horn

    "The ed school of thought holds that if you just relax and get over the anxiety, the greater truth will prevail. Not a word about how inadequate preparation may play a role."
    -- career-switcher currently in ed school

    "[The students'] self-esteem had been bolstered not by their having acquired any knowledge, not by learning to manage their own impulses or to develop any skills or accomplish anything, but rather by indiscriminate praise and a total absence of constructive criticism or honest evaluation of their performance at any task."
    -- Tina Blue

    "There is something inappropriate -- almost sick -- in the spectacle of mature adults showering young people with unbelievable praise."
    -- Harvey C. Mansfield, professor of government at Harvard University.

    "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid."
    -- Proverbs 12:1

    "'Know thyself.' A maxim as pernicious as it is ugly. Whoever studies himself arrest his own development. A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly."
    -- Andre Gide

    "It's okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are our teachers -- they help us to learn."
    -- John Bradshaw

    "Self-esteem theorists appear to have it backwards. Meaningful self-evaluation and positive self-esteem usually are the results, not the antecedents, of accomplishments. Praise is just one source of feedback; self-esteem more often comes from an awareness that the requirement of a sought-after goal have been mastered. Acquiring the knowledge and skills that enable a child to make progress toward such goals is a necessary basis for developing healthy, realistic self-esteem."
    -- Dr. Harold Stevenson, professor of psychology, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

    "As commendable as it is for children to have high self-esteem, many of the practices advocated in pursuit of this goal may instead inadvertently develop narcissism in the form of excessive preoccupation with oneself."
    -- Lilian G. Katz, professor of early childhood education at the University of Illinois, and director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education: "All About Me: Are We Developing Our Children's Self-Esteem or Their Narcissism?" in Kathleen Cauley et all., eds., Educational Psychology 94/95 (Dushkin, 1995), 37.

    "The entire American education system seems to exist mainly to promote 'self-esteem'. That's bad enough if you're an already insufferable prom queen with fabulous ****. But for less favoured high-school types the cult of self-esteem might just tip you from festering geek into narcissistic psycho. If I understand correctly the educational philosophy underlying the English public school, the idea seems to be to reduce self-esteem to undetectable levels within two weeks of the start of term. On the whole, that seems the shrewder option."
    -- Mark Steyn

    "We live in a country that seems to be in this massive state of delusion, where the idea of what you are is more important than you actually being that. And it actually works just as long as everybody's winking at the same time. ... My students -- all they want to hear how good they are and how talented they are. Most of them aren't really willing to work to the degree to live up to that."
    -- Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis

    "Where talent is a dwarf, self-esteem is a giant."
    -- J. Petit-Senn, Conceits and Caprices

    "People with a high opinion of themselves could pose a far greater threat to others than those with low self-worth ... those with high self-esteem tend to damage other people, either because they are reckless and dangerous or because they are unpleasant."
    -- Nicolas Emler, social psychologist, Reuters, November 27, 2001

    "I love criticism just so long as it's unqualified praise."
    -- Noel Coward (1899-1973), actor and playwright

    "It is better to deserve honors and not have them then to have them and not deserve them."
    -- Mark Twain

    "The only way to escape the corruption of praise is to go on working... There is nothing else."
    -- Albert Einstein

    "The value of achievement lies in the achieving."
    -- Albert Einstein

    "Lewis and Clark didn't return from their trip and say, 'Well, we didn't find the Northwest Passage, but we did find ourselves.'"
    -- David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise

    "Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them."
    -- Aristotle

    "It is an error for educators to argue that they can raise children's self-esteem merely by praising them."
    -- Jerome Kagan, professor of psychology, Harvard University

    "People with high but unstable self-esteem exhibit the greatest hostility."
    -- Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University, in Scientific American, April 2001

    "After all these years, I'm sorry to say my recommendation is this: Forget about self-esteem and concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline."
    -- Roy F. Baumeister, professor of psychology, Florida State University. (Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2005)

    "Violence appears to be most commonly a result of threatened egotism -- that is, highly favorable views of self that are disputed by some person or circumstance. ... violence is perpetrated by a small subset of people with favorable views of themselves. ... Viewed in this light, the societal pursuit of high self-esteem for everyone may literally end up doing considerable harm."
    -- Roy Baumeister, Joseph Boden and Laura Smart, "Relation of Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression: The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem", Psychological Review 103, no 1 (1006):5



    Also see our full page on education quotations.

Books

  • From our listing of books on education, here are the entries on self-esteem:


    "The Feel-Good Curriculum : The Dumbing-Down of America's Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem" by Maureen Stout PhD


    This book is quite different than its title might suggest: this is anything but a retread of the same litany of the ills of our schools. There's no doubt of Stout's vigorous condemnation of the affective, touchie-feelie approach to education and its devastating impact on curriculum and kids. But the surprise is how she arrives at this conclusion seemingly in complete isolation from the many other books on this topic, such as most of the other books on this web page.

    Stout is a pedigreed education insider (with a real Ph.D.), and part of her writings indicate she has no wish to completely abandon this background: at one point she favorably mentions Alfie Kohn (whose writings have been used to justify much of what Stout condemns), she talks about fellow ed school faculty members with some degree of sympathy, and she can't understand why some of her teacher-wannabees are bored by her class on the philosophy of education. She laments the gross lack of critical thinking skills of the students in one of the teacher ed class she teaches, blaming it squarely on their own progressivist educations, but at another point she positions critical thinking as a putative opponent of content knowledge. She only mentions E. D. Hirsch once in passing, and then in a context that suggests she hasn't really read the book of his that she references or anything else of his.

    But perhaps it is because of this naivete about the outcry over education, that her thorough research and writing carry such a very powerful and convincing force. When she attacks student-centered programs, self-esteem, discovery learning, values clarification, student narcissism and counter-productive gender and race initiatives, she is not merely one of the horde attacking the castle walls from the outside, rather she is on the inside complaining about her own camp's leadership.

    The strength of this approach is quickly evident: she uses the conferences, journals, task forces and other media within the ed establishment to make her case. This may be the most palatable approach for reaching administrators and teachers who are beginning to have doubts about their training in progressivist education.

    Stout demolishes many of the premises and practices of schools today. Her main focus is the affective mindset of the establishment, and its obsession with self-esteem as a goal in itself rather than as the result of genuine accomplishment. She does a masterful job ripping apart multiple intelligences, emotional quotients, values clarification, and the whole "hidden curriculum" behind public education.

    But Stout never quite follows the problem to its ultimate conclusions. Despite the "Dumbing-Down" phrase in the title, Stout barely mentions the curricular damage from all of the psychobabble (except for a too-brief attack on whole language). She mentions math in passing without any seeming awareness of the nationwide "math wars" controversy. She mentions standards but there is no dissection of how the standards movement has been gutted and undermined in some states by the anti-knowledge faction. She rails about the rampant assignments in self-absorption kids are given (my family, my dog, what I want), but says nothing about the substantive content knowledge in history and geography that is squeezed out in the process. In a teasing, almost-there section, she links the self-esteem fad and watery curricula to rising and more vicious violence; but she does not (or dares not) go the final step, to ponder the possible connections between the early 1990s progressivist reforms in Littleton grade schools and the "death-ed" classes at Columbine High School and the events that happened there years later.

    All in all, Stout provides a very fresh and powerful spin on what, to most of us, is a familiar story. Using fresh evidence and a fresh perspective, she destroys the premises of progressivism, and does so in an insider's way, a way that might be more compelling to the administrators and teachers who could be forces for change.


    "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- And More Miserable than Ever Before" by Dr. Jean Twenge


    Excerpts from a review by Ashley Herzog:

    "In her new book, 'Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- And More Miserable than Ever Before,' Dr. Jean Twenge ... makes clear the difference between self-esteem and self-respect. Self-respect -- a value taught to older generations -- is achieved gradually, by behaving morally and accomplishing things. Self-esteem is an entitlement. As Twenge explains, 'most [self-esteem] programs encourage children to feel good about themselves for no particular reason.' ...
         "The self-esteem movement has wreaked havoc on schools. ... One popular method tells teachers not to correct students' spelling or grammar, arguing that kids should be 'independent spellers' so they can be treated as 'individuals.' Elementary school students spend hours creating 'All About Me' projects ... but less time learning basic skills. Of course, children have no motivation to work harder when their schools outlaw competition and celebrate mediocrity.
         "While the self-esteem movement hasn't made children any smarter, it has made them more self-centered, manipulative, and indulgent. There is one personality trait that is definitely linked to achievement, and that is self-control. Although 'discipline' and 'obedience' have become dirty words in the education establishment, people with high levels of self-control are the most likely to succeed. They earn higher grades and finish more years of education, and they're less likely to abuse drugs or have children out of wedlock. As Twenge says, 'Self-control predicts all of those things researchers had hoped self-esteem would, but hasn't.'"

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