Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Christina Sommers writes in USA Today about the over-importance placed upon self-esteem in our children today. I had read last month of the use of purple pens, instead of red (too scary) for marking papers, and this article confirms that nonsense and more. One of the best things to ever happen to me was getting a marked up spelling test paper in the first grade. It had a large "-11" at the top with an "F" circled...all in red. I had missed 11 of the 20 words, something I had never done before. I knew, even at that age, that I deserved it because I had not tried. My teacher was kind and pointed this out, telling me she knew I could do better and expected me to do so. By setting those expectations for me, and with the hot tears on my cheeks, I walked back to my desk. It would be the last such trip I would make to the teacher's desk as I aced every spelling test the rest of the year. What if she had not corrected me? What if I had accepted mediocrity because my teacher did? Where would I be? Our children deserve better than what the education system is doing for them today.
Too many educators, parents and camp counselors today are obsessed with boosting the self-esteem of the children in their care. These adults not only refrain from criticizing their young charges when they perform badly, they also take pains to praise them even when they've done nothing to deserve it.

But two decades of research have failed to show a significant connection between high self-esteem and achievement, kindness, or good personal relationships. Unmerited self-esteem, on the other hand, is known to be associated with antisocial behavior — even criminality. Nevertheless, most of our national institutions and organizations that deal with children remain fixated on self-esteem.


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