AUTHOR: Dennis Prager, syndicated conservative columnist, published, among other places, at National Review
SUBJECT: The "self-esteem movement"
LENGTH: 937 words
OPENING SENTENCE: "By now, most people (with the exception of many psychotherapists) recognize that the self-esteem movement officially launched by California in 1986 has been at best silly, and at worst injurious to society, despite whatever small benefit it may have had to some individuals."
MAN TO BLAME FOR SELF-ESTEEM MOVEMENT: California assemblyman John Vasconcellos, a "radical humanist"
WHAT THE ADVOCATES THINK: "rais[ing] young people's self-esteem ... will increase goodness in society"
WHY PRAISING YOUR CHILD COULD MAKE HIM AN AXE MURDERER: "There is no correlation between goodness and high self-esteem. But there is a correlation between criminality and high self-esteem. ... Yes, people with high self-esteem are the ones most prone to violence."
HOW WE KNOW THIS IS TRUE: "Florida State University professor Roy Baumeister (Ph.D. psychology, Princeton University) has revealed that in a lifetime of study of violent criminals, the one characteristic nearly all these criminals share is high self-esteem."
PURPOSE OF PARENTHETICAL IN THAT LAST SENTENCE: Unclear, but a bit funny given National Review's ongoing crusade against Ivy League elitism
PRAGER'S PERSONAL NAME FOR THE '60S AND '70S: "The Age of Feelings"
SELF-ESTEEM GOES UP, MATH SKILLS GO DOWN:
One result of all this has been a generation that thinks highly of itself for no good reason. Perhaps the most famous example is the survey of American high-school students and those of seven other countries. Americans came in last in mathematical ability but first in self-esteem about their mathematical ability.
BETTER TO ERR ON THE SIDE OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE: "To cite one example, one of the finest human beings I have ever known--an individual of extraordinary courage, integrity, and selflessness--had a father who constantly berated this person as worthless and stupid."
MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: "Now, this father was, to put it mildly, a sick man."
BUT STILL: "it had no negative impact on this individual's sterling character"
CONCLUSION: "society has the strongest interest in not promoting self-esteem among children"
PARTING WORDS OF WISDOM:
If you don't agree with this conclusion, do the following: Ask the finest people you know how much self-esteem they had as a child. Then ask all the narcissists you know how much their parent(s) praised them.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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