Everyone has their favorite annecdote about the self-esteem movement. Giving medals to every kid who attends the chess tournament, rather than just the winners. Teachers forced to grade papers in green because red ink hurts kids’ self-esteem. Wanting the word “failure” replaced with “deferred success”. You hear enough about it and eventually a type of ennui starts to set in. Why bother fighting it?
But is there, or was there, ever any basis for any attempt to artificially inflate the self-esteem of kids, or adults for that matter? The best article I’ve ever read on the subject is Exploding the Self-Esteem Myths in Scientific American. (Page 84) It shows that real studies have documented that there is either no relationship or the wrong relationship between self-esteem and academic preformace, bullying, early sex, drugs, alcohol, and so forth. Perhaps most importantly, there’s a positive relationship between self-esteem and violent crime.
So, is it time to wrap up the self-esteem movement? Perhaps launch an anti-self-esteem movement?