August 26, 2009

Teaching self-esteem and diversity.

From a review of "NurtureShock," by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman:
[H]igh self-esteem doesn't improve grades, reduce anti-social behavior, deter alcohol drinking or do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be counterproductive. Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly.

... [A] lot of well-meaning adult nostrums—"we're all friends," "we're all equal"—pass right over the heads of young children. Attempts to increase racial sensitivity in older students can even lead to unintended consequences. One ­researcher found that "more diversity translates into more divisions between students." Another warns that too much discussion of past discrimination can make minority children over-reactive to perceived future slights. As for trying to increase emotional intelligence, the education fad of the 1990s, it doesn't seem to promote "pro-social values" either. It turns out that bullies use their considerable EQ, as it is called, to ­control their peers.

25 comments:

rhhardin said...

Don't wait to graduation to tell the kids that nobody actually cares what they think.

Bob_R said...

I agree with the review's conclusion that the authors of the book, having debunked a great deal of past research, shouldn't be so gullible about current research.

Someone should build a robot that will give a smack on the head to anyone who says, "We used to think X, but not we know Y."

The Crack Emcee said...

Po Bronson and I have chatted a few times when we were asked to speak at the same engagements. He's a cool dude. I'm glad to see he's got something new out.

I've got to get something new out.

NKVD said...

It's not what you know, it's what you feel that is important.

Jake said...

Big surprise.

The Drill SGT said...

Melting Pot is a proven model that increases social cohesion and trust.

Diversity training and grievance education decontruct society.

The Marxists failed with their economic theories, now they use a broad brush attack on social sciences in the form of Critical Theory

Dogwood said...

You don't teach self-esteem, it is developed through accomplishment.

Pogo said...

Self-esteem becomes nothing but self-aggrandizement.

Self-denial, discipline, and deferred gratification have a better yield.

Paul said...

It seems self esteem is perceived to be a "right", or a bestowal.

Self respect on the other hand must be earned.

This demonstrates a core difference between the decadence and weakness of the liberal worldview vs. the sturdy and healthy values of the conservative.

It's not hard to imagine which children inculcated with either the former or the latter will be more likely to grow up into healthy, well adjusted adults.

Skyler said...

There used to be a time where we didn't need "studies" to understand common sense. Academia tends to get lost in its own dialogs and refuses to open their eyes to common sense. Much havoc results.

Joan said...

The father of the self-esteem movement, Nathanial Branden, was Ayn Rand's lover. From what I've read about Rand and her relationships (including Branden's biography of her), I can't imagine that Branden had any self-respect at all, the way he allowed himself to be manipulated by her. No wonder he went looking to others for self-esteem. ITA with Dogwood: you can't get self-esteem from others, you earn it.

This quote cracked me up: A lot of the findings described in "NurtureShock" might even be true. But that doesn't mean that we have the remotest idea how to translate such findings into constructive parental behavior or effective public programs.

What are we, idiots? Too stupid to quit doing things that cause problems?

Never mind.

Paddy O. said...

It's funny how often, when reading about a famous artist or musician or writer or whatever, they say they're never pleased with their work. There's almost this extreme lack of self-esteem in people that makes them achieve well-beyond what others can do, in order to get even the slightest bit of self-respect.

This doesn't always, or often, mean such folks are deluded and think they're worse than other people. Just that they see the bar of perfection as their goal. They never reach it and are often disgusted with themselves, which can push them harder

former law student said...

From [the Wall Street Journal's] review of "NurtureShock," by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman:

H]igh self-esteem doesn't .. do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be counterproductive.


Let us for the moment not raise our eyebrows over the choice of two Fine Arts majors to write a book analyzing childrearing techniques. Nor should we wonder why one would turn to the Wall Street Journal to get a worthwhile appraisal of the same.

Parents did not overpraise the bullies I knew in school. Their malignant sense of self-esteem was built into them from an egg.

But the reviewer is wrong because children are prepared to believe, and will absorb, negative messages. Parents can destroy self-esteem but they can't build it up.

You don't teach self-esteem, it is developed through accomplishment.

I agree with the first part but not the second. Not even a solid record of accomplishment will create self-esteem -- we have all heard of talented people who fry potatoes at Burger King.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Attempts to increase racial sensitivity in older students can even lead to unintended consequences. One ­researcher found that "more diversity translates into more divisions between students." Another warns that too much discussion of past discrimination can make minority children over-reactive to perceived future slights.

This ought to be obvious to anyone who gives two seconds' thought to the matter.

My daughter's high school American history textbook had a special section in each chapter devoted to how minorities were getting screwed at that moment in our history. On the one hand you don't want to gloss over stuff and pretend it didn't happen, but on the other hand I couldn't help thinking that black kids who read this stuff are going to come out with very negative and cynical attitudes about this country - and the white kids with the "don't tell me about racism, I never enslaved anybody" backlash. Don't know how to handle this better but there has to be a way.

As to self-esteem: the Southernxyl response.

Doug Sundseth said...

Teach hard work; self-esteem will follow along with success. That arrow runs only one way.

Synova said...

One word...

DUH!!

Synova said...

Self-esteem is the wrong question and wrong answer.

Work for self-respect.

Synova said...

I've long thought that most diversity teaching was counter-productive or even damaging. I've thought so since my son was 4 or 5 and watched a PBS show with puppets of every race... which was fine... but one episode was about racism directly. Children that small are trying to figure out how the world works... not what is right or wrong about the world... they want to know how it *works*. What a 4 or 5 year old takes away from a show where the characters are engaged in conflict due to their different races is that people who look differently *don't get along*. What a 5 year old learns about the world and how it works is that people who look differently hate each other.

I've never been so furious about the need for parental damage control in my life.

Steven said...

"[T]oo much discussion of past discrimination can make minority children over-reactive to perceived future slights."

See Dr. Henry Louis Gates.

Scott M said...

@fls

I read every single post from everyone on this blog as if I’ve never read anything from that person before. Thus, I don’t necessarily look for things to argue about with you. But, since we’re all here, let’s get at it…

“Parents did not overpraise the bullies I knew in school. Their malignant sense of self-esteem was built into them from an egg.”

So you’re saying that being a bully is a genetic trait and that environment has nothing to do with it. Interesting. I can remember two specific instances from my youth of guys who’s parents treated them like they walked on water, so they thought they did and treated everyone else (outside their own circle of course) like the water.

“But the reviewer is wrong because children are prepared to believe, and will absorb, negative messages.”

Over-praise is in itself a negative message. Thus, over-praise can cause negative behavior.

“Parents can destroy self-esteem but they can't build it up.”

Just one question before we go back and forth about this. Are you a parent?

You don't teach self-esteem, it is developed through accomplishment.

“I agree with the first part but not the second. Not even a solid record of accomplishment will create self-esteem -- we have all heard of talented people who fry potatoes at Burger King.”

I see where you’re going with this, but your example doesn’t support your point. The talented fry cook could well be considered an unaccomplished person. Comparing successful artists with loads of accolades to successful craftworkers, business professionals, doctors, etc, doesn’t do you any good in this context. There is an entire strata of study on the effects that fame and success has on artists. At the core of this condition is the overwhelming pressure the artist feels to always be “on”. This is felt far more distinctly in successful artists because of the exposure to sheer numbers of recipients of their work. And since no one can ever be “on” all the time, they are doomed to failure. This sort of thing is still found on the job-a-day side, but far less common, again, due to numbers of the recipients of their work.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that I believe that you can have accomplishments without high self-esteem, I don’t believe you can have high self-esteem without accomplishments. To qualify that remark, I don’t believe what the bullies we discussed prior had was high self-esteem. I would describe that as an over-stroked ego…not the same thing at all.

Joe said...

One thing that has really irritated my wife and I as parents [of 4 from 13 to 21] is that this stupid self-esteem movement has largely removed shame from failure. I'm tired of the battle of telling my kids that doing poorly in a class is bad only to be told at school "but you tried and that's what matters." There are times this attitude is appropriate, but not as a blanket statement to cover every situation of under achievement.

"Hey look that bridge fell down."

"Well that's okay, at least the engineers and steelworkers tried hard."

Scott M said...

@Joe

Completely agreed. But it's not just in raising kids. Since the sixties, the cultural (as opposed to the political) left in the West was centered around moral relativism. That used to be an ideal to aspire to. It was the removal of ALL shame regardless. If your worldview works for you, it's just as valid, etc, etc.

I believe the tide has been turning for some time on that front. I can certainly see it in my 18-year-old's group.

kentuckyliz said...

I blame The Pill. Widespread use of artificial contraception means that people only have one or two children, so they're really damned precious.

Synova said...

Small families makes more of a difference than I think anyone realizes.

Not just in an individual family, but in the community where people are not accustomed to children around them and also not accustomed to the level of supervision and attention possible when raising a large brood.

We've decided that the conditions that used to result in the stereotypical "only" children being spoiled brats is now the standard for good parenting.

Frodo Potter said...

Amen to everyone who said self-esteem is a bunch of B.S. Thanks to Scott M. for the incisive takedown of FLS.

This is a hot-button issue for me since I have a relative who was told almost from the get-go that they were talented, good-looking, gifted. intelligent, athletic, etc. This person did have some real talents, as well as a fairly high I.Q., bur not nearly as much as they were told. Years later, as an adult, they are verbally abusive to their children (the spouse fled years ago), talk ceaselessly about moderate accomplishments in middle school and high school, are chronically late to work, etc. In short, they evidence all the signs of a mal-nar. They have accomplished very little as an adult and are stuck in a pathetic sinecure of a job, from which they will likely never be fired, but will also never advance. At family gatherings I try to avoid this person.

I also have to teach mediocrities who have been stroked and told since kindergarten, not only that they were Mommy and Daddy’s precious little snowflake, but also that they were frigging Einstein. Do you have any idea how hard it is to teach a student with an I.Q. of 105 who thinks he or she is a genius?

End of rant.