You Know Who Has High Self Esteem?

At some point schools apparently discovered that they could not actually teach things like, adding, subtracting, multiplying and spelling. To fill the void, they decided to add things like self esteem.

If a child held themselves in high regard, the evils of drug abuse, poor motivation and academic failure would be cured.  

A California task force said so: (Link to a commentary in Education Week.)

The task force’s final report, in 1990, ascribed (as I wrote at the time) “near-magical powers to self-esteem, characterizing it as ‘something that empowers us to live responsibly and that inoculates us against the lures of crime, violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, child abuse, chronic welfare dependency, and educational failure.’ “


It hasn’t worked. We ended up, in my humble opinion, with ignorant yet empowered teens and young adults.

You know who has high self esteem? Psychopaths. People who use violence because they lost an election. Clocktower snipers. Kids who bully.  Asshats.   


This guy. He has high self esteem. For another 30 seconds. Am I right?

Today, few people talk explicitly about self-esteem or other kooky curricular enthusiasms of the past, but the worldview and faux psychology that impelled them have never gone away. Of late, they’ve reappeared—and gained remarkable traction—under the banner of social-emotional learning, which claims to build the ways by which children learn and apply skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions, make decisions effectively, sustain positive relationships, and practice empathy.

Educational fads don’t die, they just get rebranded. Social-emotional learning is now taking the place of ‘self esteem’ as the feel-good strategy to fix our kid’s emotional well-being.

Which is not the job of a school.


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One Response to You Know Who Has High Self Esteem?

  1. onwyrdsdream says:

    Education is the road to hell. 90% good intentions, poor feedback mechanism for when their good intentions aren’t worth the sheepskins they’re printed on.

    Not to be one who trots out cause and effect … again.. but wouldn’t the ones with high self esteem initially, that they’re using as their justification for trying to teach it be the ones who navigated all those bad choises- “crime, violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, child abuse, chronic welfare dependency, and educational failure” be the ones that worked hard, and have high self esteem because of, you know, actual accomplishment? And, well, self esteem might be what you’d call it, but it’s basically earned self confidence. People aren’t going to earn self confidence from a participation trophy.

    Self esteem is pretty useful, but I’m not sure how you’d teach it. I’d think most attempts would end up looking indistinguishable from brainwashing…, and end up creating adult monster children. Successfully get one kid to have high self esteem, you’ve created another who becomes a narcissist. One or two will even coast though life doing nothing of any real worth before suddenly getting the presidency with a little help from the terrorist next door neighbor.

    There are a lot of places you can end up being guided to high self esteem that aren’t what they had in mind when they offered up their little bit of utopia. For instance, you can have all the self esteem in the world and lack motivation. You can have self esteem and motivation, but lack honor. You can even have self esteem, motivation, and honor, but be poorly directed. You wonder how you get someone with 4 degrees, 500 grand of college debt, while working at Starbucks? Start from a degree in something that has no practical use, then get another. Because, they’ve been told to pursue their dreams. But. Well. First secure a way to make money.

    Liked by 1 person

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