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.
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.