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Monday, January 11, 2010

Get Over Yourself, Mary

Via Andrew Sullivan, Time magazine on the now-discredited cult of self-esteem and its results:

New research has found that self-esteem can be just as high among D students, drunk drivers and former Presidents from Arkansas as it is among Nobel laureates, nuns and New York City fire fighters. In fact, according to research performed by Brad Bushman of Iowa State University and Roy Baumeister of Case Western Reserve University, people with high self-esteem can engage in far more antisocial behavior than those with low self-worth. "I think we had a great deal of optimism that high self-esteem would cause all sorts of positive consequences and that if we raised self-esteem, people would do better in life," Baumeister told the Times. "Mostly, the data have not borne that out." Racists, street thugs and school bullies all polled high on the self-esteem charts. And you can see why. If you think you're God's gift, you're particularly offended if other people don't treat you that way. So you lash out or commit crimes or cut ethical corners to reassert your pre-eminence. After all, who are your moral inferiors to suggest that you could be doing something, er, wrong? What do they know?

Self-esteem can also be an educational boomerang. Friends of mine who teach today's college students are constantly complaining about the high self-esteem of their students. When the kids have been told from Day One that they can do no wrong, when every grade in high school is assessed so as to make the kid feel good rather than to give an accurate measure of his work, the student can develop self-worth dangerously unrelated to the objective truth. He can then get
deeply offended when he's told he is getting a C grade in college and become demoralized or extremely angry.
What I Say: Didn't we learn all this on the playground, early on? You remember the bullies who stole your lunch money, don't you, and never doubted they were kings of the hill? The same with the utterly snobbish and snotty Greek boys and girls in college. And the whole country-club set, and the shitty store clerks, and on and on . . . they all think they are just wonderful, you know? Self-esteem is not the fucking problem.

It just goes to show, once again, the eternal need for what my mama called "plain old common horse sense."

Update.  Of course, a prime example of an interstellar gap between self-esteem and actual ability is Sarah Palin.  Who, Joe Jervis reports, has just signed on with Fox News, no doubt for a handsome sum - more than any of you shitkickers will ever see in your life, I bet.

Yeah, it's photoshopped, not the real thing.
But sometimes a well done parody conveys a certain truth better than the real thing, you know what I mean, boys?


Stan said...

Right on Russ. I totally agree with you on this.

Jeepguy said...

I think what we're talking about here is the difference between self-esteem and narcissism, the latter being a love of self without regard for anyone else. Those who have a high regard for themselves along with anti-social behavior most likely fall more into the narcissistic category, IMO.
And, there are a lot of people who will falsely report that they feel good about themselves and act tough solely because it is socially unacceptable not to do so.
Just thoughts...

Russ Manley said...

Well that's just the problem, isn't it Gary. All this emphasis on self-esteem slides right into narcissism if not based on the right ideas.

Yes, you have to love yourself and not hate yourself to be a well functioning human being. But as I see it, proper self-esteem comes from what you can do, not from the mere fact of existence.

Parents and teachers would do well to concentrate on training boys and girls to do a wide range of things well, rather than just being passive, snotty, stuck-up consumers and observers.

Jeepguy said...

Yeah, Russ. You're right. The poor little darlin's are just crushed when they don't get what they want without any effort on their part.

I know I'm over-generalizing here because there are some really decent, bright kids out there that are doing well. I just get tired of that other crowd that you typically see hanging out in the malls, etc. living clueless lives. What a sad waste!

raulito said...

Also because our society has abandoned the concept of meritocracy...they are celebrating ignorance and a disdain for intellectual excellence in favor of mediocrity. Even science is tossed aside as an undesirable pursuit.
I am sure you all agree that ex-Pres Bush encapsulates all these non-qualities and perhaps the best argument against white supremacy.
your blog continues to be one of my favorites. Thanks for what you do.

Russ Manley said...

I certainly do agree with all you said. Appreciate ya, Raulito.

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