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Is self-esteem more important than self-control?

My wife pointed me to this article in the Houston Chronicle in which Ashley Herzog writes a damaging critique of the self-esteem movement. Here is a summary from “The flaws of the self-esteem fad” by Ashley Herzog

Herzog says the self-esteem movement proclaims to

  • make the kids feel important
  • emphasize their good qualities
  • refrain from criticizing children too much
  • encourage kids to feel good about themselves for no particular reason
  • “We want to anchor self-esteem firmly to the child so no matter what the performance might be, the self-esteem remains high,”

As Herzog points out, the goal of making children smarter and more productive using a focus on building self-esteem “has never been proved to work.” She provides an interesting example.

“Starting in the mid-1990s, a team led by psychologist Carol Dweck did a series of experiments on fifth-graders, who were divided into two groups. In the first group, students were praised for their intelligence — an innate trait unrelated to performance. In the second group, students were praised for their effort and good behavior. The children in the second group performed better and were more likely to attempt difficult tasks — probably because their teachers had encouraged them to work hard, rather than constantly telling them how brilliant they were.”

What has the self-esteem movement accomplished? According to Herzog

  • Americans “are unprepared to compete in the global economy.”
  • “our teens don’t let their ignorance bother them.”
  • “get good grades no matter what”
  • “Grade inflation in order to avoid bruised egos.”
  • “While the self-esteem movement hasn’t made children any smarter, it has made them more self-centered, demanding and hostile to criticism.”
  • they think they “deserve recognition and attention from others”
  • they think it is “acceptable and desirable to be preoccupied with oneself and praise oneself.”

She warns, “Self-esteem isn’t linked to academic achievement or good behavior. Nor does it protect against teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, alcoholism, drug abuse or chronic welfare dependency.” Instead, she suggests that educators should focus on “teaching the time-tested values of self-respect and self-control.”

Herzog, a resident of The Woodlands, is a journalism major at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

  1. Brooke
    June 18, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Just a little correction — Ashley is a ‘she.’

    You pulled out some great points from a great writer — thanks!

  2. June 18, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Thanks, corrections made

  3. Gus Gretchen
    July 17, 2008 at 4:25 am

    I am hoping I can find the full article on the flaws of self-esteem by Ashley Herzog in the June Houston Chronicle. It is no longer on their website. Do you know of a source?

  4. July 17, 2008 at 6:20 am

    I am guessing one of above comments knows Ashley and can help out?? Ashley?? I know there is a way to find an original post on the web even if it has been removed but alas, that is beyond my interest at this time. If I get the full text article, I will post it as a page on my blog under other writings and link it to the post summary that I made.

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