What’s the problem? “Why is being wrong so socially traumatic to students?”
The Self-Esteem Movement Thank you to Dr. Tracey Zinn, on whose conference presentation this section is based.
The Self-Esteem Movement Propagated primarily in the educational system Curricula aimed at increasing students’ self-esteem Everyone born after 1970… Focus has been on increasing self-esteem that is not rooted in reality Researchers now suggesting that students need to be able to identify their talents The Psychology of Self-Esteem Branden (1969)
What Was Taught “Keep your head up, feel good about yourself” vs. “take responsibility for your work”. Forsyth et al (2007) “You can do anything!” No use of the word “failure” Everyone got all As in HS, doing little work Unrealistic expectations of success Students report being bored in class
What Resulted: Attitudes “Being happy is the most important thing” We should always feel good about ourselves Increase in narcissism (debated) Don’t say “I’m a good soccer player” (Just say “I’m good.”)
What Resulted: Attitudes Carol Dweck’s research Effort is considered a sign of stupidity When children are told that they are smart, they choose an easier task. Panic when they are challenged or think they are engaging in “a lot of effort”.
Result – Confused Parents Encouraged delicate handling of children Shielded them from negative emotions, criticism Praised kids regardless of what they did Carol Dweck’s research Parents often think that helping their kids build self-esteem is done by shielding them from criticism and praising their talents Protecting kids from hurt, failure, criticism, & disappointment has made them more vulnerabl e
What Resulted - Behaviors “We’ve created college students who are woefully vulnerable to pinpricks” Thin skinned undergraduates, defensive when they miss questions or are challenged – Generation X Goes to College (Peter Sacks) Students seem to be incapable of handling negative feedback. New hires are asking for raises and promotions almost immediately after being hired. When students with high SE are criticized – Unfriendly, rude, and uncooperative. Entitlement regularly cited as an issue in college.
What Failed to Result [High self-esteem] Isn’t associated with improved grades, career achievement, reduced alcohol usage, lower violent behavior, etc. Baumeister and colleagues (2003)
What Self-esteem Cannot Do? Improve school performance Improve social relationships Guarantee good leadership Prevent risky behavior such as drinking Promote health It is defined in more than one way. It may simply be a marker or indicator variable.
Educational Outcomes of the Self-Esteem Movement Susan Jacoby The Age of American Unreason Are our students (people) hostile to knowledge? Self-esteem movement = I’m the smartest kid! “I’m supposed to be happy!”
Backlash against Self-Esteem John Hewitt’s The Myth of Self-Esteem: Finding Happiness and Solving Problems in America “Why do you feel good about yourself?” “Because of self-esteem”
Backlash against Self-Esteem Generation Me Risk of depression & anxiety higher for young people today “Our growing tendency to put the self first leads to unparalleled freedom, but it also creates an enormous amount of pressure on us to stand alone.”
Are Negative Emotions Normal? Against happiness: In praise of melancholy Eric Wilson Loss of sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder Alan Horwitz & James Wakefield The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders Peter Conrad
Correlates of Self-Esteem More initiative Happier, less depressed – As long as things are going well. Related to physical appearance Can become narcissistic Fluctuates across the lifespan
Self-Worth – Meaning – Purpose – Living up to your identity & your destiny