Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 26, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

SELF-ESTEEM....This wasn't online yesterday, but psychologist Roy Baumeister had an op-ed in the LA Times on Tuesday summarizing a literature review he did last year that examined the effects of self-esteem:

Here are some of our disappointing findings. High self- esteem in schoolchildren does not produce better grades....Self-esteem doesn't make adults perform better at their jobs either....Likewise, people with high self-esteem think they make better impressions, have stronger friendships and have better romantic lives than other people, but the data don't support their self-flattering views....It was widely believed that low self-esteem could be a cause of violence, but in reality violent individuals, groups and nations think very well of themselves....High self-esteem doesn't prevent youngsters from cheating or stealing or experimenting with drugs and sex.

There were a couple of benefits to high self-esteem ("It feels good and it supports initiative"), but that's it. His conclusion?

After all these years, I'm sorry to say, my recommendation is this: Forget about self-esteem and concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline.

Recent work suggests this would be good for the individual and good for society and might even be able to fill some of those promises that self-esteem once made but could not keep.

My mother, who taught fourth grade for 30 years and became heartily sick of parents who insisted that she hand out high grades to undeserving kids in order not to damage their self-esteem, says "hear hear."

Kevin Drum 2:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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