In an article entitled, “What the Self-Esteem Movement Got Disastrously Wrong,” Dan Sanchez, of the Foundation for Economic Education, writes:
The self-esteem movement is … widely blamed for its influence on American schools and families. In the name of building self-esteem, teachers and parents showered children with effusive, unconditional praise. In the name of protecting self-esteem, kids were sheltered from any criticism or adverse consequences. The sugary rot spread to children’s television as well. Many of today’s young adults were raised on Barney the Dinosaur, who gushed with “feel-good” affirmations just as sappy as Smalley’s [the Al Franken “Saturday Night Live” character from the 1990s].
I am reminded of a moment from my own education career in the early 2000s. I had designed a classroom game for preschoolers, and one of my colleagues, a veteran early childhood educator, objected that my game involved competition and winners. “Your game can’t have a winner, because that means other kids will be losers,” she explained.
According to critics, this kind of mollycoddling has yielded a millennial generation full of emotionally fragile young adults who, in the workplace, expect praise and affirmation simply for showing up, and who can’t cope with (much less adapt to) constructive criticism. It is also partially blamed for the rise of politically-correct university “snowflakes” (aka “crybullies”) and their petulant demands for “safe spaces” on campus.
Here’s the problem. You cannot expect happiness to come to you. You have to go after happiness — and then work to maintain it!
Most people have the self-esteem equation backwards. Here’s the wrong approach: “I’m good. Therefore I should feel good”. Here’s the right approach: “I’m good. Therefore I can and should achieve”. The end goal here is achievement — and then feeling. Feeling good is not an end in itself! It sounds so simple. Yet getting this right is the thing upon which genuine self-esteem, and ultimately the good of civilization, depends.
Proper, healthy self-esteem does not result in emotional fragility. Emotional fragility comes from a false belief that your feelings are everything. “I feel it, therefore it’s true.” And then when others don’t feel the same way, you’re crushed. That’s not what self-esteem is.
Self-esteem comes from confidence in using your reasoning, objective and intelligent mind. Objectivity refers to the results of what you think and know — not what you feel. Think of feelings like dessert. The warm and fuzzy feelings that come from a job well done — or a life full of achievement — are the result of your constant attention to thinking, reasoning and being objective about things.
Twenty years ago, people like me warned educators who tried doing things like giving all children a first place award for their efforts, doing away with valedictorians, and refusing to let children win or lose on the sports fields or in other competitions. We tried to tell parents and teachers that by destroying objectivity, you undermine a young person’s capacity to think, judge and know — in the areas where it matters most, in his or her personal achievement. We also tried to get parents and teachers to stop all the nonsense about how Americans raped the land and ruined the natural beauty of the earth, when Americans are the ones who actually made life on earth tolerable and enjoyable for the first time in human history. Lo and behold … the worst happened. Witness the dawn of the socialist snowflake — in the United States of America, of all places!
“Snowflakery” does not apply to every single young person, and it does not apply to everyone in the same degree. However, it’s a widely recognized trend. Snowflakery is what happens when you try to reverse the self-esteem equation for children. By telling them, “You’re entitled to feel good about yourself” rather than telling them, “Take what you want in life, but pay for it”, you’re telling them to go right to dessert without even learning how to cook. It’s madness.
Socialism, the system of handouts and freebies at others’ expense, is widely popular among today’s young people, more than ever before. No Republican has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the youth vote, and even Democrats like Hillary Clinton are widely regarded by a lot of young voters as too capitalist, not too socialist. The old geezer Bernie Sanders was wildly popular among young voters; imagine how a young and vibrant socialist will do when one comes along, as they always do. How did this happen? Socialism appeals to that sense of entitlement replacing achievement as the phony self-esteem movement did when these young people were children. It’s the political version of what their teachers and therapists (if they had one) already told them years ago: “You shouldn’t have to wait. You should have what you want…and now”.
They believe they’re entitled to something for nothing because that’s what they’ve always been told. And most of them still believe it.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that objective reality is its own avenger. Millions of young people will have to contend, for years to come, with the idiotic and self-defeating training their elders gave them back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Human beings are eminently adaptable and self-correcting creatures. Our capacity for rationality and reasoning is the very thing that saves us, time and again, whenever we are saved. Study world history to see the high points, like the Renaissance and the birth of America, and the low points, like Nazi Germany and the Middle Ages. At the same time, a stubborn refusal to learn, grow and make corrections will ultimately lead to disaster. So will imposing socialism or even all-out Communism on what’s left of the personal liberty and economic freedom that distinguished America, of all places on earth, for so many generations.
It’s up to people, including today’s millennials, to chart a course very different from the one their hapless and foolish elders laid out for them, often with trillions of dollars in federal funding in our intellectually decrepit public schools and screwed up universities. Good luck to them.
Faux self-esteem and socialism are for snowflakes. Such movements create and appeal to more and more snowflakes. Real men and women embrace and develop their capacities as thinking, objective and reasoning human individuals who feel, for sure, but who live their lives by thought first and foremost. Such an opportunity is always available to those who cherish life and rise to grab it with their heads first, and their hearts second.
I hope the next generation of Americans figures it out, because if they don’t, they will pay the heaviest price of all.
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