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    Since the 1990s, public education systems in the United States have worked hard to foster student self-esteem.  Studies and other evidence now show that the self-esteem movement is not nearly as effective as its narcissismadvocates once thought.  In fact, it might have warped the mindset of an entire generation of children.

    The Daily Mail reports that the American Freshman Survey shows that incoming freshmen in 2012 as a whole thought more of themselves with less reason for doing so than any class in the past 47 years.  Collectively, they believed that they had outstanding writing skills, but performed poorly on tests.  They claimed that they had the drive to succeed, but worked less than previous freshmen. 

    In other words, the incoming freshman class learned one thing from their public school experience, that they were darned good, but with less accomplishment than ever. 

    Dr. Lisa Firestone in Psychology Today had another name for this condition, narcissism.  She explains that while genuine self-esteem comes from obstacles overcome and goals achieved, “narcissism conversely, is often based on a fear of failure or weakness, a focus on one's self, an unhealthy drive to be seen as the best, and a deep-seated insecurity and underlying feeling of inadequacy.” 

    In other words, when everyone gets a trophy, it encourages children to focus on appearances, not accomplishments.  Since narcissism is based upon less, it must overcompensate.  Instead of quiet, humble, confidence, it produces loud noise and envy.

    Bryan Goodwin in Educational Leadership describes one source of student self-delusion, grade inflation.  ACT statistics showed that grade point averages have risen more quickly than achievement on the college exam itself. 

    So no wonder incoming freshmen thought they were smart.  They likely have the grades to “prove” it.

    Goodwin describes an Oregon study that claims “trained reviewers analyzed the in-class work of 2,200 high school students against university professors' standards for college-entry work. Their analysis revealed that "only the students who were being awarded As in high school were likely to meet the standard, and even within this group, sizeable numbers of students…did not [demonstrate] the minimum level for [college] admission.”

    Not that all colleges appreciate an honest grade.  Harvard University professor and Weekly Standard contributor Harvey Mansfield several years ago tossed in the towel in his fight on grade inflation at his school, where over half of undergraduate grades are As.  He now offers an “ironic grade” for public consumption and academic records.  But Mansfield still lets each student privately know how well he or she actually did. 

    Liberal educators fail because they do not understand the value of success and, more importantly, failure.  Yes, failure makes people sad.  It also can teach how to succeed.  Becoming the best, or even simply good, means learning from the inevitable stumbles of life.  Sometimes one is not good enough, even at their best, but the lessons learned can still make them successful.  When liberal educators restrict the possibility of failure, they take away the best teaching tool they have.  And they encourage students to think they are great without ever working for it or proving it. 

    And thus, they eliminate the actual opportunity for some to truly be great.





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