From Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism:
Point 1: Self-esteem is a symptom, not a prerequisite or cause.
“I believe that self-esteem is just a meter that reads out the state of the system. It is not an end in itself. When you are doing well in school or work, when you are doing well with the people you love, when you are doing well in play, the meter will register high. When you are doing badly, it will register low. I have scoured the self-esteem literature looking for the causality as opposed to correlation, looking for any evidence that high self-esteem among youngsters causes better grades, more popularity, less teenage pregnancy, less dependence on welfare … There is nothing of this sort to be found in the literature. Self-esteem seems only to be a symptom, a correlate, of how well a person is doing in the world.”
Point 2: Unwarranted self-esteem causes problems
Until January 1996, I believed that self-esteem was merely a meter with little, if any, causal efficacy. The lead article in the Psychological Review convinced me that I was wrong, and that self-esteem is causal: Roy Baumeister and his colleagues (1996) reviewed the literature on genocidal killers, on hit men, on gang leaders, and on violent criminals. They argued that these perpetrators have high self-esteem, and that their unwarranted self-esteem causes violence. Baumeister’s work suggests that if you teach unwarrantedly high self-esteem to children, problems will ensue. A sub-group of these children will also have a mean streak in them. When these children confront the real world, and it tells them they are not as great as they have been taught, they will lash out with violence. So it is possible that the twin epidemics among young people in the United States today, depression and violence, both come from this misbegotten concern: valuing how our young people feel about themselves more highly than how we value how well they are doing in the world.
Really enjoyed Doubt. This parable definitely going to be reused with students.
“A woman was gossiping with a friend about a man she hardly knew— I know none of you have ever done this—that night she had a dream. A great hand appeared over her and pointed down at her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession.
She got the old parish priest, Father O’Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. “Is gossiping a sin?” she asked the old man. “Was that the hand of God Almighty pointing a finger at me? Should I be asking your absolution? Father, tell me, have I done something wrong?”
“Yes!” Father O’Rourke answered her. “Yes, you ignorant, badly brought-up female! You have borne false witness against your neighbor, you have played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed!”
So the woman said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness. “Not so fast!” says O’Rourke. “I want you to go home, take a pillow up on your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me!”
So the woman went home, took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to the roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed. “Did you gut the pillow with the knife?” he says.”Yes, Father.” “And what was the result?” “Feathers,” she said. A world of feathers.
“Feathers?” he repeated. “Feathers everywhere, Father!”
“Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out on the wind!”
“Well,” she said, “it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went. The wind took them all over.”
”And that,” said Father O’Rourke,“is gossip!”