Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Self Esteem Out, Hard Work In

Conservatives have long argued that teachers who prop up their students' self-esteem were doing the wrong thing. Despite our warnings, public school students have received a steady diet of unearned praise for years, all in the name of giving them self-esteem. Now that the “self-esteem generation” is crowding into the workforce, employers and educators are seeing the dark side of all that empty praise. A growing body of research indicates that too much unearned praise interferes with learning.

More and more teachers are now being trained to eliminate empty praise in favor of language that encourages hard work and persistence. Some schools have embraced a new approach to student affirmation that is based on psychological studies and brain imaging. Rather than being told how good they are, students are instead praised for hard work and persistence. Studies show that children who are rewarded for working hard are more likely to enjoy challenges and achieve success. It’s also been shown that children do better when they are taught that their intellect is something that grows and develops, not a pre-determined birthright.

It is now pretty clear that praising children for being smart can be just as harmful as offering praise for its own sake. Numerous studies show that children who are rewarded for their intelligence become hesitant to take on difficult assignments. The education expert Chester Finn now says that praise should be connected to objective standards. “Winning or losing really matters in the real world,” he said. You either beat the enemy or you don’t." We've become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we've lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at anything.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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