My sense is that the self-esteem movement started benignly enough, with the sensible idea that it is usually better to focus on praising people for things they do right rather than on condemning them for their inadequacies. But it soon fell into the hands of various airheads, many of them professors in “education” schools, who too frequently have been hostile to the whole notion of individual achievement and individual accountability.
I think the “self-esteem” movement in its current incarnation is doing serious harm to education, to the doing of productive work throughout the economy, and probably to personal relationships as well. I’ve written extensively about this topic at Photon Courier: some selected posts are linked below:
Excerpts from a USA Today report on the excesses and consequences of the self-esteem movement. One teacher describes being told that red pens should not be used for correcting papers “because red is so symbolic of wrong answers.” A dean at Stanford says she keeps a box of Kleenex in her office because so many students have never before had to deal with tough feedback.
Some actual research into the claims of the self-esteem movement.
A college instructor with 15 years of experience says that many students now find it almost impossible to deal with setbacks.
A law firm practice manager (in the UK) observes that “The apparent self-esteem and expectations of some candidates render them unemployable.”
Shrinkwrapped on self-esteem and narcissism.