OK, Kimberly Swygert already linked to Christina Hoff Sommers plea to stop treating kids’ egos with kid gloves. For example:

But juggling, too, poses risks.

A former member of The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports suggests using silken scarves rather than, say, uncooperative tennis balls that lead to frustration and anxiety. “Scarves,” he points out, “are soft, non-threatening, and float down slowly.”

But she didn’t mention this part:

The Girl Scouts of America recently launched a major campaign “to address the problem of low self-esteem among 8- to 14-year-old girls.” (Never mind that there is no good evidence these girls suffer a self-esteem deficit.) With the help of a $2.65 million grant from Unilever (a major corporation that owns products such as Lipton and Slim Fast), its new program, “Uniquely ME!,” asks girls to contemplate their own “amazing” specialness. Girls are invited to make collages celebrating themselves. They can play a getting-to-know-me game called a “Me-O-Meter.”

One normally thinks of the Girl Scouts as an organization that fosters self-reliance and good citizenship. Me-O-Meters? How does that promote self-reliance? And is self-absorption necessarily good for young people?

Yes, say the mental health experts at Girl Scout Research Center. The Uniquely ME! pamphlet tells its young readers, “This booklet is designed to help boost your self-esteem by celebrating YOU and your uniqueness. … Having high self-esteem … can help you lead a more successful life.”

Sommers recommends a look at an article in the January Scientific American, “Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth.”

The authors, four prominent academic psychologists, conclude, “We have found little to indicate that indiscriminately promoting self-esteem in today’s children or adults, just for being themselves, offers society any compensatory benefits beyond the seductive pleasure it brings to those engaged in the exercise.”

Children aren’t really all that fragile, Sommers argues.

About Joanne


  1. The Girl Scouts should be reminded that nothing builds self-esteem like being in service to others.

  2. Doug Sundseth says:

    Self-esteem and success … now which way does that causation arrow run again?


  3. Cardinal Fang says:

    Me-O-Meter: stupid. Promoting self-esteem by contemplating one’s own specialness: stupid.

    But learning to juggle by practicing with scarves instead of tennis balls: smart. Tennis balls bounce and roll. If a person tries practicing with tennis balls, she’ll spend all her time chasing the balls around the room, but if she practices with scarves or beanbags, she’ll spend her time actually learning to juggle.

  4. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Christina Hoff Summers is one of the wiser and more insightful journalists around. Her ‘War Against Boys’ is a must-read for parents and teachers. Her latest brilliantly expounds on why replacing standards with feelings is leading our children astray. Unmerited self-esteem leads to the likes of Ted Bundy and Scott Peterson. Kids need to experience disappointment, despair and frustration, which are all part of the maturation process. Competition is good. There are winners and losers. Correcting in red ink is okay. I use red ink in class, and I haven’t yet observed a traumatized student. Hopefully, schools will become schools again, and not therapy centers.

  5. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    ‘Fang’–Your tennis ball analogy is…amusing. You can usually be counted on to miss the point.

  6. nailsagainsttheboard wrote:

    Unmerited self-esteem leads to the likes of Ted Bundy and Scott Peterson.

    Uh, nails? I yield to no one in my disdain for the sort of valueless fad embodied in the self-esteem movement but I don’t think you can draw a line between kids chanting “I’m special” and murderous sociopathology. Cold-blooded killers were around before the advent of the self-esteem movement and I don’t believe there’s been a marked increase in their numbers since then. Besides, it’s a dispicable enough, and self-serving enough, scam that hyperbole is necessary.

  7. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    sorry allen…
    What you deem ‘hyperbole’ is simply observable fact….I use the term ‘self-esteem’ as a descriptor, not as a ”movement”…the FBI and Rand Institute have published studies on the psychological makeups and profiles on serial killers and other types of violent criminals…overwhelmingly, the criminals reported they thought more highly of themselves (on specific ‘self-esteem surveys’) than from a random sample of the noncriminal population, given the same survey. My main point is that….”high self-esteem” is not correlated with ethical behavior. Megalomaniacs and sociopaths usually believe themselves to be good people. That should be self-evident. I judge people by their actions, not their intentions or feelings.

  8. BadaBing says:

    Could self-esteem promotion in elementary and middle school be the reason that many high school kids generate such sloppy “half-fast” work and expect to get good grades on it? At this time of the semester you usually hear D and F students reciting their usual argument:

    “I did all my work.”

    “Okay, but how good was it? What grades did you receive on that work?”

    “But I turned everything in. Can I see the gradebook so I can see what I’m missing?”

    “No, you cannot see the gradebook. What you turned in was crap, and it’s too late to play make-up. See you in summer school.”

  9. JuggleBoy says:

    Learning to juggle with scarves, OK. It would be better for them to learn wih beanbags. They have all the advantages of scarves (they don’t roll and/or bounce away) but they travel through the air in a “ball-like” manner. The problem with juggling scarves is that it requires a completely different set of movements. It’s much easier to learn scarves after learning balls then vice versa.

  10. I don’t know from serial killers, but I DO think the last thing we need in this country are more people who are fixated on themselves – which is what these ‘all about ME’ programs tend to do.

    I mean, give me a break. Teenagers are already notoriously self-absorbed.

    I think one of the hardest, but most important lessons, I learned as a young adult is that I’m really not all that special. That there are 50,000 people out there who could do the very job I do, and a goodly number of them could probably do it better. Why should we handicap students by prolonging the time before they come to this realization?

    I think self-esteem as a concept has outlived its usefulness. I think instead we should focus on the fact that all people have some level of inherent value (simply because they are alive) but that one’s own happiness is sometimes less important than the good of others, or of the community, or whatever. And that goofy self-esteem games really don’t have any lasting value. I know people who have self-esteem coming out their ears but that I’d not trust to water my houseplants, and I know people who seem to have low self-esteem (at least according to current metrics) but who are kind, good, giving people who benefit almost everyone they come into contact with.