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Self-Esteem: Classroom Fad We Didn’t Need

Little Miss Self-Esteem lit up a joint with her pals outside P.M. Jacoy’s on a recent Saturday afternoon in downtown Spokane.

She didn’t see my sad expression gazing back at her through a window from inside the store.

It wouldn’t have mattered had she bothered to look my way. By her self-satisfied smirk, it was obvious the teenager didn’t give a rip about drug laws, what adults might think or anything else that would keep her from immediate gratification.

In other words, nothing had changed since Little Miss Self-Esteem was coddled and allowed to misbehave in grade school.

This girl was one of the regular hell raisers who years ago attended elementary school with my kids. She started out testing the rules and quickly learned how to drive a Mack truck through them.

But Little Miss Self-Esteem and the other miscreants like her received no real punishment, substantive guidance or concrete goals.

The namby-pambys who ran the school tried to buy good behavior by coaxing troublemakers with frequent bribes of pizza lunches, toys and other privileges.

Such nonsense was done for the glorious cause of promoting self-esteem - the beloved educational buzzword that, in fact, destroys more lives than it saves.

Finally, thank God, there is evidence showing what dangerous and damaging garbage the self-esteem craze really is.

“The societal pursuit of high self-esteem for everyone may literally end up doing considerable harm,” say three researchers who recently published their findings in the American Psychological Association journal.

Empty self-esteem fosters a terrible false sense of accomplishment that pays increasingly bitter dividends as disruptive kids grow up.

For example: Little Miss Self-Esteem and the others were told over and over again to always feel good about themselves in spite of their lack of success.

Meanwhile, positive efforts and accomplishments of the well-behaved majority were routinely ignored or downplayed so that low achievers wouldn’t get their feelings bruised.

Academic and athletic awards were done away with. Sports trophies were removed from the display case and replaced with teddy bears. The medals were carted to a basement junk room to gather dust in a cardboard box.

Good kids felt ignored and taken for granted.

The baddies never learned their anti-social actions bore grave consequences. Fighting, pregnancies, abortion, drug use and dropping out of school are hallmarks of some of the former pizza kids I know.

After analyzing more than 150 studies, the researchers found that gangsters, rapists and wife-beaters, etc., “consistently express favorable views of themselves” and lash out at anyone who dares challenge them.

“You’ve got a lot of people running around with seriously inflated egos who come crashing down to earth all the time,” said study co-author Joseph Boden of the University of Virginia.

Legitimate self-esteem, Boden added, must be linked “to real, concrete accomplishments and skills.”

I know. I learned this the hard way thanks to a wonderful teacher who saved my life in the seventh grade.

After years of schoolyard fights, vandalism, poor grades and disrespecting my teachers, I entered grade seven to meet Don Kolb - a man who would not put up with my malarky.

He forced me to live up to acceptable classroom standards. He made me feel lower than pond scum when I messed up.

Take it from a former classroom terror. What problem children need are heaping helpings of old-fashioned remorse, guilt and responsibility.

Not pizza.

More and more Spokane schools are catching on to an important fact: Sometimes feeling bad about yourself is the first step on the true road to success.

, DataTimes