Not much time to say anything substantive about it, but I appreciate this article on the self-esteem fad of the eighties and nineties. It bears more than a passing resemblance to grit, growth mindset, and even values affirmation interventions.
Salerno said that these ideas totally transformed education in many parts of the country. It wasn’t just Koosh balls and cheesy mirror exercises — in many schools, prevailing assumptions about academic rigor and feedback changed too. The thinking went, “Don’t make kids feel bad about everything, because if they feel bad they’ll perform poorly,” as Salerno put it. Self-esteem also became centered in the long-running national conversation about societal inequality. “There was this sense of the inner city falling behind — specifically black kids in the inner city are not performing as well as other kids,” said Salerno. “And there was this assumption that it was because they lacked self-esteem.” If you can boost your self-esteem, you can close the achievement gap. The nice thing about this theory, Salerno noted, is it doesn’t require much of a fundamental reworking of the educational system — it’s something of an easy way out. In many cases, advocates focused on self-esteem “rather than hiring better teachers, spending more money on actual schools and instruction. It became a surrogate for the stuff that might actually have done some good.”Yep.