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July 06, 2009


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I think the situation is a lot more complex than we currently understand, and your conclusion that self-control is more important than praise for children is premature. For instance, studies have shown that high-performing people (successful artists, sportspeople, mathematicians, entrepreneurs) typically have a better opinion of their own abilities than the objective facts would warrant, especially at the outset. It is as if successful folk start out thinking they can do something, and that they can do it well, and then, over time, they live up to their own false self-beliefs.


Yes, but did those successful people start with a high opinion of those abilities when they were children? That's the question. The evidence seems to show that praising a child for working hard, for striving, is far more effective than simply telling them they're talented and wonderful. There's quite a correlation between the latter and a dropping-off in effort and thus achievement.

And Peter - don't think I didn't notice your lack of support for Marbury on normblog. It has been noted.

The future of America!

There's definitely an argument for encouraging kids, yeah, but on the flip side, you get students like myself, who only push themselves if the alternative is having your ass kicked to kingdom come. I started out as That One Kid Who Just Loooves To Learn as a wee thing, and by the time I hit college I'd learned how easy and simple it was to coast, because my classmates had lowered the teachers' expectations for me. The only classes I really tried in were ones where complacency was completely off the table; ultimately, those were the classes I learned the most in, and grade-wise, performed the best in.

The trap of over-encouragement and accommodation can lead to complacency and stagnation in a lot of kids. It's something we should take just as seriously as intimidation and discomfort in the classroom.


So feeling that you have intrinsic worth as a human being, regardless of your ability to "produce" or "achieve" is a BAD thing? I'd suggest that this intrinsic worth underpins the "inalienable rights" that we claim to treasure here in the states. Are we saying then that people who, through no fault of their own, cannot achieve or produce according to our culturally imposed standards lack worth or should not feel good about themselves. So the disabled should lack self esteem? Millions of people are born where poverty is crushing, education is lacking and opportunity is a myth for all but a very few -- should they, too, feel a lack of self esteem? This notion that you have to jump through one or more hoops your culture sets up before you can feel good about yourself is profoundly perverse. In fact, basing your self esteem on how much you achieve or produce is a death sentence, because you can never achieve or produce enough to satisfy that nagging cultural daddy. It's akin to Rockefeller's reply when he was asked how much money is enough: "Just a little more."

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