Vonnie Shallenberger/ 14 November 2009
I hope none of my liberal friends read this. Many years ago I was working third shift, and occasionally would turn on the TV overnight and watch Rush Limbaugh. I was taught that it helps to fight an enemy if you know his position, so I gave him a shot. One night he got it right. Of course he ruined it later on in the same show, and he hasn’t come close since, but that night in 1993, he said something that I agreed with, and have come to agree with more and more since.
The self esteem movement started out with great intentions. Most social movements do. But then they go too far and lose the truth of the initial premise. I was on the side of the attempt to make children, especially minority and poor children, feel better about themselves. I still am. But the movement lost its soul when it went from trying to help children feel as if they are as good as other people, to being a way of giving children the notion that they are awesome and that the rules set by our civil society do not apply to them. Whether it is simply because children aren’t able to process the information fed to them, or if parents haven’t been taught where the boundaries lie in this message, I don’t know. But it seems to have led to a generation of spoiled, narcissistic young people bent on ruling the world on their terms.
A couple of examples I have personally experienced:
1. A former teacher who is a friend of my family told the story of having corrected a young student in his classroom. This story would not have meant much to me except that the student involved grew up to become Miss America after she graduated. The mother of this student came to visit him, and scolded him for “damaging her self-esteem.” This man responded with, “Madam, nothing could damage your daughter’s self-esteem.” He was not teaching in that school for long after that.
2. I was supervising a third shift call center. I was over three males and one female. The female tended to order everyone around. So one night she gave me an order, and I said, “Please and thank you!” She proclaimed that she did not say please. Please is a begging word and she does not beg. I said, “No, please is a polite word.” She said, “I asked nicely-I don’t need to say please.”
I think where the movement went wrong is in allowing "as good as" to be interpreted as ‘better than,’ which has lead to the crass notion that everything one feels should be aired because every feeling is valid. This has led to a loss of concern for how others feel, a loss of manners, empathy and decorum, and a belief in one’s self that just may not be supportable by the facts. Limbaugh’s remark was that, “Self esteem should be based on something.” I agree-children need to be taught that they are just as good as anyone else. They are neither inferior nor superior to anyone else. Everyone deserves respect-rich, poor, black white, EVERYONE. Every person has a gift. That gift should be encouraged, and children should also be encouraged to explore their interests and discover that gift. But no one can pick a gift-Dad can’t expect Junior to be great baseball player just because Dad was at that age. But the idea that every child should consider him or herself King or Queen of the World is false and dangerous. I recently heard a psychologist talking about self esteem when he was presented with the idea that perhaps serial killers have low self esteem. He said that most serial killers are just the opposite- they tend to be narcissists who believe that the world is not treating them as they deserve. So these people have obviously not been taught that other people deserve respect, have they?
So while Rush Limbaugh may not have learned the lesson he was preaching on that fateful night in 1993, his premise was actually correct.