Self-esteem Movement Helps Cripple US Education System

On December 7, 2010, Sam Dillon wrote for the New York Times Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators.

If there is a country on the globe that raises children the opposite of how American children are raised, that country is China.

While America may be the ultimate individualist culture, China is the ultimate collective culture.

Chinese mothers love their children but do not tell lies that inflate false self-esteem. Instead, Chinese mothers may often tell their children they are not beautiful and intelligent and must work harder but the odds are against them succeeding anyway.

I know. I’m married to a Chinese mother who told our daughter that message all the way through the public schools causing her to work all the harder believing everyone else was smarter. She also told our daughter if she earned bad grades, she would break both her legs and send her to China to live with peasants.

Our daughter graduated from high school with a 4.65 GPA and was accepted to Stanford.

Recently, for the first time, students in Shanghai, China took the PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment), and those 5,100 students selected at random in Shanghai, beat out 65 countries in every category.

The United States ranked 26th. The video embedded with this post talks about how the teachers unions in the US are responsible.

However, the Myth of the “Bad Teacher” is dealt a deserved blow at Daily by Adam Bessie, so I will not spend much time debunking that myth.

Bessie says, “The only problem with the ‘Bad Teacher’ myth, as anyone involved with education is intimately aware of, is that problems in education are anything but simple.… This myth, while appealing, stands in the way of real educational reform, by misdirecting the public’s attention from the socio-economic conditions that make for a poor learning – and living – environment.”

A bigger culprit was and still is the American Self-esteem movement, which is responsible for the dummying down of American textbooks while pressuring teachers to inflate grades so kids at the bottom of the performance scale don’t feel bad about themselves.

How do I know that? I was a teacher in the US public schools for thirty years and was always under pressure to inflate grades.  More than once, we were told not to use red ink to correct student work since studies said it hurt self-esteem.

What explains the performance of the Chinese students that beat every nation tested in every category of the PISA test?

Shanghai students apparently were told the test was important for China’s image.  In a collective culture where the whole is more important than the individual, the students would be motivated to do their best.

In Dillon’s New York Times piece this question was asked, “Can you imagine the reaction if we told the students of Chicago that the PISA was an important international test and that America’s reputation depended on them performing well?”

Since I taught thirty years in the US public schools, I can answer that question easily. I often told my students how important it was for the school that the students did well on standardized state tests then witnessed kids who never did the homework but had a high sense of false self-esteem finish two to three hour tests in less than ten minutes.

Then when those same students scored low, parents, the media and politicians blamed “the mythical” bad teachers.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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2 Responses to Self-esteem Movement Helps Cripple US Education System

  1. Jeff Uliano says:

    Low self-esteem is a negative evaluation of oneself. This type of evaluation usually occurs when some circumstance we encounter in our life touches on our sensitivities. We personalize the incident and experience physical, emotional, and cognitive arousal. This is so alarming and confusing that we respond by acting in a self-defeating or self-destructive manner. :

    • Is low self-esteem something bad? I don’t think so.

      Studies show that in the U.S., Asian Americans have the lowest self esteem of all racial-ethnic groups but when compared to the other racial-ethnic groups in the U.S.,

      1. Asian Americans have the highest ratio of college graduates.
      2. Asian Americans have the highest ratio of marriages and the lowest divorce rate.
      3. Asian American teens have the lowest teen pregnancy rate, the lowest STD rate and the lowest illegal drug-use rate.
      4. Asian Americans have the lowest unemployment rate in America.
      5. Asian Americans have the lowest ratio of criminals in prison.
      6. Asian Americans have the highest average annual earnings.
      7. Asian Americans have one of the lowest suicide rates while caucasions have one of the highest—a massive difference, and caucasions have the highest self-esteem rate in the U.S.

      Need I say more about the value of self-esteem?

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