Every year for decades, college freshmen have been surveyed about their attitudes and academic behavior. And the latest survey shows that America’s fresh crop of high school grads is already excelling…at thinking they’re already excellent!
Pyschologist Jean Twenge and her colleagues compiled the data and found that over the last four decades there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being ‘above average’ in the areas of academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability, and self-confidence….
‘Our culture used to encourage modesty and humility and not bragging about yourself,’ Twenge told BBC News. ‘It was considered a bad thing to be seen as conceited or full of yourself.’
Just because someone has high self-esteem doesn’t mean they’re a narcissist. Positive self-assessments can not only be harmless but completely true.
However, one in four recent students responded to a questionnaire called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory with results pointing towards narcissistic self-assessments.
What a bunch of self-centered jerks, right? But like this kids say “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.” (Actually, it still IS bragging, but whatever). So is the Class of ’16 really all that?
While students are much more likely to call themselves gifted in writing abilities, objective test scores actually show that their writing abilities are far less than those of their 1960s counterparts.
Also on the decline is the amount of time spent studying, with little more than a third of students saying they study for six or more hours a week compared to almost half of all students claiming the same in the late 1980s.
How did we create such a generation of self-loving losers? Parents and schools did it together, thanks to the whole “positive self-esteem” movement, foist on us largely by clueless academics. At least now some of the professors–perhaps horrified by spending hours in the classrooms with these self-satisfied punks–are seeing the light:
‘What’s really become prevalent over the last two decades is the idea that being highly self-confident – loving yourself, believing in yourself – is the key to success,’ Twenge said. ‘Now the interesting thing about that belief is it’s widely held, it’s very deeply held, and it’s also untrue.’…
‘If there is any effect at all, it is quite small,’ said Roy Baumeister of Florida State University, who authored a 2003 paper on self-esteem studies.
Baumeister found that while successful people did have high-self esteem in many cases, it was unclear what actual caused their success if the first place.
‘Coming from a good family might lead to both high self-esteem and personal success.’ Baumeister said. ‘Self-control is much more powerful and well-supported as a cause of personal success. Despite my years invested in research on self-esteem, I reluctantly advise people to forget about it.’
Unfortunately, we can’t just “forget about it.” We’re stuck with the results: An entire generation of spoiled, self-infatuated underachievers who believe they’re entitled to success.