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Original Search: SELF-ESTEEM    |   Save This Article    |   Email to a Friend
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Arrogance that leads to violent rampages compensates for low self-esteem
Date: 05-29-1998; Publication: USA Today; Author:

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USA Today In their comments in USA TODAY, professors Martin E.P. Seligman and Roger Weissberg show a surprising lack of psychological acumen in their indictment of ``baseless self-esteem'' as a cause of school violence (``Less benignly, it can stir violence, too,'' The Forum, Wednesday). They fail to recognize that the kind of extreme arrogance which allows a youth to murder over the slightest provocation typically develops as a compensation for low self-esteem and the compounding social maladjustments that result from it.

The psychology professors are right that self-esteem has been oversold in modern educational thought at the expense of important values, such as merit and responsibility. It is questionable, though, whether this general trend had much bearing on the individual case of Kipland Kinkel in Oregon or any of the youngsters who have mounted such horrific rampages.

Consider the ``genocidal maniacs'' the professors note who tended to exhibit ostensible high self-esteem. Both Hitler and Stalin certainly lived long before any ``self-esteem movement'' emerged. As it turns out, both men regularly had been beaten and belittled as children, surely not the kind of treatment which promotes feeling good about oneself. All this reinforces the theory that pathologically inflated self-esteem is actually inverted self-loathing.

The professors acknowledge that undue self-esteem produces violence only in conjunction with a ``mean streak.''

I believe society would do well to focus on what generates this kind of rage before fretting over the conceit that serves to accommodate it.

Thomas W.C. Johnson

Nashville, Tenn.

Author not available, Arrogance that leads to violent rampages compensates for low self-esteem. , USA Today, 05-29-1998, pp 14A.

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