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