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Back to April Ed Reporter
Education Reporter
NUMBER 195 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS APRIL 2002


Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth 
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Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth, by Laura L. Smith, Ph.D., and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D, Random House, 2001, 255 pps., $24.95

In this electrifying new book, Drs. Smith and Elliott show how the self-esteem movement, which has spanned nearly half a century, has resulted in a generation of children in crisis.

Instead of creating happy, well-adjusted children, an alarming number are depressed and anxious, with many engaging in destructive behaviors including sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and suicide. Kids today are 10 times more likely to be depressed than they were a generation ago, the authors report, and suicide rates among teens have tripled. One study found that today's "normal" kids suffer the same degree of anxiety that a group of hospitalized kids did in 1957.

Hollow Kids describes how mental health professionals and educators came to wrongly proclaim increased self-esteem as a panacea for human problems and how they "accumulated an arsenal of weapons for combating low self-esteem, recruiting teachers and parents to aid in the fight." Textbooks and curricula were rewritten to enhance self-esteem, sacrificing academics in the process. To illustrate, the authors cite the 49-point drop in verbal SAT scores between 1960 and 2000, and the drop in total SAT scores of 56 points during that time period.

Smith and Elliott point out that the self-esteem movement "has flourished in spite of the lack of scientific data to support it." Research conducted over the past decade reveals exactly the opposite of prevailing wisdom, indicating that the roots of violence and delinquency are found in overly positive, inflated self-esteem.

In conducting their research, Smith and Elliott personally interviewed young people in shopping malls and other public venues. Although most of the children reported feeling quite good about themselves, even the most thoughtful "had trouble being specific when asked about values."

Hollow Kids offers practical steps to giving children a healthy, fundamental understanding of who they are and what they can accomplish. "By parents reclaiming their position of authority and educators reestablishing a leadership role and lost standards of excellence," the authors write, "we can fill this generation and those to come with a healthy understanding of themselves and their society."

Prima Communications, 3000 Lava Ridge Ct., Roseville, CA 95661, 916/787-7000, www.primapublishing.com.


 
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