VARIOUS TEXTS: How SELF-ESTEEM classes are ‘breeding selfish generation’

Efforts by indulgent parents and teachers to build children’s self-esteem have backfired, with the current crop of American students exhibiting unprecedented levels of narcissism, according to a report by psychologists.
The analysis, entitled Inflated Egos over Time, suggests that problems begin in nursery schools where children were encouraged to think of themselves as special. This has been exacerbated in adolescence by a culture of instant gratification and materialism, an obsession with celebrity and reality TV shows, and websites such as MySpace and YouTube, which “permit self-promotion far beyond that allowed by traditional media”.
“That makes me very, very worried,” Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University professor and the lead author of the report, said. “I’m concerned that we are heading to a society where people are going to treat each other badly, either on the street or in relationships.”
She and four other psychologists have looked at the results of surveys of 16,000 college students conducted over 25 years. The Narcissistic Personality Inventory asked each generation of students to react to such statements as: “If I ruled the world, it would be a better place”; “I think I am a special person”; and “I like to be the centre of attention”.
Ms Twenge said: “Today’s college students are more likely to have a feeling of self-importance, to be entitled and, in general, to be more narcissistic. About two thirds of current college students score above-average on narcissism, and that’s 30 per cent more than in 1982.” People with an inflated sense of self have less empathy for others and find it harder to form emotionally intimate bonds, the study said. They are also more likely to lash out when insulted or rejected.
Zach Boman, a student at the University of Rochester, disagrees with the report. “I think that young people of my generation are anything but self-centred. They are the most kind, gracious kids that ever lived. Whoever did the research must not have kids.”
Some recent psychological studies have concluded that young people are more civic-minded and interested in volunteering than their predecessors.
Ms Twenge, author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before, published this week, suggests otherwise. She said that because colleges valued commitment to the community, youngsters had realised that listing such endeavours made their applications and CVs look better.

Possible Assignments:

1. According to Ms Twenge's findings, which factors have contributed to students overestimating their own capabilities?

2. What are the dangers of people having an inflated sense of themselves?
3. Ms Twenge in her research talks of American students. Do you think German students show the same or similar behaviour patterns?

From: TimesOnline of March 1, 2007

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