This obsession with avoiding hurting a person’s self-esteem has been carried to the extreme. In 2001, four seventh-graders at Ridgefield Academy in Connecticut broke into the school, ransacked it, and later bragged about it. The school did not press charges but expelled the students. Parents of one boy sued because the treatment had caused their son “feelings of unworthiness” and left his “self-worth impugned.”
In Rhode Island, official at Barrington High School determined it would be wrong to bar a student from the school’s track team, even though he is confined to a wheelchair. Therefore, they let him compete with able-bodied runners in the 100-meter dash. In Portland, Maine, residents of public housing were told to remove “Happy Holidays” signs in December because some people may feel excluded. In Manhattan, Rodeph Sholom Day School eliminated Mother’s Day because not all students have mothers at home. Some have two fathers, so Mother’s Day “may not be a positive experience.” A few years ago, the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, argued that traditional children’s games, such as dodge ball, kick ball, and tag, are competitive and exclusionary, and therefore, bad for a child’s self-esteem.
How does any of this help a child face life? Life is tough. To survive, you must be tough. Real life is based on hierarchy. The smartest, hardest working, and most talented people are at the top. It is called meritocracy. It may not be the way we want it to be, but it is the way life is. Praising a person when he or she has not met standards or has failed may make the person feel better, but it does not mean the person has accomplished anything.