The Price of Inflating Self-esteem: Part 1/4

23 May

I read Joel Stein’s The ME ME ME Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents published in the May 20 issue of Time Magazine. My first reaction was to agree with what he wrote 100%.  Then I thought about it for several days and decided there was a major flaw in Stein’s piece.

When I finished reading the piece, this phrase was glued in my head: “In the U.S. Millennials are the children of the baby boomers, who are also known as the Me Generation, who then produced the Me Me Me Generation.”

There is some truth to Stein’s statement but it is also misleading. I taught in the public schools for thirty years starting with fifth grade in 1975-76; then graduated to 7th and 8th grade 1979-89, and in 1989 I transferred to the high school where I taught until August 2005 when I retired. During those years, I worked with at least 6,000 students and had contact with hundreds of parents.

There are five generations:

1.        The Greatest Generation (1901-1945) – my parents were born early in this generation and I was born near the end in 1945.

2.        Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964)

3.        Generation X (1965 – 1985)

4.        Generation Y (1978 – 1994) – The Millennials

5.        Generation Z (1995 – 2007) — I never taught this generation. Source: List of Generations Chart

When I first started teaching, I worked with students from Generation X until 1992 when the Millennials first walked into my classroom.

It didn’t take long to witness a difference in attitude and behavior among the Millennials compared to Generation X, but not all of the Millennials were members of the so-called ME ME ME Generation. There were always great students who were not narcissists or sociopaths, but through the years there were fewer of them and more students with parents that were very concerned about their child’s self-esteem—there was a lot of pressure to give out higher grades and make the work easier.

For example, in 1979 when I first started teaching 7th and 8th graders at Giano Intermediate, at least half of my students earned A’s and B’s. Few failed.

After I reached the high school, the failure rate climbed to 30% and about 20% earned A’s and B’s. By the time I left teaching in 2005, the failure rate among the Millennials had climbed to as high as 50% in some classes and about 5% of the students earned A’s and B’s—that was in my English classes.

In one class—journalism—that I taught for seven years starting in the early 1990s, the students produced the high-school newspaper, and ninety-nine percent of those students earned A’s or B’s, and it was rare that a student in that class earned anything less. In that class, there were few narcissists with self-esteem obsessed parents.

The parent cult of self-esteem became a serious movement in the 1960s and spread over the years like a virus until it reached toxic numbers—a malignant cancer, but not every Baby Boomer parent was a member of this cult so we have to be careful about stereotyping all Millennials as narcissists.

Continued on May 24, 2013 in The Price of Inflating Self-esteem: Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

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