I recently finished reading a book, part of which talked about the differences between the educational system today and that of the '60s. Although I was familiar with topics such as anti-bullying and "character development"-- topics which should be taught in the home, taking valuable time away from academics-- there was a topic I was not familiar with: the educational system in recent decades placing a strong emphasis on "self-esteem." As someone who was an elementary school student during part of the '60s, I really believe we were better off.
The first point of this issue: in the 1960s school environment I experienced, "self-esteem" was something one earned. While kids who were treated well in general "felt good about themselves," self-esteem was heightened by accomplishments. A kid who did well in his schoolwork, in sports, or with some kind of talent, was able to feel a well-deserved sense of pride in his abilities and accomplishments. From academics to sports, changing the focus to "no child can be a winner without others being losers" does not equip kids for the real world.
Second, kids did not need to be "bribed" to do things they should do anyway. One example of how this has changed is the "Book It" program. This program has been going on for decades-- elementary school children being given certificates for free Pizza Hut pizzas when they read. This kind of thing does not equip youngsters for the real world, either.
A third point: too many adults have such little faith in kids that these ridiculous changes in schools are almost necessary. One individual summed up a popular viewpoint by commenting: "Kids today are fat, lazy, and stupid." If this is how today's parents look at kids, no wonder kids need to learn "self-esteem" in the classroom.
However, I still believe we were better off. Whether the topic was a good grade in a class, recognition for participating in a sport or other activity, or simply being held in high regard by others, one only received these perks if they earned them. If we did not do homework, or messed up a test, we could not expect a good grade. If we had no athletic ability or other talent, we would not receive a reward for "participating." Equally important, I cannot think of one single kid in my old elementary school who had "self-esteem issues." We were in school to do what we were supposed to do; and only excelling at something resulted in special recognition.