self esteem generation

A decades-long psychological survey has found that American students have more self-confidence and self-esteem than ever. Meanwhile other surveys show that students know less, and spend less time studying than they did forty years ago.

According to BBC News:

About nine million young people have filled out the American Freshman Survey, since it began in 1966.

It asks students to rate how they measure up to their peers in a number of basic skills areas – and over the past four decades, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being “above average” for academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability and self-confidence.

This was revealed in a new analysis of the survey data, by US psychologist Jean Twenge and colleagues.

Self-appraisals of traits that are less individualistic – such as co-operativeness, understanding others and spirituality – saw little change, or a decrease, over the same period.

Twenge adds that while the Freshman Survey shows that students are increasingly likely to label themselves as gifted in writing ability, objective test scores indicate that actual writing ability has gone down since the 1960s.

And while in the late 1980s, almost half of students said they studied for six or more hours a week, the figure was little over a third by 2009 – a fact that sits rather oddly, given there has been a rise in students’ self-proclaimed drive to succeed during the same period.

Another study by Twenge suggested there has been a 30% tilt towards narcissistic attitudes in US students since 1979…

“Our culture used to encourage modesty and humility and not bragging about yourself,” says Twenge. “It was considered a bad thing to be seen as conceited or full of yourself.”

This generation was raised to value self-esteem above discipline and achievement. Consequently, students are feeling better than ever about themselves while performing worse. We have become a nation of narcissists.

Read the full report here.

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