Self- Esteem Not in the Equation


Self-esteem doesn’t matter much—at least when it comes to math. Nations like the United States that promote self-esteem in teaching mathematics trail behind others that don’t.

The 2006 Brown Center report on education, published by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, revealed the 10 nations that were ranked lowest out of 46 surveyed in student self-confidence were actually some of the highest achievers.

Take Japan and Korea for example. While 39 percent of American eighth graders believe they do well in math, only 4 percent and 6 percent of Japanese and Koreans, respectively, express the same sentiment. But a respected international math assessment showed Koreans and Japanese students far outscoring their American counterparts.

Such a report ought to stir up debate over teaching methods in America, where the education system assumes that promoting high self-esteem in students will drive them to greater achievement.

Achievement in school depends on actually mastering the subjects taught—knowing the material well enough to apply it in a given scenario or on a test. Teaching otherwise gives the students an inflated sense of self-worth that will hinder them as they go through life and face the realities of a results-oriented world.

The delusional pride ingrained in Americans from a young age is a national flaw with serious implications. The welfare of a nation depends largely on how well the nation educates its young and produces well-adjusted adults grounded in reality.

Many Americans assume the U.S. will always lead the world in education and knowledge production. This report shows this assumption may just be the product of an inflated sense of self-worth.