The parent told the child that he was a winner just for trying out for the baseball team, even though he did not earn a place on the roster. And so goes the mistake in our culture that is repeated with alarming regularity and has accelerated over the last 20 years or more. It is the age of un-accomplishment, where children are told that they "are all winners" and every one gets an award, even if you struck out every time at bat and dropped every fly ball that came to you in the outfield. These children have grown into adults who feel entitled to remain emotionally as children because they have been taught that they "are special just for being you." No further requirement is expected from them, so no further effort to accomplish is engaged in by them.
The modern self-esteem movement that began to infect our society through the school system twenty years ago, not only accepts inadequacy and incompetence, but it requires and elevates them to the status of veneration. At the same time, virtues of hard work and accomplishment are downgraded to second-class citizenship to the new age teaching of not only failure equaling success, but of non-participation equaling it as well. How many children who end up living in their parents basements as adults, were inculcated by their parents and teachers with self-esteem simply for getting out of bed everyday?
Our culture has reached the dubious precipice of having elected twice the exemplar of the self-esteem movement, Barack Obama. Mr. Obama's election to the presidency was more historical because of his personal lack of accomplishment, than it was because he was the first black person to hold that office. And even though Barack Obama is old enough to have missed being in elementary school when teachers were doling out self-esteem to their students like bottomless Pez dispensers, he some how managed to reach the highest political office in the country with a resume' that substituted relevant experience with entitlement to the job. The dangerous aspect to the self-esteem movement has been that it has populated this nation with enough of its graduates to elect someone as wholly unqualified to the presidency as Barack Obama.
Being special means one has actually accomplished something, e.g., made the team, hit a home run or caught that fly ball that saved the game. Being special means something of substance and it is defined by the results of action, not simply by meaningless measures that fall outside the bounds of accomplishment. We would do well to teach our children that while they will always be special to us, the world requires proof of their worth through substantive and positive results of their actions.