Letters to a Young Conservative: Chapters 20 and 21

November 8, 2012 | Elizabeth

This week we are reading Chapter 20: Was Lincoln a Bad Guy? and Chapter 21: The Self Esteem Hoax.

In Chapter 20, the question is brought up was Lincoln the greatest president of all time, or not? There are many criticisms of Lincoln as well as celebrations.

His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest. (Page 150)

Both groups [neo-Confederates and left-wingers], however, agree that Lincoln was a self-promoting hypocrite who said one thing while doing another. (Page 155)

He [Lincoln] is simply the greatest practitioner of democratic statesmanship that America and the world have yet produced. (Page 159)

This chapter certainly makes me look at the new movie Lincoln a little differently!

I wanted to spend a little more time on Chapter 21, as I seem it has a lot of timeliness with what has recently occurred in our country. The author talks with Chris about “self-esteem workshops” that are popping up at universities for minorities and women. He poses the question:

Is it important to feel good about yourself? I am not sure about this. (Page 161)

Self-esteem is a very American concept and Americans, perhaps more than anyone else in the world, tend to believe that feeling good about yourself is an essential prerequisite to performing to the best of your ability. (Page 163)

I think many of you would agree there are a lot of people in America these days, that feel it’s all about me, me, me. It’s all about: how can I get more money for myself, how can I get what I want, how can I be what I want, etc. even without working hard for it? It’s just because I deserve it, right? There is a large sense of entitlement in America. This mindset upsets me, and frankly scares me about where America is headed.

The author takes the example of self esteem and education to demonstrate the larger theme of America and self esteem.

One reason liberals support political correctness is that they believe stern controls are needed to prevent insensitivity and bigotry because those things gravely injure the self-esteem of women and minorities…In addition, liberals frequently seek to modify the traditional curriculum in colleges and universities because they assume that reading Plato, Dante, and John Locke reinforces the self-esteem of whites while undermining the self-esteem of minorities. (Page 162)

And despite Americans saying they have high self esteem, it does not correlate with high achieving academic success. A study conducted by the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem found that higher self-esteem does not produce higher performance on exams. (Page 164)

Of course, we need to believe in ourselves in order to achieve things and make progress as a country, but can self esteem get in the way? Has it gotten in the way?

Next week, Marian will be reading Chapters 22, 23, 24 and 25! Happy Reading!

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