In a recent Wall Street article Jeff Zaslow quotes a Louisiana State University professor who states that narcistic children are a product of Mr. Rogers.
Chance stated, “The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A's.
"They felt so entitled," he recalls, "and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers."
The article further states:
Signs of narcissism among college students have been rising for 25 years, according to a recent study led by a San Diego State University psychologist. Obviously, Mr. Rogers alone can't be blamed for this. But as Prof. Chance sees it, "he's representative of a culture of excessive doting."
Personally I always thought Mr. Rogers was a little creepy, but he was a very intelligent and gentle man who loved children and wanted them to know they were unique individuals. I highly doubt it was ever his intention to cause the narcissism that is so evident in today’s culture. Sadly however, our entitled generation isn’t just those on college campuses. It permeates all the way down through our youngest generation.
There is a huge difference in telling children they matter and they are unique and then treating children as if they can do no wrong simply because they take up space on the planet. Many parents confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. Basically Mr. Rogers is simply a metaphor that symbolizes self-esteem overload which results in mantras such as all children will receive an award though no actual work was done to receive such an award.
Alvin Rosenfeld, a Manhattan based child psychiatrist refers to the current problem as, the annointing of His Majesty, the fetus. I have had such annointed ones waddling across my carpet because they were so bloated with self-esteem. The “gimme” mentality has grown steadily worse over the years and not only includes the whiney children but their helicopter parents as well.
Zaslow’s article goes on to mention a disparity between the attitudes of American students and Asian students. Chance states that the Asian students accept whatever grade they're given; they see B's and C's as an indication that they must work harder, and that their elders assessed them correctly.
Maybe if I was on a college campus I could see what Chance sees, but I’m not. What I do see is my students that feel they are entitled come from all socio-economic situations. The difference is the environment they live in. Those parents that are preparing their children for the real world where work must be done to eat and obtain compensation look at their school work in a different way than students who live in homes where children can do no wrong and Mommie and/or Daddy will make it right no matter what.
Many psychiatrists agree that what children learn from parents isn’t so much through their words, but from their actions.
In the same scenario that Professor Chance describes I have had numerous students and parents ask for extra credit to bolster a failing grade at the end of a nine week period. This request usually comes after my many pleas and reminders regarding missing work, evidence of a failing grade through a midterm report, a missed conference or two by parents, and several phone calls from me that have gone unreturned.
I give nothing extra. Complete the work that you were originally assigned. I already differentiate, I already meet 504 requirements for Special Education, and many other alterations to curriculum. Waiting around until the end of the semester to obtain an easier assignment thinking I’ll be in a time crunch doesn’t fly with me.
Of course, it isn’t just the parents. Through the years many school officials bought into the excessive and phony adulation and the practice continues. During April and May I read many blog entries from frustrated teachers who were required to provide the Dear Ones with end-of-the-year-awards. It didn’t matter if they earned the recognition and it didn’t matter if it was slap in the face to the students who did.
We had such a requirement this year at my school. When I protested I was told by my administrator I would have a letter of reprimand in my personnel file for insubordination if I didn’t comply. When I questioned further and asked what the awards should be for I was told, “It doesn’t matter…make something up.”
My administrators weren’t handing out awards for self-esteem boosting, however. Their reasons were to simply avoid complaints from parents who desire acclamation for their child no matter the cost.
I’m sorry, but the self-esteem train has run aground through no fault of Mr. Rogers and unfortunately we will reap the aftermath of the wreckage for some time to come.