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Self-esteem: The kindly apocalypse

Smith, R.D.



Self-esteem has become an educational shibboleth. But over-valuing it brings dangers, particularly of dishonesty, manipulation and devaluation of human relationships. Yet there is clearly something here we want to save: a gentler culture with wider possibilities of self-fulfilment. Here I try to distinguish three levels of self-esteem talk. There is the exaltation of self-esteem as the chief aim of education, the therapeutic approach to education and the recognition of self-esteem as one educational value among many. It is the latter, I argue, that can preserve the benefits of the idea of self-esteem while avoiding the worst of its pitfalls.


Smith, R. (2002). Self-esteem: The kindly apocalypse. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 36(1), 87-100.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2002-02
Deposit Date Jul 7, 2008
Journal Journal of Philosophy of Education
Print ISSN 0309-8249
Electronic ISSN 1467-9752
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 1
Pages 87-100