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Raising driven immoral kids?

 

A version of this appeared in the Telegraph recently, and can be accessed here 

Are results obsessed, league-table crazed state schools churning out pupils who are less moral than their posh public school counterparts, as headmaster Richard Walden recently claimed.? As so often with misconceived hyperbole, his statement contains a kernel of truth, and indeed raises fundamental questions that need answering.  After all, don’t we all want a more moral society, and to raise our kids to be well-rounded human beings who are not only caring of others, embrace and live by cultural and ethical values and are motivated by more than achievement, status and money?

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narcissism and superficality

Interesting but worrying new research has just been published by Jean Twenge who has been researching about the changes in the American character for several decades now. The trends that are being seen are an increase in narcissistic attitudes up 30% it seems in those few decades. At the same time more ‘prosocial’ (rather than antisocial) traits, like cooperativeness and understanding other people,  seem to be on the decrease  [1], [2].

In addition we are seeing a much bigger sense of entitlement, more overconfidence and belief in people’s own abilities, what popular psychology describes as self-esteem. While low self-esteem is obviously a problem, what in fact we are seeing is huge levels of over-confidence and a decrease in old fashioned values such as humility and modesty. Interestingly this increase in self-belief does not correlate with actual better performances, so it is delusional in some ways. Better performance in fact correlates with traits like being able to defer gratification and regulate ones emotions, as do all manner of things like holding down a good job or being in a relationship that lasts [3].

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