Let Us Not Praise Famous Men

In last week’s New York cover story, novelist Po Bronson argued that praising accomplishment and so-called innate ability is actually bad for the recipient’s self-esteem and that, instead, what should be lauded is effort. He was talking about kids, but, still, he might want to skip this post: Turns out most of the online responses to his article agreed with his findings and — gulp — praised his accomplishment. (We’ll go a step further, though we know we shouldn’t: Two cover stories in the same week, Po? We’re kvelling.) After the jump, some of blogland’s best (worst?) praise.

Phantom Scribbler: “OK, I’m convinced that I should banish ‘smart’ from my litany of parental exclamations (’You spelled your brother’s name, Baby Blue! You’re so … hard-working!’) But I cannot with a straight face agree that misfired praise leads inevitably to total catastrophe.”
April and Randy: “I’ve always been a wonderful underachiever. I understand that there are limitless opportunities, but truly, the possibility of failure or being perceived as something less than exceptional has stopped me from pursuing many courses of action or trying something new.”
The Chronicle of Wasted Time: “I didn’t try, but quit when things got tough. Of course I did: if I wasn’t succeeding, I could never succeed, because it isn’t tenacity that leads to success, it’s innate intelligence, of which I had never-ending reserves, of course.”
Joanne Jacobs: “Of course, this ties in with research on Asian vs. U.S. parents: Japanese and Chinese parents tend to believe school success is a function of effort, while U.S. parents are more likely to think innate intelligence is the key factor. Guess who works harder?”
a sibilant intake of breath: “Intelligence, I think, is generally more likely to be a source of insecurity than confidence.”
Legislative Report: “The students who drop my class after the first test are not the ones with the lowest scores. They are the ones in the middle, the students who got a “C” but are bewildered because, in their words, ‘I always get A’s.’”
Stormy’s Corner: “Another point they made is a random reward is better than a reward everytime. I remember this from college psychology and dog training. A treat once in a while for a good ‘sit’ is better than a treat for each sit.”
Kisrael: “I’m not sure if it’s just a result of over-praise, though. Smart kids are better at seeing the possible negative consequences of a given path, and I think a fair number of them are afraid of confronting a situation that might end badly despite all best efforts.”
Fernando’s Desk: “The high levels of praise may well reflect more of the parent’s need to be assuaged in their choices and expectations than the child’s needs to flourish as a growing person.”
Whitest Girl You Know: “I let the smart comments get to my head and played the part of the casually cool smart girl. Everyone thought I’d be something big. The only thing big about me now is my unfortunate booty.”
things and stuff: “I only read the article because I hate children, and know that the self-esteem nonsense has been creating monsters out of them for decades.”