CNHI News Service


January 10, 2013

Americans need more work, less ego


Editor's Note: If you're not a weekly subscriber to Marta Mossburg's column, you can publish this one if you notify her at


Reality is not something Americans are well acquainted with today.

As a culture we believe we are smart, talented, sexy, high achievers with exceptional social skills and leadership ability. Societal norms dating back to the 1960s origins of the self-esteem movement reinforce this utopian vision and prevent us from meeting our fat, conceited, illiterate selves.

We don’t let our kids keep score in soccer games (even though many of them do) because that would create winners and losers. Parents heap praise on children whether they deserve it or not in a quest to build self-esteem for its own sake. Some schools don’t give grades so that all students feel equal, and virtually all schools inflate grades because it is easier than confronting pushy parents and entitled students. Federal laws like “No Child Left Behind” don’t help the situation either, because they incite states to lower standards so that everyone passes tests.

But the grade inflation is particularly appalling. National grade data analyzed by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell for a 2008 report in Psychological Science shows that 18.3 percent of high school seniors said they had an A or A- average in 1976. In 2006, 32.8 percent said they earned the highest marks, and 2011 data shows the percentage rose to 34.8 percent.

In a new report by Twenge, Campbell and Brittany Gentile analyzing the American Freshman Survey, they found that the number of first-year college students reporting A- averages or above in high school rose from 19 percent in 1966 to 48 percent in 2009.

And it is not just confined to K to 12.  According to a 2012 study by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy on college grades, “[O]n average across a wide range of schools, A’s represent 43 percent of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988.”

Text Only
  • taylor.armerding.jpg Zamperini, the Olympian and POW, was a hero because of his faith

    Louis Zamperini collected many accolades as an Olympic distance runner and brave bombardier who spent a month adrift at sea and two years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. But faith and forgiveness are what truly distinguished him.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hobby Lobby critics push specious privacy pitch

    The violation of privacy argument by liberal detractors of the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby-Obamacare case doesn't hold water when you consider the current collection and use of the personal details of your medical preferences.

    July 11, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Declare your independence from empty slogans

    'Independence Day' is now an ironic celebration in a country where the president promotes government dependence over actual freedom, and where bumper-sticker slogans have replaced actual, independent thought.

    July 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Taxi owners, government patrons try forcing Uber to go 'off-duty'

    Uber gives urban passengers an enticing alternative. Rides on-demand arrive faster than taxis, are cheaper and cleaner, and get rated by customers. Rather than hail innovation, government enablers are helping the heavily regulated taxicab industry freeze out the upstart.

    June 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg IRS spins email yarn as Obama slips past another scandal

    Forget everything you've heard about email. All digital trace of a former IRS official's email over the 25 months the agency harassed conservative groups has mysteriously, improbably vanished. Gone, too, is the White House's accountability as President Obama slips from another scandal.

    June 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama: Don't listen to those who knew Bergdahl best

    The Obama administration chides anyone who suggests that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl - the POW traded for a dream team of Taliban terrorists - might be something less than a hero. The White House wants us to stop jumping to conclusions - unless, of course, we're jumping to the right conclusions.

    June 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Left tallies 'true cost' of coal with a political calculator

    Weighing the "true cost" of coal-based energy is politically convenient. In a "true cost" world, coal may be more expensive but alternate energies aren't affordable, either; you don't get a tax break on your mortgage; and the feds don't protect the United Auto Workers from Chrysler's bankruptcy.

    June 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Veterans wait for healthcare, we wait for accountability

    Poor care and long wait times at the Veterans Administration are little surprise for an organization with such an entrenched bureaucracy. It's almost predictable as the Obama administration's mock surprise and non-response.

    May 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Reality replaces Obama's foreign policy promises

    Terrorists were supposed to disappear and tensions would dissolve between the United States and other countries when President Barack Obama took office. But prize-winning promises don't hold up to real-life Chinese hackers, attacks on U.S. diplomats and Russian land grabs.

    May 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • sampollak.jpg Presidential perk turned into a bummer

    Who wants to be president of the United States if you don't get time to actually linger and soak in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

    May 23, 2014 1 Photo