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On Listening and Learning

The occasion was a recent picnic and my discussion with a pharmacist began well. I mentioned that I have often consulted pharmacists about prescription medicines’ side effects and interactions and that experience had led me to study such matters myself. Along the way, I said, I’ve learned that some doctors pay little attention to patients’ reactions to medications.

For some reason she seemed upset by that statement and dismissed it, saying “The great majority of side effects are minor, and the serious ones tend to occur only in a small percentage of cases.” What an odd response from a pharmacist, I thought; it sounds more like something from a pharmaceutical pamphlet implying that suffering is less real or problematic if it occurs infrequently.Read More


Isn’t Self-Esteem a Good Thing?

A perceptive friend told me that, though she agrees with my often-expressed criticism of the self-esteem movement (see, for example, ), she believes I should acknowledge that all people need at least a measure of self-esteem and that some lack it.

36809016 - cartoon of son telling parents he solved his low self esteem problem by becoming arrogant.

I responded by quoting G. K. Chesterton’s observation, “A thinking man should always attack the strongest thing in his own time. For the strongest thing of the time is always too strong.” I added that I believe the need for self-esteem movement is both dominant in our time and seriously mistaken.… Read More


Foolishly Forsaking Humility

pharisee-publicanIn 1980 Mac Davis wrote “Oh, Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble (if you’re perfect in every way)”  He was not disparaging humility, of course, but having fun with the human tendency to overweening pride and self-importance. Yet ironically, at that very time, the self-esteem movement was championing what he was mocking.

The self-esteem movement proclaimed that humility is an obstacle to mental health. It urged people to love themselves, accept themselves unconditionally, esteem themselves, and banish all feelings of shame and guilt.… Read More


Whatever Happened to Critical Thinking?

Back of Head with LightbulbWhen Arthur was in the first grade, the teacher directed the class to “think.” “Now, class,” she said, “I know this problem is a little harder than the ones we’ve been doing, but I’m going to give you a few extra minutes to think about it. Now start thinking.”

It was not the first time Arthur had heard the word used. He’d heard it many times at home, but never quite this way.… Read More