My sister has a theory that what is wrong with the world today is that we have been coddling children's self-esteem way too much. Everyone has to be a winner, which is a problem.
I was teaching "Death of a Salesman" last week, a play I don't really enjoy reading, but I think there's a lot in it that students can connect with. Where we got to last week was this line by Happy:
"It's the only dream you can have-to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I'm gonna win it for him."
What's wrong with this statement, I asked. And the students could see that it's impossible for everyone to be the "number-one man." We can't *all* share that dream. At one point towards the end, Biff says "I know who I am." He knows he's *not* special. And that's ok with him. It just isn't ok with Willy, and therefore it's not ok with Willy's enablers, Happy and Linda.
It's ok if not everyone is special.
And yet, there is still such resentment against those who are, well, superior in some ways. I've always hated The Incredibles because I think it is in love with the idea that some people *are* special, but the same people who love the movie for that reason still resist acknowledging those who are. But they don't resist acknowledging physical superiority. They resist acknowledging intellectual superiority.
I wonder why that is? Why is it ok to admit, Hey, I'm not as strong as Mike Tyson or as good a golfer as Tiger Woods, or as good at tennis as Roger Federer, but it's still problematic for people to admit they are not as smart as others?