- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2007

Praiseworthy?

“For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.

“When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. … Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.

“But a growing body of research … strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of ‘smart’ does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it. …

“[T]hose who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. ‘I am smart,’ the kids’ reasoning goes; ‘I don’t need to put out effort.’ Expending effort becomes stigmatized — it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.”

Po Bronson, writing on “How Not to Talk to Your Kids,” in the Feb. 19 issue of New York

Allies’ advice

“U.S. allies should stop being generous with American lives.

“Getting the most ink was Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who took the unusual step of attacking Sen. Barack Obama [Illinois Democrat] by name. …

“To its credit, Australia has provided some troops in Iraq — but not many. As Sen. Obama archly observed: ‘Mr. Howard has deployed 1,400 [men], so if he is [ready] to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.’ …

“Allies can be useful, but only if they are willing to back up shared interests with manpower, money, and other resources. Advice is cheap, especially when it is Americans who are doing the dying.

“What should Washington do in Iraq? There is no good answer, since Iraq already has been destabilized and is sliding towards chaos. Like Obama, I favor an expeditious withdrawal, which in my view is inevitable, so better sooner than later. Many good conservatives disagree, of course. But the decision is up to Americans, who are doing the bulk of the dying and paying.”

Doug Bandow, writing on “Irritating Allies,” Tuesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

American Dream

“In American culture, the arc of some lives still promises something uncharted, just as the country itself offered that promise at its inception. …

“Anna Nicole Smith was … a lowbrow (or, really, a narcissistic) version of the American Dream — the American Dream of only bravado and guile, bereft of character or principles or talent. She was proof that the dream applies even to people with nothing to offer but themselves.

“If she is a tragic and cautionary tale to Americans, evidence that the American Dream requires substance and character, she may be evidence of the opposite to outsiders who see only the magic of wealth and fame won through the mere presentation of self. She inflates the reputation of American possibility abroad, making it seem like anything is possible in America — even reward without merit.”

Tunku Varadarajan, writing on “Citizen of the World,” Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal

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