Any fair student of history should admit that this is an amazing nation. From its birth to the modern era, the United States can lay claim to be one of the greatest countries on Earth, if not the greatest. From winning its independence from the world’s strongest empire to putting men on the moon to today’s technological wonders, we lead the globe. Thus, as a collective entity, even in these days, we rock.

However, as individuals we have way too much loudly proclaimed self esteem. The American iconic figure used to be the laconic cowboy. Now it’s a daytime talk show host. We spew our problems, psychoses, and self-appointed martyrdom across screens for all to see and feel sorry for. Conversely, we keep telling ourselves from kindergarten to adulthood how wonderful we are, how we really matter, and how much the planet benefits from our existence. Actually, it rarely does. Which is just fine.

The vast majority of healthy, happy, normal Americans go about their business as the Founders intended. They go to work, look after their families, keep their nose out of other people’s business, and generally stay out of trouble. Thus they are not some great boon to humanity, nor should they be. A devotion to family and, by their actions done and not done, a loyalty to their community and country suffice to let the world keep spinning without their intervention.

But who would know this listening to today’s cult of overweening self-esteem. A good example? Participation trophies. I won’t belabor this because you see where I’m going. No, you shouldn’t get a prize for just showing up. A similar example? Non merited academic advancement, passing illiterates on from grade to grade.

Have you see the numbers from the Chicago school district, one of the biggest in the nation? From the Illinois Policy website: “More than 21,000 students in Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, are being left behind. They are attending schools that fail to prepare them for life. A majority of students attending the lowest 10 percent of elementary schools and high schools in Chicago don’t have basic competence in reading, science and math. They’re significantly behind their peers in almost every respect. And success in school is a direct link to success later in life with more steady employment and greater wages. Seventy-five percent of students at the lowest-performing elementary schools failed to meet standards on state exams. More than 20 percent of these students scored in the lowest category in reading, meaning they have a difficult time determining the main idea of a persuasive essay or the plot of a short story.” Translation: A lot of kids who are in, or graduate from, the Chicago school system are illiterate. And when asked, why do teachers graduate these students to the next grade? Because to fail them would harm their self-esteem.

If we are ever to recover a sense of vigorous and reasoned individualism we must reject the notion that everyone is a special little snowflake and deal with life and self perception with a focus on reality. A continuing culture of loud, boorish, and falsely confident morons chocked full of self-esteem is too hideous to imagine.