All over America, tassels have been turned and university chancellors and presidents have shook hands with the future or thousands of the future as young men and women leave 4 years of perhaps the hardest and yet most liberating of their years behind and face a world that really doesn’t care whether they were dean’s list or black list. The economy decides what happens next more than any degree, title or big dream does.
Now, I am all for developing a society of hard working, over achieving and perhaps even bigger dreaming individuals who are capable of making tremendous contributions to the future, but I wonder if Americans have begun to equate achievement not only with surpassing the proverbial “Joneses” but with devoting energy, resources and a “whatever it takes” attitude to make sure no stone goes unturned in assuring their offspring “have the best chance” at nearly every opportunity.
There are 1400 four year institutions in America educating the future generation and 36,000 high schools across the country. Beginning in elementary school and most certainly continuing in middle school and beyond, children are encouraged by parents as well as many educators to focus on paths that demonstrate their children’s ability to be well rounded in academics, athletics, social and community activities. They are captain of debate teams, co-captains of the soccer team, first string in cello, volunteering at tutoring inner city youth, assistant editor of the school paper, runner up for prom queen and class valedictorian and that may all be just the resume of a single individual!
The intensity some parents demonstrate when selecting even a preschool for their child sometimes comes close to being repulsive. Thinking that an elite private preschool with offerings in learning forensic block building interpretation and social media marketing tactics for the rug rat population offers an edge in later life is not simply foolish…it is dangerous. Granted I have taken fabricated liberties describing the “preschool curriculum” mentioned above but parents today will gladly spend on annual private preschool tuition more than it cost to educate the baby boomers in a 4 year degree program just a few decades before.
I am not against pursuing a good, sound education but I wonder if we have failed to realize that if there are 36,000 high schools then there are also at least 36, ooo valedictorians vying for a top spot at a top university. Washington Post While the job market may be demonstrating some improvement, over the past 10 years there has been 18 million (18-24 yr olds) who have graduated from college and returned home to live with their parents. The boomerang generation did not develop necessarily because children did not find work as it did because the work they found could not pay for the debt they carried (often more than $30,000) from the schools they graduated even after scholarships.
I am a strong proponent of higher education but not a strong proponent for developing a “mind set” of cradle to grave elite educational goals or aspirations. Several of our countries most successful individuals saw a need and acted on it despite a lack of education not because of one. (think..Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Michael Dell, Simon Cowell, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs). Maybe what really should be important is not WHAT school they attend for preschool or college but whether the ingredients necessary to achieve a life of passion and purpose were developed regardless of what educational institution was their alma mater.
Christians have a responsibility to grow and encourage our children’s relationship with God but we also have a responsibility to instill a sense of morality, respect for human rights, persistence, tolerance, good will, compassion and stewardship. Regardless of whether a child attends a preschool with a price tag the size of recently assessed homes in today’s economy or a university with a tuition that rivals the national debt, these values are learned in a family and society where they assume more importance than a sheepskin.
We need a future generation who is well educated but unless they also have exceptional people skills and the virtues mentioned above, they will be little able to really have much true internal success. Studies demonstrate that happiness is not necessarily tied to monetary or even career success but in a personal satisfaction of being the kind of person you set out to be.
So parents, lighten up if your wallet cannot cough up a 4 year degree at an Ivy League or even another year at the best academy for l”enfants”. Your job is not to worry about any place junior gets into but heaven and if you don’t believe me, take a load off and read Andrew Ferguson“s Crazy U: One Dad\’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College
Or if you are still parenting a youngster and have just started to fret about preschool academia, read. 50 Dangerous Things(You Should Let Your Children Do by Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler, you might just believe the adage, “Do your best and give God the rest,” with more conviction.