College
College tuition continues to grow. Student loan debt reached almost $1 Trillion last year. College graduates are out of work. Higher education as the route to success in America is under review. Follow the debate.

Kids, Don’t Become Success Robots

3/16/19

from The Wall Street Journal,
3/14/19:

Tennessee Tech is an amazing school, and nobody breaks the law to get admitted.

A few thoughts on the college admissions scandal in which wealthy and accomplished parents allegedly lied, cheated and bribed to get their kids admitted to elite universities. I bet your reaction was like mine: An electric sense of “I didn’t know that was going on!” followed by an immediate “Of course that was going on!” Because there’s a lot of crazy money in dizzy hands, and there’s a lot of status involved in where your kids go to school. It must be stressed that this is a scandal not of kids but of adults, fully functioning and wildly successful ones who knew what they were doing. Here is something I think is part of the story. In the past decade or so I’ve observed a particular parenting style growing prevalent among the upper middle class and wealthy. It is intense. They love their kids and want the best for them, they want to be responsible, but there’s a degree to which one wonders if they don’t also see them as narcissistic extensions of themselves. They are hyper-attentive, providing meticulous academic grooming—private schools, private tutors and coaches, private classes in Chinese language and cello. They don’t want their children fat—that isn’t healthy, by which they mean attractive. They communicate the civilized opinions of the best people and signal it would be best to hew to them. They aim their children at the best colleges, which are, to them, basically brands. The colleges too market themselves that way—“Well, we are Harvard.” Get in there and you’re branded too. I believe a lot of parents do all this not only so their children will do well but so they will look good. They are status monkeys creating success robots.

If their child succeeds they were successful parents. If they were successful parents their status is enhanced in a serious way: Everyone respects successful parents! There is no one who doesn’t! Magazine profiles of celebrities stress close families, happy children.

An irony is that success robots, once wound up and pushed forward, often struggle. The president of an elite college told me recently the most surprising thing about recent classes is the number of students who ask for and need psychological services. They seem, said the president, unusually dependent on their parents. A traditional reason for going away to college is to get away from your parents, to function and flourish on your own. But that’s hard when you’ve been so closely guided, so aimed toward achievement, even as its ultimate meaning was never quite explained to you.

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