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Category: Monticello College Comments: 4

I Don’t Care Where My Kids Go To College

Huffington Post’s Catherine Pearlman posted a blog a couple of weeks ago and her message so resounded with me, I thought I would share the full text with you. 
I’m going to say something a bit unheard of in modern times. My thoughts are anathema for most parents. But I’m done pretending.
Here goes …
I don’t care where my children go to college. I’m not saying I don’t care in the but-deep-down-I’m-hoping-they-get-a-full-ride-to-Harvard way. And I’m not saying that I don’t care because my kids are complete failures destined for a life of living in my basement watching Family Guy re-runs. Nope, it isn’t any of that.
I really don’t care where they go to college. Where they end up has no effect on me. I will be equally satisfied if they go to a prestigious university as I would if they decide community college is a better fit. They might even decide to travel the world and work for a few years before choosing a college and subsequent career. Fine with me.
collegeadmissionsI’ve been thinking about this for more than a decade. With general despair, I have watched parents–from the moment Junior emerges from the womb–dedicating themselves to the sole purpose of getting their child into the very best college.
First, there was Baby Einstein and flash cards. Soccer is now beginning for 4-year-old children. Piano at 5. Karate and Mandarin at 6.
Then there is travel baseball and private trainers at 10. By middle school children are so programed they have no down time.
No time for family dinners. No time to decide for themselves what they enjoy doing. No exploring with friends in the woods behind the house for hours and discovering hidden passions and talents.
No leadership that isn’t force-fed through planned undertakings.
In a recent meeting at our local middle school, with the focus on college planning for seventh and eighth graders, an expert said children need to start volunteering now–not because it’s good for the soul, but because it’s good for the resume. Her message was that in order to get into a “good” college students have to show they have values and demonstrate a string of volunteering opportunities that support those values. Real values? I’m not sure.
This idea that students have to excel at the highest level (with experience dating back to early childhood) is supremely flawed. If everyone is a black belt, fluent in Mandarin and the captain of [fill in the black] sports team, how can one differentiate any of these children? I was an admissions director for a master’s program for a short while. I can tell you after reading hundreds of essays that your child isn’t special. He’s doing exactly what all the other applicants are doing. Exactly.

leaves_happyI’ve made a decision: I am not going to steal my son and daughter’s childhoods so they may wind up at Yale instead of Westchester Community College.
I am not going to force them to be who I say they should be by signing them up for every class and making them stick with it. Instead, I am going to sit back and watch them find their own path.
I am going to expose them to life and do it as a family.
I am going on month-long family vacations in foreign lands and I am not going to worry about how it will look to the football coach or the college counselor.
I am going to discuss issues of the day over slow family dinners. And I am going to teach my children that they can be successful doing whatever they want if they follow their dreams and work hard. Going to the best college won’t make that happen for them. Giving them the freedom to flourish in their own way in their own time will.
So I am going to resist every urge to push my children for the sake of college. I want them to learn. I just don’t want them to learn for a misguided purpose.
9875838_ml-375x250My position isn’t a popular one. Parents will be threatened by it. They will feel the need to fervently defend their children’s passions. And I imagine some parents will pity me and worry for my poor kids’ future. They can put their fears to rest. My children will be just fine. Their college application may not have all the clubs and sports and AP exams.
But they will be authentic. For me, that is enough.

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Comments (4)

  • NLewis

    All of these activities are aspects of compulsion. Instead of unstructured free time — for children to do what they please — there is always an external agenda and an expert/authority figure. One reason this is so popular among the professional classes is that the professional classes are among the most committed to external compulsion, because they have felt that they have had the most to gain from it (“doing what you are told and being rewarded”), and the most to lose. This process — what might be crudely termed “slavery” — is in fact their ideal.
    Unstructured free time does not have to remain unstructured. A child will decide that he wants to use it to make a treehouse or go surfing, or read something he is really interested in, or play with other kids in a game they made up themselves.
    It has come to my attention that, especially before about age 8, children’s time should be very unstructured. Children are really not able to absorb much abstraction (reading or arithmetic) before about age 8. Many have argued that math can be completely ignored before age 9 or so, when children are ready to do the entire 6-year elementary arithmetic course in two years, or perhaps one. Whether a child begins to read at age 4 or age 9, it makes no difference to their reading ability at age 13. Formal schooling before about age 8 would appear to be largely a waste of time.
    But, it has a purpose: to condition the child to an environment of compulsion from the earliest age. The fact that it might take a four year old a full twelve months to memorize the 26 letters of the alphabet is not the point. The point is to condition them to an environment of compulsion before they have even the ability to experience any alternative. In my town, four-year-olds now go to “pre-K” at the public school, from 8:30 am to 2:30pm. Plus, easily 30 minutes on either side for riding the bus.

    January 14, 2016 at 10:58 am
    • Shanon Brooks

      I agree and recommend two good books on the subject: “A Thomas Jefferson Education,” DeMille and “A Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens,” DeMille and Brooks.

      January 14, 2016 at 11:53 am
  • Ellie

    Thanks for sharing this article–very powerful and so correct.

    January 18, 2016 at 10:29 am
  • Miranda

    Thanks for sharing. What a powerful thought and great advise!

    July 17, 2016 at 7:33 am

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