7.16.2015

Is the Best the Best for My Child?

This recent Slate article about how college-age depression is increasingly tied to helicopter parenting is interesting throughout.  To be sure, when childhood is managed for you rather than a time when to learn how to fend for yourself, being released into the "real world" environment of college can be bewildering and intimidating.  This is a topic worthy of further rumination for all parents.

But what caught my eye in the article was this statement: 


“Do you think parents at your school would rather their kid be depressed at Yale or happy at University of Arizona?” The colleague quickly replied, “My guess is 75 percent of the parents would rather see their kids depressed at Yale. They figure that the kid can straighten the emotional stuff out in his/her 20’s, but no one can go back and get the Yale undergrad degree.”

It calls to mind a point made by Malcolm Gladwell in his recent book, "David and Goliath," which is that the best science students at second- and third-tier schools tend to be much more productive in their careers than the second- and third-tier science students at the best schools.  His conclusion is that kids are better off excelling at a mid-level university than floundering at an elite institution.

As a child of immigrants, an Ivy League grad, and a Tiger dad, I am torn.  I agree that there are many paths to success and happiness, and finding a place where you can flourish is better for your career trajectory than stumbling along at a big-name school.  However, I also believe that the best place to flourish is where you are surrounded by really smart people, and that to scuffle along just to keep up will stretch you more than dominating in a less challenging environment.  

It's time for some soul-searching.  Am I seduced by the reputation of Ivy League schools and sub-consciously seeking the accolades that will come to me as a the parent of such a student?  Or am I wimping out of putting my kids in rigorous settings so they will grow stronger, and opting to let them do what's easy to appease their natural preference for comfort and ease?  My kids have a ways to go before we really enter into this decision, but it is useful to think on how I ought to be on these things so I can parent accordingly.
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