Kids Are the Victims of the Elite-College Obsession


From The Atlantic: “At a time when one in five college students reports having had suicidal thoughts over the past year, we must hammer home to families the message that tunnel-visioning toward selective schools is not only misguided, but dangerous. Last year, a California 16-year-old committed suicide because, at his competitive public high school, which emphasized attending elite colleges, ‘So much pressure is placed on the students to do well that I couldn’t do it anymore,’ he wrote in a suicide note.

In 2018, Scott White, a New Jersey college counselor, posted an essay on a National Association for College Admission Counseling email list in which he said the college-admissions process ‘is the source of one of the most cruel, and truly unnecessary, abuses of our children.’ A college counselor since 1981, he has ‘seen a remarkable increase in the number of kids who are just falling apart, checking out, harming themselves and medicating themselves. There are more suicide attempts, students cutting themselves, more hospitalizations, more cases of anorexia and bulimia, every year. And there is every sign that this will continue to rise, unabated, into the foreseeable future.’ […]

Overachiever culture has done this to us. It has caused drastic changes in schools and homes, relentlessly prioritizing prestige, high-stakes testing, and accountability at the cost of families and schools. It’s a myth that going to a certain type of school is a ‘roadmap to success,’ but parents desperately want to believe that by controlling the system, they can guarantee success for their children, even if it’s a narrow, superficial, winner-take-all definition of that word. Education has been eclipsed by marketing—on the part of both students and schools—and as one college dean of admissions told me, ‘It’s not simply marketing one for a position at the very difficult preschool, high school, college, and grad school, and for various employment opportunities. It comes down almost to marketing one’s soul, which gets to undermining the meaning of one’s entire life.’

Not to mention the destruction of one’s childhood. From standardized-test scores to the arms race of year-round youth sports, students are taught that their statistics matter more than their comfort, that their résumé matters more than their character. Students respond in kind. Nearly 90 percent of college students say they have cheated in school. An estimated 15 to 40 percent of high-school students have abused prescription drugs as study aids. As an Illinois high-school senior told me, many students view life as ‘a conveyor belt,’ making monotonous scheduled stops ‘at high school, college, graduate school, a job, more jobs, some promotions, and then you die.'”

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  1. “Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
    Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes, all the same
    There’s a green one, and a red one, and a blue one, and a yellow one
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.”

    “And they all play on the golf course
    And drink their martinis dry
    And they all have pretty children
    And the children go to school,
    And the children go to summer camp
    And then to the university
    Where they are put in boxes
    And they come out all the same.”

    Malvina Reynolds, 1962

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    • Cute, Steve. I did it differently than those unethical parents. I think USC is one of the schools that just gave my child a full ride offer for grad school. And he did get basically a full ride for his undergrad degree, graduating with highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa.

      I tried to introduce my children to the various sports when they were young. But when my son was in fifth grade and said, stop it mother, I said fine. We stopped the sports. I respected his wishes.

      I tried to combat the BS in our public schools, which teach our children they don’t need to memorize their math facts, but my child didn’t want to listen to me by fifth grade. So I said, fine, now you get your homework help from your father.

      By early seventh grade, they were stuck, and came to mom with a math problem they couldn’t figure out. As a gal who learned her math facts in NY, I gave them an answer, to their unanswerable question in a New York second. My son was shocked. He asked me, “How did you know the answer off the top of your head?” I said, “It’s because I bothered to memorize my math facts.”

      Sometimes a mother must use reverse psychology. Guess what happened? My son decided he didn’t want to be dumber than his mother, so he bothered to memorize his math facts. And by eighth grade he got 100% on his state standardized tests.

      Which, for bizarre reasons, now seems to get the delusional school social workers to want to blame the mother for “keeping your child up late nights studying” and “pushing your child too hard,” despite this not being remotely close to reality.

      Lucky me (sarcasm), I already knew by then the fraud and iatrogenic harm being committed by our “mental health professionals.” So I agreed to send my intelligent and well behaved child off to a private school for high school, since my child’s principal did eventually confess our “school district is not equipped to deal with the most intelligent children.” My child had been forewarned since he was young that this might happen.

      I guess the good thing about all this bribery of the “elite” universities, which by the way I discouraged my child from attending (not that the university he attended wasn’t among the top 10% who award the Phi Beta Kappa award). Because I’d researched them and learned that their undergrad programs were not actually that good. Since most the undergrad classes were largely being taught by grad students, since the actual professors were so tortured with their “publish or perish” problem, that they couldn’t give a sh-t about the undergrads.

      But the good thing is all this bribery of the “elite” universities may be allowing them to offer full scholarships to the actually intelligent American youth. Whose parents treated their children with respect, as oppose to pushing, torturing, and bribing universities to get them into these universities.

      My son’s got a couple full scholarships for grad school offers so far, and is waiting to see if he gets full scholarship offers with fellowship stipends. He’s wise enough to understand he doesn’t want his future research and life to be controlled financially by the unethical “powers that be.” Or at least a mom can hope.

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  2. Children learn about two kinds of worth, one is a given, an unconditional gift, and the other comes from achievement. The first kind is the one we are born to need, and the second kind is how we try to fill in the hole left by not getting the first kind. The trouble is, it’s not easy to get the second kind, and it doesn’t last.

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  3. Suicide of people is the suicide of the system. Death has connections with true condition of humanity (collective psyche), but apollonian ego has got connections only with its own illusions. Apollonian ego, normalcy, is not deep enough to be a determinant of the psychological truth. Psychopathology, the symptoms, are determinants of real human condition.

    James Hillman , Re- Visioning psyche.

    We need wisdom, not apollonian ego hegemony. To kill psychiatry, is to kill apollonian ego hegemony. Monotheistic thinking is a dangerous weapon against complex psyche.

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