A view from my side.
I was reading a post called I Won’t Sell My Kids Short today and started to reply when I decided to use it as an impetus for a post of my own. I agree with so much of what she had to say but didn’t want to litter her page with my ramblings. So here goes:
I teach at an independent school where the vast majority of our kids are “gifted.” Last year, 3 of our students had perfect ACT and SAT scores. Our core curriculum courses are all at what a public school would call “Honors” and we offer higher level course work on top of that. Our senior classes (around 55-60 students) receive millions of dollars in total scholarship offers every year. A few years ago, a student graduated with a Gates Millennium Scholarship. The whole point of this is to emphasize that our student body is pretty damn smart.
The pressure these students are under, whether applied by themselves, their parents, or our society, is enormous. I have stumbled upon kids on campus sitting alone, quietly crying to themselves because of it. Other students find a release in athletics or drama or other clubs and organizations. In response to these growing pressures, we screened for our students and parents the film The Race to Nowhere. To steal a quote from their site, it “is a film and call to mobilize families, educators and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.” We had some very good discussions after the screening and I hope it has altered some attitudes in some people. I encourage you to watch it.
Despite the pressures our students are under, I know our kids are “ok” when I see among their books copies of books they are reading for fun…reading because they *want* to read them, not because they are required reading. Parents and others often dismiss books like the Twilight series or The Hunger Games or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and other fantastical or futuristic books as not serious literature and not worth the time. But books like these allow our children to escape the rigors of their day and let their mind explore other things. These books are entertaining and fun. Sometimes we forget that part of being a kid is learning to balance the fun stuff with the work stuff.
So what’s the point here? The point is we don’t need to be helicopter parents, always hovering over our kids, pushing or protecting them. The point is we need to have faith in our kids to let them succeed or fail on their own and to let them learn from it. The point is we need to step back, as parents and as a society and let our kids have a greater role in determining their fate. They aren’t stupid. They don’t need us to do it for them. They need us to give them some guidance and point them in the right direction, but we need to take a few steps back and let them become the kids then the young adults and then the adults they want to become. Let the kids be kids.
I’ll close with this line from David Bowie’s song Changes:
And these children that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through..