Monday, November 12, 2012

The Parenting Trap

Check out The Parenting Trap by A.A. Gill from Vanity Fair. Here are my favorite parts:
  • Forget all the advice. Forget the special tutors, camps, coaches, and therapists. A father of four argues that the biggest problem kids face is the byzantine education-industrial complex known as school, which ruins the most carefree and memorable years of their lives.
  • I stand at the school gates and watch the fear in the eyes of other fathers. The barely contained panic as they herd their offspring, already looking like hobbit Sherpas, carrying enormous schoolbags full of folders and books and photocopied letters and invitations to birthdays and concerts and playdates and football and after-school math clubs. You know my younger kids carry more paperwork than I do? And my job is paperwork. And they can’t read.
  • In the 100 years since we really got serious about education as a universally good idea, we’ve managed to take the 15 years of children’s lives that should be the most carefree, inquisitive, and memorable and fill them with a motley collection of stress and a neurotic fear of failure. Education is a dress-up box of good intentions, swivel-eyed utopianism, cruel competition, guilt, snobbery, wish fulfillment, special pleading, government intervention, bu­reauc­racy, and social engineering. And no one is smart enough now to understand how we can stop it.
  • If you want to see the absolute proof that we’ve got it all wrong—that education is really about the fear and guilt of parents projected onto their children, then go to your own school reunion. Obviously most normal people would rather attend a naked consciousness-raising workshop. But do it once and you’ll see what the Adonises and the Venuses of your halcyon days actually did with all that promise. The boy who was captain of everything, who strode the halls like a young Alexander; the girl with the glistening hair who memorized poetry and whose golden limbs danced across a stage as a Juliet no one would ever forget. Well, they’re both sorry, seedy never-was-es now. Their finest moments are behind them. Everything after that brilliant year at school or college was mediocrity. Nothing good ever came from peaking too early.
The interesting adults are always the school failures, the weird ones, the losers, the malcontents. This isn’t wishful thinking. It’s the rule. My advice to any child reading this: If you’re particularly good at the violin or math, for God’s sake don’t let anyone find out. Particularly your parents. If they know you’re good at stuff they’ll force you to do it forever. You’ll wake up and find yourself in a sweaty dinner jacket and clip-on bow tie playing “The Music of the Night” for the ten-thousandth time in an orchestra pit. Or you’ll be the fat, 40-ish accountant doing taxes for the people who spent their school days copping a feel and learning how to roll a good joint.

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