I recently learned from an old friend who has a soon-to-be college-age son that, in addition to the test-prep tutors, that kids who now want to get into the best colleges have life tutors. These are people who tell the kids (and their parents) which courses to take and which activities to get involved in so that they can demonstrate the leadership potential and diversity of experiences that colleges are looking for.
Is this really what we’re teaching the kids who have the most opportunity in our society (which means, by and large, that they have the most opportunity in the world)? That they have to manufacture a kaleidoscope of experiences to put on paper so that they can – from the best high schools – get into the best colleges to get the best job to get…to get…to get….what?
This isn’t a zero sum game, it’s a negative sum game. In exchange for increasing the (purported) likelihood of getting into the “right” school we are reinforcing the notion that struggle, reflection, falling short and self-discovery are and should be easily traded in by our so-called best and brightest. We are teaching them that the best thing they can do with all of their privilege and promise is to game the system.
Someday, when all of their careers go well, they won’t need a resume. Someday they will need to trade on real accomplishments and reputations that precede them; on judgment and character and vision and moral fiber; and all the awards and merit scholarships and test scores and class rank will be long forgotten.
When that moment comes, when they have to dig deep, what will they find if this is what we have been teaching them?