It's the story of how parents are paying up to $40,000 to people like Michele Hernandez to coach their kids into attaining entrance into the top college of their dreams.
Yeah, I would love to have someone guide me and my child through the college entrance process - you know, writing essays, choosing courses in high school, etc. - but this is a bit ridiculous:
She selects classes for students, reviews their homework, and prods them to make an impression on teachers. She checks on the students' grades, scores, rankings. She tells parents when to hire tutors and then makes sure the kids do the extra work. She vets their vacation schedules. She plans their summers. And through it all, she is always available to contend with the college angst that can consume whole families. Parents value her confidence; kids, mostly, appreciate her enthusiasm.An interesting thing Ms. Hernandez does is take a child's interest and basically turn it into what marketers call the "Brand Me imperative," or as the article calls it, "Finding the Selling Point." She tells kids to drop activities that don't look good on their application, and to take harder classes that colleges will recognize as difficult so they will stand out.
I thought this was a telling statement:
Families pay Hernandez as much as they do because she promises not just substitute parenting but parenting in the extreme.Is this the foundation for adult life I want my kids to have?
That success in life is just a matter of finding a way to "sell yourself" to the right people?
That family vacations and activities that are "just for fun" are without value if they do not contribute toward making one "look good" for others?
That attending the "perfect college" sets one up for a perfect life later on?
Even the article admits:
The intense pressure to succeed is a big reason the incidence of anxiety, depression, and drug use is as high among children of the affluent as it is among children of the inner city, according to Columbia University psychologist Suniya S. Luthar. "Young people perceive that their whole lives are building to this moment of applications, rejections, acceptances. They see it as either you make it or you are doomed to a second-class existence," she says. Even those who do get into top schools may suffer the consequences of their success. Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College, says: "Those who excel enough to get into Harvard or Stanford are likely to be less inspired students once that goal has been achieved."Hmm. Just think, I've been living a "second-class existence" all my life! It's all in the way one defines "success," I suppose. Obviously, we are not on the same page, now, are we?
Don't get me wrong. I want all our kids to go to college, even if my girls aspire most to be wives and mothers. I don't believe any education is ever wasted (although I do wonder sometimes why on EARTH I became a nurse, but that's for another post...!). I want to help them get into the college of their choice (as long as it's in the South, so I don't have to go far to visit grandbabies some day!) so they can use their early years to invest in the talents God has given them. I understand there is a certain amount of sacrifice involved.
However, I am not going to allow an insanely driven person to dictate my family's purpose, or worse, to turn my children into a shiny but single-faceted, obsessed "brand" that rejects all opportunities that don't bring a direct benefit to themselves. Or that can't make a decision unless an "expert" has given her blessing.
I'm not willing, in the name of success, to sacrifice character, maybe a little of which I learned by succeeding at something. However, I would hazard to guess that most of us learned what was truly important, not through success, but through owning up to our own failures, disappointments and rejections. (Key words: OUR OWN). I doubt Ms. Hernandez's clients will figure that out.
At least not yet.
Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.