Some Essential Reading

I wish I could get every parent of a high school student to read Marilee Jones and Kenneth Ginsburg’s new book “Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admission and Beyond.” Jones is Dean of Admission at MIT and Ginsburg is an associate professor of pediatrics at Penn. It focuses on students and parents rather than the admission process—in other words, it’s not just another “how to get in” book. For those of us who talk ourselves hoarse about “fit” over brand name thinking and so on, the combined authorities here are an oasis in the desert. There’s a humanity here that’s missing from most other books in the college admission vein. (Interestingly, the book has been published by the American Association of Pediatrics, not by the College Board or Barron’s or Princeton Review. That lends it a little more gravitas than it might otherwise, although the message would certainly be the same.) An important book, I think.

I’m about to dive into a few other books out now about over-pressured kids. Any comments from people who have already read them? They include The Price of Privilege, Hothouse Kids, The Overachievers, The Price of Admission (which one colleague said read life the Cliff’s Notes version of The Chosen), and one I’m really looking forward to, Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers. However these books turn out, I think they address the growing problem of our looking at kids as little commodities, little spending machines, and little banners of our own achievements instead of as themselves.

I realize this is actually a problem for a very small segment of American society. There are lots more compelling problems to deal with out there, but these kids also are being raised to be the adults who will have their hands on the control panels, and that means trouble for all of us unless we listen to reason and stop trying to mold them in a prefab image. Adult manipulation of children seems to be going waaaaaay over the top. Parents calling companies that decide not to employ their kids (Article in the NY Times)? We’re through the looking glass, people!