Sunday, July 12, 2015

The root of all...

So Natalie was just recounting to us her experience her first week at Duke TIP, where she's taking Criminal Trial Advocacy, and she told us that she had won best in the class for some argument they presented, even though many of the kids in there are older than her and have copies of the Declaration of Independence and/or the amendments to the Constitution posted above their beds.  She also said that nobody's arguments had been particularly water-tight, including her own which she considered rather half-baked.

And within me I felt swell up at the same time tremendous pride, and deep below that a sense of relief that "my child will be OK."

This, I submit, is at the root of the hyper-competitiveness for our children to achieve at the absolute highest level, to get into Ivy League schools and then keep going, it is this fear that if they don't, they will not be OK later in life, that they will be subsumed within the wave of global competition and automation and shifts in the competitive landscape (you should hear doctors talk about the projected impact of Obamacare on their earnings prospects going forward) that continues to eat up once seemingly safe white-collar professions.

I don't think this is a new insight on my part, but I felt it pretty viscerally just then.

But the idea that my daughter-- super-smart, born into a family and place that prioritizes education and with other socio-economic advantages -- is at particular risk is, well, silly.  Compared to kids from truly at risk populations?

But we, members of the chattering class, are nonetheless driven by a deep-seated need to protect our littluns.  And, lord knows, we do.  We wear ourselves to the nib driving them to activities and paying for enrichment opportunities. We advocate for gifted programs in already high-achieving school systems.    And then we wonder why there is an achievement gap and blame the school system.

Anyway, today on the phone I did what I considered the most important thing for my daughter: I encouraged her to not be hard on herself for any imperfections in her legal arguments, because she had done great.  And when she said that she had been fighting a little cold and hadn't been running in the mornings as she had planned (because she wants to stay in shape for an ultimate tournament she has the day the summer school ends), I told her to rest, hydrate, and have fun and don't beat herself up.

Because, lord knows, I am all too good at that, and that's what I don't want her to learn to do.

1 comment:

K said...

This is such an interesting post. I'm writing a book about unschooling and recently struck the phrase "hyper competitive." I'm going to put it back in right now.

My father recently divorced a person who is wealthy at the top 1% level. This person's deepest fear is poverty. So naturally, they live a life of poverty. Down to clutching at every penny and every single piece of paper. I'm speaking literally about the pieces of paper---every single one. Their fear is far greater than their wealth. I know families on the poverty line who live richer in the most important ways. The covetousness and sense of competition that rolls off this person is so sad and, given the reality of actual poverty and living in competition against the poor, obscene. If you consider poverty of spirit, its possible to feel compassion...

No amount of money or educational status can insulate us from fear and pain. How can we grow intelligent kind courageous successful children in the face of that truth? That's partly what my book is about. What I love about this post is that I know you to be thoughtful kind and courageous and raising awesome kids. And I try. So we are working at opposite ends of the educational spectrum toward the same goal. That's nice and a balancing kind of thought to begin the day.