Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Two anecdotes to share from this morning:

1. We have finally found NPR, and this morning as Ross drove me to the MARC station we listened to a short news clip about tennis camps, super intense camp for kids in whom some nascent tennis talent has been noticed and who must, therefore, be not-too-gently nudged into greatness. Actually, the story was about a new camp started by some famous tennis person who has a different philosophy and doesn’t feel that 10-year olds should be told to focus on only one sport and leave their homes for long training periods. A different tennis camp person disagreed with him, arguing that for talented kids to succeed they have to be absolutely immersed in the tennis world.

2. Later this morning I got onto the Metro and found myself standing next to a gentleman and a kid (I couldn’t tell what their relationship was, but the older guy didn’t know if the kid had an X-Box or not, so they weren’t father and son… it seemed like a mentor-type relationship). My zoo camp senses tell me that the boy was about ten. Both were wearing crisp suits, and the kid was wearing extremely shiny black dress shoes. It was a little difficult to figure out what they were talking about (the kid was going to interview somebody), but here are some of the conversation’s buzzwords: “New Media.” “The market.” “Philanthropy. ”

Not to be crude, but both of these events (especially coming so close to each other) made me want to barf. Is this really what we want? I get that it’s a big, scary, competitive world out there. But if the world is really such that we have to return to a Victorian model of the-child-as-miniature-adult, don’t we have bigger problems than finding Junior a future job? If job training has to start at eight, isn’t that maybe a sign that there’s something wrong with the way we’re approaching life? I don’t know, friends… just a thought.


  1. YES. Check out A Renegade History of the United States, by Thaddeus Russell. It's fascinating, and argues many of the same ideas. Although I have to admit, my mental picture of a ten-year-old boy in a suit saying "philanthropy" is pretty cute.

  2. Ugh, I feel completely sick about a lot of developmental things that seem to be going out the window in education. Like magnet schools (have we talked about how I really dislike the idea of magnet schools?)

    And the death of liberal arts in universities. I just can't keep my mouth shut about that. Pretty much definitely pushing my agenda on my students here because this school is disgustingly practical in its undergraduate education, and for an 18-year-old to KNOW without a doubt that he/she wants a certain career is, well, just silly.

  3. I don't know...I knew when I was 18 (16, actually) what I wanted to be and that hasn't changed or budged an inch. Knowing so early let me tailor my experiences accordingly and so now I'm (I hope) well-positioned to get the jobs I want and secure my future. I know that I definitely sacrificed the whole trying lots of things phase of my life, but I don't feel like I missed anything. I was a literature major, I have many artistic outlets, despite living a life of science.

    I definitely do not think that all kids should be raised that way. Kids should be exposed to as much as possible, especially in the early years, so they can make an informed choice about their lives. I was free to find myself (well, I freed myself) until I found what I wanted and locked in. I think whenever you lock in, at whatever age, there's nothing wrong with following that train as long as it will run, with everything you've got. That's just based on my life experiences though, which are hardly typical...

  4. I completely agree, Kathayoon... I just don't think most kids--even exceptionally talented ones--lock in at 10. 16, okay (although you're still hardly typical, and we love you for it). But not 10. I'm not saying there aren't prodigies and exceptions, just that it seems like an awfully slippery slope to me. In my case, I've known in some vague form that I wanted to be a professor for as long as I can remember, but it took a lot of waffling around before I could communicate that to myself. If that makes sense.

  5. Yeah, for sure. And kids today are definitely growing up too quickly, especially when you consider how much really young children know about sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. I'm pretty positive that some of them know more than I do. It's distressing! Parents want to push their children sometimes, maybe, to keep them away from all the socializing that's going on with kids today. My comment was more in response to Mr. Chris, I think.

    In related news, I was working with a group of Girl Scouts the other day who really, really want to go to Stanford when they grow up. I wanted really badly to tell them that you do NOT need to go to Stanford to be happy or successful in life and that they should stay open-minded. But, unfortunately, life coaching wasn't in the curriculum...too bad...:(

  6. Have you been to the Newseum yet?

  7. yikes!
    i am so glad my parents let me be a kid!
    - mel