Wednesday, March 31, 2004


David Brooks had a good op-ed yesterday, entitled "Stressed For Success." He counsels high school seniors waiting to hear about college acceptances that it really isn't that important. The name of your school, your SAT scores, and the number of extracurricular activities that seem so important now, really don't mean much in the long haul.

Once you reach adulthood, the key to success will not be demonstrating teacher-pleasing competence across fields; it will be finding a few things you love, and then committing yourself passionately to them.

He sees no difference in the quality of students in Penn State or Harvard. And there are quality teachers everywhere.

What he said. I've taught now at an elite university and a plebian university, and truthfully I liked the kids at the plebian university better. Sure, there were a few that couldn't write an essay or analyze a text, but for there were also some that were smarter than me. In addition to brains, they had a hunger and a drive that I never witnessed at the elite university. And because I really liked them, I bent over backwards to help them.

Though I'm many years away from the college craze, I've been getting a taste of it with my son entering kindergarten next year. Some friends can't believe that we're sending our child to the local school. It doesn't have a science lab or green playing fields. And the mix of students means that the test scores aren't the highest in the city. They are schlepping their kids around Manhattan to fancy private schools or far flung alternative schools that boast of "child centered" curriculum.

I decided that slick teaching programs and fancy perks were not so important to me. When I signed up Jonah for school last week, we knew the family in front of us and the family behind us. The school is located just around the corner, so I can scoop him up in a second if he gets sick or if there is an emergency. The teachers have been around for years; they taught some of the parents from the neighborhood. It was a warm, safe environment with low levels of competitive stress. He'll be the star in his class. The other parents are good, hard-working people who haven't spoiled their kids.

Perhaps I'm too idealistic about education. My friend, Margie, thinks I am. She says that her husband would have succeeded faster if he had gone to Harvard, rather than a state university. Name recognition and connections would have boosted him up the ladder faster. Perhaps. But, also maybe, he wouldn't have had the same drive, the same hunger and been undone early on by a sense of entitlement.

It all comes down to confidence. Not so much in the schools, but in my kid and us. I feel quite sure that my kid is smart enough to do quite well anywhere. I'm sure that we're resourceful enough to make up for any gaps in his education in school. He'll get to where he needs to go, regardless of perks and pedigree. I wish others were as cocky as me.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

< ? Redhead Blogs # >

< ? Blogging Mommies # >