Friday, September 22, 2006
"The quest for perfection 'is making our children sick.'"
As I mentioned yesterday, one of my concerns with students who try to pile too much coursework on themselves is the impact on their health.

And Marilee Jones, the dean of Admissions at MIT, agrees with me.

"We're raising a generation of kids trained to please adults. Every day kids should have time when they're doing something where they're not being judged. That's the big difference with this generation. They're being judged and graded and analyzed and assessed at every turn. It's too much pressure for them."

Kids are reporting ulcers, anxiety disorders and just plain old "not sleeping enough," and it doesn't even necessarily translate into better students.

MIT faculty told [Jones] many students just weren't much fun to teach. The issue of perfectionism had been brought painfully to the fore at MIT by a series of student suicides. Students "want to do everything right, they want to know exactly what's on the test," faculty told her. "They're so afraid of failing or stepping out of line, that they're not really good students."

Getting a good education is important. Going to a school that challenges the students is also important. Being desperate to get into an "Ivy plus" and ending up cutting in order to deal with the stress isn't.

I didn't even apply to any of the Ivies, for undergrad or grad school. Of course, I went to high school in the Midwest, where college admissions are still not considered a blood sport. If I were to ever have kids, that would be my big concern about raising them here; I wouldn't want to impose that kind of stress on them. And that doesn't even cover the direct costs of admissions counselors, activity fees, and everything else that goes with the whole hyper package.


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