Work Life Balance

Spending Too Much On Education Can Be A Moral Failure

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The New York Times describes how some of New York City’s wealthiest parents spend as much as $35,000 a year per child on tutoring. That’s on top of another $40,000 in private school tuition:

Private SAT tutors have been de rigueur at elite New York private schools for a generation, but the proliferation of subject-matter tutors for students angling for A’s is a newer phenomenon that is beginning to incite a backlash. Interviews with parents, students, teachers, administrators, tutors and consultants suggest that more than half of the students at the city’s top-tier schools hire tutors, an open secret that the schools seem unable to stop.

Now obviously these parents should be free to hire tutors for their children. I myself am so unsure of the local options for high school in D.C. that I’ve thought of just skipping the regular schooling and investing in tutors for my kids. But there’s something that concerns me about all of this money flying around.

I think it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what education means at this time in a child’s life. he should be learning how to organize his own time and complete tasks before deadline, doing independent research, figuring out the difference between important and unimportant information and critically analyzing the information.

This helicopter parenting, and concurrent teaching toward tests, really makes it difficult for children to learn these skills that are so important for college and the world beyond.

But even more than that, I think the hidden message in hiring tutors such as this is that one’s worth is tied up in one’s intelligence. A parent must make sure that their children understand that worth is inherent and doesn’t change based on one’s S.A.T. score or acceptance into one academic institution over another.

I’m lecturing this week to a group of bright, young college students and have come to see how profound a negative impact such pressure can have on certain kids. So I hope that these parents, in between cutting checks to one school and another tutor, take the time to just enjoy their children and the beauty of life together as a family.