Education Opinion

Workaholic Students

By Walt Gardner — February 03, 2016 1 min read
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Students’ schedules today too often rival those of adults in the most competitive fields, and are responsible for creating a generation of burnouts (“How not to raise a workaholic,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 29). There is much truth to that observation, but there is also another side of the story.

I don’t minimize the role that peer pressure plays in determining how hard students work, but I believe that parental values and attitudes play a more important role (“The Miseducation of the Tiger Mom,The New Republic, Mar. 25, 2014). From infancy, many well-meaning parents imbue their children with the importance of excelling at any cost. It’s the latter part that is troubling because it can lead to mental and moral breakdowns. Anxiety and depression are too high a price to pay, and cheating is never acceptable.

I think these pathologies have always existed among students. But what is new is their degree and extent. Instead of letting their children know that doing the best they can is good enough, parents are obsessed with getting them accepted at marquee-name schools, which allegedly leads to top-paying jobs. When peers reinforce this message, it’s little wonder what has followed.

The truth is that there is life after graduation. Not everyone is willing or able to sustain the pace necessary to excel. It’s time to let them know that going to college, whether a top-tier or third-tier, is not a prerequisite for a gratifying life. I had countless “C” students who went on to careers they enjoyed, raised a family and became solid citizens. I wish parents would let their children know that they don’t have to endanger their physical and mental health or worse to feel good about themselves.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.