Everyone gets advice from their parents. Unfortunately, not all of it is good advice. Take, for example, the advice that baby boomers gave their kids for success in the adult world: go to college and get a degree.
Eventually, this advice became woven into the fabric of our culture’s collective consciousness as undeniably true.
But is it?
College admissions offices espouse this truth, and state that getting a degree will result in millions of more dollars you will make in your working career. But is this true? Why and how did this idea gain traction as truth, and how can we avoid giving well meaning, albeit bad, advice to our own kids?
Let’s explore why this college idea was true in the past. Not all baby boomers went to college. Those who did were somewhat rare. In addition to having a fancy piece of paper, many boomers made career connections to other students (and their successful parents) while in college. Was it the piece of paper, the knowledge of the classics acquired in Literature 205, or the social connections to other successful people that resulted in increased earnings for those graduates? I posit that it was the rarity of the credential and the social connections made while at school that enabled the bachelor degree holders in the past to earn more money than their “less educated” peers.
Those degree-less people had kids (lots of them). They looked at their college educated peers’ external displays of wealth, and concluded that the degree is responsible for the outcome. Unfortunately, this is false. Doubly unfortunate: a huge number of millennials took the advice of their boomer parents, took out massive loans and got a fancy piece of paper. The rarity of the credential is now gone, and the social connections that could have been made with other successful peers/families was extremely unlikely.
This tragedy illustrates perfectly exactly why something is valuable: because it is desired AND rare!
What qualities will be rare in our kids 10-30 years from now? Will it be a bachelor’s degree? What about a master’s degree? What about a post-doc fellowship? A 4.0 report card in 6th grade? A minor in underwater artisanal basket weaving?
To determine what will be rare in the future, is to study what qualities are being developed in youth today and what qualities are being purposefully destroyed or negligently left to die?
I see two qualities which will be both desired and rare in 10-30 years in our kids who grow into adults.
- Creativity. Being creative and being good at sitting still/ shutting up/ doing what you are told without question are almost mutually exclusive. Overworked, underpaid teachers educating our kids in underfunded and understaffed schools need to get kids to sit down and shut up. It’s the only way to appease administrators by getting kids to score slightly higher on standardized tests. As a result, free time (recess), art, music, and other creative/free play opportunities are replaced with test prep. This is good for the short term of the school district, but horrible for the long term creative development of our kids.
- Social skills. The psychology of addiction is well understood. Getting a population hooked on drugs is frighteningly easy if the local government allows addictive substances to be accessed easily within the community. Smartphones, social media, and gaming apps are designed to be HIGHLY addictive. This addiction hits all of the same parts of the brain as hard drugs do. And we give them to our kids. Not the addictive drugs, of course, but the addictive smart devices. As our kids get older, they spend less time interacting in person with their friends and family. As a result, they are robbed of the opportunity to develop social skills during the best time of their life to do so. There seems to be a window of opportunity for social skill development, and if this time is not used to acquire these skills, they will simply never be acquired.
These two traits: creativity and social skills are going to be rare in our kids’ generation. As a parent, I am going to do everything I can to nurture these traits in my child. In addition, I am going to protect my child from deleterious external influences on these traits. I would urge you to do the same for your children if you want them to succeed as adults.
If you want more information on healthy media decisions, check out this site by the American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/How-to-Make-a-Family-Media-Use-Plan.aspx