A provocative article in the New York Times suggests that the massive money today’s “economic elite” spend on their kids may not have the desired effect.
“Being groomed for the winner-take-all economy starting in nursery school turns out to exact a toll on the children at the top,” writes Chrystia Freeland, editor of Thomson Reuters Digital.
That’s not exactly rocket science. But what makes this story “06880” blog-worthy is that some of the research was done right here in 06880.
In other words: the “children being primed for that race to the top from preschool onward” are not just anyone’s kids.
The researcher cited — Suniya S. Luthar, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College — has studied a generation of Westport students. The oldest are now in their 20s.
One of her first discoveries was that “substance use, depression and anxiety, particularly among the (affluent) girls, were much higher than among inner-city kids.”
Dr. Luthar’s research has led her to conclude that the children of privilege are an “at-risk” group, Freeland writes. “What we are finding again and again, in upper-middle-class school districts, is the proportion who are struggling are significantly higher than in normative samples,” (Luthar) said.
“It is an endless cycle, starting from kindergarten. The difficulty is that you have these enrichment activities. It is almost as if, if you have the opportunity, you must avail yourself of it. The pressure is enormous.”
Increasingly, we live in individualistic democracies whose credo is that anyone can be a winner if she tries. But we are also subject to increasingly fierce winner-take-all forces, which means the winners’ circle is ever smaller, and the value of winning is ever higher.
Luthar’s research subjects wonder, “What happens to me if I fall behind? I’ll be worth nothing.”
When we read stories “research,” we tend to think of nameless, faceless people in sterile labs.
In this case, the at-risk children we read about are very, very familiar. We see them every day.
They might even be here, next to us — looking safe and secure — as we read this disturbing story about their worrisome, insecure future.