Over-Involved and Under-Committed: The New Generation

When I was growing up, my parents had a rule for my sister and I (well they had many) but the particular one had to do with commitment.  They told us that we could only choose one sport/ extracurricular activity at a time. We were not the over committed family that always had 3 soccer games, a softball game, church, and a girl scout meeting all in a weekend. The most I got away with doing was soccer and girl scouts at the same time.  And this was permitted only because Girl Scouts met once a week for maybe two hours at a time.  It wasn’t a huge time commitment, my parents believed it was important, and I liked it.  They wanted to preserve family time and their sanity.  I am so grateful that they did.

But I am noticing a growing trend that concerns me.  First in society as a whole; that we are way to busy.  I am totally guilty of this, so I am not preaching from any pulpit, that’s for sure.  Secondly, many people, especially high schoolers, are over-involved and under-committed.  Now, hear me when I say that.  Over-involved and under-committed; how is that even possible?

To answer that question, I ask you to reflect upon what most colleges are looking for in a competitive applicant.  They want a well-rounded individual, who has played a varsity sport, been the president of a club, while being involved in two other clubs, been involved in the community, and on top of all that maintained stellar grades and achieved great test scores. I feel like they are asking for their applicants to dabble and under commit to everything, just so they can attain that “over-committed” level that colleges look for.  If there was a common mantra among current high school students, I’m pretty sure it could be, “Just do it for the app.”

The frustrating thing about this over-involvement is that instead of picking a couple of things that they love and committing to them and being super involved with them, students are doing things for the label, just so they can say they are “involved” on their college application.  AND COLLEGES SEEM TO ENCOURAGE THIS!  Though I’m sure every admissions counselor would say, “We would much rather you be deeply involved in a few things that you are passionate about, instead of a bazillion different things”; the activities section on the common app begs to differ. There are ten different sections to fill out describing your different activities and involvements in high school.  And if you only fill out four of them, that’s leaving a lot of blank space on the application that decides your scholastic fate.  Thus, students are driven to over involve themselves and under commit.  It is impossible to be completely committed to ten different activities, maintain good grades, have some semblance of a social life, and still sleep for the 8-9 hours recommended for teenagers.

What is created is a “Do it for the college application” attitude. And one can assume how frustrating and annoying this attitude can be. Try taking already slightly noncommittal teenagers, throwing them into ten different activities, and telling them to be committed to every one.  What you get is the bare minimum, a warm body in meetings, brain only half there, constantly thinking of all the other things that have to be done.  The expectation is that we are able to do it all, while in reality we have no chance.

 

 

My Confession to the World

I have a confession. Well, its more like a giant secret that I have held in so long, so close to my heart, that my parents don’t even know it.  NO ONE knows it.  I have always been afraid to reveal it, because of what society might think. Who am I kidding, it’s not what they will think, it is what they WILL SAY.  We are so judgemental as society, and note I say we because I am totally included in this group.  Though I try to work on it, it just naturally happens; I see someone and instantly categorize them based off of what they look like.  It’s terrible.

Anyway, today I decided, I have had enough.  I will not hide part of who I am any longer.  So here it goes.

I want to be a plumber when I grow up.  There I said it.  I am just so fascinated by how all the pipes work together to deliver water to the various places in a house.  How could someone even be smart enough to think of all that?  And all the work in the dirt, mud, and water sounds right up my alley because I love the mud.  And guess what?  They only work when called and they get paid by the hour AND they get to charge whatever they want.  Combine all of those positives and you have the recipe for my dream job.

Now, I know what you were thinking.  Most people would think, “Okay, but why don’t you be a doctor or go to college first and then decide what you want to do?”  Watch the spoken word video, linked below.  If you are short on time,  just watch the first two and a half minutes or so, otherwise I highly recommend watching the entire video.  It is amazing and brings me to the verge of tears every time I watch it .

TED Shane Koyczan- To This Day

“If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself then get a better mirror, look a little closer, stare a little longer, because there is something inside you that made you keep trying despite everyone who told you to quit” -one of my favorite quotes from the video

“They asked me what I wanted to be and then told me what not to be.”  This is the epitome of the state of our education system in America.  From day one of kindergarten, the expectation of the student is that they will grow up, go to high school, take a full load of AP classes, go to a prestigious college, and then become a doctor, engineer, or lawyer.  The driving force behind every class, lecture, presentation, and guidance appointment in high school is to prepare students for college.  Look even in recent news, and the Presidency is pushing for higher education(college of some type) for everyone.  The attitude that comes out of this is that it is absurd for someone not to go to college.  Completely absurd, in their minds.

Well, what happens when everyone starts going to college like society is encouraging and calling for?  Many things.  One, we lose people going into the job fields that don’t require a college degree, but still are necessary to keep society functioning.  For example, my dad doesn’t have a college degree.  Yet, he is a fire captain and has worked in the fire service for 17 years.  He is on a National Disaster Management Team and gets sent all over the Western United States to manage the resources(people and machines) when fires and other natural disasters occur.  He may not know how to help me with my AP Calculus homework, but he is one of the smartest people I know.  So, remind me why everyone MUST go to college?  So they can do well in the world? To that I ask what is the definition of doing well in the world, being happy, having money, or something else?  It all depends on the person, whom defines how well they are doing for themselves.

Second, if everyone goes to college, then does it not just become a continuation of high school, and the only way to be competitive in the job market will now be to get a Masters or a PhD?  It doesn’t make sense to encourage every student to go to college, putting themselves in debt, when every job does not require a college degree.

In my case, as I do not actually dream of being a plumber, I need to go to college to pursue a job in the field that I desire.  I hope to major in Biology with an emphasis on genetics, because, in my opinion, genetics is the medicine of the future.  Though I do not want to be a doctor, I do need to go to college in order to even have a chance of getting a job in genetics.

Simply put, we need to stop instilling in our kids that the only way to succeed in life is by going to college.  There are other ways to succeed, and we need to be open to them.  Some of the biggest advancements in our history have come from relatively “unschooled” people.  Maybe its time we stop focusing on standards, and believing that without school education is impossible, and realizing that school isn’t the be all end all that it’s often cracked up to be.  There are several ways to get to the one end that we all desire- a happy life.