Lewin Powell III, 16, admitted that he killed his mother with a baseball bat after an argument about his grades at a prestigious Maryland school. What is America’s plan to manage this generation’s newly competitive high school milieu? Thanks to nothing more nefarious than demographics – the children of baby boomers are numerous – the competition for top colleges is intense. There are just more college-bound kids around now than there were 30 years ago – lots more.
Yet Americans still have this Pollyanna notion that kids should continue to enjoy a carefree youth. I guarantee that parents in China and India, veterans of school competition wars, must think our concern with giving our kids a “normal” adolescence is humorous and naïve. For generations the best students in France, for example, finish high school and then compete to get into the best “prepa” schools – spending another two years studying hoping to get into the top universities.
Now that it is America’s turn to taste the bitter pill of formidable competition for the best universities, will we manage it well? Or has murder, suicide or popping amphetamines in high school become de rigueur? Surely there is a way to acquire a robust high school education without experiencing the dark side of unendurable pressure and competition.