Friday, September 22, 2006


I'm reading The Overchievers, Alexandra Robbins' take on driven high school kids, and every time I pick up the book I'm reminded me of Z's teenage babysitter.

The high school senior comes over to our house laden with 3 or 4 bags worth of textbooks (including an AP Art text that must have weighed 15 pounds), her cell phone, a graphing calculator and a laptop. I can't keep track of all of her extra-curriculars, but I know that in addition to whatever she's involved with at OPRF, she works with disabled kids and volunteers with her youth group. Her summer involved travel to Europe, building houses for the needy and camping in the woods for science credit.

I hope these teens learn that where you go to college isn't the be all and end all to life. Hell, there's your career, your family, and name-brand graduate or professional school if you really want to impress people.

I went to infamously nerdy (and highly-ranked) University of Chicago, which the Walt Whitman students Robbins profiles dismiss as a "safety," but I don't think the name of my college has had much of an impact on my career path. (Aside from the occasional, "Oh, you must be really smart.")

What's most interesting The Overachievers is that Robbins cautions against the media hype and government reactionism surrounding America's "failing students." She says that by emulating the more highly-ranked Japanese school system, we'll produce excellent test-takers with zero passion for learning and little ability to retain knowledge past the test date. Oh, and teen suicides will skyrocket!

All this makes me feel bad for my sitter since--as she's pointed out--her generation is huge. More echo boomers trying to squeeze into the same number of college classroom seats means she's up against a lot stiffer competition than I was. I can only hope that Z won't be part of a generational crush since I want her to enjoy her childhood and teenage years. And not spend them padding her resume.
Besides, state school is fine by us.

In a side note, I also read Robbins' Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, a dishy page-turner compared to The Overachievers.