When I think about my aspirations for my boys (ages 3 and 1), I take as a given that they will do fine academically. Maybe that’s naive, but I just assume that they will end up going to a good college, find interesting work, and so forth. What I want for them is to enjoy the ride along the way: Make close friends, have plenty of time for play, learn to be part of a team (athletic or otherwise), tap into their artistic nature, spend as much time outdoors as possible. These inclinations led my wife and I to pick a Waldorf preschool for their early years. We’re not sure we’ll stick with such an “alternative” approach over the long term. But I surely don’t want my boys anywhere near a “testing factory.”Good enough is good enough.
But with a degree of affluence comes a degree of luxury. Confident that their kids will do OK academically and vocationally, I bet that many upper-middle class parents want to reach for something more: Emotional health, spiritual fulfillment, a sense of social responsibility. And thus the frills that Lewis derides (like all manner of extra-curricular activities) become quite important. And as for the test scores–well, who cares if they are really, really high or just really high?
Understanding upper-middle-class parents
Mike Petrilli is an Executive Editor of Education Next and an Executive Vice President of the Fordham Foundation.
decline at the top
nominally high-performing schools