In essence it highlights the lengths that college-hopefuls are going to in order to secure a place at the better tertiary institutions. There is evidence that Australia is already heading that way; to wit: the fierce battle for selective school places, the after-hours tutoring colleges, and the private school enrollment boom.
Simply put, people are putting their lives on hold to get access to what is perceived to be a better education. People are spending a fortune and accelerating the learning curve to secure a foothold in the ‘good’ schools.
The most obvious question is of course: does it really work? There are a dozen things wrong with this hyper-competitive approach, but if it works, none of those arguments will stack. The answer is so obvious that it boggles the mind: There is absolutely zero correlation between high achievement at school or college with success (however you want to measure it) and happiness (however you want to measure that).
Whilst a poor/ dysfunctional environment is obviously of serious detriment in many ways (no role models, lack of opportunities, inferior networking, lack of nutrition etc), an average schooling environment might not be the terrible things the wannabes think it is.
These parents (and their kids) remind of the soccer mums faithfully carting the brood from ballet to soccer to debating under the pretense that they want to ensure a well-rounded education, when they are secretly on a comparison merry-go-round. They never forgot that Johnny next door walked before their Sally. They forget that it actually takes a bit of talent to succeed at anything – along with a host of other things. But most importantly they forget that all they needed to do is play with the kid themselves – instead of outsourcing it to a third party.
It is pretty sad to see so many people so deluded, so blinded by ambition that they think happiness is a function of what you do when it is really about who you are.
I am not naive enough to believe that Sally Special going to Fancy School is not going to result in her making great contacts. Who you know is great leg up in the rat race, just as it is in every other aspect of life. Who you mix with will determine who you become.
Personally, I’d rather have a beer with Johnny and talk about the football then converse with Sally about her trip to India to build a house for the poor because demonstrating a social conscience was a prerequisite to get into college – even if you don’t give a shit.
So if there is no evidence that it works, why do people do it? For the same reason they’ll pay $500 for a pair of tsubi jeans... and because it is easier than the alternative.