David Frum

11.21.12

Let Kids be Kids

So this essay from A.A. Gill might be the greatest thing I've ever seen:

If you want to see the absolute proof that we’ve got it all wrong—that education is really about the fear and guilt of parents projected onto their children, then go to your own school reunion. Obviously most normal people would rather attend a naked consciousness-raising workshop. But do it once and you’ll see what the Adonises and the Venuses of your halcyon days actually did with all that promise. The boy who was captain of everything, who strode the halls like a young Alexander; the girl with the glistening hair who memorized poetry and whose golden limbs danced across a stage as a Juliet no one would ever forget. Well, they’re both sorry, seedy never-was-es now. Their finest moments are behind them. Everything after that brilliant year at school or college was mediocrity. Nothing good ever came from peaking too early.

The interesting adults are always the school failures, the weird ones, the losers, the malcontents. This isn’t wishful thinking. It’s the rule. My advice to any child reading this: If you’re particularly good at the violin or math, for God’s sake don’t let anyone find out. Particularly your parents. If they know you’re good at stuff they’ll force you to do it forever. You’ll wake up and find yourself in a sweaty dinner jacket and clip-on bow tie playing “The Music of the Night” for the ten-thousandth time in an orchestra pit. Or you’ll be the fat, 40-ish accountant doing taxes for the people who spent their school days copping a feel and learning how to roll a good joint.

Now, Mom and Dad, I swear to God I wasn't rolling joints at 17. But there is plenty to be said for letting young minds do what they enjoy -- and much more for the thesis that kids need social skills more than specific talents. So there's that. Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone.