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Bad news for suburban kids

graduation-dayIn the next few weeks millions of high school seniors will hear their name called and walk across the stage to recieve a high school diploma. There is an interesting phenomonon on graduation day that I’d like to point out.

Kids in the city are typically pretty excited about the achievement. In the city graduation rates are typically lower and there isn’t the same assumption that every child will graduate. Consequently, everyone is more excited and a city high school graduation ceremony is truly a celebration. Parents go nuts when they hear their kids name called. And students literally do backflips when they get their paper.

Kids in the suburbs are typically excited about graduation for other reasons. It’s assumed they will graduate so the ceremony carries an air of “farewell to my friends” more than a true celebration of achievement. Parents take pictures and clap politely as their children achieve something they fully expected their child to achieve. Rather than this being a moment to celebrate, students are anxious about how much they will get at their graduation party or hoping to get to go to the hot girls party. It’s a nice day but lacks the flamboyance of the party in the city.

That’s not the bad news.

dorm-lifeThe bad news is that kids from the city are going to kick the kids from the suburbs butt from here on out! While their richer, more priveledged peers wallow away their days coming up with new ways to not work, take advantage of their parents wealth, and essentially avoid responsibility as long as possible, all while piling up tens of thousands of dollars in college debt. Kids from the city are taking advantage of the system and running laps around their advantaged peers.

Let’s contrast things.

1. The typical “rich white kid from the suburbs” goes to college on a combination of his parents dime and college loans. Almost none work significant hours. (20 hours per week or less seems to be the norm) They waste time professionally. They are so busy playing, going to class, and hanging with their friends that they skirt by classes without taking them seriously. I’ve met countless affluent college kids who passed all of the tests but didn’t learn a thing in 4 years of college. They graduate with $40,000 in debt and no real life experience. Without a job they move back home and hope that someone will give them a job. I’ve even witnessed these affluent college kids chose to live at home and make no money while skipping opportunities to take entry-level jobs at places in their chosen career path. The assumption is that the system will work for them. One day they will magically wake up from a video-game-induced dream get their dream job and make loads of money. The truth is they don’t know how to work hard to earn good money as they’ve never been forced to innovate solutions or hustle to make rent money. In fact, with the mom/dad fall-back plan there is no motivation to strive to achieve anything. They will always have a roof over their head, they will always have food in the belly, a car to drive, and someone to care for them. And even more true is that the silent racially lopsided system doesn’t work like that anymore. While they were watching The Hills, kids from the city took the upper hand.

2. The typical “working-class minority kid from the city” goes to college on a combination of scholarships, work study, and summer jobs. While their more affluent peers weren’t looking, their ACT and SAT scores have caught their suburban peers and the system rewards minorities who compete academically with rich white kids. In other words, a Hispanic student from the city will get a full ride with the same scores that the suburban kid had. (It’s no secret that scholarship dollars are easier to get for minorities.)  Taking advantage of that, these students work harder in class, consequently learn more, and are ultimately rewarded with more opportunities than their affluent peers. job-search-resumeWork study and summer jobs, combined with almost no college debt result in a college graduate who is highly marketable and financially advantaged for the first time ever. They are more industrious, more hungry to take responsibility, and more aware that they can make it than ever.

As an adult I look at this and slap my head. If you were an employer looking at the resume of recent college graduates… which employee would you want? The kid who came from nothing but is crawling out of poverty by his achievement and hard work? Or the kid who was handed everything and never worked a day in his life?

And that my friends is bad news for the suburban kids.

Parents! What are you going to do with this scenario? How can you change your behavior from enabler to motivator?

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5 Responses to Bad news for suburban kids

  1. Mike Lyons May 25, 2009 at 10:33 pm #

    Start by not being an enabler. My parents didn’t help me pay for college. It was a good learning experience!

  2. Tash May 26, 2009 at 11:10 pm #

    heya – really wanted to comment on this post. something that’s a little different downunder, is that mostly the wealthiest areas are those closest to the centre of the city. The further out in the suburbs you get, the lower the socioeconomic demographic, with a few minor exceptions.

    student debt is a major and increasing problem, but the same minority scholarships apply etc. however, whilst a large portion of our education system has focussed on tertiary training for ‘white-collar’ jobs, a lot of students are going out, training in the trades (where there is a major shortage in NZ) and earning much more than their college counterparts, with little to no debt in the same amount of time.

    One of the interesting things for parents and youthworkers to note – is that it’s not just education, but the kind of education that our kids aim for – because in the case of many apprenticeship models etc, kids are learning work ethic at the same time as learning how to work.

    a guess just a 2cents from downunder..

  3. Simply the truth July 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    I guess my son is screwed because he was born white with parents that earn money because they work hard. No one is more discriminated against in future America than a white male

    • Adam McLane July 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

      Dear anonymous: Please use a real name if you’d like to engage.

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    […] Bad News for Suburban Kids – Adam McLance has some dire predictions about the future for suburban kids. I see this beginning to play out, unfortunately. […]

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