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How To Ruin Your College Student's Life

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Perhaps your child isn’t meant to be a cog in the wheel, a piece of a corporate puzzle or even what you want them to be.

Maybe they are the next best screenplay writer, a fantastic vocalist, a piano prodigy or Broadway’s next find. Or maybe none of those things. It's also possible they will simply make a modest living and be extremely happy doing what they love.

Too often we as parents get caught up in financial worries and forget about happiness. Of course we want our children to be able to take care of themselves. It gives us security. But at what cost?

What do you do for a living? Is it what you have a passion for? Do you get up Monday morning ready to tackle the week zestfully or do you feel shackled to your job out of obligation and debt. Does Sunday night end with a bit of depression as the freedom of your weekend comes to a close? Is that what you want for your child?

The life that most of us live now, or did live prior to March of this year, is not the one that at least two of our forefathers, Adams and Paine, intended. We weren’t meant to spend more time with strangers than with our own families. We weren’t intended to break our backs working to support the dream of another.

John Adams said it perfectly

“I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy, Geography, History, Naval Architecture, Navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their children the right to study Painting, Poetry, Music, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelain.”

Times are changing at a pace we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. Jobs are being automated away at an alarming rate to the point that some of the jobs kids are attending college for now won’t exist a few years after they graduate. The current situation with COVID-19 will only accelerate the rate in which automation takes over jobs traditionally held by humans. Artificial Intelligence can now do the job once held by many accountants, semi trucks are now being driven across the country without a driver, kiosks replace cashiers and the list goes on and on. If one bright point has come from this health crisis, it is art. The arts are part of the answer to the future of our economy.

Let There Be Music

A beautiful song cannot be sung by a computer. Students cannot be taught how to play the flute, violin, or trombone by a robot. The world needs music teachers, drama teachers and band directors. To enjoy a movie, play or Broadway production there must be actors. What would “The Nutcracker '' be without Ballet dancers? I think you get my point.


The STEM movement has been gaining ground and popularity over the last several years with the goal of meeting the needs of the 21st century economy. Logic simply states that for the economy of the future to flourish schools need to be placing emphasis on the job markets that are rising, which includes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM alone however doesn’t cover all of the key components that teachers and employers feel young adults need to prosper in the expeditiously approaching future.

While these programs are great they lack certain elements of creativity and innovation. Yes, the economy of the future requires science, technology, engineering, and math but it also needs up and coming leaders, business owners and citizens of all kinds to be well versed in the principles of design, art practices, and the ability to be innovative in our ever changing and diverse economy.

Here’s What A Chemist Has To Say

Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes, a Rhodes College Chemistry Professor, feels that it is very important for people entering the workforce to be and remain competitive in the sciences. In addition she also feels it is imperative that if American grads plan to dominate the world in innovation their education in Science cannot exclude Liberal Arts. She further points out that innovators like Steve Jobs and Da Vinci did not have an unnatural line drawn between science and art. Da Vinci’s love of biology gave birth to his fantastic drawings of the human body. And Jobs, a lover of the arts is quoted as saying “It’s in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough - it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.”

How the Lack of Parental Support Affects the Student

Debra Humphreys, Senior Vice President at The Association of American Colleges and Universities has heard from multiple colleges that “There is now a considerable - and disturbing - amount of parental pressure against the liberal arts.” As high as 40 percent of students at some schools are bogged down with the pressures of handling a double major all to please their parents. One major is to make the parents pleased and the other is to satisfy the students own desires, states Humphreys.

The Fact Is..

Young adults entering the workforce NEED liberal arts to survive in a competitive economy and pressuring them to ignore this field of study is doing them a disservice.

Steve Pearlstein, Professor at George Mason University and Washington Post columnist tells of a time he was thanked by his students for assigning them the daunting task of reading an 800 page biography of Andrew Carnegie. Pearlstein asked how many were History majors and of the 24 in the class not one raised their hand. No Philosophy, English or Fine Arts either. Shocked that he received similar answers in another seminar he decided to dig a bit further. He asked why none of them chose those fields of study, they replied simultaneously “Our parents wouldn’t let us.” When asked how many would have been humanities majors if they were left to make the decision based solely on their interests and desires nearly half raised their hand.

You Can’t Put a Square Peg In a Round hole

Forcing our kids to choose a career path they have no passion for or worse, no interest in is bound to backfire.

For example, one family pays for their daughter to get a degree in Business Administration which was not what she wanted to do. Six months after graduation she quit her job and started painting full time.

Other parents warn their child if they don’t choose a “stable” field they will be living in their basement until their mid 30’s. Much of the worry on both sides is based on fear rather than facts and the fact is there are no big differences in the unemployment numbers across the various disciplines.

“A study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that in 2011 and 2012, when the economy was in the early stages of recovery, the unemployment rate for recently graduated majors in humanities and liberal arts (8.4 percent) wasn’t all that different from the jobless rates for majors in computers and math (8.3 percent), biology (7.4 percent), business (7 percent) and engineering (6.5 percent). Today, with an improved economy, the numbers for all majors are almost certainly lower.”

Take A Leap of Faith Together

We all want the same thing. To be happy, fulfilled and relatively comfortable. As parents we have the added burden of wanting that for our children and we feel it is our job to steer them in the right direction, and that is true to a certain extent. We can and should advise. We can give our opinions and we can voice our objections. What we also must do is pay attention to the changes in the world and economy around us and take note that this is not the same world we came into as young adults. Times have changed and will continue to do so at a rapid pace. We also need to pay close attention to our children and what brings them joy and fulfillment. It is our job to encourage them, cheer for them and allow them to make mistakes sometimes. It’s part of life and the learning process and as hard as it is we need to let them choose what direction their professional lives will take.

If we encourage them and they fail, they'll remember that we were there for them with faith in their abilities. If we discourage them and they succeed they'll remember that we didn’t believe in them. Those are the memories that last a lifetime.



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