On College, Life, And Child’s Play
By Seth D. Bykofsky a/k/a The College Whisperer™
I often glance at the obituaries in The New York Times, sometimes so as to know that I can go on with my day, but mostly to see whose lives have been deemed by the editors of such finalities as noteworthy, and, perhaps, celebratory. Perusing the Sunday paper a while back, I came upon a particularly compelling obit, that of Brian Sutton-Smith - Scholar of What’s Fun, Dies at 90.
“Scholar of what’s fun.” Fun. Hmmm. In case you hadn’t noticed, there isn’t all that much fun in the world these days. And what was once fondly referred to as “child’s play” has been relegated to the pile of superficial afterthoughts; a time left for the
poets to muse and the dreamers to play, perchance to laugh.
Why, even children aren’t allowed the luxury of “child’s play” anymore. What with kindergartners being asked to research scholarships and choose jobs, tests, from 4th Grade English Language Arts and Math proficiencies to the alphabet soup
of APs, ACTs, SATs, GREs, GMATs, being rammed down kid’s throats like so much castor oil, and having to professionally prep for putting your socks on in the morning, “fun” does not quite come to the tip of the frontal lobe. “Child’s play.” Somewhere along that evolutionary line, the one that used to encompass flying kites and riding bicycles, but now wavers with a certain
uneasiness between Common Core and Common App, we’ve lost our common sense. Gone is that most basic and essential sense of “fun.” Having to fill every waking minute, of both adulthood and childhood, with meaningful purpose, as if a toddler’s
stint in the playground wasn’t meaningful, or a wistful meandering through the park didn’t serve a higher purpose.
Time was, children, and their parents, didn’t need study guides, workbooks, and highly compensated consultants to gain entrance into kindergarten. No test was necessary to determine eligibility to attend your neighborhood high school.
Applying to college (don’t get me started on paying for college) did not entail the retention of a small army of counselors and advisors, and admissions advice was limited to the kitchen table, rather than hailing incessantly from the chatting heads
Ahh, applying to college. Once a bastion so easy, even a 17 year old could do it. Now, so unnecessarily “nuanced and complex” that even a rocket scientist would balk at the sight of a supplemental essay. We’ve seen what was the simple completion of a paper application, fed into a stamped and properly addressed envelope and mailed off to three or four colleges (having little more than a course bulletin in hand), morph mysteriously into a Frankenstein monster, a college admission frenzy now beyond the control of even those who, perhaps unwittingly, created it. going to college is fun. That’s what everyone says. [Some say, “best time of my life.” Sad, in a way. To think that it’s all down hill after age 22.] Still, when I say to
students I counsel on college admissions, “let’s have fun,” they look at me as if I have two heads.
Yes, we’ve taken the fun out of learning, and of teaching, for that matter. “Child’s play,” at least as we knew it, filled with crayons and balloons, has been supplanted by the standardized test, Number 2 pencils, and bubble sheets.
When did we relinquish our love of childhood to government bureaucrats and College Board, who play us all for the love of money? Who decided that the joy of a child’s laugh must be replaced by the angst of a teen consumed by stress? Why do
colleges ask high school students, not only what they want to major in, but worse still, what they want to do with the rest of their lives? We’ve opted out of ”child’s play” under the illusion that some test or a top ranked “best,” will somehow give us
a fuller, richer adulthood. A world where learning for the sake of learning has yielded to teaching to the test, and run, jump, play have given way to ROI (return on investment).
I don’t know about you, but I’m of the opinion that weights and measures should be standardized, not children, and that childhood should be a time to learn, to grow, to thrive, to have fun.
We just don’t let kids be kids any more. That’s a shame, really. Life is too short to forsake childhood. The one true barometer of success is happiness, after all, not some ersatz metric or analytic masquerading as a measure of “aptitude” or “achievement.” And we all could benefit from a better balance in our lives-- one that surely includes a lot more play.
Call us at COLLEGE CONNECTION at 516-345-8766 with your questions or concerns about the college application and admissions process, financial aid, or anything college, or visit us on the web at www.CollegeConnect.info. We’ll help put the
“child’s play” back into college admissions!