The Kids Aren’t Alright

Another Drew Magary piece worth reading came out a few days ago. This one’s on the childrearing culture that seems to have become the norm among upper-middle (and above) class parents. Magary deems it “America’s Kid-Competition Complex.”

We are a nation awash in competition. Want to work at Amazon? There are thousands of applicants hoping for the same thing. Want to go to the Hollywood stages of American Idol? Well then you’ll have to get past the throng of wannabes crowding the audition lines at the Twin Pines Mall, shown on TV with a tasteful crane shot. Wanna get into Harvard? HAHAHAHA NO ONE ACTUALLY GETS INTO HARVARD THEY JUST SAY 5.9 PERCENT OF APPLICANTS GET IN TO GIVE YOU FALSE HOPE. Wanna be president? You better be strong enough to withstand a million mobilized opposition-party workers laboring day and night to let the country know your mom is a whore. There are reminders everywhere that you and your kids won’t amount to anything unless you can beat a nameless, faceless legion of competitors. There is always competition out there, waiting and hungry and formidable. The whole damn country is a single-elimination bracket.

The rest of the piece continues in the same vein. Like all of his non-fiction, it’s awash in capital letters, vulgarity, and spot-on dark humor. Magary describes his experiences growing up and as the parent of young kids. To my mind, he’s detailing and asking questions of something that desperately needs to be detailed and asked questions of. Kid-raising has become ChildRaising, Inc. in America and it seems like a lot of parents are treating their children as some kind of business investment. While this pay dividends for a lot of kids who thrive in these kinds of environments and grow up to live very successful lives, it hurts a lot of kids too. Not just through their childhood, but for the entirety of their lives. Being engineered to be part of a rat race from day one of your life can’t be the most comfortable way to live. Besides, even if something like this were a net positive for society, isn’t there something a little troubling about treating kids, or anybody, as a commodity? Regardless of whether this leads lots of people to live financially successful, globally impactful lives, is it the right thing to do? It seems to me that those metrics are pathetically lacking in their ability to keep up with what most of life is about.

For more on this subject, read this sobering response from a kid in a high school Magary mentioned in his article. Its titled “Next Week … Is My Seventh Funeral For Someone Younger Than Me.” That alone is enough to bring tears.


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