Today as I was getting my mail, I overheard a conversation between two residents of our building. One of the women was telling the other about her daughter, who is in high school and is having a hard time in one of her classes. The conversation went something like this:
Woman #1: The teacher put her in Pre-Calc instead of Advanced Algebra, because if she wants to get in to a good school, she needs to have Pre-Calc on her transcripts.
Woman #2: I know. It’s vital for all the good schools. You can say good-bye to the Ivy League, or even schools like NYU without it.
Woman #1: That’s what I told her. I told her it is an honor to be in the class and that it’s necessary, but she absolutely hates it and we’re having quite a struggle.
Woman #2: What’s happening?
Woman #1: She cries almost every night because she gets stuck with her homework. I try to encourage her but that only upsets her more, and we wind up arguing. She HAS to do well in this class! I don’t understand why the teacher isn’t helping her more…
At that point I had no more mail to sift through, so I quietly left the room.
Isn’t that a sad story? I don’t know what the girl is intending to study in college or why whatever it is requires her to attend an Ivy League school and do well in Pre-Calculus, but I do know one thing for sure: This girl, who is probably 16 or 17 years old, is miserable. She hates Pre-Calculus, she doesn’t understand it and because of that, she feels stupid. She may also feel, if she is aware of her parents’ expectations that she attend an Ivy League school, that she is failing them, or is going to fail them.
One could then extrapolate that this girl is not following her passion. Maybe she wants nothing more than to be a hairdresser but her parents have told her in no uncertain terms that she will be a doctor. Or maybe not. Maybe she’s been told all her life that the only way to succeed is to get in to the very best college and obtain an advanced degree in…something that pays well. I wonder if she even knows what her true passion is. Has she ever had the chance to find out? (Of course, some people take much longer to find their passion, but it definitely won’t happen if you never have the chance to look.)
What a complete bummer to feel that you are failing in life at the age of 16 or 17. I can’t imagine the hell of arguing with Maya or Ben every night over a Math course. I can’t really imagine arguing with them every night while they are in tears about anything. We’ve had our arguments, we’ve had tears, but not every night over the same thing. Especially something as universally unimportant as Pre-Calculus!
I say this at least once a month in this blog, but really, what do we want for our kids? I hope that, first and foremost, we want them to be happy. Not happy at some far off, undefined date, but happy now. Happy as they grow and learn and figure out their lives. Happy along the way, because life is never a destination; it is always a journey.
Let them be happy. Trash the Pre-Calc. Life will go on, happily, without it.