Friday, April 20, 2012

Snowflake generation

And we wonder where they're coming from...

1974 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
1974 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Saw a letter in the paper today from a father wondering how to deal with his daughter, who is being a prize twit, angry, hostile and impossible to deal with, because he can't pay for her to move out of the house, give her a car, etc etc, like all her spoiled friends.  He is paying for her tuition at an excellent university; but he hasn't got the money to buy her a sports car and a condo too.

Several people commented on this, but one response really took my breath away:
As a 21-year-old trying to make ends meet as a student, I think Tapped out Dad should have a real look at what his daughter is up against. It's hard to have a private life when you're living at home and most of us can't qualify for student loans because our parents make too much money. Maybe he should have considered an educational savings plan when he had kids.
So, like, everything he's already done for his spoiled brat daughter isn't enough.  He should have put even MORE money aside so he could give her even more stuff and an even easier ride.  Because, like, getting a summer job and finding a way to pay her own rent is totally out of the question.   He OWES her, man.  She let him raise her, after all! How lucky can he get? How dare he even think about having children if he isn't obscenely rich?

Not all of our students are like this, thank God.
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31 comments:

  1. The problem really IS the father, though. Because he's culivated a situation where his daughter thinks she "deserves" these things and he is responsible for giving them to her.

    What he's responsible for is the entitlement his daughter feels. Don't put up with shit and children (or your students) won't serve it to you. After nearly forty years of caring for children, and twenty-five of teaching, this has been proven to me over and over again.

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  2. "I've yelled, threatened, and gone into some really ugly places as a result. The approach wasn't successful."

    You didn't take it far enough. Stop paying for everything. She'll figure out in a hurry that she better not piss in the honey pot. An empty stomach works wonders.

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    1. He threatened, but my guess is he never followed through. Follow through the first time you threaten, and threats are all you need.

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  3. My husband and I haven't agreed on whether or not we will pay for our children's education. I paid for my very expensive, elite private school education through an unhealthy and exhausting mix of too many part-time jobs and an obscene number of student loans. I sacrificed health, housing, a couple points of my GPA, and any kind of a social life in order to finish, but finish I did and I learned responsibility and an appreciation of higher education in the process. My husband settled for a decent Big 10 state school where he received a full scholarship, and only worked during the summers. Both of us seemed to turn out fine, but we're probably exceptions rather than the rule. I want to avoid instilling the entitlement seen in the article and think making our kids foot the bill for their own education is one way to do it.

    We also disagree on whether we will kick our kids out of the house soon after high school. I've seen family members where kids stay at home mooching off parents while said parents complain about said mooching but continually allow kids to stay.

    On most other issues, we agree. Both of us grew up dirt, dirt poor and although we're well off now, neither of us are really comfortable with how we see so many middle- and upper-class parents raising their kids. The kind of helicoptering we see would have never happened in our houses, because are parents were too busy working to keep a close eye on us 24/7! Perhaps we will pretend to be poor until kids are out of the house?

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    1. There is no one right answer. Maybe it depends on the kid: some need to be pushed, some will follow their bliss right through many years of schooling. Maybe it doesn't matter what you do if you do the first 18 years right, and you're not not fighting a rear-guard action at the end.

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  4. Curmudgeon, I think these days not paying for your kids' education means consigning them to a community college (which is fine if it's their choice or the family has very few resources) or to $100K-200K of student debt, which virtually assures that they will struggle for the rest of their lives -- or drop out. It's not the same game it was when we were in college, when it was conceivable to put together outright aid and loans and working and maybe scrabble through with only $10K-30K in debt. There isn't much outright merit aid, and colleges expect that kids with parents who can pay, will have access to those resources. You could have your kid declare financial independence and he/she would do much better with aid, but that sends rather a draconian message.

    I think that if you are middle class or above and have kids, as much contribution to their college education as you can (without robbing yourself of retirement) is part of what you owe them. That doesn't include a car or a condo, or even necessarily room and board, and they should contribute too, but having the resources to send your kid to college and choosing not to share them sends a message to your kid that you don't give a damn. They'll remember that.

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    1. Well, I think we did not go to college at the same time, as I only received my BA in 2006. Of course, I am $100-200K in debt, even with substantial scholarship packages. I have not yet gained the perspective to decide if it was worth it, or if I would make different decisions if I could go back and change things.

      Maybe a compromise of paying for tuition but not room and board would be fine. I just don't want my kids to turn into party animals who take everything for granted, like so many of our students. What a difficult world we live in!

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    2. There are middle grounds that do not involve 6 figures of debt or community colleges. Most of them involve hard choices like not having a new car, or not having a condo to yourself.

      My alma mater, a small, public, technical school, estimates 4 years of costs at just over 100k, room and board and "personal expenditures" included. Average indebtedness from the school is under 30k, about half the average starting salary. My school is good, but not unique. There are others like it.

      Now, my school has never produced a president, or an astronaut, or a poet laureate. In the modern era, one of those comes only from 2 schools and one comes mostly from a different two schools. Only one of those jobs isn't very school-selective (with a recent occupant not evening having graduated college!)

      So, if you aren't trying to be an astronaut or a president, what is it that you are buying? We can't all be trying to be poet laureate, can we?

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    3. Aren't we oversimplifying? Nixon went to Whittier and Duke, Carter went to Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, and Annapolis, and Reagan went to Eureka, none of which are Harvard or Yale. John Glenn went to Muskingum, John Young went to Georgia Tech, and Neil Armstrong went to Purdue and USC, none of which are Caltech or MIT. (Indeed, Armstrong turned down an admission offer from MIT. It's also debatable whether Glenn ever did actually graduate, but he did get credit for fighting WWII, and becoming a fine aviator and engineer in the process. Oh all right, Buzz Aldrin did go to MIT, and so did Dave Scott.)

      Also, this may not be the best source to cite immediately after complaining about oversimplifying, but the old Dear Abby/Ann Landers (I forget which, but then they were so similar) used to point out that parents -don't- owe their children a college education. If all the kids are going to do with it is have a five-year (or longer) party, why should any parent want to pay for that? And why should any parent feel an obligation to pay for it? If the kid is in college and is clearly squandering the opportunity, I think there's a strong case for pulling the plug.

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    4. Frog and Toad: I respectfully disagree. There are educational choices between Ivy League and community college, and it's possible for a young person to find alternate funding sources other than the First National Bank of Mom and Dad.

      And my husband and I didn't feel that we owed our kids their educations any more than our parents owed us our educations. What we owed them was to do our best to instill in them the ability to develop long-range goals and to plan for those goals, to delay gratification in pursuit of those goals, and to be neither afraid nor bitter to work in the pursuit of those goals.

      Give them a fish, they eat for a day, give them the tools to catch their own fish...

      Alan, I agree with your assessment with one small caveat - I'm a firm believer that a student gets just about as much out of their education as they chose to. I went to a medium-small public university of no particular renown for my bachelors, but one of my classmates ended up being a Rhodes Scholar. Opportunities are easier to come by when one is Ivy League, but not impossible to find elsewhere if one looks hard enough.

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    5. Frod: I was oversimplifying. Although the two schools I was alluding to for astronauts were the AF Academy and the Naval Academy. The modern route for government astronauts comes out of military test pilot schools, and the entrants to those schools weight very heavily towards the military academies.

      My primary point is that school needn't result in 100k or more in debt. If a path is chosen resulting in more than that, the question of what extra was being purchased must be asked.

      Much like cars. Reliable transportation can be acquired for around 5 grand, less if you do a bit of wrenching. However, a lot of people are driving cars that cost much, much, more. I've sat in some very nice cars, and understand why someone might wish to buy one. But if you convince a bank to help you buy a brand new maserati, or put 5-figure shiny new rims on your civic, and then find that your McBurger job won't pay the bill, it's your own fault, and the bank's car. No one complains that the system is broken because it costs 100k to get a car today.

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  5. Curmudgeon: Kick your kids out of the house when they've finished high school?

    Wow.

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    1. Why would they stay home. After high school, your children are SUPPOSED to move on and begin to live their own lives, whether it's at college or starting a job. Delaying their adulthood doesn't do them any favors in the long run.

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    3. As Bill Cosby observed, "Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that allow their children to come back home." I think I remember fairly well what it was like to be a teenager. This is why I for the life of me cannot fathom the now-common phenomenon of boomerang kids. At age 18, the very thought of returning home to live, after age 18, was the most unspeakably disgraceful, hideously shameful thing imaginable. So help me, I'd have killed myself first. (Instead, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. They weren't lying when they said it would be an adventure.)

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  6. There is a matter of degree to which you support your children. Paying tuition but not room and board, paying for all college expenses but no spending money, etc. Remember that children don't start developing their character when they are starting college. They begin much earlier. Making them do chores for an allowance when they are kids then work a summer or part time job when they are a teenager is how you begin building a work ethic, along with modeling good behavior yourself.

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  7. I can't afford to send my kids to college on what I make. They're going to have to do what I did: get scholarships.

    My father, who could have paid my tuition at the excellent SLAC where I did my undergrad, didn't. I had scholarships and need-based grants (living with my mother, who was a teacher and my younger sister, I qualified for aid) that covered most of my expenses. I worked part-time in the college restaurant doing everything from waiting tables to bussing the tables to washing the dishes; I also worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor.

    In short, I have nothing in common with the entitled little 'flake who is the focus of this article. And I couldn't be happier.

    Gen X (my generation) has done itself and its offspring a HUGE disservice. Because we were pretty much the first generation to have both parents working, and we were left to our own devices a lot, we vowed that we would "be there" for our own kids.

    What that has happened is that Gen X has raise a generation that expects EVERYTHING to be handed to it.

    As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

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    1. This member of Generation Jones (also called Generation W 1/2, the first generation to be told, "You missed the '60s, kid," so kindly do not lump me in with the Baby Boomers, who are 10-15 years older than me), finds it a sobering experience whenever someone in a distinctively later generation says things worthy of an old fogey. It is even more sobering when I must admit you are right. With the sins of the fathers being visited upon the third and fourth generation, I wouldn't expect a solution anytime soon.

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    2. Not all of us, BurntChrome. We were very clear with our boys that they would pay for their own educations. They were frequently angry with us while they were teenagers, but that was ok with us: it's a parent's job to make kids angry by setting appropriate but undesired (at least by the kid) limits.

      But my experience, and that of my husband, is more like yours - we paid for everything through a variety of sources, over a lot of years and five total degrees. And neither of us feels worse for the wear...much to our children's chagrin!

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  8. What disturbed me was not so much the possible parenting errors made by the original letter-writer, as much as the truly breathtaking entitlement displayed by the commenter. You should have thought of saving money for your child's education and if you didn't you were selfish and shouldn't have had children? I pity that child's parents and anyone she ever works for, though I doubt that "working" is a concept she's got much of a grip on.

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    1. Yeah, I know exactly what my Mom would have said to her:

      "SMACK! SMACK!!! SMACK-SMACK-SMACK!!!"

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  9. People who let their kids stay at home and then complain that the kids are loafing aren't doing it right.

    It's wrong to kick an 18-year-old out into the cold, cruel world, literally with no support. However they do need to fend for themselves.

    "You can stay home but you have to get a full-time job, and you have to pay room and board" is the best choice.

    My kid can stay home as long as she likes, so long as she is working or going to school, year-round (which is a full-time job if you do it right).

    If she wants to stay home and won't go to school, then she gets a job, or I put her to work full-time around the house (because taking care of our house and our yard could be full-time as well.

    You have to make it so that they really have to think hard about whether they want to be home or not. You don't just keep feeding them and doing their laundry while they pick their noses and playing WoW.

    Everyone in the household must work. Before 18, their work is school and chores. After 18, if there is no work or school, then there's more work, and more chores.

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    1. Pardon my typos. I hit publish instread of preview.

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    2. That's very much the deal my parents gave us. We could live at home for free if we were in school full-time, or in the summers while holding down a job to help support ourselves while we were in school the following year. They paid our tuition. Since it was possible to live at home while we were at university, if we wanted to move out it was at our own expense. And if we weren't in school, we paid rent, which encouraged us to get out of the house.

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  10. I worked 4 jobs to get through private high school on financial aid (the jobs were for books, social life, team stuff, etc). Then I was given by my formerly not-really-there dad a full freight ride to college, excluding books and spending $$. Those I worked for in the summer, along with my summer rent, food, etc. if I did not live at home. It was an amazing gift. I did not take one second of it for granted. I was given to understand that I could not return home when I graduated, and that there would be no returning if I flunked out or was dismissed. I emerged with no debt and a full fellowship to graduate school. I think I came out just fine. I continue to believe that parents who can, should pay the bulk of their kid's education on the condition that said kid does not waste it.

    I think it's old-fogey to assume that there are merit scholarships (they are precious few), that paying rent in 2012 is anything like paying rent was in 1990 (it isn't), that student loans are not predatory (they are). Curmudgeon, if you are $100-200K in debt with any but a pre-professional B.A. in a highly lucrative field, god help you.

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    1. Froad, I am of two minds about this. Our older child actually made a very small profit on her scholarships (including tuition exchange, so that's something else again), partly because she lived at home as an undergrad.

      Our younger child was never that driven about academics, and so is not going to get as much aid as the older did. S/he will do just fine, but one of the schools being considered is gonna be really expensive, so much so that we can't afford to help much (and it didn't grant tuition exchange). The other school, not as desirable to the prospective student but still a good one, won't be free either; but at least Mom and Dad can afford to contribute a significant portion of the expense.

      We don't know what to do, except present the facts and let the high school senior choose. In case A, very little or no student debt; case B, a more desirable school but also as much as $80-100K of debt at the end.

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  11. She should have been doing what all the upper middle class and beyond kids do, at least in my neck of the woods: dual credit or AP. It costs next to nothing, the kids accumulate college credits while in high school (though how good that instruction is would be a matter for debate), and it can cut the cost of a bachelor's degree almost in half. At Large Urban Community College, dual credit is a cash cow for us. Faculty loathe it, but administration loves watching those dollars from the state come in. We have close to 100 students this year who will be graduating with both their diplomas and associate degrees at the same time.

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    1. In our state, dual credit is a crock, but we also have "post-secondary option." In this, high school students can enroll in college classes at state expense. We find that many of our post-secondary option students are better than our actual undergrads. No surprise, really.

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  12. I would also like to point out that is possible to get a quality education at a community college or a transfer institution.

    My cousin did her gen eds at the local CC and transferred to Cornell to do her major. WAY less debt (like almost none, given scholarships and grants).

    I teach at a transfer institution in a major uni system. Students can get all of their gen eds out of the way at a fraction of the cost at one of the four-years. Many of my former students have written to say that they got a better education with us than at their 4-year school. So please don't tar us all with the same "two-year schools are Yugos" brush.

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  13. If a student is successful at a two year school, they have a better chance at succeeding at a four year school and have saved valuable tuition dollars.

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