Recently I went to hear a concert played by the orchestra at our local high school. It was beautifully done, Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, at a near-professional level. But it was strangely joyless.
It wasn't until I attended my daughter's middle school band concert, with all its toots and missed notes - amid raucous laughter from the musicians - that I knew what was missing.
The American education system in general, and the college admissions process in particular, seem intent on creating cautious, careerist adults-in-training. I'm reminded of the children in stylized 17th-century Dutch paintings. They're typically depicted standing ramrod-straight in clutter-free rooms and dressed like mini grown-ups. The girls are in long dresses, embellished with lace, impossible to run around in. The boys wear suits with starched collars that would make it hard to even turn their heads. Their faces show none of the pink blush of kids who have been playing outside.
A good education is about timing, willingness, openness. Looking at the stress we're putting on kids to get into college, I wonder: Are we, as their parents, so pleased with our lives that we want to rush our kids to have the same?