When I was in grade school, I remember going to birthday parties at the local bowling alley. Before the games would begin, the workers would install bumpers inside the gutters in order to prevent gutter balls and avoid "failure." When I was growing up, it was common for sports teams to award trophies to all the players so no little kid would have his or her feelings hurt at the end of the season. Today, there are school districts which no longer give out "F'" grades, and hundreds of high schools have removed class ranks so that my generation will feel less pressure to succeed. By the time my generation gets out into the "real world," what will happen when our bosses criticize us and rattle the core of our tenuous self-esteems? While my parents and grandparents grew up enduring the Great Depression and two World Wars, will history look back on my peers as the "Bumper Bowling Generation?"
Previous generations pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and risk taking was encouraged as millions sought the American dream. A dream encourages one to stretch their imagination and think outside the box. I am afraid that my generation fears risk taking because we haven't been encouraged to take chances. We fear failure and this undermines the entrepreneurial spirit. To make things worse, the bias in our schools encourages today's youth to feel entitled to a certain standard of living just as we felt entitled to our little league trophies.
More recently, I see how my peers are being conditioned to believe that a college degree will automatically lead to success and the American dream. However, the economic reality is there are many taxi drivers and sales clerks today who are university graduates making modest wages while burdened with huge college loans.
As a society, we accept the collective belief that as long as we put more kids through college, our society will naturally progress. There is the assumption that if students continue to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to pay for an inflated education, they will automatically become more prosperous. Nowadays, higher learning is more about accreditation than education. It's about telling people you have a degree rather than turning knowledge into something palatable.
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