Last week I wrote about a three-year old New York Times article featuring interviews with Ivy-League academics criticizing their female students’ choice to become stay-at-home mothers instead of members of a “diverse professional elite” upon graduation from their elite institutions.
One critic who was interviewed went so far as to question the value of educating females if their only goal was to become mothers:
“It really does raise this question for all of us and for the country: when we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of undergraduate admissions at Harvard, who served as dean for coeducation in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Coincidentally, that same Monday my post appeared, a new article surfaced in the New York Times, again tackling the issue of what is expected of today’s Ivy-League graduates. According to the article:
Professor Howard Gardner hopes…seminars will encourage more students to consider public service and other careers beyond the consulting and financial jobs that he says are almost the automatic next step for so many graduates of top colleges.
“Is this what a Harvard education is for?” asked Professor Gardner, who is teaching the seminars at Harvard, Amherst and Colby with colleagues. “Are Ivy League schools simply becoming selecting mechanisms for Wall Street?”
Interesting that a man is questioning whether students (male or female) belong in the boardroom and that a woman is advocating to put more women in it. Why is success always measured by job title and salary? Why are so many young people being blindsided into a handful of careers, simply because these careers are viewed as successful by a handful of adults?
After years of watching friends and family getting laid-off and overworked, many of today’s college students are questioning the true value of corporate life:
As Adam M. Guren, a new Harvard graduate who will be pursuing his doctorate in economics, put it, “A lot of students have been asking the question: ‘We came to Harvard as freshmen to change the world, and we’re leaving to become investment bankers — why is this?’ ”
The official word on the value and purpose of higher education comes from the President of Amherst (also male):
“We’re in the business of graduating people who will make the world better in some way,” said Anthony Marx, Amherst’s president. “That’s what justifies the expense of the education.”
If the purpose of an education is to help its recipients make the world a better place, does the role of parent not fulfill that purpose? Most universities claim that they are training the leaders of tomorrow, but why does their vision of leader stick so narrowly to the C-suite? Isn’t someone who cares for, educates, motivates and encourages considered a leader? Are mothers and fathers not the leaders of a family?
I think it’s time for the elder academics to stop wasting so much time on what their students are accomplishing after graduation and more time ensuring the quality of their education. Trust that the younger generation can decide their future for themselves and stop hovering over us like helicopter parents.