Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Helicopter Parents to the Rescue

A commenter on yesterday's post writes:

"After spending tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of dollars on elementary school, secondary school, college, admissions exams, applications, etc., is it any wonder that parents feel significantly invested in their kids' success?
I understand that some of this behavior is ridiculous, but allow me to play devil's advocate for a second: is behavior necessarily inappropriate just because it is new to this generation?
One more thought: as we all know, wealthy and connected parents often call on their friends and professional networks to help their kids get jobs. So why is it always wrong when less wealthy parents try to vouch for their kids?"

This is a really good point. Some of this will come to be accepted as a cultural change. I actually read a similar story about India--young adults increasingly have American-style professional opportunities with professional companies, but it's still the norm for people to live with their folks till they're married, so recruiters are not hesitating to market to Mom and Dad.
It's not so outlandish to think that America's love affair with extreme individualism will have to alter a bit to accomodate the challenges of the 21st century, and that includes families being more economically dependent on one another, and invested in each other's success.
Still and all, parents have a difficult task to pull back and accept that their offspring must flail and fail on their own in order to become adults.

1 comment:

Gandalf said...

The debt that you have to take on to get educated is unsustainable these days. Especially when pay and benefits at US jobs are dwindling, the value of the dollar plummets, and you're forced to put in ever greater hours for a job in a cutthroat workplace that's most likely going to be outsourced within a couple years anyway (with you laid off in the process).

The best thing to do? Learn a language like German, French or Italian (or Danish, Portuguese or Dutch if you're so inclined) and emigrate to Continental Europe. Seriously. Earn your pay in Euros rather than the increasingly worthless dollar, work a fraction of the hours you do in the USA, get pay increases and benefits each year (rather than dwindling pay in the United States as everything gets outsourced), get 5-6 weeks of vacation (as opposed to maybe 4-5 days in the USA), travel the world and stay in 4-star hotels (again, it's all about the Euro). Then meet, date, marry a pretty or handsome significant other who's emigrated with you, send your kids to outstanding public schools, univerisities and law/medical schools that are nearly free of charge (esp in Germany and France). They crave and eagerly recruit US- or Canadian-trained professionals who speak the relevant language, so you're set once you move there.

Professionals in the USA (and also Canada, Britain and Australia for that matter, which have sadly followed the US "sweatshop-labor" example) have the worst of all worlds. You go deeply into debt from college-- or even before, if you go to private school (which is increasingly essential, considering USA debt levels). You bust your tail in college to get the degree. Then you go even deeper into debt if you go to graduate school, or law, business or especially medical school. (My pre-med buddies were the smartest in general, tops in high school, Phi Beta Kappa, working and studying all the time. Now, they're routinely more than $250,000 in debt, often over $400,000 for those who went to Top 10 schools, and miserable-- working 80-90 hour weeks in hospitals for pathetically low pay, their debt snowballing still more, half burned out and the other half quitting.) Then, if you're among the rare few that can afford to have kids, you'll go even deeper into debt providing for their education as well.

A buddy of mine, an electrical engineer, was treated like slave labor in his jobs in the USA and also one in Canada, despite being a top graduate of a very good engineering school with a Master's, and a great work ethic and creativity. Burned out, with an awful diet and poor health. Working 90 hours a week with no vacation. Then eventually laid off for all his contributions to make room for an outsourced job to India or somesuch, an ever lesser-paid employee who "knew their place."

So he learned German between jobs, emigrated to Wuppertal (western Germany I think), now gets an even better salary-- paid in Euros, no less-- has mostly paid down his college debt in less than 4 years, works an average 45-55 hours (half of what he was doing in the USA), gets 5-6 weeks vacation, is relaxed, in a non-cutthroat working environment. Oh, and met a pretty fellow emigre from the Czech Republic, now his fiance there.

I've had about a dozen fellow old classmates who've done the same, especially if they have professional training-- moved to Germany, France, Austria, Italy or Belgium among other places. Much better pay, better opportunities to start their own business (in part because they're not getting burned out with 90-hour work weeks and no vacation), more buying power with the Euro, more vacation, better in general. The only hassle is learning a language like German or French and transacting your daily business in it, but it's not that hard to do-- just start with some tapes/software in the States, get the rudiments down, then you'll pick it up ultra-quick in the country where you work.

And contrary to what you've heard, you don't need to have ancestry in the country to move there. If you have some Italian-American blood it'll facilitate a move to Italy for example (which snaps up educated Italian-Americans like crazy). But two of my friends who've moved to Italy don't have a drop of Italian blood. Of the people who've moved to Germany, the guy above did have some "Germanic" blood (Dutch-Scandinavia), and one other is a mutt like me, with Scottish-German ancestry. But most of the others don't have that background-- they're Welsh-Scottish, Italian, Polish-Hungarian, Finnish, Russian, even North Indian and half-Irish half-Vietnamese in other places.

Honestly, if you're a professional trained in the USA, you have much better opportunities across the ocean. Continental Europe is the way to go.