This post from Above the Law struck a chord with me today:
So, let’s say that an intelligent child does do everything that she is told to do from kindergarten through high school, and then goes to Harvard and then to a very good law school, and then into a high-powered law firm, and ends up making $180,000 a year by the time she is thirty. So what? Her life will have been a life of drudgery piled upon drudgery, with no sense of freedom or self-knowledge.
The rest of the comment is less specific, but similar:
The standard American idea of success, promoted by the schools, especially the top schools, and accepted by parents, is a road to nowhere except work work work, money money money, and maybe a little power if you are lucky and have the right connections. In fact, the main reason these kids are sent to these schools is for the connections. Life is revealed to them as purely utilitarian and uncreative. The idea is to conform.
Now, I was one of those people, doing everything I was told, rushing from college to law school, to master’s degree, to prestige job to high-paying job — all by the time I was thirty — and all of a sudden, it was “Now what?” What happens now that I have the six-figure job? What happens after I’ve given up relationships and my creative pursuits to get here? Where do I go once my student loans are all paid off and I have a choice in the matter?
I’m still figuring it out. But the parents out there need to stop making it seem like this is what will make their children happy in the long run. It doesn’t. Happiness is not about your job or the things you can buy. It’s about your relationships.