Priming by Navina Anand

Today, I watched a popular video on YouTube on ‘How to get into an IVY league college’, by a student who had secured admission into Stanford. She gave a list of things to do which she promised boosted one’s chances of being admitted into an IVY league school. There is no doubt that most people wear their Brand Name college proudly on their sleeve IF they have graduated from one. Others who were forced to attend Govindasamy Nadar Engineering college settle for acronyms like GNE college to mitigate the embarrassment. Others even after years of being successful in the corporate field, take on an online executive course from Harvard so that they can say they have an MBA from Harvard which will erase their past history of graduating from Timbaktoo University- no matter how successful they currently are.

From 8th grade onwards, coaching classes begin for children to prep for IIT JEE entrance exam. There are outfits that would help you do research and publish a paper in return for a fee so that it would look good on your college profile. Now what are we priming our children to do? To be?

One side of the story is that we are the average of the 5 people that we interact most with in our lives. So, if you surround yourself by academically driven, ambitious, intelligent people, either by association or though networking you will reap the benefits of it. You will be exposed to brilliant minds, brilliant ideas and that is bound to rub off on you. Most of us are influenced by our peer group and the kind of people we associate with will determine what we desire and hope to achieve.

On the other side of the story are children who are not a natural fit for those activities, but do a certain set of things because it is the right thing to pursue to get into a good college. I wonder what happens to these children after they get into that dream college. Do they continue to be carried along by the wave of a great brand name and go on become “extra” successful in life? Or do they feel constantly pressured being surrounded by people who are of a different mind set and they feel like they are always striving for not only unattainable standards but also ambitions to which they don’t really connect with. Always falling a little shot. What will that do to their self-esteem?

Have we had conversations with our children about success, failure, happiness, self-worth? Have we shared our vulnerabilities, our ideas of what has really worked in our lives? Are we ready to be candid enough with our children to tell them where we screwed up? Are we honest enough to tell our children that sometimes we want to vicariously live our lost dreams through them? Have we been able to convince that child who wants to major in Physics that Computer science is a ‘safer bet’ because of job prospects? Have we been able to take a realistic look at your affluence and make a decision that we can give your child better options? Or is the fear of them not making it to the same level of affluence forcing us to make them pick ‘safe’ bets.

The final question is this. What are we priming our children for? Are we channelizing our children? or forcing them? Are we priming them for success? Happiness? Mental well-being? Something to think about before we get on to that hamster wheel. 

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