Misguided Do-Gooders

May 19, 2008
By Charlie Cao, Winnetka, IL

We high school students have no independence. That’s right; we are bound by curfews, by bells, by a social code, and most of all, by our parents. They dictate our actions, and we merely become shells that our parents have moved into, living and learning for us. Especially at school, every choice we make is our parents’ choice, for our decisions are based on our parents’ values.

In order to make sure they can be with us every step of the way, they begin to chain us down—constraining us at an early age by instilling values so we will take them as truth. As elementary school students, many of us were forcefully shoved into supplementary academic classes and given extra work to do, all with the justification that more work will improve our grades, which will improve our GPA, which will get us into top universities. Slowly, as we grew older, our parents began to tighten the chains by being more and more insisting, mentioning college more and more, making it the epitome of success.

As we entered high school, our parents “helped” us along, “suggesting” what classes to take and not to take. But their suggestions were more mandates, as they really didn’t give us much choice in the decision. Our parents have just two criteria in their class choices for us; first it must be a high-level class—preferably AP; secondly, it must be a class that everyone assumes to be impressive. For example, it is a well-established truth now that Psychology is a “slacker class” and European History is an “intellectual class.” Several people I know are in classes that they despise. When I asked why they chose them, they unfailingly replied, “Because my parents told me to.” Of course these students would rather take the classes that they have interest in, but we’ve been taught that some classes look better on a college transcript than others do. Our conscience—in the voice of our parents—tells us to always prefer the class that will ensure a safe ride to college, no matter how tedious it seems.
This is especially true at New Trier, where our parents want us to be successful because they are successful themselves. They live on the North Shore because they did well in high school, went to a reputable university, and finished graduate school. Naturally, their expectation is for us to do the same. Armed with the claim that “parents know best”, they assume that we teens are too inexperienced and naïve to independently live our lives. But if we never have the chance to prove ourselves, when will our parents let go? Eventually, we will have our own careers, families, and lives—do our parents expect to be there then as well?

Ultimately, parents force us to comply with their demands because they want us to be successful and happy. But this coercion is unnecessary; we have lived with them for over sixteen years, and their influence has naturally become a part of us. Their values and ideals can organically assimilate and meld with our own, but the ultimate choices made would be ours. We would be ourselves, live successfully and independently, and our parents can stand back, beaming proudly.

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