You can fill in the blank. There is a lot of advice out there and we do need to protect children from those dangers from which they may not be able to recover. But where do we draw that line and let them learn things for themselves?
Full disclosure – I am not a parent. I was a child once, though.
Having a history of being a child, I was upset when Yahoo! News recently told parents Don’t Let Your Kids Study These Majors. Philosophy and religious studies were near the top of the list (my undergrad majors). Yahoo! was publicizing a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education, which cautioned that certain fields might not lead to a job after graduation.
Job marketing information is important to have. It can be helpful in guiding your child and letting him/her know what to expect after college. Yet, when children/young adults are heading off to college, their focus may not be on the next 45 years of their working life. Studying philosophy or fine arts may sound a lot more interesting than accounting (the best major, according to the study). For myself, I wasn’t worried about finding a career after graduation; school was out there to help me figure out life.
I learned after graduating that money and bills are definitely a part of “figuring out life”. Yet, it is only a part of the picture and I would not have done anything differently given the same choices today. My course of study was definitely not in my best financial interests, but it made the most sense for me at the time.
Kids are pretty good at looking out for their self-interests (as are adults). Kids (and adults) tend to get a lot of things right – more often than we give credit for; yet they (and we) often do not make the best choices, simply due to not having the knowledge and experience, or an understanding of the bigger picture. The answers from “outside us” – from research studies, Yahoo! News, bloggers, what have you, are often good for information, direction, guidelines, but hopefully not in telling us or our children how to live.
Our motivations, desires, interests and values guide us in living our lives. The “real world” of bills, money and other responsibilities restrict us in many ways, and our children need to learn this as well. This exploration, this learning and acting in the world, taking independent steps, stretching ourselves – this is what makes lives interesting. This exploration is much of what college offers to develop and the major your child chooses is only one small aspect of this.
I can give you and your children my thoughts, as can Yahoo! and Georgetown University. The questions you and your child need to start with, however, are “What do you (I) want to do?” and “How are you (am I) going to pay for it?”
I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. Please share them below.
Reggie E, MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.