Great article - thanks!

Expand full comment

I am astounded at this statistic. What is going on?

"around 44 percent of all college students report symptoms of depression and anxiety. The rate of students taking psychiatric medication doubled between 2007 and 2019, and is now at 25 percent. "

That is ridiculous. This has to be more the fault of the parents, not the children. Well before they enter college something isn't right.

Expand full comment

How is it possible that nearly 1/3, (1,000,000) kids can afford a freshman year, but not a soph? And don't ever confuse a poor kid that is capable and performs with a kid who cannot afford college. The former always gets a ride, always. If you're a middle-class white kid that got "not-so-good" grades freshman year and you lost some handout money, then maybe you don't really belong at a university, either because of your aptitude or your commitment to the cause.

Look, when over 25% of all 4-year college (not community college) courses are remedial-level, there is a clear disconnect between reality and maybe 1,000,000 or so HS seniors. The fact that they have a mental illness or not is irrelevant, the fact that the colleges are not prepared for the annual exodus of students after their first year is irrelevant (and not unexpected, either - the unis know and account for this), but the fact that industry, societal norms, and the media all reinforce the notion that Uni is somehow a golden ticket or even simply a required path is what is relevant.

The 4-yr college industry in the US is a joke, reflective of the HS industry that collapsed decades ago. I refuse to give a damn about a suburban kid with an 1100 SAT and a 3.5 HS GPA who is struggling at a 4-yr college. That kid was conned into taking out enormous loans under false premises.

"Mentally fragile people..." the more you cater to something, the more of it you get. What a load of horseshit, for the most part. Most of these kids (and their parents even more so) need a kick in the ass. If you and your kids are on some antidepressants, you're fucking idiots in 4/5 cases. Never face reality, always look to a scapegoat - brain chemistry, bullies, Trump, global warming... suckers.

Expand full comment

Can you imagine going an airport gate agent saying, "You're going to Chicago. In the last 30 days, this flight has made it to Chicago 24 times. 3 flights ended up in Minneapolis, and one went to Los Angeles (we really can't figure that one out). 2 planes crashed a burned shortly after takeoff and one just vanished without a trace. Welcome aboard!"

That's what 1M college students starting college and only 2M making it to year 2 actually means. You would never get on a plane with those kinds of odds, and yet we keep enrolling (and paying for) our kids in institutions in which 1/3rd of them apparently crash and burn.

Perhaps the high dropout rate is related to the fact that we used to send 18-20% of all kids to college and now we send 30%. Is it possible that not everyone needs to go to college?

Expand full comment

“The number of students with mental health challenges has been rising for years—around 44 percent of all college students report symptoms of depression and anxiety. The rate of students taking psychiatric medication doubled between 2007 and 2019, and is now at 25 percent. ”

Gee, maybe we could start by reviewing the policy whereby we tell kids many times per day the unmitigated bullshit that the human race faces extinction if we don’t change everything in the next 5 years.

Ludicrous insanity.

Start there?

Expand full comment

I was in a Dunkin' Donuts when I overheard a parents say to their teenager, "why don't you apply for a summer job here?" and the kid seems SHOCKED and replied "this is immigrant work!"

Expand full comment

Thank you. When I think of my grandparents' generation and I think of this new generation, it's a bit alarming how much coddling we give to kids these days compared to the past. I can see it in how I was when my first child was born and how I was nine years later with my second. With my first, I handled her like a delicate flower (sorry for the cliche, but it was true). I felt it was my job to make sure she never had to go through too many difficulties and I tried to actively make things as easy as I could. HOWEVER, I got a bit of wisdom when my second child was born. I realized that I am not there to simply protect my son BUT to prepare him for life, when he moves away. I have given my 16 year old son more responsibilities, as well as more opportunities; I let him do things (like backpacking solo 42 miles on a mountain loop) without me hovering over him. His dad an I have given him tools and sensible advice without trying to immediately jump in to fix the problems. This took a lot of restraint on my part. I also encouraged him to work part time when he was small (even if it meant feeding our neighbors' animals or watering people's gardens when they were away) to earn money for things he wanted to buy, and that he follow our family's expectations.

I do believe we have to give more opportunities for kids to experience life BEFORE they head off to college. To be a helicopter parent and then send your kid away can sometimes prove disastrous. And college advisors and professors are not equipped (nor do they have the time) to help.

Expand full comment

The author is spot on. I'm a retired naval officer with a second career in higher education administration and finance. I agree with the author and many of the comments; resilience is in short supply in contemporary America. In our 12 moves with our two sons across 10 states during our 25 year career in the Navy, the common theme between a "good" kid and a "bad" kid was permissive parenting. Permissive parents are the genesis of the problem! When my kids were in HS and college, I thought it was okay to have snowflakes around because it thinned the competitive herd for my boys. I was mistaken, it has become such a widespread problem, I worry about many US kids not having the resilience, competitiveness, or fortitude to compete in a very competitive world! One of the first questions I get now when I'm hiring people is how much time to they get off and can they work from home!

Expand full comment

Well....if that's the best you can do, ok.

Expand full comment

After almost 30 years in the mental health field, I've watched parenting plummet. Kids with no chores or responsibilities - or if they do have chores, parents let it slide if they don't complete them. No punishment and too many privileges. No daily living skills taught, or even how to use a !@#$ hammer and screwdriver. No pushing them to read books. "I just want them to enjoy their childhood." Uh-huh...while you're literally crushing their development. Parents who just want to be friends with their kids so they can feel better about their own unresolved issues, like confrontation. I could go on, but the comment by Jim Wills here really sums it up: We have to reverse this prolonged adolescence. And we do that by treating these grown babies like adults. Do that, and they'll grow up soon enough (or retreat to the perceived safety of their parents' basements).

Expand full comment

Now I’m just another idiot with a theory, but do you suppose it might be possible that young people act like kids longer because, with the lifespan increase, they are actually staying in the child-phase longer? It would seem the need to enter into an early, responsible adulthood is tied to the biological imperative to reproduce. First world countries don’t experience catastrophic plagues that reduce the population by large percentages at this point and the survival rate of children is statistically very high, there simply isn’t the need to start producing offspring in the second decade of life. I’m wondering if we’re expecting children to become adults more quickly than they are able. They are receiving information at a far higher rate than ever before and their brains may be making adaptations to adjust to their new environment. Just a thought.

Expand full comment

I have a 16 year old daughter that is ready for school before anyone in the house even gets up, gets good grades, plays school sports and works a part-time job. I am sad to say that very few of her friends can say the same. I do wonder how they will do in college when they don’t care about getting their license, don’t want a job (too busy) and the newest teen trend: they don’t want kids. Is this just a complete abdication of responsibility?

Expand full comment

We need to stop medicalising teenage anxiety. It is quite sane.

Expand full comment

I have written 20 books on the subject of unconditional love, including books and video courses on love in parenting. I've been counseling parents and children for 30 years. The article by LBS was fascinating and worth comment.

LBW: About three million first-time college students will soon be arriving on campus-most of them coming directly from high school. About one million of them won't make it through their first year or return as sophomores. This attrition is financially and emotionally devastating for families, and destabilizing for colleges.

**1/3 of students going to college do not succeed in reaching their SECOND year. And this does not alarm us as much as global warming?

Financial challenges account for the largest chunk of these departures.

**Not quite. I have interviewed many, many kids who have left college for “financial” reasons, and in almost every case, it was not truly about finances. It was about deficiencies in financial management.

For example, Sarah had planned with her father, Edmond, what it would cost for her to complete college, and they were relatively certain that the family could afford this adventure. Ah, but then expenditures began to pop up that had not factored into the initial planning:

* Sarah decided that her apartment was far too plain, so she and her roommate made plans for making it “cuter.” They added furniture and all manner of refinements, and the bill was not small. Sarah had always gotten what she wanted, rather than learning to be responsible and to live with what was needed. Edmond had never learned to say No to his daughter for fear of her disapproval.

* Sarah discovered that the opportunities for socialization at college were considerably greater than at home, so she began to eat out regularly, attend expensive extra-curricular events, and more.

* Sarah couldn’t possibly continue her elevated level of socialization with her “old, crummy” phone from the “poverty era,” so she had to upgrade to a much more expensive phone and data plan.

* One day Sarah called her father and explained how it was quite impossible for her to efficiently get around campus and town on foot, so she desperately needed a car. Dad couldn’t live with the idea of his little baby driving a “beater car,” so he got her a mid-priced new car. Huge expense, involving not only the purchase but gas and maintenance. Sarah couldn’t possibly ride a “clunky” bicycle around campus, as many students did, nor could she be bothered to walk—what with the calamitous possibilities of, like, you know, rain or cold.

**Then, with all the parties and distractions, Sarah failed two of her five classes. Dad easily and quickly performed the math involved to determine that completing a degree would cost easily twice what he had once calculated. So, he withdrew Sarah from college. One could say that she withdrew because of a “financial challenge,” as mentioned above by LBW, but no, it wasn’t about finances. It was about (1) Sarah being irresponsible, (2) Dad being irresponsible, (3) Sarah being selfish, (4) Dad being unprepared as a parent, (5) Sarah being unprepared for life in general. This all comes down to a parenting problem. Period, without blaming anyone. We must identify problems correctly, or we cannot solve them.

LBW: But many others leave because the support services they and their parents feel they have been promised are often impossible for colleges and universities to provide.

**And why do parents count on “support services” from colleges? Because the parents had no idea how to offer their children the love and guidance essential to their development while they lived at home. The parents were not intentionally negligent, just profoundly ignorant and unable.

LBW: The number of students with mental health challenges has been rising for years—around 44% of all college students report symptoms of depression and anxiety. The rate of students taking psychiatric medication doubled between 2007 and 2019, and is now at 25%.

**What?! Nearly half of our kids are depressed or anxious or both, but we think the subject is what responsibility the colleges have? No, our children ARRIVE at school with their pain and symptoms. The real question is what we need to do to prepare our children emotionally and in so many other ways to robustly function in any environment, not just college.

LBW: But what concerns my colleagues and me is the growing expectation among parents and students that college administrators are there not to guide young people in mastering the tasks of adulthood, but to spare young people from the challenges.

**Where do I begin addressing all the content in that one sentence:

* This experienced college dean recognizes that administrators are “sparing” young people from challenges. That is a euphemistic way of saying that colleges do whatever it takes to pamper and coddle students. Why? (1) Because they want to keep students who are paying the tuitions that keep the school running and the administrators paid. There is nothing sinister in that, just a natural need of every institution to justify its continued existence. (2) Because colleges do genuinely care to some extent about the well-being of students, while being utterly unprepared to provide the needed support.

* These students have difficulties with their “challenges” not because college is a great surprise but because—again—parents have not prepared their children for life, of which college is a small part—and a relatively easy one compared to future employment, relationships, marriages, children, and more.

* Parents have vastly inappropriate “expectations” that colleges SHOULD somehow make up for all their parental deficiencies that crippled their children for the 18+ years before they first passed through the college portal.

LBW: There are only about nine weeks between high school graduation and a student's arrival on campus. That is very little time to prepare a teenager for the necessary shift from life under a parent's management to (semi-) independent living. In as little as four weeks after classes begin, a first-year student who is unable to make that transition can end up unable to recover academically

* Nine weeks is “very little time to prepare a teenager”? Very little? It’s actually 9/10 of ONE percent of the 18.5 years a child spends at home before arriving at college. If parents think that anything significant is going to change in nine weeks to alter the course of the previous 99.1% of their child’s life, they have abandoned their child to a fantasy.

* College life is not “semi-independent” living. Once at school, the child continues to receive an abundant supply of money, transportation, housing, and sympathy. That condition doesn’t even approximate independence.

* The word “parental management” is quite appropriate. Most parents have no idea how to guide and prepare a child for life. They were not thus prepared themselves, so they do what they can, which consists of managing the child—controlling bad behavior, providing food and necessities, and overall training a child like an intelligent pet. Parents proved themselves unable to prepare a child for life for 18.5 years. In nine weeks no miracle will occur, most notably in the parents’ abilities, never mind the child’s.

LBW referred to a famous commencement speech where Admiral William McRaven encouraged graduates to "Make your bed." “Good advice,” LBW said, “but first, your child has to be able to get out of bed.”

**I know thousands of children, and the majority of their parents are still getting them out of bed, making their bed, preparing their breakfast, ordering them to eat breakfast, driving them out the door like dumb cattle, and nagging them all day to do the smallest chores, as well as their homework. A child babied in this way couldn’t possibly be ready for independence, so college would prove an insurmountable challenge.

**I am a vigorous defender of parents who have failed to prepare their teens for life. They don’t know HOW to love and teach their children. So, now what? We could continue to bemoan the state of higher education, the irresponsible and disturbed condition of our children, but we’ve proven how ineffective complaining is. We really can learn how to be much better parents. We talk about the importance of education our child in college, where they learn how to be the leaders and creators of the future. But we’re missing the fact that this path begins at birth. If that preparation is lacking, no amount of administrative or other support in college will make a difference. See more at RealLoveParents.com and RealLove.com.

Expand full comment

"She runs the College Autism Network."

I've been busy so I admit that though I love Common Sense I have only skimmed this article so far... I did notice that you run the College Autism Network. You say you are a long-time higher education professional interested in well-being so you may have some perspective on trends... Do you see many ROGD girls? I understand that college and the ideologies promoted there (and hormones & procedures paid for on college insurance) are really dangerous for girls/young women with autism.

I follow PITT even more avidly than Common Sense and I recommend this article from the other day: https://pitt.substack.com/p/echoes-of-eugenics-what-the-doctors

Expand full comment

There’s so much to talk about here. Your advice- “it’s college, not a treatment center”, “it’s college, not kindergarten”, “not everything is trauma” -speaks volumes, and frankly, it’s depressing that these things need to be said.

Expand full comment