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The Prof G Pod with Scott Galloway

Conversation with Jennifer B. Wallace — What to Do About Toxic Achievement Culture

Thu Aug 24 2023
Toxic Achievement CultureParentingMental HealthInterdependenceEducation SystemCollege AdmissionsRoot CausesSocial MediaSolutions

Description

The episode discusses the toxic achievement culture and its impact on children, highlighting the excessive pressure put on students by high achieving schools. It emphasizes the importance of prioritizing children's well-being over academic achievements and explores the negative effects of social media on teenagers' mental health. The episode also delves into the challenges faced by parents in an uncertain world, including intensive parenting and the pressure to get into elite colleges. It emphasizes the need for healthy interdependence and deep relationships for resilience. The episode concludes by addressing the root causes of the crisis, such as societal values and a lack of universal mattering.

Insights

Toxic achievement culture

High achieving schools put excessive pressure on students, leading to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Prioritizing well-being over achievements

Parents should prioritize their child's happiness, sense of love, and overall well-being instead of solely focusing on grades and homework.

Impact of social media

Social media and technology have negatively impacted teenagers' mental health, prompting a shift in parenting approaches.

Challenges faced by parents

Parents are absorbing macroeconomic forces and feeling the pressure to raise successful children in an uncertain world. Intensive parenting is a result of this pressure.

Importance of healthy interdependence

Teaching boys healthy interdependence is crucial for their mental health and well-being. Creating a safe space for open communication with trusted adults can foster healthy interdependent relationships for children.

Promoting healthy relationships in schools

Schools should focus on relationships over rigor, value and support teachers as first responders to students' struggles, and create a culture where every student feels valued.

Pressure on college admissions

There is immense pressure on kids to get into elite colleges. Widening the definition of success beyond brand name colleges could alleviate some of the pressure on high-income households.

Addressing the root causes

The crisis is rooted in a lack of universal mattering and societal values that prioritize achievement and money. Solutions should focus on instilling a sense of mattering and reducing stress.

The social media crisis

Social media magnifies toxic pressures, but the root cause is a lack of universal mattering and feeling valued for who we are at our core.

Seeking solutions

Proposed solutions include expanding freshman class, mandating young people to make an impact before college, redefining the gap year and national compulsory service, and increasing online classes.

Chapters

  1. Toxic Achievement Culture and its Impact on Children
  2. Toxic Ambition and its Effects on Academic Performance
  3. Parenting in an Uncertain World
  4. Healthy Interdependence and Relationships
  5. Promoting Healthy Relationships and Reducing Pressure
  6. Addressing the Root Causes and Seeking Solutions
  7. The Crisis of Mattering in a Social Media Age
Summary
Transcript

Toxic Achievement Culture and its Impact on Children

00:01 - 07:40

  • Jennifer Brandy Wallace discusses her new parenting book, 'Never Enough,' which explores toxic achievement culture and its impact on children.
  • High achieving schools are putting excessive pressure on students, leading to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
  • Privileged white kids are often overlooked in discussions about at-risk groups, but their pain is still valid and deserving of empathy.
  • Compassion is not a zero-sum game; we should prioritize the well-being and happiness of our children over academic achievements.
  • Social media and technology have negatively impacted teenagers' mental health, prompting a shift in parenting approaches.
  • Instead of focusing solely on grades and homework, parents should prioritize their child's happiness, sense of love, and overall well-being.
  • It may not lead to immediate academic success, but prioritizing happiness is worth it in the long run.

Toxic Ambition and its Effects on Academic Performance

07:11 - 14:31

  • Toxic ambition can manifest in behaviors like criticism and comparison.
  • Using healthy fuel, such as making children feel valued for who they are, leads to long-term success.
  • Kids who feel their worth is contingent on performance tend to struggle academically.
  • Kids who lack social proof that they matter often underperform.
  • Mattering and achievement are not mutually exclusive; high levels of mattering can buffer against stress and anxiety.

Parenting in an Uncertain World

14:08 - 21:44

  • Parents are absorbing macroeconomic forces and feeling the pressure to raise successful children in an uncertain world.
  • The stakes for parenting feel higher now than in previous decades.
  • Parents are tasked with creating individualized safety nets for their kids.
  • Intensive parenting is a result of parents absorbing stressful macroeconomic pressures.
  • Blaming parents for intensive parenting is unfair as it is a societal issue.
  • There is immense pressure on kids to get into elite colleges and succeed economically.
  • The education system may be biased towards females, making it harder for males to demonstrate economic viability.
  • Societal solutions should focus on shifting parents' focus from short-term achievement goals to larger goals like instilling a sense of mattering and reducing stress.
  • Parents bet on brand name colleges as life vests in an uncertain economy, but this early tracking can harm kids' well-being.
  • Widening the definition of success beyond brand name colleges could alleviate some of the pressure on high-income households.
  • Deep relationships are crucial for resilience and safeguarding kids' futures.

Healthy Interdependence and Relationships

21:27 - 28:49

  • Elon Musk claimed seven years ago that autonomous driving is a solved problem and Tesla's self-driving software is now installed in many Teslas, but critics argue that the technology is not ready or capable of what Musk claims.
  • Land of the Giants podcast explores whether Tesla's full self-driving feature lives up to its name.
  • Research suggests that while boys are physically stronger, girls are emotionally and mentally stronger, especially in single-parent households where girls have similar outcomes as dual-parent households, whereas boys have worse outcomes.
  • Teaching boys healthy interdependence is crucial for their mental health and well-being.
  • Modeling healthy interdependence by male figures in a boy's life can help encourage boys to rely on others for support.
  • Creating a safe space for open communication with trusted adults outside the immediate family can also foster healthy interdependent relationships for children.
  • Envy and hyper-competitiveness can hinder the development of healthy interdependent relationships, so it's important to address these issues with children.

Promoting Healthy Relationships and Reducing Pressure

28:21 - 35:43

  • Envy is a universal feeling that everyone experiences, and we should teach our kids to acknowledge it without judgment.
  • Parents can help their children develop an interdependent mindset by encouraging them to ask for help and offer advice.
  • Schools play a role in promoting healthy relationships by focusing on relationships over rigor and creating opportunities for deep connections between teachers and students.
  • Teachers need to be valued and supported as first responders to students' struggles.
  • Schools should limit hyper competition, create a culture where every student feels valued, and ensure that each child has an adult who knows and values them.
  • The pressure on middle class and upper income households regarding college admissions is fueled by exclusivity and artificial supply created by universities.
  • We should demand that universities with large endowments act like charitable organizations by accepting more students from lower income backgrounds.
  • While there has been progress in diversifying elite universities, it is still elitism if the focus is solely on reshuffling the elites based on income and race.
  • Diversity is important but needs to be accompanied by significant changes in elitist practices.

Addressing the Root Causes and Seeking Solutions

35:16 - 43:14

  • Expanding freshman class is necessary to maintain nonprofit status
  • Proposed idea of mandating young people to make an impact before college
  • Advocacy for redefining the gap year and national compulsory service
  • Suggestion to increase online classes and use campus during summer and at night
  • Early signs of toxic environment in households start around seventh grade
  • Importance of primary caregivers' well-being for child's resilience
  • Need for healthy interdependence and support system in affluent communities
  • Social media magnifies toxic pressures but not the root cause

The Crisis of Mattering in a Social Media Age

42:55 - 44:55

  • Social media is a magnifier and accelerant to toxic pressures, but not the root cause.
  • The root cause is a lack of universal mattering and feeling valued for who we are at our core.
  • Society values achievement and money, which leads to certain people being considered more important.
  • The social media crisis is a crisis of mattering that goes deeper than social media.
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