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So imagine how surprised I was to discover among my more affluent, well-connected students a growing number who seemed to be lacking the ability to make their way independently in the world, as, frankly, 18-22 year olds always had been able to do and just as crucially, used to to do. It took most of my ten years as dean before I figured out what exactly the problem was. I began to wonder whether lately we’ve been raising Stepford Children.I’m deliberately being vague about what exactly was missing in so many students because frankly I couldn’t quite tell at first. For starters, each year my students were more and more and more and more accomplished. And not just the grades and the scores but the awards, and the accolades, and the activities, , literally or virtually, to: ask questions; select courses, activities, majors, internships, and careers; solve problems; handle conflicts; defend and advocate for their student; register for classes; fill out applications; track deadlines; and call to wake their kid up. Yes, of course, closeness, affection, love, frequent communication between parent and offspring, that’s all good. So this kind of constant communication between parent and child at first seemed so to me.When I was freshman dean, I presumed that it would be students from underprivileged, underserved backgrounds who would most need a caring, thoughtful dean to believe in them when their background and family narrative collided with all that Stanford would ask and expect of them. Remember the Stepford Wives—that 1975 feminist allegory of women who were not actually humans but instead were robots programmed by their husbands to be the paradigmatic perfect wife?And some of my favorite moments as dean were indeed spent mentoring such students. The bots came to mind as I watched my students live their college lives still somehow looking over to the sidelines for mom or dad’s direction, protection, or intervention, as if they were five years old playing soccer and needing mom or dad to point in which direction to kick the ball.In the beginning our love is our umbilicus, our heartbeat, our body, and then our arms, our kiss, our breast.

Many of us spend our lives scheduled to the hilt between work and home, homework and homeroom, practice tests and practice fields, trying to keep up with the judgmental Joneses.

So intertwined with their parents they didn’t seem to know how to , but when you work with thousands of the so-called best and brightest, and you see this kind of existential impotence, and then you talk to colleagues at colleges around the country not just at the elite schools but at schools in every tier, and see this, and you realize that this isn’t just a Bay Area thing or a Stanford thing but a middle- and upper-middle-class American thing, and the rates of mental health problems in children, adolescents, and young adults are soaring, particularly in affluent communities, you get concerned. Was I in danger of being one of of other peoples’ grown-up children; the results of thousands of upbringings and childhoods, who, during my decade as dean, started referring to themselves as ‘kids.’ How would my generation pass the mantle of leadership on to such “adults”?

we’re all wondering in communities wherever this is being read. Why was childhood no longer preparing kids for adulthood?

I believe this, not only for the sake of each individual but for the sake of a world that gains a little bit when any one of us figures out who we are, what we’re good at, what we love, and what we value, and then works very hard to be the very best version of that self we can muster.

I believe that all of us should have the right and chance to make our way in the world.

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