Damon Linker echoes my own thoughts here:
In the test-obsessed, grade-gripped hothouses of meritocratic striving that are America’s suburban public schools, some kids are thriving. They are the ones we (revealingly) call the “overachievers” — students who, with curricular, cultural, and parental support and encouragement, study hard after school, cramming their waking hours with homework, music lessons, sports, special projects, volunteering, and even the occasional fastidiously scheduled “play date” with a suitably achievement-oriented peer.
And then there are the children left behind.
I’m especially interested in and troubled by what’s becoming of the boys who fail to win medals in the rat race that now begins in pre-school. Academically, most of them will be fine. They won’t get into Harvard or Yale, but between instructional supports, extracurricular tutoring, and boosts from pharmaceuticals, they’ll graduate from the public schools with good enough grades and test scores to get into one of the hundreds of perfectly adequate colleges and universities that, in return for a couple hundred thousand dollars in tuition, will gladly credentialize them in four to five years for a passable entry-level job earning $20,000 or so a year.
There are worse economic fates in post–financial crisis America.
What I’m far more concerned about is social development — and in particular with how a certain cohort of academically middling boys are withdrawing into a world of virtual competition and social interaction.
I’m talking about “gaming” — the $66 billion-a-year industry that held its annual trade fair in Los Angeles this week. For several hundred dollars, companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will sell you a console that turns a TV into a video arcade in your home, complete with computer-generated graphics and sound that approach the intensity and realism of Hollywood’s effects-driven movie blockbusters.
Read more here:
— Helicopter parents terrified of their kids running into harm in and around the neighborhood might take comfort from them spending all their free time safely at home, standing or sitting in front of a TV screen, playing games….
….allowing a generation of boys to withdraw from the world into a virtual reality tailor-made to painlessly satisfy their craving for adventure and success with imaginary (and often intensely violent) triumphs and rewards.
Damon Linker is a senior correspondent at TheWeek.com. He is also a consulting editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press, a contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of The Theocons and The Religious Test.