Monday, September 8

Parental Guidance

AsiaOne Article - Money can't replace parental guidance

Bringing up children requires something more than money. -myp

Mon, Sep 08, 2008
my paper

By Geoff Tan

IN 1965, Time magazine ran a cover story featuring teenagers from one of the wealthiest institutions in America - the prestigious Palisades High School in Los Angeles, California.

The parents of these kids comprise the nations' rich and famous. This young fraternity was lauded as having great potential. They stood at the fringe of a "golden era", where their stature and position augured well for their future.

They were looked upon to fuel the next generation of America's leaders - the so-called blue-eyed kids on the block.

In 1976, two members of that class, David Wallechinsky (who incidentally is the son of well-known author and screenwriter Irving Wallace) and Michael Medved, co-wrote a book entitled What Really Happened To The Class Of '65? This book, which eventually became a bestseller, featured interviews with several members of the class and their teachers, whose experiences were recounted both individually and in groups around a host of shared themes.

What Wallechinsky and Medved found was contrary to what was predicted of their cohort some 11 years back.

Many of their former classmates went their separate ways after high school and got involved in lesser-than-expected behaviour - drug abuse, rebellion, sexual irresponsibility, divorce and even prison time. Many of them were plagued by personal tragedy and emotional trauma.

These kids, who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths, were to a great extent unprepared for the complex game of life.

Some psychologists diagnosed this to be a case of misguided parental indulgence.

These mums and dads, who were among America's richest and most influential, did not know better than to spoil their children rotten.

What they lacked in time spent with their kids - to nurture and teach them good values - they made up for with money lavished upon their juniors.

Money to fuel expensive lifestyles. Money for their children to buy and enjoy all that they desire. Money to bail them out of jail. Money to repair their wrecked exotic cars, or to buy new ones. Money so that their children can avoid work or further study. Money that made them eventual failures in life. In a nutshell: rich parents, "poor" children.

You may ask what all this has to do with us in Singapore, 32 years after the book was published. You must have read recently that Singapore has climbed the ranks of the millionaire club.

According to the 12th annual WorldWealth Report by United States investment bank Merrill Lynch and information-technology group Capgemini, Singapore has 77,000 millionaires.

And the figure is growing. In addition, there are now more Singaporeans holding higher appointments and positions within companies and in society as a whole.

With the hectic pace of life we lead, time is a scarce resource in many a person's day.

Bringing up children amid this urban landscape requires time and effort - the two commodities which many of us would rather channel towards building our careers, instead of using them to cultivate strong family bonds.

So, is there a lesson to be learnt from the book, What Really Happened To The Class Of '65?

I certainly think so. There is a common saying that "history repeats itself". In this instance, my hope and wish is that, for our sake, it does not.

Let's get real - money does not buy everything.

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