Getting with the program

It can be a little exhausting trying to educate a child in the '90s. There's just too much to do.

Once, upwardly mobile students just had to think about world history, toss in some science and math, write clear English, and know who Mark Twain or Harper Lee was. Add some sports, and parents could assume that kids faced a bright future.

In the '90s, such a parent - forget the kids -would be laughed out of the education section of the local library. This is the Olympics - minus the amateur sheen.

The state of Georgia gives newborns a Beethoven CD to kick off critical-thinking skills. Parents of children not yet walking get assaulted with flyers about "Intro to ABC" classes and computers.

Mom and Dad may be bewildered at first. But a growing number learn fast. Kids study sports with coaches at $70 an hour. As they grow, they can look forward to tutoring and summer school, now transformed from remedial efforts to mustn't-miss-'em experiences. They'll be signed up for test-prep programs for the SATs. When college looms, many parents will turn to professional consultants for admissions guidance. (see cover story, right).

It seems there's less and less room for a misstep that later on might prove to set new directions. What if it doesn't, we fret, or it takes junior too long to regroup?

Not everyone wants - or can afford - to leap on the bandwagon. Some may sniff at parents who figure it all out for their kids. But their best efforts may not prevent them from eyeing free time - what little is left - suspiciously. How will that look on the rsum?


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