The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > 'Acquainted With the Night': Troubled Children and Troubled Parents: "Could there be an incoherent rebellion under way against the relentless pressure to achieve, which kicks in now at the preschool stage? It may be a clue that the symptoms of many childhood psychiatric disorders seem to preclude schoolwork and attendance. Maybe the only problem with the kids is that they have been watching their own high-achieving parents, and they have seen where all that leads."
After Nickled and Dimed in America Barbara Erenreich should know better. If you don't get the credentials to make it into the talented tenth, you'll be kicking around between Walmart and the miscellaney of other jobs in the service sector that she describes in vivid detail.
Every year we have a session for academic advisors at which we are fed the usual pious sentiments about the value of a liberal education and eschewing narrowly vocational goals in favor of critical reasoning and self cultuvation. This would be fine if students were independently wealthy or sufficiently privileged to walk into sinecures on graduation. Realistically it is B.S.: students need to be trained in technical skills and credentialed. High achieving is a prerequsite for the good life--students are merely worried that they won't be able to make it in a viciously competitive environment where without the grades and credentials life will not be worth living.