One of the big rights of passage in our high school is the big trip. Only our school, being comprised of a lot of ridiculously wealthy families, doesn't just offer the typical Washington DC, London, or maybe New York City trips. Oh no, that would be too pedestrian. They take yearly trips to Prague, Paris, London, China, Japan, Central and South America, and Israel. Oh, and Washington DC, too. This year my kids both have their hearts set on taking a trip. My son wants to go on the Prague trip so badly that he's taken to asking every adult he knows to subsidize him. So far, he hasn't earned a cent.
My daughter just came home and announced that she wanted to go on the Washington DC trip. It's for a week in March, she reported. Except that we have no school vacation in March. We have a week in February, and a week in April, but not in March. I think she's a bit confused. She also told me that the trip costs $1700+ for a week. I think that's pretty pricey, and definitely out of our price range.
I don't recall having so many trip options when I was in high school. In fact, looking back through my yearbook shows that we had no trips at all. None. But with this generation of overpampered kids, taking trips abroad seems to be par for the course. When my daughter was in 5th grade, she was asked to come to Paris with a friend of hers. Um, Paris? Needless to say, she didn't go. Just how much is a 5th grader going to appreciate Paris without her family?
I have been thinking about this and I'm wondering if these trips are really beneficial for kids. I know they have a lot of fun on the trips, and they are led by school personnel, but really, how much can a kid learn in a week about a totally foreign country like China? Plus, the cost of these trips makes kids who aren't in the upper echelon financially feel continually left out. My son, who is a junior, has friends who are going on their second and third trip this year. Seeing the world on school vacations has got to be better than hanging out at home playing Xbox. No doubt about it. But is it right to spend so lavishly on a child? Do kids really need to take 2, 3, or even 4 trips during high school to visit foreign lands? I'm just not sure that this is the best use of a kid's time, especially during junior year. On the other hand, it is a great way to pad the resume for college admissions, but there again it becomes an elitist thing. The child that can't afford to go is at a distinct disadvantage once again.
I love when people claim that there isn't a class system in America. Oh, yes there is. When those of you with younger kids start dealing with high school and the competition to get the best grades, do the most internships, travel to the farthest points on earth, and receive the most SAT prep, you'll see just how divided this country is. For those who can't afford to swing Drivers Ed, SAT prep and a class trip all in the same year, or in fact even one of those things, your child will be at a severe disadvantage when it's college application time.
I think it stinks. What about you?