Why we need School Counselors

I started this post in the ballroom of a small liberal arts college listening to presentations about student life and society in the 21st century. The current presenter is answering IT questions and he’s doing a good job of hitting the big bells: Mac v. PC, software purchases, anti viral software, printing, network storage, network access and more. It’s interesting, but my mind is wandering to the earlier presentations on the mindset of modern students, and their parents.

And it’s driving home to me the reasons why schools need counselors. Not just for guidance about what sort of college to go to, or what to do about current bad behavior, I think. But to do something far more critical…

Help parents and kids understand their own brains.

Helicopter parenting is up. I told the Dean who gave this presentation, “that’s not ending any time soon.” So is suicide among college-age kids. So are feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. So is deep depression — this college has psychological counselors on staff, and offers ten free sessions of counseling a year to every student. Forty psychological counseling sessions in a typical college experience.

Think about that.

There’s an entire generation that’s grown up privileged and protected. They want to change the world, but they don’t know how. And the fact that mom and dad have done all their world-changing for them means that they rely — a lot, apparently — on mom and dad to do it now, now that they’re in college. But this is also a source of crazy-making. There’s a bit in Downton Abbey where the mother of the girls admits that the girls are too old, and they need houses and establishments of their own — they need a chance to run things. And the failure of the current generation to step into their power is a direct result of mommy and daddy’s interference. Hence ten counseling sessions a year.

But what I think is that it’s wrong to devolve these functions on colleges. Because the problem is arising earlier — in eighth grade, in high school, in “gap years” and perhaps earlier. We need counselors to help ease the transition from being a child to being an adult. Other societies do this through fostering. Our system of schooling is not very efficient at easing the separation or giving students greater independence from their parents. But apparently it’s necessary. And we have to learn to do it better.

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