Achieving wealth and prestige is often the life goal of many young people. Money brings such advantages as better food and medicine, any things a person needs and wants, as well as the fulfillment of almost any desires without effort. However, stories of spoiled children of millionaires or pop stars who have harmed themselves or their health because of their status or wealth demonstrate that money can also make problems. Besides, the harm of wealth can be less obvious and reflected in such aspects as the quality of education, since the prestige of schools and universities often makes its students too competitive and requires more effort from them (). Consequently, while wealth gives students opportunities to study at the most prestigious universities, it can bring them more disadvantages than benefits.
For most people, wealth seems to be a source of opportunity and advantage that gives access to the best things in the world; however, it has its drawbacks. The first disadvantage that Gladwell () discusses is that the high level of parental wealth most often prevents children from appreciating the value of money and the hard work they require. For this reason, the difficulty of parenting increases in proportion to the level of wealth if the family earns more than $ 75,000 per year (33). In other words, higher levels of wealth create conditions in which children have fewer skills to develop and succeed on their own. Consequently, this disadvantage reduces young people’s chances to be independent, have high academic or other achievements that will help them reach their own goals.
The second disadvantage of wealth is that it does not guarantee happiness. Just like in the case of parenting difficulty, the level of happiness rises in proportion to the level of earnings up to a specific line but then begins to decline (31). This fact reflects the well-known truth that money cannot buy happiness. Perhaps this fact exists because wealthier people are less happy about everyday small things that are not available to people with low or middle income. Another reason can be that wealthy parents need to set artificial limits for their children, which can cause a lack of understanding and conflict between them. In any case, wealth does not guarantee happiness, and in some cases, it can hinder it.
Another disadvantage, which is most surprising to most people, is that parental wealth can negatively impact their children’s education. Gladwell (38) gives the example of private schools and elite boarding schools, in which each class has no more than 10-12 people, which prevents the effective work of students and teachers. Gladwell (36) argues that too small classes limit the teacher’s ability to provide knowledge and also diminish the diversity and ability of students to be autonomous. One teacher in a group of nine students says, “You can’t get any kind of conversation or discussion going in the target language. It’s difficult to play games to reinforce vocabulary, grammar skills, et cetera.” (37). Consequently, private schools that are accessible to children of wealthy parents can negatively impact their academic achievement due to class size and teacher focus. Thus, all these facts show that wealth has its disadvantages that can be overcome but often ignored.
These wealth aspects also suggest that while most people want to be part of something big and prestigious, in some cases, it may be better to stay small and independent. This assumption is especially relevant to the sphere of higher education and work. In almost every country, there are the best universities with high status and, therefore, high requirements. In the USA, such universities belong to the Ivy League, and only those who have high academic knowledge and money can become their students. However, in chapter three of his book, Gladwell explains that the prestige of a university does not always mean that its students get a better education and, in general, can get a degree. This situation occurs because there is constant high competition among students at Ivy League colleges and increased demands for their academic and extracurricular activities. Students compare themselves to others and most often feel not good enough, since high achievement in all classes is almost unrealistic. For this reason, many students lose interest and motivation to study and leave the university without receiving a degree.
The purpose of this issue discussion is to show that the most prestigious and famous is not always the most suitable for all people. Gladwell recounts the example of student Caroline Sacks, who left science only because she got lost as a student in Harvard’s huge “pond.” For a girl, like many other students, it would be more comfortable to study at a less prestigious university but to achieve her academic goals. For example, Gladwell also says that graduates from universities outside the Ivy League have more scientific publications, which benefits them after graduation since they have more free time from school to pursue their talents. (50). In addition, as a result, a higher percentage of students at these universities complete their studies, even if they had low admission scores, while similar statistics for Ivy League students are less satisfactory (49-50). Hence, in terms of future employment opportunities, less well-known universities are also more suitable options for most students.
Consequently, being involved in something big and prestigious is an excellent opportunity for a small number of people who have strong ambitions and willpower. These people will probably be able to become big fish in a large pond or be content with their position as small fish. However, as Gladwell points out to most people, “It’s the Little Pond that maximizes your chances to do whatever you want” (53). A person who has the desire, resources, and freedom to do their own thing can achieve significant success in their field, and even if it does not bring him or her the most significant profit, it will give happiness. Thus, regardless of the level of wealth and knowledge, all people should choose a university that matches the strength of their ambitions to achieve success in their field and not get lost among other people.
Thus, Gladwell’s book and discussions on wealth demonstrate that wealth is not the solution to all problems, especially in higher education, despite all its benefits. Wealth can cause problems, such as young people’s inability to value money and work, difficulties in raising and educating children. At the same time, money does not guarantee that people feel in their place if their ambitions and expectations do not coincide with the reality of studying at prestigious universities. For many people, Harvard or Brown University is too competitive and demanding and does not leave the freedom and time for personal choice and development. This feature forces many students to leave their studies and choose less prestigious but freer universities to achieve their goals and interests. Thus, in most cases, the Small Pond is the best option for many students, despite the opportunities that their level of income gives them.
Gladwell, Malcolm. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Little, Brown and Company, 2015.