I read a book called I Left my Homework in the Hamptons: What I Learned Teaching the Children of the 1% by Psy. D- Blythe N. Grossberg which was a fascinating book studying the 1%

Here are some of my favorite passages from this book that taught me how stressful it is to be performing all of the time. Growing up without very little parental expectations, there are certainly pros and cons that come growing up poor or rich.

“Each year, the parents weigh in on which classes their children take—and at which level. Some push for accelerated classes or AP classes (though some private schools have jettisoned the AP courses because they realize it binds them to a certain curriculum and they desire the freedom to teach what they want). They often meet with teachers in the spring to discuss the choices their children will make in the fall, and they also start the school year with conferences with their child’s adviser, teachers, and coaches. Parents email their child’s adviser over everything from minute details such as a missing book to larger details such as a child’s difficulty with a teacher, and some parents are in daily contact with teachers. The relationship is often one of respect, sometimes one marked by conflict, and too often one in which parents exercise their power over the teacher by going to administrators.”

“Gone are those comparatively halcyon days. The 1 percent work hard, and the 99 percent work hard. Effortless college admissions for the affluent have been replaced by international competition for places at college. Parents don’t settle in for boozy lunches but head en masse to Soul Cycle, where they pedal off the pounds. It’s not a generation that indulges itself but one that frets over one’s place in the world, most strongly symbolized by one’s progeny. Kids aren’t free to be you and me; they are sculpted into what their parents want of them. My husband rode his bike around New York City as a puny ten-year-old in the 1970s, when the risk of mugging was real; today, kids are hustled from place to place by a phalanx of experts, and they have no time to ride their bikes around Manhattan (and wouldn’t be allowed to, anyway). They don’t know their own city and don’t have the street smarts of earlier generations. Though the city is actually safer now than in the days of the Son of Sam, it still pays to have one’s bearings. One boy I taught, who was about five feet five inches and 120 pounds, once ducked through the underpass of the train track on Park Avenue in Harlem to get to his lacrosse practice on time. He was jumped by two boys who stole his phone in under a minute. Afterward, he admitted, “I guess that wasn’t a good shortcut.”

“Learning is more relational and less purely cognitive than most people think. If kids like you, they are going to do the work, most of the time. I learned that the tutoring relationship is all about creating harmony between the student and me.”

“It is only later that I realize that the world of privilege leaves kids as restless as I was on the evening of the international squash tournament. Psychologists believe that kids should not have all their peak experiences at a young age because they will have nothing to look forward to when they’re older. The children of elite New Yorkers, however, have had so many privileged experiences that there is little else they can manage to do. Peaking too early teaches kids that they don’t need to work to achieve things and makes the kids have a sense of blasé entitlement. The surfeit of privileged experiences also sets the kids up for depression, as they feel that there is nothing left to do.”

“It’s impossible to achieve a growth mindset if failure is not an option and if one’s learning curve is always supposed to reflect exponential growth. Because of the pressure to perform, some of what makes good writing and reading and thinking is directly in opposition to the tenor of life on Fifth Avenue. Good writing might just require boredom and frustration. One wonders”

“Everything she says and does is monitored, judged, and she must feel as though she’s constantly failing. Lisa decides to spend much of the next few nights ripping her daughter’s paper to shreds—as she imagined the teacher might do—and rewriting it. The product is a forty-five-year-old woman’s defense of first love. It’s badly written, filled with clichés such as tender flower to refer to Juliet and burning passion to refer to her love affair with Romeo, and it’s clear that Lily’s voice has been completely suffocated. No one under forty would refer to Juliet’s tryst with Romeo as deflowering, making it patently obvious that the fingers of an elder have been all over Lily’s paper. As it turns out, her English teacher also tears Lily’s paper apart—though gently—and Lily works with me on rewriting the paper and submitting it while her mother is on a business trip to France. While writing the final draft, Lily is merely weary. She accepts that Juliet needs to rebel and leave her family. This is what will happen to Lily in the end, I think. Her mother will tire her into leaving home and separating from her parents, even though Lily doesn’t really want to and her mother plans to keep her daughter enmeshed for her whole life.”

“She has attentional issues that make this wading difficult, but she listens very carefully when we read out loud. She likens the devils in Milton’s epic, who are expelled from heaven and sent to the deepest reaches of hell, to girls at school. “It’s like the social scene at my school,” she ventures. We laugh about the labors of the teenagers vying for the most popular girl’s favor, in the same way that the fallen angels want to get back into God’s grace. The devils are jealous of Adam and Eve just like the mean girls at Lily’s school are jealous of the new popular girl, the one who moved in from New Jersey and has become the new queen bee. Milton’s cosmos, so confusing to me, makes complete sense to Lily after it’s been mapped onto the world of competitive sophomore girls. These are Beelzebubs in Burberry. She is a gifted reader because she feels the literature so deeply. She notices things that I don’t because she reads so slowly and carefully, and she thinks for a minute after she reads that Satan’s new tactic is to use guile to enter God’s domain. “Guile,” she muses, “in the world before social networking. What would that even mean? Now, Hell is an Instagram post…or worse, a Snapchat image.” She has been left out of parties while other girls post selfies of themselves at parties on Facebook or Instagram or send her Snapchat photos. For her, Satan’s lair is filled with photos of the parties she was left out of (it’s ironic, because in Milton, the devils were left out of the ultimate party), so she understands hell on a very intimate level. For Lily, the Garden of Eden is likely a place where there is no squash practice, no devilishly mean girls, no SATs.”

“Great Gatsby is in many ways an indictment of the heedless pursuit of wealth, but Gatsby’s charm and the romantic shading that Fitzgerald gives him make him endearing to the students. It is the one book I’ve noticed that the children of the 1 percent truly love universally.”

“Other books don’t hold most students’ attention. Beloved by Toni Morrison features a confusing, winding narrative about rape, slavery, and infanticide. It is so difficult that many students even miss the central scene, in which Sethe kills her own child rather than have her return to slavery. “Did the baby die?” one student asked me. “I missed that entirely.” It is easy to miss, buried in the dense, swirling text. Some white students dread learning anything about civil rights. Not all, by any measure, but it always surprises me that they sigh when they are about to embark on a study of civil rights or read a book like Frederick Douglass’s autobiography. When I teach American history at a private school, I am thrilled to be able to show the students Eyes on the Prize, the lauded documentary about the civil rights movement. We have been through so many topics that did not speak to them—everything from the War of 1812 to tariffs to the silver standard controversy (which, in actuality, some strangely cottoned to)—that I think, Finally, a topic they can get excited about.”

“Later, I feel that I have erred in punishing the kids rather than speaking to them openly about why they are so resistant. I have taken away the attention from their resistance to learning about civil rights and made it about some superficial classroom disturbance, which allows all of us to skirt the discomfort beneath issues of race. I hope their discomfort stays with them and chafes at them until they are ready to examine and consider it.”

“The truth is that leading a boring, uneventful life is good for kids. It gives them something to look forward to. Researchers have found that overindulgence, including providing too much entertainment and loose discipline, results in kids who lack proper boundaries and who need constant and immediate gratification. Experts believe that if kids have too many peak experiences early in life, they will have nothing to look forward to. If you’ve already met Bono and know the head of Nike and have Segwayed across Laos, what more is there for you to do? Life acquires a kind of flat quality. The result is depression, feeling that nothing else lies ahead of you. There is no hunger in your belly for anything, and you feel listless, ill at ease.”

“To their parents’ delight, a handful of little kids are very verbal and precocious. They grow up to be excellent students, and a competitive private school is okay for them in some ways. Other kids like Lily and Sophie are just rich, and their parents are aggressive and have every base covered. New York City private-school parents usually are of a certain type that passes muster with the admissions staff. They are well-dressed and present themselves well. They are consummate game players. They can be aggressive when needed, but they are also able to flatter and wheedle their way into getting what they want. They seem agreeable on the surface—some of them—but they can really dig in when snowplowing, or clearing their children’s path of obstacles, is required. They can use the euphemisms of education, including terms such as needing support, or intensive tutoring,”

“She parrots back what her teachers have said about the Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun but doesn’t have a clue what it means to live in a segregated community (though she largely does live in one). “I mean, Beneatha, like, has the dream, like, that she wants to live in a segregated community,” she tells me, speaking about one of the main characters in Hansberry’s play. “Do you mean integrated?” I ask her. “Beneatha wants to live in an integrated community and move away from a segregated community.” “Yes, integrated. I always get that confused with segregated,” she admits, looking at the texts on her phone. Anyone who lived through segregation could not forget that word, but these concepts are entirely abstract to Sophie. She does her writing and reading at several removes from the material, believing that she cannot do anything without consulting a flotilla of adults, which removes her sense of agency.”

“He can really dress Trevor down after a disappointing game. Once, after Trevor asks me to attend a game and I want to show him support, I sit in front of his dad on the sidelines, but my nerves become so jangled from his screaming at the coaches and referees and Trevor that I move to another seat. Before one tutoring session, I have to wait in Trevor’s room while I hear his father bellow at him, calling him an “embarrassment, not worthy of being on the team!” because he feels his son played badly in the game that afternoon. His father would have done well as a parent in ancient Sparta. Some kids like Trevor spend so much time playing their sport that they literally wear out their body. One student I taught irreparably injured his shoulder playing tennis before he could even get to college, thereby ending his dreams of attending college to play tennis.”

“They take risks that are not motivated by anything other than the underlying need to self-destruct. Trevor, who tells me most things that are on his mind, informs me that he is addicted to smoking pot, and through sports, he befriends older kids who can supply it to him. Soon, he is—as he puts it—helping his friends, working as the middleman in drug transactions and making extra cash that he keeps in his desk and plans to invest in marijuana stocks. He assures me that to make his drug deals he is using a text function that the police cannot trace.”

“Despite spending most of his life in the Escalade, Alex has a quick mind. He doesn’t say much, but when we speak about post–World War II suburbanization, he can write sentences like “Suburbanization accelerated after the war, moving more privileged people out of cities.” He immediately grasps the connection between the growth of highways and suburbs and white flight without my explicitly explaining it to him, and he has a clear, effortless writing style. Looking at his inscrutable face, I can’t tell how he knows so much. He is, like Owl Eyes in The Great Gatsby, a person who sees and intuits a great deal, even if he doesn’t look up from his gaming console. Every moment in Alex’s day is parsed.”

“He also has a few psychiatrists who help him manage his anxiety. The levels of anxiety among all kids has skyrocketed in recent years, the result of constant contact with others and social media on their smartphones. The rates of anxiety among rich kids rivals that of the poorest kids in the nation. They contend with very different stressors, but they face the kinds of insecurity that people find unsettling. The poor don’t know where or how they are going to live or pay for what they need, or whether they are going to be safe walking home. The rich don’t know where they stand or how they measure up, or if someone loves them for their own sake. Their stresses are very real to them, though perhaps they don’t seem pressing to others. Alex’s doctors also spend a great deal of time speaking with his parents, who are worried about his apathy, and helping him strategize about his schoolwork and about his standardized testing.”

“Alex is too anesthetized and controlled to feel anxiety. He doesn’t have a moment to breathe, and all the uncertainty of life has been removed from his path—mainly. He doesn’t have to think, and any time he can slip away from his parents and their schedules, he delves into various kinds of anesthesia—first playing video games and later smoking pot. He hasn’t thought enough about his situation to realize he is depressed. That might come later.”

“Though Alex lives in the most dynamic city in the world, his world is small, and he interacts in very limited ways with the people of New York. Rather than going out to the city, the city has, throughout his life, come to him, in the form of baby nurses, nannies, housekeepers, cleaners, tutors, chefs, coaches, trainers, and others who visit them at home. His home is his world, and the private school he attends is a home away from home, a secluded place that is similarly upscale.”

“What are the practical side effects of these types of activities? Certainly sleep deprivation. Certainly anxiety, and often depression. The anxiety and depression among New York’s elite children have a certain palpability. Experts believe that the children of the affluent suffer twice as much depression as the kids in the South Bronx or East New York who are struggling just to get to school safely and help their parents keep a roof over their heads. It doesn’t make sense, but the findings are robust. Kids like Alex, Trevor, and Lily are hothouse flowers, who are propped up by their parents and support staff but who know that they can’t measure up. Their parents drag them toward college, and then it’s anybody’s guess how they’ll handle the rest of their adult lives with the sense of not measuring.”

“Eating dinner with just one parent on most nights has been shown to have a protective effect for children, but this is not the regular practice in many affluent homes. The children of Fifth Avenue are often home alone, and the attention they receive from their parents is often about achievement rather than other parts of their lives. Luthar has found that children among both the very wealthy and the very poor are likely to admire peers who defy authority.”

“Among many affluent children, there is also a sense of entitlement so massive that it could sink the Titanic. It’s as if they fear that they don’t really measure up, and entitlement fills the crevices in their souls. There’s nothing quite like a white boy who has attended an elite New York private school and who hasn’t gotten wise to his place in the world and how it was made possible. Some of the students I taught at one Manhattan private school even believed in social Darwinism—the discredited idea that one is rich because one is better, simply stated. They defended it with all their hearts. One unabashed sophomore from Park Avenue explained it to me. “We’re here because our parents were just smarter and more athletic than other people’s parents.” I liked the addition of “more athletic” and still do, though this boy was entirely clumsy.”

“Using the template provided by the lawyer, I write a letter that includes the school she attends and the learning issues she has, as well as the number of hours I work with Sophie each week. I think of those perfectly aligned Limoges boxes in her room and the number of nights she has spent at home with only her dogs and her housekeepers. What was she actually trying to steal from that store? Was it attention and love? I wait for Sophie to bring up her arrest and subsequent community-service requirement with me, but she never does.”

“As Freud, who understood neuroses so well, might have predicted, the fear exhibited by Maria runs rampant among the New York elite, in spite of their increasing opulence. The reality of the neo-gilded age in which we live is that the top 1 percent, and especially the top .01 percent, own more than ever before. They have a near stranglehold on the nation’s goods and wealth, and their share of the wealth is only increasing, while the rest of us watch our wealth fall or stagnate. But their perception of their place in the world is very different, and they believe that if they don’t exercise constant frenetic competitiveness, they will fall. Their wealth has the ironic effect of not calming them down but making them evermore restless.”

“In the early days of Groton, the students, all boys, were permitted to take only cold showers, and they were not allowed to receive more than twenty-five cents a week in allowance, even though they were from some of the richest families in the country.”

“Freud’s concept of pathological narcissism explains some of the parents I interact with, as their sense of self-worth relies on fleeting accomplishments, including those of their children. Fretting about appearances, they seem distanced from the actual emotional life of their kids. But it’s more than that. It’s fear that runs deep in their veins. Fear of failure, fear of falling. These parents, having achieved the apogee of success and wealth, have nowhere to go but down. That makes them scared for their children and fretful.”

“Is it better to be a wealthy parent than a parent who can look forward to better things for one’s child? In that toss-up, I might choose to be the parent who knows that her child will lead a better life than she has—the nurse from Barbados whose daughter has a scholarship to college, or the bus driver from Ghana who knows that his son is going to be a computer programmer. In these cases, hope is fulfilled.”

“Sometimes, the parents whose kids I work with ask me about my own child, and they seem to dread the answer, expecting that I will have a child who is academically perfect. When I tell them that my son has autism, I sometimes recognize it provides a sense of grim relief to them. The most charitable explanation is that they understand that we are all befuddled as parents. The least charitable, schadenfreude-ridden (though understandable) answer is that they take comfort in knowing that someone else’s kid is worse off than their own. Overall, I find that the experience of being humbled as a parent is good for me. It makes me far less sure of what other parents should do except to continue to get involved with their children in loving ways.”

“When I’m standing by the sidelines at Trevor’s soccer game or listening to Sophie sing or watching Lily play squash, I think how different my own son’s childhood has been. And, yet, there is a commonality among all parents, riven with fear, wanting something better for our children and not knowing how to go about getting it.”

“Once, just once, I find her in bed, and she can’t get out when I arrive at her apartment. One of her housekeepers smiles at me, and says, “Jules has such a hard time getting up. She is a lazy girl.” I don’t think of Julia as lazy. Maybe she wants a few minutes to rest from the relentlessness of her day—the attention and energy directed at her. She is seemingly never sad. Occasionally, her energy flashes into anger, and she is quick to answer back to her parents and teachers. These moments are just interruptions, staccato blips, in the generally positive flow of her energy. She is championed as a hero at her school, where she is universally friendly, known for infectious laughter, and hardworking on the soccer field. Always talking, she is the center of her social circle. In the rare free time she has, she teaches soccer clinics to younger kids and lets them climb on her until they tip her backward, her headband yanked free. The younger kids love her, calling out to her when she passes them in the hall, and she is kind enough to go over to talk to them. She is always laughing, and she’s quick to scurry off after going over the reading or working on her papers. In all the time I know her, I never have a very honest or heartfelt conversation with Julia, or Jules as her friends and her housekeeper call her. Despite all her talk, I know very little about her—something I realize when it is too late.”

“There is also considerable loss of face for a student and their family if they have to leave a private school. It’s not like leaving a public school, in which there could be some sense of shame, but not usually a loss of status. When a child attends a private school, parents often choose to focus at least some of their social life on the other parents at the school. There is morning drop-off every day, as well as afternoon pickup, not to mention the parties that are held outside of school. It can be very good for business to get to know other parents at the school, as they are generally well-positioned and wealthy. Having your kid leave the school can mean severing this social connection, one that might have been in place for years.”

his colleagues stationed researchers at a four-way intersection in the San Francisco area and found that drivers of upper-crusty cars, identified by their age, appearance, and make, tended to cut off other cars and pedestrians more than drivers of less ritzy vehicles. In other words, the Land Rovers steamed ahead, while the Kias stopped. Now, it’s possible that some rich people, emulating Warren Buffett, drive Kias, but these findings have been replicated in other studies these researchers have conducted. For example, adult subjects who had more money were found to take more candy from a collection that they were told was going to a group of children, as opposed to subjects with less money. People from lower socioeconomic classes, in contrast, were proven more likely to be generous, motivated by a sense of compassion and egalitarian values.

“When I press the learning specialist for what she really thinks is going on, she says she’s not sure, but she thinks there is a chance that the girl is questioning her sexuality and that her propensity to choke on tests arises from a psychological fear more than a learning issue. I never find out what is really going on for this girl, or whether she gets over her tendency to panic. Her home is, perhaps, not the type that would have welcomed her experimenting with alternative sexual expressions or identities. Her parents have the airbrushed looks of pleasant Midwesterners who have moved to New York City and done very well for themselves. They are both tall, blue-eyed, and muscular, and their daughters are, too. The older daughter is a perfect student, and both girls wear outfits that involve bows in their hair and buckles on their patent shoes. The tutee’s face is cherubic and round, and she put her heart into studying, into learning Latin, into memorizing historical material. She and her sister become overexcited about packing for a vacation to Nantucket, for which they and their nanny (who often stays over to watch them when their parents are traveling for business) slip pastel gingham clothing into Vera Bradley bags.”

“the mother sends me a check for $350 many years later for no reason, and I believe that the lesson of that early pencil problem was not lost on either of us. We realize that we were both too quick to bristle and that her son was worth being really patient about. The thing about these lost papers is that they are not lost. They are more like clues that help me as a learning specialist slowly put together what is going on for each kid. Lost papers are almost always recovered in some way, later on.”

“The unexamined life means that we will continue to expect that we will be given things because we are wealthy or privileged. Everyone has the right to hope for a good life and to work hard for it, but not to expect it without hard work. When I work with the parents of Park Avenue, I find that they expect their children to get things without necessarily working or that they expect that because their kids work hard, they will automatically be given things. I speak to one mother whose daughter has been thrown into a deep depression after college admissions were sent out. This girl is quite wonderful—a feminist, one who cares about things and who is very gifted at science. She is upset because she got into Johns Hopkins but was hoping for something more. “She worked so hard, that’s the thing,” her mother explains. Let’s set aside the idea that Johns Hopkins is an amazing university. Her mother’s expectations, and those of the student, are that hard work means that one will always get what one wants. If only that were true, but it’s become something that many of the parents I work with have expressed along the lines of the following comments: “He works so hard at writing, and he received a B−.” “I don’t think you understand how hard she works.”

“Every once in a while, I see them in Csikszentmihalyi’s state of flow, so at one with an activity that time passes unnoticed. It’s the opposite of the way many students I work with live most of their lives, pushed from one thing to another, avoiding, evading, and stomachaching their way through tasks. I often wonder how they look when they’re on the squash court or soccer field, because their participation in the rest of life can only be described as halting, half-hearted, and erratic. They participate in travel teams but often only crack a smile when practice is canceled or when they talk their parents out of making them go. “I am not going to squash today!” Lily cries with glee on a hectic Monday. “That way, I can get to bed before eleven.”

“Among the kids I tutor, Warren, son of the multigenerationally rich, seems to have the best sense of how to shape his free time. He is able to practice instruments and play music many days a week, and he decides to learn foreign languages just for fun. I often find his parents with an open copy of the New Yorker, and they continue to ask him about his writing. He rarely looks tired and stressed, and he often sings under his breath as he opens the door to me for our tutoring sessions. I love stepping into his house for an hour. He offers to make me tea, and he is so thoughtful about what he writes. Over the course of our work together, he develops strategies that help him emerge as a very gifted writer. He has the stuff—deep attention to detail, a knack for a pithy, witty phrase, the capacity for analysis—that makes his writing not just clear but beautiful. And best of all, it is not torture to him. He loves reading and writing and thinking, and he takes the time to do so.”

“The New College Try Most of the world has now heard of the college-admission scandal that sent wealthy parents to jail for hiring people to take tests for their children, bribing college athletic coaches, and faking their children’s sports participation. While these shenanigans were extreme, they exposed both the desperation that many privileged parents feel when their children apply to college and the consultancies that will help them along the way. After all, the college-admissions process is the drawn-out Super Bowl of high-stakes parenting. There is winning and losing and nothing in between. Remember Deflategate? When the Patriots allegedly deflated the balls of the opponent for an advantage? (This is still hotly debated in Boston.) Well, Park Avenue parents make attempts to deflate balls, so to speak, when it comes to getting their kids into college. There is endless strategy and conniving. And the outcome—which college a kid gets into—is a referendum on the entire season, meaning their entire upbringing.”

“Aguinis’s study is a thorough mathematical debunking of the myth of the validity of standardized testing that I long ago stopped believing in. I have tutored kids who’ve gotten perfect or nearly perfect SAT or ACT scores who have actually failed out of college. One student in particular was a very sweet boy who aced the SAT math section without really trying. His speed at solving math problems was enviable and something I could never hope to emulate. He understood them intuitively, while I plodded through algebraic formulas that I’d learned in tenth grade. I was working with this student on his executive-function skills—the ability to plan, organize, and manage his time, among other skills—while he took a break from college, and he admitted that his math skills had done him no good. “I mostly used them for online gambling,” he cheerfully admitted. He had a lovable sense of his own failings, and he ultimately decided to spend some time at a community college improving his study skills before deciding what to do next.”

“to 36, and more competitive schools require scores well into the 30s), which will give her a definite edge, along with her classes at Columbia (though she had long forgotten Kievan Rus) and the internship she completed, through her mother’s connections, at a Madison Avenue art gallery. She can play the game, and she keeps working, mastering the tricks that I’ve given her for the English section and a smart Columbia grad has given her in math, and she earns a composite of 31. That score and the straight As she has bullied her teachers into giving her are good enough to get her into a Seven Sisters school, one of the prestigious East Coast women’s colleges, where I think she will thrive. Sophie is very much like Cher in the movie Clueless. She doesn’t really understand the larger picture of what she’s doing, but she will do it until her teacher relents and gives her a high grade just to stop Sophie’s complaining. She is all set to do very well in life.”

“This student rotated a collection of Rolexes on his wrists. Some were vintage, some were new, all were ultracostly. He looked like the kind of kid who would be arrogant, unbearable, and cocky, but he was, in actuality, humble, sweet, and kind. In part, his learning issues had humbled him. In a family filled with superachievers, he struggled academically. In his essay, he spoke about a physical collision between his research index cards and his teacher—actual physical contact—that resulted in his realization that he needed help.”

“He was thankful to his teachers for bringing him along, and this humility was reflected in his essay. He wasn’t afraid to write about how often he had failed, what he had learned, and his continued need for support. It seemed like a counterintuitive essay—it wasn’t the typical admission of a small fault only to reveal a larger strength. The essay brought out his continual struggles, his lack of confidence at times, and his need to connect with his teachers and professors to feel more confident and do well. But it was exactly the kind of essay that admissions officers like because it had texture, realness to it. No one was writing this essay to please or impress others. Khalil knew himself as a student, and the admissions committees were impressed by his maturity.”

“Warren, the boy with the potter father and banker mother and generations of Harvardians, also writes an essay that is almost beautiful on its first pass. Warren is one of the rare kids who seems genuinely happy, in part because he enjoys the life of the mind and the world of music. He reads so much on his own, starting with myths when he was younger, that a book in his hands takes flight in his imagination. He has the internal cues, the words committed to memory, to make new readings resonate with him. He can pass them along through his memory and bounce them off the thousands of other readings in his brain. His punctuation and grammar are at first errant, but after two years of working with him on structuring his writing, I can confidently tell his parents that he no longer needs me. His college essay, which he asks me to look over, is, after just a few drafts, close to perfect. He writes about how much reading dystopian stories have meant to him, how they provided an escape to him as the youngest child in a family of strivers.”

“Many of these tutors are lovely people. What they are not is therapists. They don’t always understand the way in which they are making their students go slowly insane. They are also academically gifted but not necessarily people who love to teach, and they don’t tend to understand kids who learn differently than they do. Their methods, as far as I can tell, are to subject the kids to endless memorization, assign a lot of homework, and have the kids take full-length practice tests each weekend. They resemble nothing so much as drill sergeants.”

“Lily is relieved, and it’s easy to see that she can benefit from these accommodations. She is anxious and works slowly but methodically. But her situation raises larger issues of equity. If students can afford these expensive types of in-depth evaluations, they are more likely to receive accommodations, as evaluators know how to write their reports so that they will pass muster with the College Board and ACT (though in recent years, the College Board generally allows any student who has received extra-time accommodations at their schools for a certain number of months to receive these same accommodations on their tests). Parents like Lisa have endless resources to make sure their children receive accommodations. Lisa has two assistants at her bank, and one of them works assiduously on this project as if it is as important as putting together one of Lisa’s megadeals.”

“Lisa also has the womanpower of two assistants to help with Lily’s request to the ACT, and the college-counseling and learning-specialist staff at Lily’s school help her at each step of the way. In many public schools, there is simply no one to submit requests to the College Board or ACT, or, if there is, they are too overwhelmed with work to submit these requests. In contrast, the staff at Lily’s school works over the summer to submit requests, and they still scramble on the day before the deadline to submit all the needed documentation to the ACT. One of the learning specialists at Lily’s school even pulled her car over on an upstate New York thruway and used the internet services at a local diner to make sure that Lily’s papers were submitted on time. This is the kind of service that parents at private schools often receive. A poor student at a public school would likely not be evaluated or, even if they were, there would not be staff to submit their request for accommodations to the College Board or ACT. There certainly wouldn’t be the kind of staff that submitted these requests multiple times, as Lily’s school did. Single parents, parents with two or more jobs, parents without assistants could not have waged this fight.”

“I then hear through the SAT tutor working with Trevor that he was accepted into the same Ivy League school his father attended. “The Earl of Grantham just made a beeline to the development office,” the tutor tells me. “He kept writing checks, and the development office kept looking at them and saying ‘Bigger, more zeros.’ Finally, they got to a place where they could all be happy, and Trevor was in.” I am at first outraged by this. But then, I figure, it does only one person harm—Trevor. In fact, the earl’s check will likely pay for several scholarships for needy students. The earl has only hurt his son by telling him that he can’t achieve anything unless it’s paid for. Trevor doesn’t have good grades or scores, but I know that he has dreams of doing something different from his father. He once told me that he learned everything from his father. Before I can figure out how to respond, he explains, “I just do the opposite.” Though Trevor’s parents expect him to follow the family path into banking or real estate, he has different plans. He tells me that he would like to marry early, which is interesting. After a string of girlfriends, he has settled into a cozy, supportive relationship with a student at an Upper East Side girls’ school who reminds me of the Duchess of Cambridge, minus the tiara. He is very affectionate toward her, and I think he hopes to be a more loving father and spouse than the Earl of Grantham has been. He also wants to go out west, he says, and spend a few years “just hiking around and maybe doing some fly-fishing.” He has a large marlin that his grandfather caught mounted on his wall, and this inspires him.”

“However, the students are more openly critical of the college admissions of the students of color who attend their schools through programs such as Prep for Prep. These programs have helped students of color attend private day and boarding schools for decades, and they have provided a way in which students without privileges in New York City can get access to a top-flight education. They have to be selected into these programs based on testing and teacher recommendations, and the students I teach (and tutor pro bono) from these programs are incredibly bright. They also offer a different perspective than that of most of the kids, as their parents tend to work as nurses, public-school teachers, and New York City bus drivers. Many of the students are African American or Latinx or come from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and their parents sometimes don’t speak English. Working with these parents tends to be very different from working with the Fifth Avenue parents, as they don’t necessarily feel that they belong at the school and are wary of making waves. Luke, one of the students I work with”

“Where students go to school is more than just a summation of their grades and scores. For many parents, it seems to be a referendum on their parenting. It is only natural for parents to want their kids to get into a good school, but this goes beyond any sense of helping their children receive a good education. They want control over a process that is not entirely within their control.”

“In an era without God, college admission conveys sanctification on believers. The religion in these circles is achievement, and acceptance to a prestigious college means one is favored by the heavens. It’s not entirely clear why getting into a specific school is so important, as attending Yale really achieves the same results as attending, say, Middlebury. But there is some belief that attending a school like Yale will give students the surefire route to future wealth and perhaps happiness, which flies entirely in the face of reason. In this religion, names and brands are like holy words. The parents must also justify the exorbitant sums they had spent on private-school tuition, sports training, travel teams, tutoring, test prep, and other expenses.”

“In reality, Alex does not need any kind of help. In some strange way, he is a genius. He is befuddled, without friends, and becomes addicted to smoking pot. Ironically, it isn’t another student but one of his tennis coaches that introduces it to him—while his parents think Alex’s time training is entirely on the up-and-up, it isn’t. He quickly becomes addicted and steals from his parents’ petty-cash pile to pay for it. His parents often keep several thousands of dollars in cash stashed in their desk, so this proves easy for him. In spite of it all, he gets into an Ivy League school, early decision. His tennis has helped, but he has almost-perfect scores on the ACT and straight As. He is effortlessly Ivy League material. No money exchanged hands to get him in, though it’s clear that his parents are in a good position to give money to the school down the road.”

It’s pointless to try to direct Lily back to the novel. She cannot feel the travails of Anna Karenina, rejected by her lover, without her child, and tossed out from society. Like any teen, she is concentrated on her own inner turmoil, and as she reads about Anna’s death, she registers no emotion. Though she could easily relate to the devils in Paradise Lost, she is now beyond the reaches of literature, caught in the recesses of her own mind. She is thinking about how she will be able to get through the next several days, with her classmates brandishing their acceptance letters and their college sweatshirts.

“This type of exchange has the potential to benefit kids on both ends of the socioeconomic ladder, and it is these types of kids who make up a lot of New York’s population. The middle class has been squeezed out, and those who remain tend to be from the very poor and the very rich. The kids in these groups have more in common than it may at first appear. They often struggle with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, acts of criminality, and missing parents. Of course, the rich also have resources to protect their children when they get in trouble, unlike the poor. Both groups need adults around them who value them for themselves and who take the time to know their individual wants and needs.”

“For many parents, the link between mental health and life success is not at first easy to grasp, but mental-health problems can prevent even the brightest young adult from reaching their potential. Time spent on the therapist’s couch might turn out to be far more critical for young people than time spent studying for the SAT or on the tennis court.”

“We spend weeks going through each stage of writing a research paper for the class he is taking at NYU. He still needs help crafting each paragraph, and I ask him how he made it through so many years of school without learning to write. “There were always tutors,” he says. “And my school allowed me to hand in papers late. It was kind of like ‘three strikes and you’re still not out’.” He feels as though this policy did not help him. “They should have been harder on me,” he says in retrospect. I put together the pieces and realize that he must have had tutors write his papers for years—or at least heavily edit them—without teaching him how to write on his own. He returns to college and has tutoring (not from me) to get through his coursework. His therapist, with his parents’ permission, tells me that he continues to struggle with depression and with wanting a romantic relationship that he can’t seem to manage.”

“For years, poverty, discrimination, and trauma have been known risk factors for adolescent mental health. For the first time in 2018, another factor joined the list of major risk factors for kids’ emotional well-being: high-achieving schools. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation added exposure to pressure to succeed as one of the main risk factors for kids. Children raised in high-pressure schools run the risk of psychological disorders and substance abuse, even if they aren’t from high-income families. These rates can top those in low-income communities. This means that the kids of the 1 percent are subject to risks even in the context of what looks like benign, supportive environments. A risk factor does not mean that these types of high-pressure environments (which can include public schools like Stuyvesant) cause mental illness or that they aren’t fulfilling places for some kids. It does mean that we have to step back and think about the pressures kids in these schools are exposed to and whether all these pressures are healthy and necessary.”

“For years, poverty, discrimination, and trauma have been known risk factors for adolescent mental health. For the first time in 2018, another factor joined the list of major risk factors for kids’ emotional well-being: high-achieving schools. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation added exposure to pressure to succeed as one of the main risk factors for kids. Children raised in high-pressure schools run the risk of psychological disorders and substance abuse, even if they aren’t from high-income families. These rates can top those in low-income communities. This means that the kids of the 1 percent are subject to risks even in the context of what looks like benign, supportive environments. A risk factor does not mean that these types of high-pressure environments (which can include public schools like Stuyvesant) cause mental illness or that they aren’t fulfilling places for some kids. It does mean that we have to step back and think about the pressures kids in these schools are exposed to and whether all these pressures are healthy and necessary.”

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davidsonhang View All →

Purpose: I create an empowering context for curious and hungry people looking for fulfillment, experiences, and creativity. We do this by developing their growth mindset, introducing self-love, and powerful group experiences. It results in people with strong boundaries, resilient mental health, and practical life skills

People leave with the ability to land their dream job, have autonomy and flexibility with their lifestyle, travel the world, and create from their heart and soul.


Davidson was once broke, insecure, low-confidence, and frustrated by doing all the wrong activities. Addicted to drugs, validation, and wallowing in self-pity. No relationship to family, and at the mercy of other people’s suggestions and opinions.

It was hell.

After spending $100k hiring different coaches, traveling the world doing workshops around the world, reading>1000 books, and through curiosity, have created the most effective system to remove people from that situation. My life’s work is to bring joy and abundance to people who as on a similar path as I was and bring back the joy and abundance of their life.

Through shared experiences and storytelling, I inspire and model behaviors that lead to a richer, more fulfilled life full of joy, experiences, passion, and ecstasy from the richness of relationships and being able to experience the depths of the human experience.

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