The Student News Site of Taipei American School




The Dangers Of Asking the Question: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?


From the moment a child begins to speak, adults start to marvel at their innocence and honesty. They start to ask kids harmless and seemingly “fun” questions, such as “Who is your favorite Disney princess?,” “Do you like peanut butter or jelly?” or “What is your favorite animal?”. But one question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, has always seemed alarming to me. This question prevents children from exploring their true passions. More specifically, this question confines them to pick the first profession that pops into their minds in order to satisfy the curiosity of adults.
The first time I was asked this question was probably when I was around six. I just started preschool, and all I could think of was what kind of chocolate bar I wanted to bring to school, or if my sparkly gemstone jacket was trendy enough to show off to my friends. I was completely oblivious to what I wanted to do in the future. 
Looking back now, I had no idea what was going on in school half the time, much less what I wanted to do in the future. I was the kid who was repeatedly asked to participate more in class. Teachers often said I was a shy girl who needed to gain more confidence in myself since I had no idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. While transitioning from preschool into local elementary school, I noticed one key element that all my friends shared that I did not–they all knew what they wanted to be when they grew up
The pressures of growing up, coupled with the pressures of this question brought more stress into my everyday life. As much as I wanted to learn new things and new materials, my education had always been fixed upon the same schedule every year. There has never been a class or a genuine, down to earth talk with my teachers to discuss new opportunities for the future in order to find our individual potentials. It was even harder to take electives I was genuinely interested in, due to the credits I had to fulfill before pursuing other classes. 
I know I am not the only one suffering from the severe pressures of growing up and finding a future occupation. I can say with confidence that almost all kids have been asked this same relentless question. Whether it was during preschool, or recently over Thanksgiving dinner,  we have all suffered and gone through the long useless lectures of figuring out our destinies before truly understanding our own passions. 
If adults just slow down a little, and allow kids to explore the fascinating world around them, maybe they could find their true passions and stick to it when they grow older. If the same attitude can be carried out in the school environment, then it would be reasonable for schools to get rid of required classes in order for students to explore their true passions. 
Former New York Times columnist, Judith Warner, once said “Give your kids time to dream.” It is sometimes better to not restrict a kid’s childhood by forcing them to quickly figure out their future, we should be given time to explore all of our interests before committing to a particular area of interest. 

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