Adam Smith discussed many things in The Wealth of Nations, not just economics. One interesting topic revolves around a father sending his son abroad for schooling. Smith frowned upon the idea, stating that it often produced a horrible result:

“He [the son] returns home more conceited, more dissipated, more unprincipled, and more incapable of any serious application….”

“By sending his son abroad, a father delivers himself…a son unemployed, neglected, and going to ruin before his eyes.”

Smith hits on an important point—adolescents are sometimes worse off when they leave home for college. As he points out they are more “conceited” and prone to “ruin.”

I’d say that Smith is generally right. In the United States, we do not send our children “abroad,” per se. However, the United States is large enough that adolescents can travel far away when going to college: from California to Wisconsin, from Florida to New York, etc. In these college years, adolescents can fall under the sway of different individuals: they can engage in drug use, premarital sex, etc. They can ruin themselves for life.

Would you send your daughter to a “party school”? Would you send your soon to a college that you knew was ripe with leftist indoctrination?

Parents should think twice…and tread carefully. Sending your child away for college is not an automatic recipe for success.

12 thoughts on “Adam Smith: On Sending Your Adolescent Abroad

  1. Thank goodness we live in a small country! But it isn’t the distance between home and college that is a determinant (I know that’s not what you said), it’s the distance or gap between the values and ethics of the home environment and those of the college environment.

  2. i believe parenting is done best when each child is considered individually, so there would be a few students who could handle a ‘party’ school … but even the most conservative schools have party groups. if a young person is inclined to go that way, they’ll find it. i went to a ‘christian’ college, and you could find everything there that you could find anywhere else.

    we want to be able to protect our kids from everything out there.

    when i’d hear parents say things like, “MY child is NOT going to _____,” i wondered how they could state something so conclusively. we’re not with our kids 24/7. instead of telling my kids they’re not going to do xyz, i taught them that they get to choose whether or not they do xyz. i told them that i won’t be there when the opportunities arise, and they will be forced to make those choices for themselves. then i outlined in detail what it would look like to make such choices – both while making them and after and once i found out. but i’ve never told them they can’t do it.

    so what you’ll hear my kids say goes something like, “I like living in your house, Mom, so I’m not going to do xyz!” or … “I like _____, so I’m not going to do ____, ” … or, “I like/want ____, so I’m going to _____.”

    we’ve talked a lot about setting themselves up to make the choices they want to make … things like the friends they hang out with, what they read and watch – what they put into their minds, situations to encourage or avoid, etc. i want them to think through things rather than react. all this is much easier with my oldest who easily follows her own path. my youngest is very peer-impressionable and has a very difficult time saying ‘no’ to others. helping them to realistically see themselves for who they are and teaching them within their individual personalities is important. and … letting them fail, especially while young when the consequences are not life-changing. it’s easier to fail under the protection of your parents than out on your own, even though it’s hard to watch and experience along with them as a parent.

    – – –

    the other side of that ‘sending them away’ is who is paying for it? are parents paying to send their kids to schools that will strive to influence them in ways that oppose your values and beliefs? that’s unwise.

    my girls are welcome and encouraged to go to college, but i am not paying for it, and they are not allowed to take out school loans. of course, after 18 they can sign for themselves, but i’ve so ingrained into them what that little signature will cost them that they both run away from them as a poisonous snake. so my girls will work and pay their own way through college and apply for scholarships. they won’t have much free time to mess around … and they’ll have to weigh their choices as they’ll be paying their own way.

    1. Good points about conservative school, Ame. I went to a high end high school and drug use was rampant (we could afford the best stuff, I guess).

      It sounds like you are preparing for this topic soon…I like your take! And I agree…different children have different realities – some might be more impressionable than others. daughters. My daughter is quite young (only two) so I have some time in that regard.

      1. “I went to a high end high school and drug use was rampant (we could afford the best stuff, I guess).”

        i had a friend years ago whose husband did well, and they moved into a very exclusive neighborhood. she said that she knew there were drugs there, too … she called them ‘designer drugs.’

        instead of leaving a comment here, i wrote a post and linked to here. feel free to ask any questions you’d like. i’m not an expert by any means, but i’m glad to share what i know.

  3. For us it was a simple matter of practicality, economics, and common sense. The combination of those three things meant that our older girls went to college while living at home.

    The truth is that unless you’re independently wealthy and can afford to pay for it,your kid gets a full ride, or is so brilliant in a particular discipline that it would be foolish not to make the investment, shipping a young person off to college is a pretty silly thing to do in 2017, for reasons beyond moral and behavioral restraints.

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