Sykes has a clear agenda: he believes that the American education system and parents are letting children down because they are not preparing them for the realities of adult life. He hopes the book will be "an antidote to our culture of complacency and indulgence" (p.4).
He is highly critical of the "bubble-wrapped" culture disseminated by the "nanny class" that has not prepared young people for the realities that face them beyond home and school. He has no time for an educational philosophy where everyone is a winner and that nothing is permitted that might endanger a pupil's self esteem.
So we get a world of meaningless gold stars, "participation" trophies, inflated grades, and happy faces on work that might otherwise be recognised as schlock. But (the philosophy goes) if we don't ask too much, or set expectations too high, no one will feel bad about himself. Instead of preparing children for the challenges, setbacks, defeats, frustrations, and triumphs for life, we bubble-wrap them. (p.15-16)He is concerned about falling standards in basic life skills such as literacy and numeracy, furthermore,
Evidence continues to mount that the bubble-wrapped generation is also finding itself badly handicapped in dealing with other major challenges of life, from relationships and personal responsibility to distinguishing right from wrong without a reliable moral compass. p.6-7His intention is clear:
I want to help to prepare young people to be responsible, competent , confident, self-reliant, independent, realistic individuals who are armed with inner resources and the habits of mind to resist the blather and blandishments of the world they are about to enter.The book is "very American" - and I am not sure that we experience the extreme examples which he uses in the book [$150,000 Sweet Sixteen parties] - but the book serves as a warning of a possible direction of travel. Sykes is passionate and, at times, his style is far too preachy and is in danger of tarring all young people and all parents with the same brush. He seems to be unaware that there are some pretty amazing young people out there who do get off their backsides and achieve something meaningful.
Overall, once you have translated from the American, there is a lot of good sensible advice both to young people and parents in this book, indeed it has a refreshing reality about it.
The Amazon website helpfully supplies the contents page, free online, so if you want to spare yourself the time, energy and expense of purchasing the book, and get the guts of Sykes' message without the [at times tedious] anecdotes then click here.
See Charles Sykes' website www.the50rules.com