Verity Johnson is a writer, speaker, Weetbix addict, Leo, and part time hypochondriac.

Verity Johnson: How to buy your kids' success

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Famous people are getting younger. In fact, there are so many famous teenagers now that the rule seems to be that in order to be successful, you have to have only recently graduated to solid foods.

Our latest wunder-kid is Jamie Beaton, who emerged in the public consciousness a few weeks ago as the founder of Crimson Consulting. He's also known as that 20-year-old with floppy hair who's worth $40 million.

The first thing we do when we find a new wonder child (Beaton, Lorde, Lydia Ko) is to sink into a muddy internal bath of self-reflection. We ask ourselves why we aren't worth $40 million, why we are still incapable of matching our underwear and where is that $2 coin that we were specifically keeping at the bottom of our backpack for an emergency peanut slab?

The second thing to do is bitch about them. (Adulthood is not finding your first grey hair or starting to stockpile chickpeas. It's the day when you look at someone younger than you realise that you hate them. Just a little bit.)

The third thing you do is eat a peanut slab and get over it.

But the most striking thing overall, was not any reflections I had on Beaton himself. Of course I, like all in my office, passed through the normal stages ("oh God, I've done nothing and he's so successful...but actually he's probably really boring ... ooh, peanuts!") I was more struck by what Crimson Consulting does.

Broadly, they offer educational coaching to get bright young things into Ivy League universities. It's at a price - after all, it started life targeting students from Beaton's old school, King's College. So it looks like it's largely aimed at private school parents. (The FAQ section of its website says it offers "a full suite of members who work with students from underprivileged backgrounds". But this still ain't no charity, sister.)

Morality aside, you can't deny that it's an excellent business idea. Find lots of rich, pushy parents who are determined to get their darlings into Harvard. Get them to pay. Sorted. We've seen it before with Kumon - many companies have capitalised on the middle class assumption that you can buy your child's success.

Lydia Ko.
Lydia Ko.

And to an extent they're right. Research published in a 2010 report in the UK's Review of Economics and Statistics found that parents from affluent backgrounds exert more effort towards their child's education and this positively influences their children's achievement. Parental affluence also increases the school's effort and performance - possibly because schools respond to vocal parents. So, while you still can't buy your child's intelligence, rich parents have worked out that if have enough time and money, you can polish them up good enough.

That's why Beaton's worth $40 million. Crimson Consulting will be massively popular among middle class parents trying everything to secure their child's future.

And you should never underestimate how far they will go. As a teenager, I transferred from a state school in England to a private school in New Zealand. The biggest difference I noticed was the parents. Private school parents executed Operation Improve Child with such bureaucratic rigour and tenacity it was as though Genghis Khan had joined the civil service. Kumon, singing classes, Japanese tutoring, pottery school, snowboarding lessons ... It's relentless.

Crimson Consulting is yet another channel for this force of middle class endeavour. And it will probably help a lot of bright kids get into Harvard. But it also an example of why we have such a massive problem with education in New Zealand.

This is the kind of quality that rich parents can afford for their children.

It's a world apart from what you can afford if your parents both work around-the-clock, minimum wage jobs. And, as associate professor at Massey University's School of Educational Studies John Clark said, poverty is a major contributor, if not the leading one, in a complex empirical explanation of inequality of school achievement.

Or as I once heard a deputy head say, "In Dunedin, the kids who fail are white. Here, the kids who fail are brown." It's money, not race, that makes the difference.

We love to say that success is just a product of hard work. It's not. It's hard work in combination with parents who support you with time, money and morale. So success comes much easier to those whose parents have the time and money to fund it. I don't blame them for doing it, they want to help their kids, but what does that mean about our reputation for fairness?

With our rising inequality, we'll see more companies like Crimson Consulting that savvily capitalise on the growing rich. And one day, we'll realise that we can't keep telling ourselves we live in an egalitarian society. One day, we'll see ourselves and our new New Zealand.

- Canvas

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Verity Johnson is a writer, speaker, Weetbix addict, Leo, and part time hypochondriac.

Verity Johnson is a writer, speaker, Weetbix addict, Leo, and part time hypochondriac. When she's not Googling diseases she's performing comedy, writing bad jokes and nursing a failed career as an RnB singer. You can find her at verityjohnson.com or bulk buying cereal in Pak n Save.

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