The Tech Backlash

Tech stocks are going down the tubes. Sheryl Sandberg is suddenly a bad guy. There are never ending stories about how bad iPhones are for kids, and how the tech CEOs won’t let their own kids have access to the Internet.

Has Tech jumped the shark?

A couple of weekends, Steve, Ian, and I went down to DC for a quick getaway. Schools in New Jersey were closed, but not the workplaces. So, Steve and I were glued to our phones as we were walking through museums and sitting in restaurants. We knew it was evil, but we couldn’t help it. Steve, who now a director at his bank, had to help put out fires in the office, remotely moving files and soothing stressed out traders. I was getting anxious looking at the stories coming out that I should have written.

Ian was probably better behaved with his phone than we were. which is rather sad. He’s addicted to those stupid “daily rewards” on his video games. He has to check into 18 video games every day or else his characters die or something. It’s the worst possible scenario for a kid with mild OCD and anxiety. He has the situation at a manageable level right now — meaning that it does it so quickly that it doesn’t use up a lot of time or interfere with real life — but it’s really insane.

We all know this situation is stupid, but are we stopping? Are we slowing down? Do we have our addictions at manageable levels? What do you think?


Inspired by Ocasio

I was prepared to be underwhelmed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I’m so jaded by all the young, beautiful people on the news that I thought she was one more wrinkle-free person with a teleprompter. But now that we’ve gotten past the election, she’s going strong without makeup and without a typed script.

I like her.

I’m following her on Instagram. Her latest “live story” about how WOC of color have to fight imposter syndrome and not feel like they have to be perfect all the time hit home for me, even though I am not a WOC.

I am not a WOC, but I am a Woman With a Disabled Kid (WWDK) who works from home in a basement office and sometimes makes only about $300 per article. (Sometimes $1,200 per article.) I have to constantly work to keep the school district from locking my kid up in a windowless basement classroom along with the other disabled kids. The other PTA moms sometimes get up in their meetings and announce “how do we keep the special ed families from moving to our town and using up all the school’s money.” (Honestly. No joking.) So sometimes, I’m not feeling my most confident, professional self, and I need to go get a manicure and watch videos like Ocasio’s where she talks policy, while cooking dinner. Because that’s me. I have to make dinner every night.

It is so damn refreshing to see someone combine professionalism with real life. I’ve got a load of whites in the dryer right now. I just changed the sheets on our beds. In a minute, Ian and I will go upstairs, and I’ll make burgers and sweet potatoes and help him with his English homework. I need to finish it all by 7:30, so I can run off to the school board meeting because I want to see a presentation on social emotional learning. Work and life are one big messy mix for me.

If we now are allowed to own housework and homework and work-work, I’m very happy.

SL 740

Fun stuff Friday…

Is this the best commercial ever?

Who hates Jonathan Franzen?

Look at Ted Danson doing the Fortnight dance!

$90M for a David Hockney painting. Whew!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is hitting the ground running. That’s awesome.

Working Class Jobs

I’ve been doing research on technical schools and training programs for the past month. As an education writer, I’ve never tackled a topic with such a steep learning curve. Every time that I think I have a handle on the topic, a firm conclusion, an angle, I talk with someone else and learn something new.

Every other topic that I’ve covered, I had some direct experience as a starting point. I’ve been involved in education in one way or another for thirty years. I’ve been a special ed teacher, a grad student, an education policy researcher, a professor, a parent, and an education writer. But the world of the trades is something totally new. Call it a bubble if you like, but I just haven’t had much direct contact with the blue collar world.

One question I keep asking is whether or not these jobs that don’t require a college degree can lead to a middle class lifestyle, especially in higher income areas in the Northeast. On paper, it looks like the answer is no. But people are telling me “yes”. Those salary charts don’t tell the whole picture. People double up on jobs.

A kid in New York City can get a job in the police force out of high school. If the kid gets some college credits at the local community college, the starting salary is $42,500. The average salary is around $70. I’m not sure if that includes overtime. After twenty years, cops can retire, collect a full pension, and then get a job as a firefighter in New York City. They can double their salaries in their forties.

A high school guidance counselor told me stories about electricians who work for the school district. They work until 3:00 for the school, and then work independently in their community and collect another salary off the books. He sends his own kid to a technical high school, because he’s sure that his kid will be employable when he’s done with his education.

The weird thing as I’m talking to people about the trade job market, they start whispering. Like they don’t want to tell others about how it’s really done. They don’t want the college kids to find out how it works, because they’re worried that they’ll start poaching their jobs.

Another thing that I keep hearing is that a great number of the kids who are funneled into the trade schools are students with some issues, like learning disabilities, family problems, or come out of bad urban schools. They stumble with work and with these trade schools, because they can’t manage to wake up in time, can’t remember where they are supposed to be, can’t fill out applications for school or jobs. But those without those issues, or are able to overcome them, have tons of opportunities.

Anyway, that’s just some of the gossip that I’ve gotten in the past few weeks. It’s all anecdotal stories at this point. I’m trying to piece it all together into a big picture. It’s going to take a while.



Higher Ed Fraud or Caveat Emptor

For-profit colleges did not get much love during the Obama administration. Students who took out huge loans to attend schools like Corinthian College or Minnesota School of Business had their loans forgiven. Under the watch of Betsy DeVos, the department of education has been much less forgiving.

The NYT quotes one woman who took out huge loans to go to an art school.

“It’s just dream-crushing,” said Meaghan Bauer, who owes $45,000 for her time at the New England Institute of Art. The for-profit school, in Brookline, Mass., closed last year and was sued on fraud charges by the state attorney general in July.

This woman took out huge loans to go to an arts school and is shocked because she doesn’t have a job. Really?

Are students who get MFAs at schools like NYU or Rutgers and don’t find work, entitled to loan forgiveness, too? Why are there different rules for for-profit colleges and non-profit, but still cost a lot of money colleges?

How about all those PhDs who don’t have jobs? Can they sue, too?

I cool with that, as long as everyone benefits.

Hidden Warriors

We drove down to DC on Thursday with a short stop to visit the college boy along the way there. Ian had a couple of days off from school, so we took the spontaneous trip to visit friends and museums and to get away from the routines.

Thursday night, I took an Uber to Sue’s house. Sue and I have been friends since middle school. In high school, our group used to sneak into dance clubs in the city. In college, I visited her at Harvard and was awed by the groups of guys in tuxes. She took me to the rooms of the Harvard Lampoon where she did many of the cartoons on the cover of the magazine. One summer break, she and our friend, Sandra, and I roamed around Europe for six weeks. We go back a long way.

Five years ago, her oldest son, who was a Freshman at Harvard at the time, got sick. He had a one-celled tumor in his brain, and his confused immune system managed to wipe out most of his brain. Most people die of this rare disease, but the boy was a six-foot two athlete and survived. But he “lives” in a near coma at home surround by shelves of medical equipment and adult diapers and old photographs of himself as the national merit scholar and class president and crew champion. Sue and 24/7 nurses keep him alive.

Sue and I went out to dinner at a restaurant down the block. It’s hard for her to go anywhere further from the house, because the nurses often screw things up. While eating our beet salads, she relayed stories of burst diapers and faulty feeding tubes and germs around the breathing tube.

DC is an Uber City. It was easier and cheaper for us to order a car as we met up with various friends and museums than use the Metro or use our car. Each uber driver had his or her own story.

There was one woman who told me about raising her two daughter on her own after the divorce. Her dad had to wait on line for three hours to vote in Maryland. Her last boyfriend used to cook all sorts of Southern black food, which was delicious, but he left her 45 pounds heavier.

A guy from Bangladesh had earned enough money to bring his wife here, but she was sad and lonely at first. She’s working in Target now, and will soon have enough money to go to school. To pay her back for her sacrifices, he treats her with short trips to Orlando. She wants to go to Montreal next, but they’re going to wait until the weather gets better.

We met up with one of Steve’s friends who was in town visiting his brother and his sister in law, who wasn’t responding well to chemo. And a blogging friend listened to my stories and offered much needed advice. (thank you)

Everybody was just getting through the day, trying to care for the people around them, and being decent to the hyper-chatty, aging redhead. Honestly, I was humbled by the generosity around me.

With all the ugliness in the news, it’s good to be reminded that most people are just fine.

Last Night’s Election Results

The Democrats took the House, so why does my twitter, facebooks, and text messages from friends feel like a funeral?

Because there were still a lot of people that voted for Republicans, and some key races were lost. Because Trump is tweeting out triumphant tweets. Trump, the master of the brand, is framing the election as a failure.

But it was a victory and with a Democratic house, there will be a brake on policies that don’t make me happy. Let’s give everyone a chance to recover and get some sleep, and then keep up the good work.

Open thread. Talk away.