More On Our Flagship College

The boys had spring break last week. Steve took the week off, too. With three extra people knocking around the house, there was no need to even pretend that I would get work done. Even if I wanted to work, it’s impossible to have that tomb-like quiet I need to concentrate. So, we did lots of stuff instead.

First up was Jonah’s Accepted Student Day at our flagship state college. Jonah had been “meh” about attending this school. When we went for the tour last fall, it looked shabby. An old dean showed us power point slides about the school and got into the weeds about class requirements. She was wearing a sun dress with her bra straps showing. The other colleges gave us tours of the grassy campuses led by perky, preppy tour guides who made lame jokes about walking backwards. Jonah really dug those perky kids and their lame jokes.

But we made a chart of his eleven colleges and ordered it by rankings. We had a column for total cost of attendance and another column for merit aid. The chart was adhered to the fridge with a big magnet. When we were all done filling in the info, the choice was a no-brainer.

As he got used to the idea and talked to more people about the school, he started feeling better. The word about the school is that everybody gets jobs as soon as they graduate. And over and over we kept hearing, “Internships! The school has a ton of internships!”

That weekend, we sent Ian away to a sleepaway weekend camp for kids with Aspergers. We thought it would be a nice treat for him, and it would give us the chance to totally focus on Jonah. Turns out it was a bit of disaster, since the camp also took kids who had bigger issues, and Ian was freaked out by them. Sigh. But at least we had some quality time with the big kid, because there were actually some big decisions to make.

Jonah got into three difference schools at the flagship college – the environmental school, the arts and sciences program, and the engineering school – and we had to pick one. Each school was running sessions on their offerings. There were discussions on the different majors. There were tours of the dorms. The dining halls were open to everyone.

And it was all spread over the five different campuses within that one college. This is the physically largest college that I’ve ever seen. It can take thirty minutes to get from one class to another, if you catch the bus at just the right time. Class selection has to take into account that major commute time. Not every kid can manage this college. It’s overwhelming even for a college pro like myself.

He’s thinking about majoring in bio-engineering, so we went to a presentation on it. He could major in that at two different schools within the college. One takes four years, the other is a five year program. Good thing we went to the presentation and figured that out.

The woman who gave the bio-engineering presentation was smart and helpful. I whispered to Jonah that he should go talk to her when he has questions next fall. Afterwards, she asked if anybody had questions. Hands shot up. All parents’ hands. One guy with a thick Jersey accent asked if his daughter would get a masters with the five year program (no, but two BAs), what was the typical salary for a graduate with this degree (shrug), and what jobs were available for people with this major (cleaning up New Jersey’s superfund sites). His questions and questions from other parents were tightly focused on jobs and money and time spent at college. The other presentations we attended that day hammered on the internship opportunities and job prospects over and over.

I was rather surprised by A. the high parental involvement in their kids’ college decisions and B. by the job training mission of the college. Neither are bad things, but clearly a major shift in college life.

In the end, Jonah decided on the arts and sciences school, because it will give him some flexibility. We walked out the bookstore with all sorts of branded t-shirts and stickers and caps. The school definitely does have some eyesores (hello, ugly dorms!), but it also has the green fields, greenhouses, and new lecture halls that he wants so badly. He hasn’t taken off his branded baseball cap since that weekend.

He’s all in.

Ian’s Birthday Surprise

Yankee games are funny. The stadium is full of a lot of Bronx types – Italians and Puerto Ricans — and former Bronx types who have moved to New Jersey. There are always a few solitary old dudes who come by themselves with binders of batting statistics. They obsessively record every run and error. They are part of Ian’s tribe.

Ian loves going to Yankee games. It’s totally his own thing. Jonah and Steve prefer soccer. I like eating food and drinking beer at sports games, but have very little interest in the game itself. Ian likes baseball, though only at the stadium. He watches every pitch and hit. He likes the corny rituals, like the grounds guys who have to dance to YMCA while fixing the dirt. He reads every word that comes up on the jumbo screen, including the birthday wishes.

Ian turned 15 yesterday. For $25, he got an awesome surprise.

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I’ve got to pull together something for the Atlantic today — I’ve been really, really lazy  — so I’m getting back up to speed on education news.

  • There’s been a PILE of articles about the Sesame Street puppet with autism. I wrote about Julia a year ago. I should have done anther piece last week. Ugh. Kicking myself.
  • Special ed vouchers are BAD news for lots of reasons. I have some other reasons that aren’t mentioned in this article.
  • There’s going to be free tuition at New York State colleges provided that you stay in the state after graduation. There’s absolutely NO WAY that they could ever enforce this rule.

There’s incredible graphics on this New York Times article about London after Brexit.

Evicted sounds like a great book.

Japanese cherry blossoms are clear proof that we are definitely screwed. Sell your beach properties NOW!

Apt. 11D Is Now the Home of Many Hobbies

When Jonah was christened, Steve’s cousin came to New York to act as Jonah’s godfather. Looking around for topics of conversation — our dissertation topics were certainly not of interest — he asked what our hobbies were. I think we laughed, which I suppose was rude, but the thought of having time for a hobby was absurd. Steve had just begun working on Wall Street and was finishing his dissertation on the weekends. I was watching Jonah, adjuncting at Columbia, and trying to turn my dissertation into an article. We had no lives outside of work or parenting.

Now that we’re not slaving away in the netherword of adjuncts and temporary administrative positions in finance, we have more time, and, thus, have hobbies. If Steve’s cousin ever asks about our hobbies again, we’ll have lots of answers.

I’m collecting old books at estate sales and then reselling them. Steve and Jonah are growing heirloom tomatoes in the basement, which they’ll replant in the garden in a month. There’s European soccer on the TV. Ian’s drums and music. Jonah’s longboard. Steve’s genealogical research on his cousin-marrying Mennonite farmer ancestors.

We sometimes think that we’ll return to the city when this parent thing is over. But we need elbow room for the hobbies, so maybe not.

 

 

 

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In the New York Times, Jennifer Senior writes, “Read enough stories about the madness whipping through college campuses right now, and you can’t help but wonder if our institutions of higher learning have put the “loco” in in loco parentis.” She’s reviewing a new book by Laura Kipnis, “Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus.”

Senior writes,

Once upon a time, explains Kipnis, female students celebrated their sexual freedom and agency. Today, students and faculty alike focus on their vulnerability. This, in her view, is a criminally retrograde story line, one that recasts women as pitiful creatures who cannot think and act for themselves — and it’s a story they seem to have internalized.

Scary stuff for mothers of boys heading off to college.

Senate showdown over Gorsuch.

College admission counselors are on the hunt for nice people. How can we ruin this?

Dan Drezner has an excerpt from his book (behind the paywall) about the declining influence of academics in public life, as idea influencers. I’m not sure there was ever a time when academics had a big role in shaping the intellectual life outside the university, but I haven’t read his book. I’m more fascinated lately with the impact of non-academics. Love him or hate him, TNC has to be one of the most influential thinkers in the past five years. I’m also fascinated by how much money that guys like TNC make on speaking tours, but that’s off topic.

Chicago’s New Graduation Requirements

Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a new high school requirement for the kids in Chicago. They need to have a post-graduation plan.

Emanuel’s proposal would add one more big item to the graduation checklist for high school seniors: proof they’ve been accepted into college or the military, or a trade or a “gap-year” program. The requirement would also be satisfied if the student has a job or a job offer.

The point, the mayor said, is to get Chicago Public Schools students in all parts of the city to stop seeing high school graduation as an ending and get them to consider what’s next.

There are a couple of important stats in the Chicago Tribune article:

  •  The district’s five-year high school graduation rate last year hovered at around 73 percent, despite broad race-based disparities.
  • As of 2015, the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research concluded an estimated 18 percent of CPS ninth-graders would graduate from a four-year college within ten years of starting high school.

Will Emanuel’s plan mean that fewer kids graduate from high school? Will Emanuel’s plan dump a bunch of kids into the community college system who will spend years floundering in remedial classes?

Meanwhile New York City is struggling with the same problems. What do you do with kids who have been badly educated in the public schools? How do the community colleges pick up the pieces?

In NYC, the kids are shuffled along to CUNY’s community colleges, which immediately plop them in remedial classes because they can’t read or add.  80% of incoming freshmen at CUNY school need remediation.

But the kids get stuck in those remedial classes. Only 50% complete the program in a year. And the kids who do make it through the years of remedial classes AND then basic classes in the community college system AND THEN, finally, get to a four-year CUNY college, can’t finish. You know why? Because they run out of loan money. They’ve spent thousand and thousands of dollars just getting the basic education that they should have gotten for free in the public schools, and then don’t have anything left for college.

CUNY is revamping their remedial programs, so the kids don’t get stuck in them for too long, but then they’re just going to end up totally unprepared for the regular classes and will fail out.

It’s easy to make policies. It’s hard to actually make change.

Managing The Hats

I’m juggling three different freelance jobs, as well as the usual family, local politics, and house responsibilities. I have a lot of different hats. I should probably focus on one job, but I like the variety. Every week, I pick out one goal for the week. Last week, I wrote an essay and sent it out. This week, I had a ton of kid management and local chores, so I didn’t plan any writing. I’m mostly done with those jobs, so I’m gearing up for next week’s writing project.

It’s sometimes hard to wrench myself out of the details of the kid’s schedule and school board meetings and think about life outside of the five block radius around my house. It especially hard when my little plants are starting to poke their heads out of the soil; they need some love and attention. On a rainy damp day, I would love to just read my book in the living room armchair. But I have a good article in the back of my head that’s nagging me. I do need to write it up and send it to the Atlantic.

Let me blog this morning to get back into the swing of things.