The Catholic Schools Saved by Vouchers

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Catholic schools, once a mainstay for the Irish, Italian, and Polish communities in American cities, are struggling. With shrinking numbers of nuns as a source of free labor, and fewer parishioners passing the donation baskets on Sunday and enrolling their kids in parochial schools, many simply cannot afford to keep their doors open. Just last week, the Archdiocese of New York announced the closure of five more schools for financial reasons; that’s on top of dozens that were shutteredin 2011 and 2013.

More here.

The Penguin

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I spent three days doing nothing but research, write, and edit an article on Catholic schools and school vouchers. (For breaks, I gobbled down cheap, mindless novels in a sunny corner.) Just as my article hits the website, Donald Trump has a meltdown on national TV. Ain’t nobody reading my little education article now. Arg!

This is my dad’s fifth grade school photo. He is sitting in the back. Red hair, big ears, dark tie. Check out the class size. Our Lady of Peace on the Southside of Chicago was closed down in 1999.

The Timer Went Off

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors; How a Filibuster Works; Hard Work Matters More than Brains

Jonah’s college acceptance letter has triggered the reality that he’s going to be gone in six months. I have six months left to parent, before he’s gone. He’ll be on his own. And there’s so much left to teach him.

Why Smart Girls Are Better Than Cheerleaders; Why You Should Never Rinse Pasta After You Finish Boiling It

There’s still so much that he doesn’t know, and I don’t have much time. The ten minute drive to his high school is the only time where he’s captive, strapped in the car, forced to listen. I babble using the morning news as the entry into topics that we never talked about before. I have to give him a crash course on life. How did I forget to teach him the difference between the House and the Senate?

The House Writes the Budget Because the Founders Thought that the Branch That Was Closest to the People Should Have the Most Say Over Money and Taxes

Yes, he’ll have to figure out a lot of this on his own, but I could have taught him this earlier. I wasted time. We were too caught up in the details of life — the homework and the soccer practice. And then his friends and cellphone shouted me out.

Your Great-great Grandfather Was a Famous Oboist; Was Napolean Really Short?; Never Put a Red Sweatshirt in the Washing Machine With White Undershirts

He’s undercooked. How is going to fare on a college campus that first semester without this information? This is what happens when a neurotic parent and former college professor starts to panic. She lectures.

College Gossip

We went to a superbowl party yesterday hosted by friends that we met when our kids first started kindergarten. Now, those five-year olds are spotty faced boys-men texting in the corner. The parents nursed their beers and gossiped about colleges.

Based on the very unscientific sample of parents that we know from several North Jersey towns, I’m seeing tons and tons of applications to state colleges. Even among families with fully stocked 529s, the kids are going to state colleges. The price point is too high for the privates, and kids are saving their money for grad programs.

Jonah applied to 11 flagship state colleges. He heard from two and got into both, including – thank you, thank you, college Gods – Rutgers.

Rutgers isn’t beautiful. OK, it’s damn right ugly compared to colleges like University of Vermont with its green fields and sweeping views of Burlington and Lake Champlain. Jonah was horrified by urban decay around Rutgers during the college tour.

But Rutgers will cost us around $30,000, and UVM will cost $55,000. That’s $100,000 and a second mortgage on the house just for the nice views. So, obviously that’s not happening. We have a few weeks for Jonah to come to terms with this decision. We’ll see if he gets into UVM and if they give him enough money.

I know several students with 4.0 GPAs who were rejected from University of Virginia and Univeristy of North Carolina. Those two state schools seem almost impossible for out of state students. University of Alabama is a popular out of state college for kids with a weaker application. Miami of Ohio and Pittsburgh were popular this year for kids like Jonah.

I’m so relieved that he has a place to go this fall, and that we can afford it. He’ll have to take out a loan and we have some grandparent money to help out, but it’s very do-able. That means we can take a vacation and fix up the kitchen this year. Winning!

What About the Farm Kids?

A while back, I was looking at college admission trends for the Atlantic. I learned that Columbia, for example, admitted more kids from China than the entire Midwest. I can’t remember if that finding made it through the editing process.

Well, the NYT wrote an article about the lack of representation of rural kids in colleges.

To college administrators, rural students, many of them the first in their families to attend college, have become the new underrepresented minority. In their aim to shape leaders and provide access to the disadvantaged, higher education experts have been recognizing that these students bring valuable experiences and viewpoints to campuses that don’t typically attract agriculture majors. Rural students, said Adam Sapp, admissions director at Pomona College, have “a different understanding of complicated political and social issues,” offering “one more lens through which to see a problem.”

Are the Kids Alright?

While the rest of the world is falling apart, the kids — at least here in this suburb — seem to be struggling, too.

We got a five page e-mail from our superintendent yesterday about drug use in our town. They did two major Xanax busts in the school last week. One girl, an honor student, OD-ed after taking ten Xanax this month. We’re going to have a major, emergency meeting at the school next week to talk about the abuse of drugs in town. I’m hearing rumors about good kids from good families getting into major trouble.

I’m supremely grateful that my kid is kept super busy at track practice. There’s little way, despite a high level whining, that we’ll let him drop out of track. We want him busy as he enters into his second semester of his senior  year. I’m looking into sending him away for the summer on an Outward Bound adventure just to keep him away from certain friends.

When we came back from out ski trip last weekend, we found a broken window above my desk. There was a large footprint on the desk. Someone had been in our house.

We called the cops and then a security company. The cops said it had all the earmarks of a teenager. Nothing was taken. The house wasn’t trashed. The cops said that teenagers, who knew we were away, probably used our house for a party. Since the house wasn’t trashed, it was probably somebody that knew our kid. Apparently, this happens a lot. It won’t happen again, because our house will be Fort Knox after the security company finishes flipping a switch next week.

The school district stopped hiring substitute teachers to save money. So, when the teachers are absent, the kids can come and go from the school whenever they like. One parent told me that her son had four free periods last month and used that time to get into a lot of trouble. She said that she can’t manage her kid, if she assumes that he’s in school, but he’s actually roaming free.

Teenagers get into trouble. I did. But I’m hearing about them doing things — break-ins, vaping in the bathroom, smoking weed in the middle of the day — that makes my past stupidity laughable.

To keep my kid safe, I’ve got him on a very short leash. Which makes him pissed off at me. Parenting is tough.

Two Theories

Dave Karpf  discusses the latest viral analysis of Trump and adds his own theory.

Last night on Medium, Yonotan Zunger analyzed the first week of the Trump presidency and concluded that it looked like a “trial balloon for a coup.” To summarize, Trump is shutting out career civil servants, installing his personal consigliere, Steve Bannon, onto the National Security Council, and road-testing the ability of the legislative and judicial branches to actually reign in his power-grabs. It is a thorough and frightening analysis.

I want to offer an alternate interpretation though. I don’t think Donald Trump is implementing an intentional plan to rescind and replace American constitutional government. I think Donald Trump is a 70-year old man with narcissistic personality disorder, who has never had to work anywhere near this hard in his life. I think he’s barely sleeping at night, is overwhelmed by stress and negative stimuli that his brain chemistry does not handle well, and is obsessed with what people think of him. I think he’s desperately trying to recapture the glorious feelings of support that he enjoyed on the campaign trail.

My vote is for the crazy theory.

I think he’s going to be gone in three to six months. Either impeached by his own party or he’ll have a serious mental or physical breakdown. And then we’ll have President Pence for three and a half years.

Place your bets, people.