So, all this work to get kids into elite schools. Is it worth it?
Jonah is taking Introduction to American Government this semester. It’s a class that I taught many times, in various capacities at different colleges. I taught the class to 52 students (always a couple overdraft students) at a CUNY school, to graduate students at Teachers College at Columbia, and slightly different class at a suburban liberal arts college.
So those colleges show up on ranking systems on VERY different levels — high, medium, and low. And guess what? I taught the exact same class at every place. I gave the same lectures, same exams, and had the same grading standards.
And my father taught that class for 30 years at his college. The exact same class. How a bill becomes a law, what compromises went into the constitution, how power changed over time, yadda yadda. Same class.
While I am certainly not writing Jonah’s papers for him or writing his study guides, I did insist — okay, demand — that we talk on the phone for an hour before his midterm on Monday to make sure that he knew Marbury v. Madison and the Articles of Confederation. He told me what material he had to study for the exam. It was the exact same class that I taught and my dad taught. He’s getting the same class as any kid at Harvard.
So, if the actual product of education at a public college is identical to the product at a fancy, elite college, why are people going insane about this effort to get their kids into elite schools? And all the evidence shows that elite school graduates earn exactly the same as equally smart kids at less prestigious schools.
Why the bribes? Why the schemes? Why all this sacrifice by the parents to completely devote their lives to getting their kids to those schools.
Well, I see more parents settling on elite public schools over private schools. University of Delaware and University of Maryland are very popular choices around here. But the private colleges can offer the nicer dorm rooms and pampering that the kids have gotten used to at home.
My son’s off-campus house outside of his public college is so horrifically awful that I need to bathe in Purell after stepping into his living room. Overflowing ashtrays and empty beer cans and a stray cat named Freeto that lives on the front porch. Sometimes I feel guilty that he’s living in pestilence, but this mess is of his own making. And he seems quite happy there.
But back to the topic here. Brand names. How much do they matter? Are these families working so hard to get their kids into fanciest of schools. Some are. Some are happy with the big name public schools, even kids who come from families with deep pockets. The kids are more democratic about their school choices than their parents.
Whew. Stopping now. More later.