Asheville and Travel

Steve and I are similar travelers. We like to get lost. We like to spend long hours reading all the little signs belong paintings in art museums. We like to eat. We like to find cool places to read books. I like talking with new people, and he likes to listen to us. He tolerates my photography.

I’m purging pictures to free up memory on my computer right now. I need a new computer, but I’m not heading back into the hellhole of Black Friday. We idiotically went to the mall at 9:30 this morning. I flipped off so many drivers in the parking lot that Ian started calling me, “Super Curse-y.” Rude hand gestures are my superpower. The lines in Hollister went out of the store, so we left. Jonah can buy his size 29 pants on line. And I can wait for a new computer.

Reviewing these pictures, I’m reminded of all the little trips that we took this year. Philadelphia, Lake George, Asheville. We’re hoping to do a two-week trip to Europe next year, if we have any money left after putting in a new kitchen.

Here are some pictures of our trip to Asheville. I highly recommend the Biltmore, open mic nights for bluegrass music, and hipster barbeque joints.

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SL 701

Why would any parent let their child play a contact sport after reading stories like these?

Libraries don’t want your used books. So sad.

Yes, get the shingles vaccine. I got shingles when I was finishing my dissertation. Stress. It hurts.

What are you cooking this Thursday? I’m side dish girl this year. Yay. So, we’re bringing homemade cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, marinated goat cheese, and wine.

sweet potato pie.png

Price Tags and Service

So, Jonah’s been away at college for two months. Enough time to give some preliminary evaluations.

The good side is that he has totally drunk the kool-aid. Every item of clothing that he wears has the college logo. He proudly tells me that his school is damn tough. The kids are smart enough to go to Ivy League schools. Many of his friends were admitted to Ivy League schools. They just didn’t want to waste their money.

He has nice friends. He never calls home unless I’m sending him all-caps texts that say, “CALL. YOUR. MOM. NOW.”

But I’m pretty appalled at everything else. The advisement office put him in the wrong Intro to Physics class. There are two Intro to Physics classes at his school – one has a calculus pre-requisite. He took him a week to figure out that he was in the wrong class. It was too late to get into the non-calc Physics class, so they put him in the Intermediate German class and didn’t warn him that the class was pretty much only for advanced students majoring in German.

All of his teachers are adjuncts. And they tell the students that are over worked and under paid all the time. One got fired in the middle of the semester and was replaced by a very, very old adjunct who complains all the time about his physical pains. He said that he can’t do office hours, because his wife has to drive to him school.

His bio and calc classes have 400 students.

It can take a 40 minute bus ride to get to class, because the campus is spread out over several towns.

It’s very hard to get extra help for calculus.

A small private college would easily cost another $35,000. So, I still think we did the right thing provided we make some changes. I’m taking over academic advisement for him. I spent two hours going over all the course guides, syllabi, and major requirements for the spring terms. I called Deans. I yelled at some. We’ll pay for a math tutor. After we pick his classes, we going to lean into Rate My Professor and make sure that he gets better teachers next semester.

Perhaps this is why only 58% of students graduate in four years.

The Trifecta — Teenagers, Social Media, and Bullying

Last week, while the town watched the champion football team stomp on the opposing team, a group of kids on an adjacent field engaged in a less civilized battle. I only know the story in very broad sketches that have been whispered by parents on text messages and on parents’ Facebook group. A girl was involved. Naked pictures of her distributed. Racial slangs. Boys defending honor. Long years of grievances. One kid in the hospital with a fractured skull.

While this fight with the skull stomping was going on, a group of kids watched. And filmed the whole thing with their cellphones. And put it on Snapchat.

Jonah, away at college, saw the footage. I heard about it five days later on Facebook, when parents began yelling, demanding blood.

Last night, I went to the school board meeting as usual. Typically, I’m the only person in the audience. I find these meetings useful for work purposes. Last night, there was a crowd, news vehicles, and parents holding up signs. They came out to the microphone and brought up images of Sandy Hook and Las Vegas shootings. Hysteria.┬áIt was a lynch mob.

It’s a well heeled suburb outside of New York City. People work in law and in finance. They come here for the schools and the trees and the walkable downtown and the quick commute to downtown Manhattan. A fight where a skull gets cracked just doesn’t happen here. People are very freaked out.

The school doesn’t want to get involved, because the incident happened after school hours. It’s not their business. But the parents want them to get involved. At least, they want to hear a strong statement or platitutdes about the evils of bullying.

I think that the school district should bring in someone to talk to parents about finstagrams and snapchat. Images and words that go out on the Internet through these social media forums will never been seen by future employers, and the kids know that. They absolutely do. Can law enforcement find it? Not sure. It might be good to have someone from law enforcement talk to both parents and kids about these forms of social media and what the kids are putting on there. Most parents have no idea. Some school administrators would be surprised at what their own kids are putting out there.

Also, I’m not entirely sure that the kids who were video taping the incident were doing it in a voyeuristic sort of way. It wasn’t a Kitty Geneovese thing. It’s a generational thing. They feel they are doing a public service by video taping events. That’s what everyone does when they attend a protest. They also probably rationally figured it was a bad idea to get in the middle of two kids beating each other senseless.
Anyhow, tensions are pretty high around here. Very glad to just being parenting one very quirky kid who will never ever understand or participate in this sort behavior.

Trump’s Tax Plan and Education

I did a fair bit of research on the impact of Trump’s tax plan on education policy on Friday and Saturday. For various reasons, it’s not going to pan out into an article, so I’ll park that info here.

One of the proposals in the bill is to tax private college endowments at the same level as foundations.

The Atlantic had a piece just a few weeks ago saying that such a proposal might enjoy bipartisan support. Others with liberal credentials have criticized the untaxed endowments in recent years.

Taxing the rich college’s endowment just the same as foundations would seem to be a Democratic plan, right? Even better would be a Robin Hood type scheme that would redistribute that money to colleges that primarily educate low income students or to the students themselves. But I can’t find any statements by Democrats in Congress supporting a plan like this. And it’s not like it’s never been discussed before. In 2016, the Senate Ways and Means committee had hearings on this topic and made 50 or so colleges provide them with reports about what they do with their endowments. There was plenty of time for the democrats on that committee or on the education committee to say something. None did. Not even Bernie.

I did a little on the plan to tax tuition grants, but not enough to write anything about it yet.