SL 695

Rather shocking views on free speech by college students, according to a new survey by Brookings.

“..many students have an overly narrow view of the extent of freedom of expression. For example, a very significant percentage of students hold the view that hate speech is unprotected. In addition, a surprisingly large fraction of students believe it is acceptable to act—including resorting to violence—to shut down expression they consider offensive. And a majority of students appear to want an environment that shields them from being exposed to views they might find offensive.”

Loving this mid-century line of furniture at Target.

A slightly unhinged professor at Illinois refused to give his lecture slides to a kid with a disability and gets taken out of the classroom. Not sad.

Graduate programs have become a cash cow for colleges, says NPR. Yes, says me. We know that. So does NYU.

Should little kids still be playing football?


The Landmines

So, I have one kid in college. People keep asking me, “how does it feel? Did you cry when he left?”

Actually, I was less sad than I expected. I didn’t cry. Sure, I miss him, but he’s doing what he needs to do, and it’s all good. In some ways, it’s a huge relief. Not just because there is less laundry and less driving. It’s also because I’m done.

I had a college-bound kid. I got him there. Boom. It doesn’t always happen. The teenage years are full of land-mines ranging from mental health issues to drug dealing friends to sheer laziness. But my kid is in a good school that we can afford and, hopefully, he’s mature enough now that we’ve left those dangers behind.

Ian is a separate case. I have no idea what will happen to him, but at least there’s no worry about the landmines.

A friend told me that two days before her son left for college, the kid got stinking drunk, puked on the sofa, and curled up in the bathtub. I told Jonah about this kid and he laughed. He asked, “aren’t you glad that Ian will never do that?” First, I said YES. Then I said no. Jonah told me that the correct answer is yes, because Ian finds his own happiness, and it doesn’t involve destroying his liver and ruining upholstery. Because Jonah is a very, very good kid.

I suppose that there are still landmines that Jonah will face in college. He could sleep through his classes, fail his exams, and drink too much at fraternities.

So, let’s talk about fraternities. I’m not a fan. I’m trying not to be too judgy, because they serve a real purpose on large college campuses. They help to create communities. But, but, but. The drinking. The dubious traditions. The exclusivity. The group think. The everything I hate.

Jonah has been attending the fraternity parties. He’s got open access to booze without any bother with a fake license or anything. The cops and the school don’t care, which surprised me. I thought they would be cracking down on drinking after Penn State.

The only barrier to the booze and the parties have come from the frat brothers themselves who usually don’t want too many freshman boys at their parties. They want the girls. But Jonah has been getting in, because he’s good looking and because he learned how to fix taps and kegs, while at his job at the tavern this summer. Jonah is on the guest list at several fraternities already after three weeks of school. Ugh.

The only mercy is that I don’t have to see this. I will admit that I have monitored his activities using the “Find My Friends” app. (Shhh. Don’t tell him.) But he’s forty minutes away, so I can’t smell his breath or know what time he stumbles in.

He’s taking a heavy math-science course load, so he isn’t going to be able to get into too much trouble without us knowing about it. His grades will reflect his ratio of studying to partying time effectively. Hello, FERPA form! And he’s an adult and he knows it. College is on him. If he fucks up, he goes to community college.

Higher Ed Drama

My Facebook people are ranting about the woman who killed her kid, was accepted to Harvard’s grad program, and then disinvited because some faculty feared the FOX News backlash.

And now Chelsea Manning has been disinvited from Harvard, though they are still inviting the rest of the reality stars. (This is the true story… of seven strangers… picked to live in a house…(work together) and have their lives taped… to find out what happens… when people stop being polite… and start getting real…The Real World.)

Meh. Meh. Meh.

I’m have a hard time getting worked up about the slights to the child abuser and the traitor. There’s so much going on here though. We have famously risk adverse academics and an academic-hating alt-right who are spoiling for a fight. We have the business end of higher ed that wants the big names to build their brand. We have left-oriented, insulated faculty who think that they must keep the barbarians on the other side of the wall.

Always Be Exercising

I just came from my morning run. Today, again, it was a walk, because I had a lot of things that I was thinking about, and it is impossible run and think at the same time.

I’m in the midst of sorting out two very different articles for two different publications. I figured out my angles yesterday, and today I’m moving around the blocks of information in my head to create the story. I’m in a good mood, because I know where I’m going.

Along the way, I half-listened to Slate’s culture podcast. I waved at the 80-year old Martha and Bill Finch’s grandmother who take their walks every morning, chatting the whole way about grandkids and their husbands’ gout. They will go back to Florida, when the snow falls and whenever the state gets power again. I stopped to chat with the three-year old twins who proudly showed me their pink name tags that they got at nursery school. Seven bold deer on the appropriately named Deerhill Road tried to stare me down, and the wild turkeys awkwardly squatted in front of a pretentious house with French doors.

I’m pretty lucky. I know that I am. Once I figured out that being a freelancer who works from home meant that you really had to exercise every day to keep your marbles — and alright, I’m an idiot. I only figured that out last April — I’ve been either doing a morning spin class, running, or walking for an hour about six days a week. I have the time and this idealic neighborhood to run around in. I belong to one of those $20 per month gyms – nothing fancy – but it’s clean and the classes are free. The spin classes are packed with cool women. I don’t actually know their names, but I know how many kids they have, what grades the kids are in, and where they went on vacation last month. On days, when it’s just me and the computer all day, it’s a good thing to interact with real people.

In the past few years, I’ve spent more on sneakers and tights and all. But it all gets used a lot and keeps my knees in working shape.

I did four 5K races this summer.

But by some people’s standards, I’m a slacker. It’s not unusual to meet women at the gym or jogging along the path by the river who exercise for five hours a day. They have long sinewy arms and sunken eyes. Driving to Ian’s high school last week, which is adjacent to the richest zip code in New Jersey, we passed dozens of high-end gyms that boasted high intensity spin classes where the instructors yell at you until you pass out. I see a lot of eating disorders among middle-aged women at these gyms.

We were talking about wealthy people in the last thread. Gotta add exercise to one of the characteristics of the super wealthy. But I suppose that isn’t new. From Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities:

The phase pops into his head at that very instant: social X-rays … They keep themselves so thin, they look like X-ray pictures … You can see lamplight through their bones … while they’re chattering about interiors and landscape gardening … and encasing their scrawny shanks in metallic Lycra tubular tights for their Sports Training classes.



SL 694

Just some links this morning. More this afternoon.

“What the Rich Won’t Tell You” — Rich people in NYC are uncomfortable talking about their wealth. Conspicuous consumption is old school.

Hillary’s new book seems like a very bad idea to me, too.

Campus rape policy is a disaster.

Parents aren’t letting their kids study literature.

Instead of killing yourself doing marathons, do a 5K. Your knees will thank you.

I haven’t read TNC’s new article about Donald Trump and white supremacy yet. It’s generating lots of love and hate on Twitter.

Back to Normal

The kids are gone. One started high school, and the other is making friends at fraternities at his new college by repairing their tap systems on the kegs. So, I’m back to work.

After I start typing up notes on two articles that have been brewing in the background, I’ll be back here. I need a couple of hours.

Summer Driving and Learning

Every summer, I do a ridiculous amount of driving. Ian’s far-flung camps and special programs are usually the cause of my pain. This summer, the driving chores were even worse, because I had Ian in ten or so small programs, and Jonah had a job, but no car.  I had high hopes of making headway on a long-term project this summer. Instead, I barely wrote a blog post or two.

My summer may have been a wash in terms of work, but for the boys, it was a huge growth experience.

Jonah took a job at a tavern in town as a bus boy.  On the face of it, the job was exploitive. He made $5 per hour with tips, but tips were often times minimal. He worked 60 hours a week, six days a week. He opened up the restaurant at 10, worked for two and half hours, then came home for three hours where I fed him dinner (which meant I had to make dinner in the middle of the afternoon) and washed his uniform (they only gave him two shirts).Then he went back at 5 and worked until 12, 1, or even 2. (Don’t even ask how we juggled cars, so we wouldn’t have to pick up Jonah at 2. It was insane.)

He lost weight, because he wasn’t allowed to eat on his job. He survived on customers’ leftover french fries and, occasionally, a half-finished steak.

Doing this job for more than the two months would have been a bad idea, but for those two months, it was great. He missed a whole lotta of parties where nothing good happened. He started identifying with the more mature 20-year olds that worked there, rather than high school kids. He learned how to set up a bank account and manage his own money. He kept track of his hours and got to work on time. He knows how to properly fold napkins and clean up poop off a bathroom floor.

Jonah developed a very healthy disgust for the functioning alcoholics who, after getting off the train at 5:00, immediately walked across the street to his tavern, where they drank until closing time.

He worked until the day before he left on a two-week trip in North Carolina, where he lived in the woods for two weeks without cellphones or showers. They didn’t even have tents. He did white water rafting, put in service hours at a wild life refuge, hiked at midnight, and camped alone for two days. We picked him up later in Asheville, very hairy and happy.

Ian isn’t the same kid as he was when we began the summer. We tried a bunch of new things, like horseback riding. He rides like a cowboy. His anxiety melts away when he sits on a horse. We’ll have to continue that in the fall.

We honed in on his strengths, which we wouldn’t have been able to do if he had gone into a program designed for special ed kids. It’s a little more stressful when he’s put into non-special ed programs, because sometimes the teachers aren’t patient or are weirded out by people who are different. This summer, it worked out. He did several computer and engineering classes. The teacher in his Maker Space camp said that he finished the programs 15 minutes before the other kids in the class. He even took computer classes for kids at the local community college. I dropped him off for three hours without an aide, and he did it. HUGE win.

Ian also started marching band at the high school. We knew that he could handle the music, but we didn’t know if he could handle other kids who played badly, the heat, the sun, the marching, long hours of waiting around, the weight of the drum, standing on his feet for that many hours, and the worry about making mistakes. Ian is actually an amazing musician. One music teacher think he’s a savant. Not sure about that, but he’s definitely the best drummer they have. And guess what? He’s managing all that other stuff, too. He’s got another six hours of band camp this afternoon. If he does it perfectly again, he’ll get a new game controller as a reward.

Jonah isn’t going to college until Labor Day. His college is one of the last to start up. So, we’re catching up on life, as we slowly make piles of school necessities — shampoo, pillows, bean bag chair. He got his wisdom teeth out. We’re throwing out papers from high school and packaging up track medals. He’s cleaning up his laptop. He and new roommate are exchanging diagrams for furniture placement in their room.

With all this change, my life is on hold. I’m the air traffic controller that makes sure that the planes are getting to the right destinations without forgetting a passenger. In two weeks, things will be boring, I’m sure. The house will be way too quiet, and I’ll be mourning the loss of my oldest. I can’t even think about that day when we leave him at school. I’m pretending that it isn’t going to happen.