Dreary January

January always sucks here in the Northeast. It’s grey and cold. We’ve all had the same virus for the past three weeks, trading germs back and forth. I need to give the entire house a Clorox bath to get rid of these lingering evil bugs. Faded Christmas trees lay sad and lonely waiting for pick up by the garbage truck.

A story that I did in December was just published. I posted it here. Happy to talk about it in the comment section. I’m working on something totally different right now. It’s an upbeat story about a school in the South Bronx for emotionally disturbed children. (Yes, it’s a happy story.) I’m also editing a document right now for a long term project. So, there’s a lot of work to do.

I was at that South Bronx school earlier this week and had a great time, except for the horrible drive through the Bronx. With streets full of pot holes, sudden turns, unmarked roads, and drivers who don’t obey normal traffic rules, I was having anxiety attacks as I navigated my way there. But I did it. Yay me.

Jonah’s home still, which is awesome. Sniffling like the rest of us, he’s been looking at the career development website for school and trying to figure out what he’s going to do after graduation. What a bucket of stress!

Other kids in town are using their winter break to do informational interviews with alumna from their schools at various companies around New York City. I’m just hearing about this from other parents. Neither Jonah nor myself got the memo that this is what kids do during winter break now, until it was too late. So, he’s surfing websites about careers, rather than sitting in an office with a suit. Sigh. Parent fail.

There is a RIDICULOUS level on stress on kids about jobs. Here’s an article in Vox describing it. And this stress isn’t totally crazy. Millennials are burning out in their jobs. College graduates aren’t finding work.

I’m moving my family to a bunker in Vermont where we’ll make artisanal goat cheese.


When College Isn’t Enough

college-campus-Harvard.jpgWith a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rutgers University, New Jersey’s flagship public college, 22-year-old Rachel Van Dyks expected to have a good job by now. A professional job with a proper salary and benefits would enable her to move out of her grandfather’s house, where she lives with her parents and her brother. Instead, the 2017 graduate works 46 hours per week at two jobs — scooping maple walnut ice cream at the local ice cream parlor and taking orders at a high-end steakhouse — while paying for an associate’s degree in cardiovascular sonography at a for-profit technical school.

Van Dyks is not alone, according to Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. A majority of college graduates require additional education in order to qualify for a good-paying job, Carnevale said — though many might not find that out until after commencement exercises are over. While colleges are expanding their career development offices and providing students with opportunities for internships, few students take advantage of those resources. For those young graduates, the realities of the job market come as a surprise.

More here.

Jobs and Kids

I’m taking a brief hiatus from holiday consumerism to write a brief blog post about college kids and jobs. I finished an article last week on the topic. I’m not sure when it will come out, but I’ll puff it here when it does. In the meantime, let me just pass along advice that I picked up when doing the article. This is advice that I’ve been hounding my own college kid about this past week.

The job outlook for college grads isn’t wonderful, especially for kids who have just concentrated on finishing their degrees without much thought beyond getting the BA and for kids who don’t have parents to grease the wheels of the economy with connections.

I spent a few hours doing keyword searches on the online job boards for college BAs with a liberal arts and no experience. Most of the jobs that turned up were Dunder Mifflin type jobs selling random stuff for about $15 per hour. That might be fine. It’s a way to move up in a company. Research shows that most kids with liberal arts degrees start off in sales positions; some move into Human Resources or marketing. But college grads should know what those kinds of jobs are and be aware that that’s where they’re going to end up with a major in History.

30 percent of kids don’t make it past their first year of college. A huge chunk fail out their first year, or they leave because they can’t handle the independence of a school or they hate the chaos of a dorm. I see this among the kids that graduated with Jonah. Some are honor student kids. One had a big running scholarship to a fancy school. College is tough, and many can’t handle it. They end up at community colleges or trade schools. Two of Jonah’s classmates are now selling stocks at Boiler Room-type places.

I’m hearing anecdotal stories about massive student loan debt. Like $100K to $200K. I think those numbers are super high in the Northeast, because working class families around here make too much to qualify for Pell grants. Then they have to go to grad school, because 65 percent of all jobs now require advanced degrees. And they can’t afford that next step, because they owe too much from undergraduate education.

Internships are the new normal for college students. But internships are for rich kids. Kids who have to work in the summer to help pay for college can’t afford to work for free. And many of those internships at the fancy colleges actually cost money, because they are in foreign countries or in other cities. Families who are struggling to just pay for college can’t take on that extra burden.

Colleges have dumped a ton of money into career development centers, which is great, I suppose. Some are better than others. Some offer real help; others hand the students a pamphlet on writing resumes. And only a small percentage of students are going to the centers, because it’s not required.

Guys are choosing very different majors than girls and are having much different outcomes on the job market.

Students, especially the dudes, are choosing large public colleges over small liberal arts colleges. In some ways, this is a good thing. The large public colleges are cheaper and have more resources. But many students can get lost in the system. The kids who survive the big school experience learn how to manage the system. They learn how to tap into the resources. Others get in the bubble of student life and have little contact with adults who can help them.

Alright, done with the brain dump right now. More later.






Working Class Jobs

I’ve been doing research on technical schools and training programs for the past month. As an education writer, I’ve never tackled a topic with such a steep learning curve. Every time that I think I have a handle on the topic, a firm conclusion, an angle, I talk with someone else and learn something new.

Every other topic that I’ve covered, I had some direct experience as a starting point. I’ve been involved in education in one way or another for thirty years. I’ve been a special ed teacher, a grad student, an education policy researcher, a professor, a parent, and an education writer. But the world of the trades is something totally new. Call it a bubble if you like, but I just haven’t had much direct contact with the blue collar world.

One question I keep asking is whether or not these jobs that don’t require a college degree can lead to a middle class lifestyle, especially in higher income areas in the Northeast. On paper, it looks like the answer is no. But people are telling me “yes”. Those salary charts don’t tell the whole picture. People double up on jobs.

A kid in New York City can get a job in the police force out of high school. If the kid gets some college credits at the local community college, the starting salary is $42,500. The average salary is around $70. I’m not sure if that includes overtime. After twenty years, cops can retire, collect a full pension, and then get a job as a firefighter in New York City. They can double their salaries in their forties.

A high school guidance counselor told me stories about electricians who work for the school district. They work until 3:00 for the school, and then work independently in their community and collect another salary off the books. He sends his own kid to a technical high school, because he’s sure that his kid will be employable when he’s done with his education.

The weird thing as I’m talking to people about the trade job market, they start whispering. Like they don’t want to tell others about how it’s really done. They don’t want the college kids to find out how it works, because they’re worried that they’ll start poaching their jobs.

Another thing that I keep hearing is that a great number of the kids who are funneled into the trade schools are students with some issues, like learning disabilities, family problems, or come out of bad urban schools. They stumble with work and with these trade schools, because they can’t manage to wake up in time, can’t remember where they are supposed to be, can’t fill out applications for school or jobs. But those without those issues, or are able to overcome them, have tons of opportunities.

Anyway, that’s just some of the gossip that I’ve gotten in the past few weeks. It’s all anecdotal stories at this point. I’m trying to piece it all together into a big picture. It’s going to take a while.



Majors and Money

This is a break down of the majors at a sample college and the starting salaries for their graduates. What jumps out at you?

For me, the number of business majors is interesting. Also, I would have predicted a greater variation in average starting salaries between the majors, but they are all in that $40K range. History majors make about as much as bio majors. Am I missing something?

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What To Do With Kids With High Functioning Autism?

I first wrote this blog post back in October 2013. Due to the mysterious magic of google searches, it is my most popular blog post. I thought I would update it this morning, five years later. 

My son has high functioning autism or Level 1 autism or whatever they’re calling it these days. Because researchers now think that there are many different kinds of autism, my kid’s variety is characterized by speech and social deficits, average to superior IQ, hyperlexia, some anxiety and sensory issues, no obsessions, no stimming.

He’s only a sophomore in small public high school right now. His story isn’t over yet. He still has two more years before graduation, and we face major decisions about his future. Sill, in those five years, he has made so much progress. He’s now completely out of special ed for math, and he participates in after school activities with the typical kids. Even in the past year, he has made stunning changes. We’re now considering future plans for him that were inconceivable when I first wrote this blog post.

Because this blog post brings in so many random parents desperate for answers, I thought I would spend the next thirty minutes writing up what worked for us. Now, I’m not a hundred percent sure that our methods for dealing with my kid’s autism are responsible for these changes. Maybe simple brain maturity would have gotten us to the same point. Maybe these methods only work for my particular kid. I can’t be certain, but just the same, I’ll share.  Continue reading

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I’ve been waaaayyyy busy the past few weeks. I’ve been retweeting things that I find interesting, but haven’t had a chance to do blog posts on all of them. Let me do a quick round up, and I’ll try to do a better blog post later today.

Of course, there’s parent separation on the border. I’m not sure what else to say about this horrific situation that hasn’t already been said. We live in sad, sad times.

Stanley Fish says that we should stop trying to sell the Humanities. But I was talking to a woman who works on Wall Street last month. She said that they are hiring people with political science majors, not business majors. So, I think Fish is wrong.

Will Asian-Americans undo Affirmative Action?

I have mixed feelings about work-based learning. Theoretically, it’s great. In practice, it might be another dumping grounds for special ed kids.

Schools are getting rid of GPAs, AP tests, SATs, and grades. What will fill their places?