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Beyond, Ab-Fab, Courtesy, College Costs - Uncle Orson Reviews Everything

Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
July 28, 2016

First appeared in print in The Rhino Times, Greensboro, NC.


Beyond, Ab-Fab, Courtesy, College Costs

Star Trek Beyond included touching tributes to two cast members who died: Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, who was so vital to the success of this current reboot series; and Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak one-car accident after his filming in this movie was complete.

Yelchin's death was especially moving given his youth and his proven excellence as an actor. He started as a child actor, and made the transition to adult acting very smoothly. I happened to catch a portion of his performance in an obscure film called Fierce People on cable the other night, a movie from 2005 that caught him on the cusp of that changeover, and his performance was superb. He is worth remembering for far more than the fact that he brought actual acting chops to the role of Chekhov in Star Trek.

The main reason I wasn't a fan of the original Star Trek TV series, besides the deep ignorance and stupidity of all of Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi "ideas," was that the acting was so bad. William Shatner's overacting was one of the best features of that series; it wasn't until he played a wonderful character in Boston Legal, interacting with the much-more-skilled James Spader, that I came to see that Shatner was actually capable of honest performance.

Nimoy was able to bring off Spock so well because he alone understood acting for the screen; also, his role required him to make minimal use of emotions. Most of the rest of the cast, though, made me cringe whenever they spoke. Much of that cringing, I see now, was because of the truly horrible dialogue that was usually written for them; but the other half was that these were not very good actors, as they spent the rest of their careers proving.

But because the aging Trekkies who grew up on the original series are so committed to the show, all the actors are treated with laughable reverence. But hey, it's always good when actors find work, and if, because they were in Star Trek, these guys can make a living from paid appearances at conventions and used car lots, I think that's great. It's hard to make a living as an actor.

When the original cast leapt from small screen to big, they didn't get better; that's why of all those Star Trek movies, the only really good one was Wrath of Khan -- because of Ricardo Montalban's powerful performance, every bit as overacted as Shatner's, but far more effective because he burned with an inner fire.

Now, with Star Trek Beyond, we're on the third installment of the rebooted series (after Star Trek [2009] and Star Trek Into Darkness [2013]), and one thing is obvious. Even when one of these new movies is fairly weak, as Into Darkness was, they are all vastly better than the original series, the original movies, and the original cast.

That's because the writing is so much better. It's better as sci-fi; it's better in the characters and relationships; and it's better as comedy.

And yes, I do mean comedy. One of the writers on Beyond was Simon Pegg, the actor who plays Scotty. Pegg has a solid track record as a writer of comedy, and it shows. It's ironic that Star Trek, an action flick, has far more laughs in it than the limp Ghostbusters or the wretched Absolutely Fabulous movie. (His co-writer, Doug Jung, also has a solid, if briefer, resumé.)

I don't have to synopsize the plot, do I? It's a Star Trek movie. They'll be put in jeopardy trying to save the Federation from some dire calamity; their ship, the Enterprise, will be completely destroyed; somehow they'll get home and stop the bad guys. Then the Enterprise will be rebuilt and we'll watch them charge off on the next adventure.

You'd think they'd stop naming ships Enterprise, since they keep getting smithereened.

(By the way, "to boldly go" is perfect English; only foolishly latinate quibblers think there's anything wrong with it. There isn't. Splitting infinitives is one of the glories of English.)

What makes this arguably the best of the Star Trek movies (except Wrath of Khan, in the view of some) is the presence of some new and compelling characters. Idris Elba plays the bad guy Krall; Sofia Boutella is intensely likeable as the zebra-faced Jaylah; and Lydia Wilson is deftly ambiguous as the shipwreck survivor Kalara.

But this should not slight the regular cast, who also do very good work. The banter between Bones and, well, anybody is pleasurable now that Karl Urban plays the role and good writers create the dialogue.

Zachary Quinto does a superb job of playing Spock, and I hope he wises up and doesn't stop playing the role in future movies. Ask David Caruso how it worked out, quitting an iconic role in a hit series after one year on NYPD Blue.

How many actors have a continuing role that they can play every couple of years, getting a lovely payday, while still having plenty of time to play very different roles in other movies?

While Nimoy was trapped in the role of Spock, Quinto will not be. In fact, playing Spock has liberated him from a far more confining role as the vile Sylar in Heroes. I hated his character in that series so much that it made me eager not to watch him in anything else; playing Spock opened him up to far more positive roles than Heroes led him to.

And let's not forget that Chris Pine is, at this stage of his career, a much better actor than Shatner was, so that playing James Kirk is, for him, the kind of role that makes you beloved of an audience without being permanently identified with the role.

Because, let's face it -- it's Shatner, Nimoy, and the original cast who are trapped in a whole career identified with the TV series. These new guys are getting a free pass because the first set of actors has had to (and still has to) do all the heavy lifting.

J.J. Abrams is the filmmaker who launched this reboot series brilliantly -- in large measure because he had such great writers as Roberto Orci and his sometime writing partner Alex Kurtzman, and then had the sense to use their script.

But nobody can do a good job of writing the same thing over and over -- no, not even in television -- and directors get stale even more quickly. So despite the brilliance of the creative leadership on the first two movies, it was time for a change. Justin Lin, a veteran of the Fast & Furious series, did a splendid job of directing Star Trek Beyond just as he directed Fast & Furious 6: clear, inventive, exciting action, while the characters had time to have relationships and reveal their souls.

Star Trek Beyond is one of the best movies of the summer; the only rival, among action blockbusters, is Independence Day: Resurgence and, no, it isn't really a rival at all. Central Intelligence would have been a contender, except that it is a comedy and lacks the epic scale.

You want to see this one on the big screen -- especially if you can catch it in the luxury seating theater at Red Cinemas.

*

The luxury seating at Red Cinemas was not enough to save Absolutely Fabulous from itself.

I went to see it because the stars of the British TV show and the movie spinoff, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, had been delightful in their promotional appearance on the Graham Norton show. Also, the film was dotted with celebrities playing sarcastic versions of themselves, which promised to be good fun.

Promise broken. For one thing, many of the celebrities were fashion people, of whom I know nothing (and feel no need to alleviate my ignorance). I think this movie was the first time I ever actually saw Kate Moss and knew who she was.

But I knew her name, and so when, on Graham Norton, Jennifer Saunders (who also wrote the TV series and this movie) and Joanna Lumley told us that the inciting incident of the story was that they accidentally knock Kate Moss off a retaining wall, dropping her into the Thames, where apparently she drowns.

Anyone who ever watched even five minutes of the TV series knows that the joke of the show is that the two leads are some of the most appalling human beings ever created for our entertainment. They are drunks with no concept of money, yet as hangers-on at the fringes of the fashion industry, they are both snobs and louts, full of their own fashion sense (which is appalling) and grimly determined to convince everyone else of how "inside" they are.

This worked very well in half-hour increments, especially because there were a few sane people around so we had trustworthy eyes to see events through.

What works in thirty minutes doesn't necessarily work at three times that length. The characters of Edina and Patsy are so abrasive, stupid, and selfish that I kept wanting to get away from them.

And finally I did. The look of gratitude on my wife's face when I suggested we walk out in the middle of the movie made me rethink my gift-giving strategy through our whole marriage. Clearly, nothing pleases my wife so much as stopping her torment; should I start looking for ways to torment her so I can stop?

Maybe after we left, Absolutely Fabulous became excellent, but I doubt it. The theater, presumably filled with fans of the TV show, was almost silent; only a couple of laughs ever obtruded on the dialogue. It seemed clear that whatever worked so well in the original TV series was completely missing from the movie.

Let's face it, this was not a movie made from a TV series at the peak of its popularity. A lot of years have passed, so that this movie feels more like a desperate attempt to revive the TV series.

Also, the actresses (and therefore the characters) are much older. Perhaps too much older to be funny doing these same things. Have they learned nothing? What once made us laugh may now merely make us sad.

*

We didn't stick around to see if anyone else walked out, partly because there was a very unpleasant incident at the beginning of that night's showing. My wife and I had grabbed a quick meal at Positano before heading to the theater; so efficient was the service that we were among the very first people to enter and choose seats.

We chose seats near the middle of the front row -- with the luxury seating, the front row is an excellent place to watch the movie. Other people later came in and sat down, but we were busy with our phones, doing email or playing games, and then we had our eyes straight forward watching the previews.

Suddenly a male voice boomed out from somewhere in the seats above and behind us, and in a tone of disgust and impatience, he said (more or less), "Can you just move over one seat so that man can sit with his wife to watch the movie?"

I had no idea what he was yelling about, and I paid little attention until he yelled again, even more impatiently, and I looked around to realize that he was talking to our row. No, he was talking to my wife and me. It happened that as other people arrived, they had seated themselves so as to leave an empty seat on either side of us.

There was a man and his wife standing at the end of our row with puppy-dog expressions on their faces, apparently wishing we would accommodate their wish to sit beside each other.

But here's the thing: Nobody had actually walked up to us and asked us to move so they could sit together. On the front row, the path to our seats was completely unobstructed. Wouldn't you think that this step should have been taken before somebody behind us appointed himself the lord of the audience and rebuked us like bratty children?

After all, since Mr. Puppydog and his wife were in darkness beyond the end of our row, and we had our eyes straight forward, there was no way that we could or would ever have noticed them standing there.

I love living in the South, but one of the things that can drive me crazy is the insane degree to which some Southerners carry the idea of "not being rude." I used to tease a good friend from Louisiana, who had a severe case of not-wanting-to-impose, "If your hair was on fire, you'd deal with it by saying, 'If you're heading to the kitchen anyway -- don't make a special trip -- would you mind bringing me a cup of water or a damp towel so I can put out this pesky fire on my head?'"

Here's a clue: It isn't rude to ask someone to change seats in order to allow other people to sit together, as long as the seats are of comparable quality.

What's rude is to make a spectacle of yourself with wistful posing, so that other people become resentful of the people who fail to respond to your silent, invisible plea. We had not refused to move. We simply had no way of knowing that anyone wanted us to.

But rude as Mr. & Mrs. Puppydog were with their refusal to communicate their request in English, like grownups, the behavior of the audience god was shocking. He judged us, sitting innocently on the front row, and condemned us; then he punished us with public shaming.

Now, it happened that on that day, I was in a great deal of back pain. I moved slowly, so that even as I was raising up my seat and struggling to get out of it, the Boss behind us yelled yet a third time. This was one of many occasions when I was glad that I do not carry a loaded firearm.

If Audience Boss was so very, very concerned with the comfort of others, why didn't he move his backside out of his seat, walk down to the front, and quietly point out the situation to us? Just because, sitting high up, he had a clear view of the Puppydogs' plight, didn't mean we had a similar awareness. But like a petulant child, he assumed that we meant to be selfish, and therefore we were not deserving of basic courtesy.

I have no idea who Audience Boss was; I never saw his face. But I imagine him as the kind of person who blusters in to situations he doesn't understand and immediately starts imposing his will on others -- feeling virtuous about his smug, rude behavior all the while. The people who were with him can judge whether my assessment of him is correct.

So here we were, caught in a vicious cycle: Because the Puppydogs were so excessively "polite" that they couldn't ask for what they wanted, and could only display their need by posing and miming where the people they wanted to influence would never see them, they ended up provoking Audience Boss to treat my wife and me with far, far greater rudeness than the Puppydogs would ever have committed if they had simply spoken to us like adults.

1. If you need something, ask for it. Don't just make a display of your desire, like a child who needs to go to the bathroom.

2. If you think somebody isn't behaving properly, first try to imagine why they are "misbehaving." Perhaps the old coot who "won't move" has a sore back. Perhaps he and his wife have not looked toward the Puppydogs' miming and so have no idea of their silent suffering.

3. And perhaps people who arrive late should be content to take whatever seats are available. It was many minutes after the announced starting time of the film. Why did they think they were entitled to seats together? If they weren't willing to ask us to accommodate them, why didn't they just sit down in the single seats or go out and get their tickets refunded? That's what my wife and I would have done.

So, having experienced so much rudeness, which we did not deserve at all, and knowing that somewhere behind us there was a smug busybody who was feeling very proud of himself for publicly shaming us, I was just as happy to get out of that theater. If the movie had been tolerable, we probably would have stuck it out (after all, the chairs are so comfortable). But it wasn't, and so I was very happy to get away from such a dysfunctional, uncivilized community.

*

The latest Consumer Reports has a powerful, informative article, "Lives on Hold," about the dilemma of young people who emerge from college with such a horrible burden of debt that many of them wish they had never gone to college at all.

It's especially sad when they majored in a field that will never give them enough surplus income to pay it off. It's like living as a sharecropper or in a company town -- you just end up owing more and more, and there's no chance you can earn your freedom.

Why do people run up enormous debts in order to go to college? There are several reasons:

1. Because they can. The money is available, and to young, optimistic college students, it feels like "free" money. It's only later -- when they're older and wiser -- that they'll begin to feel the pain.

2. Because there's enormous pressure to get into "good" schools -- even though there's no evidence that the quality of the teaching at such schools is even slightly better than the teaching in lesser ones. Schools that are hard to get into can charge much higher tuition than schools that fewer people want to attend, so if you get accepted by a "good" school, but without financial aid, you'll end up borrowing far more than students who go to regular colleges.

3. Because they've had it pounded into them that going to college is vital if you want to make a good living and support your family. But in all those tabulations of how much more college graduates earn in their first year and tenth year on the job, does anyone bother subtracting the huge payments they have to make on their student loan debt? How much "more" are you earning now?

4. Because their parents don't have enough money to pay for their college education, and because they "can't get a good job" without a college degree, the idea of paying cash for college instead of borrowing doesn't even cross their minds, in many cases.

5. Because the easy availability of student loans has led colleges to raise tuitions and costs to an absurd level. When they compete for applicants by building expensive gym facilities, in most cases the cost of those extras is paid by the students -- when they repay their huge student loans. Without improving the quality of college education even a dram, universities are charging far, far more.

The lead quote from the Consumer Reports article is, "I feel I kind of ruined my life by going to college; I can't plan for an actual future." What a horrible assessment of the value of a college education. And yet it's an accurate one.

College has become the new high school. It used to be that a high school diploma was essential to decent employment, but college was just a luxury for the rich or the gifted. After World War II, however, the GI bill opened the doors of the colleges to veterans coming home from the war. This was a good investment in their future and a fair bonus for their life-risking service. It was also an excellent way to avoid huge unemployment rates, as happened after World War I, since these veterans would be in college instead of in the job market.

And because we pretend to be an egalitarian society, we can't stand the thought that some students are not "college material."

Well, here's a clue. Most graduating high school seniors are not college material -- not yet, anyway. They're going to go straight to college with a high school mentality. I know, because I teach them, and even as juniors and seniors many of them are still as unresourceful and incompetent as high schoolers. "Will that be on the test?" "How many pages does the paper need to be?" Those are the questions they ask, by and large, while very few of them actually engage in discussion of, or questions about, the subject matter of the course.

There are exceptions -- excellent students who are eager to learn all they can. Here's what I've learned in the past decade. The students who are actually ready for college fall into one or more of these groups:

1. Students who were home-schooled until they went to college. They never faced social pressure to show no interest in the lessons. They had teachers who wouldn't take any nonsense. They had to meet a genuine standard of rationality and accomplishment in order to pass courses. Home schooling is the best preparation for college, period.

2. Older students who had to earn a living or fulfil job assignments for a few years before arriving at the university. I'm especially aware of this group because most Mormons spend up to two years in missionary service between high school and college, or sometime during their college years. And students who went into the military have usually learned the discipline and steadiness that college studies require.

3. The same result comes with students who took a couple of years to work fulltime and save money to pay for their own college education. They know what it takes to earn money; they aren't going to squander their own money by being negligent students.

4. Married students and students with children are usually hard, effective workers. When you've got family to support, you take your studies seriously. Oddly enough, I often get much better performance from students who have spouse and/or children and who are working at a job while attending college. Their studies don't suffer because they're so hopelessly overworked -- instead, their studies improve because they make the most of every moment they can spend hitting the books.

In other words, the weakest students are the ones who went straight on to college from high school, without any experiences or circumstances to help them appreciate and take full advantage of college.

So college has become what high school used to be -- a minimal test of persistence and obedience to demonstrate to future employers that the graduate is willing to fulfil assignments given them by idiots.

Only in a very few fields does college actually prepare you for real-world work assignments. For years my mother headed an advisement center at a university business school, and she had many, many students who came back to her a year or so after graduation and said, "I've never once used anything I learned here," or, even more damningly, "I spent my first year unlearning all the things I was taught that turned out not to be true."

Here's the great secret that no college is willing to tell you: Most real-world jobs don't really require or even benefit from a college education.

If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or an architect or an accountant, then yes, college is essential -- but you'd better be prepared to be one of those good students rather than over-aged high schoolers.

For most fields, though, college is virtually irrelevant. When young writers ask me, "What should I major in in college to prepare for a writing career," my honest answer is to say, "If you want to be a writer, why are you going to college? Go get a job in the real world, work your brains out doing something that has nothing to do with writing, meet and really get to know the other people at your workplace, go to the library and read everything -- especially in subject areas that you think aren't interesting -- and then write your brains out. That's the education of a writer.

"The writers who go through creative writing programs are usually crippled," I tell them. "They're taught to write for college writing teachers rather than for volunteer readers who are spending their own money to buy books. They end up making their living, not from book sales, because nobody wants to buy the kind of book they write. Instead, they have to settle for a sinecure at a university, teaching completely ineffective creative writing courses that will keep another generation of young writers from producing anything that ordinary people would pay money to read."

They can't believe I mean it, of course, because, after all, I teach writing classes, don't I? Yes, but I always tell my students that they'll learn more from writing a 100,000-word manuscript than they will from any number of writing classes, including mine.

It's not just with writing, though, where college can actively interfere with career preparation. Why does anyone who wants to be an actor go to college? Electronic game designers, salesmen, store managers, pet groomers, beauticians, dry cleaners, plumbers, stock clerks, electricians -- you don't need a college education to learn any of those jobs.

Since many college grads have a hard time getting work in the field they supposedly trained for, they'll end up doing those same jobs -- only they'll have to repay a mountain of student debt out of their earnings.

Sometimes, if you want to make a living as a motivational speaker, you have to spend a few years living in a van down by the river while you learn your craft.

Don't misunderstand. I believe in education. I live my life constantly self-educating.

But most parents don't send their children to college for education. They send their kids to punch a meal ticket so that parents can be sure the kids can support themselves in a decent style.

How's that going? Between student debt, high unemployment, and the inapplicableness of many or most college courses of study to any actual career, the meal-ticket aspect of college education is highly unreliable.

So what do you do? Tell your kids not to go to college?

Here's what I suggest you might do, as your kids approach college age.

1. Tell your kids what I told mine: State schools are usually far cheaper and you'll get better teaching than at big-name "good" schools. That's because famous schools like Harvard and Stanford and Duke are only worthwhile for post-graduate studies; then you'll actually work with the big name scholars or scientists. As an undergraduate, you'll mostly be taught by teaching assistants, and you'll never see those famous scholars. But in a community college or a state school, you'll have at least some teachers who aren't there to get grants and conduct studies, but rather are there to teach students.

So I'm not joking when I say you're more likely to emerge from a less-prestigious school with a good education from good teachers. When it comes to colleges, cheaper is often better.

That's why I told my kids that even if we could afford to pay for Ivy League tuition and expenses, we weren't going to. If they wanted to go to a prestige school, they'd better earn a scholarship.

2. My kids saw both me and their mother working hard to educate ourselves to meet very high and exacting standards. Their mother is much more of a scholar than I am, but my reading is also wide and deep. So my kids knew that education was something you acquire for yourself; it doesn't depend on schooling and assignments from somebody else.

If you don't live that way, then real education doesn't actually mean that much to you. Your kids got that message, so sending them to warm a seat in a college classroom isn't going to do them much good. The only real education is the education you find for yourself -- even if you find it in a college classroom by engaging in discussion with the professor.

Kids who know how to self-educate will make much better use of their college time. But they'll also make better use of their non-college time, so that if they spend a couple of years earning money for college so they don't have to go into debt, they won't stop their education. They'll be self-educating right along.

3. Today's universities are infested with political correctness to such a degree that few students can emerge without having had their brains switched off when it comes to certain topics. They won't question anything; they will have been robotized to repeat whatever they were told. The result is that culturally, colleges will de-civilize your children and take away whatever power of self-education you helped them acquire.

You have a kid who wants to be a journalist? Keep them out of the extreme-Leftist journalism programs; instead, encourage them to blog like journalists when they're still in high school, digging up provable facts and learning how to write in a voice that people actually want to read. Then they'll have a portfolio of essays, stories, and columns that they can take with them to apply, not for top jobs, fantasy jobs, but for real slugwork jobs.

It's funny that in most fields, kids expect to start at high income levels, and they expect college to help them make that leap.

Yet kids who want to get into the movie business know that the best road in is to attach yourself as an unpaid intern to a producer or studio or agency and do all the worst slugwork in that office until you learn how the business works and you're read to apply for, then excel at, a real paying job.

Why shouldn't you use that same apprenticeship approach to learning other careers, skipping college entirely? You won't have to spend four years getting pounded with mindless propaganda from one groupthink ideology; instead, you'll gain experience that will allow you to form your own opinions and make up your own mind.

4. Are you sending your kids to college just to get them out of the house? Shame on you. Entering college prematurely is a waste of time and money. Even if you can afford to send your kids to college and pay cash for it all, they'll still be much better college students if they've had a wanderjahr -- whether it's time in the Peace Corps, missionary service, a real job in an office or on a farm or in a road crew, or youth-hosteling and Eurorailing their way through the many cultures of Europe.

You can get them out of the house much more productively by giving them a chance to grow up before they start spending money on tuition.

I think of the young man who came to our house years ago to offer the services of his window-washing business. He had trained assistants to help him do a quick and thorough job of opening windows, washing glass and screens, and then replacing everything in perfectly good order. He and his employees worked hard and earned the very reasonable prices they charged.

Not only would he be able to get through college debt-free, he had also demonstrated that no matter what he studied in school, he was ready to take a job in any business and excel at it.

The window-washing business lingered for a while after he left -- a younger brother took it over, I believe. But eventually, all those workers went off to school. We still miss them. They did good work.

5. My two thirty-something children are -- and unbiased sources agree with me -- brilliant, hard-working, productive, and high-achieving in their careers. They are raising splendidly happy and creative kids. And neither of them finished college. They couldn't afford to stay in college when a career they loved was already open to them.

Our youngest, however, just graduated from a university, having completed a demanding course of study, with professors willing to entrust her with assistantships. Intelligent, resourceful, hard-working -- college was not wasted on her, even though she wasn't home-schooled. (Except in the sense that being raised by their mother is home-schooling, though our kids also went to school.)

I once spent a truly hideous breakfast at a Beverly Hills hotel, conversing with a very rich woman from the East whose entire standard of judgment was prestigious schools. Every person she mentioned -- and she was a worse name-dropper than Dick Cavett -- was summed up by one simple criterion: Which prestige university they attended.

It was all my wife and I could do to keep from laughing when every name was followed by "Duke" or "Stanford" or "MIT" or "Harvard," as if she was telling us which patron saint they prayed to, or which god had taken them under protection.

There are people like that in the world, to whom prestige colleges are vital, but here's the funny thing: During that whole conversation, she said nothing even close to intelligent or insightful. The fact that she thought that the name of the college they attended was all the information needed to assess these people, showed her profound ignorance and her shallow values. She herself was a product of a prestige university: And they hadn't taught her any better than that?

It's time to get out of this counterproductive cycle of expecting, as parents, that we will pay for our children to go to college or that our children will borrow their way through school.

Wouldn't it be better to prepare them to fend for themselves? To go into their own small businesses, to learn to labor for their money, so that when they do go to college, they know how to work hard and achieve good things for their own sake.

Your job isn't to raise your children until you can push them down into the meatgrinder of college, to let somebody else package them up in tidy sausages. Your job is to help your kids become citizens who can make good choices and work hard and take charge of their own life and education.

Then they may well become adults who value themselves by what they achieve rather than what college is named on their resumé. A fool who went to Duke or Yale or Northwestern is still a fool; a self-educating adult with no such credential is going to lead a happier, more productive, more valuable life.

So when you think about the crushing debt that college can lead to, you and your kids should talk it through and decide just what kind of college you (and they) can afford; whether they really want to go straight on to college after high school, and what they might do instead; how they can prepare themselves to pay their own way through school, without ever borrowing.

Don't be one of those parents who tries to push their kids into this or that field of study based solely on how much money they'll make when they graduate. I've known people whose parents did that to them; not one of them is still working in that field, because their heart never was and never would be in it.

I take college education very seriously -- as a portion of one's lifelong self-education. But if your kids go to college under circumstances that leave them drowning in debt, what exactly was their college education worth?

If college is supposed to teach wisdom, then surely one of the first lessons should be to find a way to get through school without debt -- even if it means going back to school later, when they are married and have children. My dad and mom worked very hard to get my dad a college education with four, then five, then six children before he was able to begin work as a college professor.

We kids learned many things from the way they went about earning that college degree. And the financial struggles of our family during that time were burdens we shared as best we could, so that we all emerged stronger and closer because of it.

Struggle isn't a bad thing; it can be a good thing.

There's no reason to rush a college education before you can afford to pay for it. There's no reason to put your life on hold until you've "completed" your education.

And why send your kids to college if they're just going to come back afterward and live in your basement because they're so deeply in debt that they can't get a job that pays enough to service their student loans and pay living expenses?

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