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Author Topic: Back to College
pooka
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This was a sobering essay for me because, as most of us prefer to imagine, I was a student who was more worried about getting an education than a meal ticket or maintaining a social network.

But I've spent the last week or so, in segments of my commute time, wondering how to raise my children so they don't turn out like me.

It's not that I have such disdain for my parents, simply that my choices in life resulted in my excelling in a useless major and working as a legal secretary, and having a 40 minute commute each way, where I sit and wonder how I can best influence my children in the scarce "quality time" I still have for them.

I'm grateful to have employment and to be doing something that I like. I just wished I'd done things differently, but I realize that is a waste of breath.

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Shanna
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I thought it was an interesting essay. It really put into words some general negative air that's been hanging over me as I come to the end of my college education.

My experience was different in that my small liberal arts college was incredibly competitive and aside from one or two odd individuals who didn't so much talk as dominate the classroom, those who didn't talk were usually singled-out as weird. Or worst yet, completely pushed out of the social network.

As for diversity, being that my parents moved a month before I was set to start college and I had already decided to attend school closer to them, I arrived at university knowing only one person. She was a classmate from Gifted English who didn't make it through the first week. The town where my parents moved is heavily recruited and therefore the school is full of this kids who all went to high school together. They became their own little "crew" and stuck pretty firmly together. I attempted to get close to my roommate who was from the same town but had a falling out after a year. I then gravitated to a classmate who was from Texas, my original home. But looking at my senior class, all the New Orleans kids are close, the Monroe kids all hang out together...and so forth. We all socialized at parties but there was more than a fair share of gossiping and fights between groups of friends. I used to remark that I hadn't seen such petty social behavior since middle school.

As for minorities, I somehow ended up dating one of the few black men in the college which was atleast 90% white if not more. The university was more diverse with a pretty even balance between whites and blacks (with smaller percentages of hispanics and asians). But the minute you walked into the cafeteria, you nothing but tables of all white students or tables of all black students. Walking around campus, you might see lots of white and black students talking, perhaps about class or this weekend's party. But at meals, the tables are completely segregated. It was such an odd phenomenon for me and it gained the attention of the school paper once, which unfortunately was highly ignored.

I liked the bit about foreign exchange students. In our school, their arrival made them instant stars. Everyone fawned over them and competed for their attention. Lots "friends" but few "friendships." Thankfully, this isn't always the case as my boyfriend and his friends are still in steady contact with a German student who has made repeated trips since his study because of their close bond.

My favorite bit was the part about the French study group. While our social behavior didn't pressure student to appear apathetic about school, it did pressure us to worry too much about grades and test scores and majors/minors. We used to get caught up asking "Is this one the test?" or we'd pry the teacher for their opinion on a subject so we could tailor our essays to agree with their view of the material. We'd wonder if we should take one class over another. Take the class that's more appropriate for X-Grad School or take the class that's more interesting to us. Every now and then we'd look at each other in study groups and catch ourselves debating Wittgenstein when we should just be memorizing theories and writing papers in praise of his works. It was like the tension between caring about grades and careers and caring about learning. Thankfully, as I had no immediate plans for graduate school, I got to enjoy alot of fluffier courses and was happier for it.

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theamazeeaz
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I found the article interesting enough to look up the book, and further googling immediately led me to an article that outed "Rebekah Nathan" as a professor at the college where I'm doing a summer program: NAU ("Any U" in the book, say THAT out loud :-P ). Now I really can't not buy it.

I flipped through the book in one local bookstore, but I'm told they sell it on campus under the "faculty authors" section. The two paragraphs I read were about the dorms and her description was the dorm I'm living in down to the sink and the built in double desks.

I've seen some interesting characters as well as some people well over thirty living in my dorm, so Nathan would have stuck out, but not raised too many eyebrows.

I can also see NAU as the kind of place where half the kids in your high school end up going.

I can also see why people here would be placing a huge emphasis on using their degree to get a higher paying job. Thanks to the fact that a quick check at Weather.com tells me that the current temperature in Flagstaff is 38 degrees cooler than the current temp in Phoenix, Flagstaff is quite the tourist destination. The place is a haven for second home owners and one of the last bits of real civilization before the Grand Canyon. So Flagstaff has more restaurants, hotels and mom and pop versions of REI per capita than I see in most places. Hence industries that have minimum wage type jobs with house prices through the roof. The people who work here can't entirely afford to live here, and the next town isn't for miles. But it's a nice place to live.

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cahn
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I thought this OSC essay was very interesting because OSC is always going on and on about how it's not worth it to send your kids to elite private colleges; they can get just as much of an education at any other college; etc...

And then this book seems to turn it all on its end. My experience at an elite private college (possibly *the* most elitist) was very different. Although not everyone was into academics (everyone WAS intensely involved in *something*, whether it was music or the newspaper or House life or religion or the Simpsons, which was something else I just loved about it), everyone *respected* academics. There was no culture of underachieving. Overachieving and general smartness was very much respected. The coolest people were those who were identified as super good at what they did (who often turned out to be super nice and interesting as well).

There were few cliques, partially because there weren't that many schools with a large representation. The biggest clique I found, actually, was a large number of people who had all gone to a high school summer program at MIT who all hung out together-- and really, "clique" is the wrong word, as they were perfectly happy to welcome other people along.

So, again, my biggest source of education was NOT the classroom, but in a very positive sense.

I myself was trained by my parents to care very much about grades, which I regret because I don't feel I got as much out of my college experience as did my classmates. However... I still did take a year of music theory, which was basically the Best Class Ever.

I'm not saying everyone needs to send his or her kids to an Ivy League. Certainly there were downsides as well-- it WAS expensive, and the administration of my particular university was not very, um, user-friendly. And yeah, everyone there, including me, was totally toeing the flaming liberal line, as OSC likes to point out. (He doesn't point out that brainwashing is a natural part of college, one way or another-- as I think Nathan's book proves-- and many of us grow out of most of it, sooner or later.) But there were definite advantages as well.

pooka, what worked for my parents is making their kids major in a science. I fully intended to go on and be a poor academic, but later, when I changed my mind, having my training be in science meant that there were a lot of interesting jobs open to me.

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pooka
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I started out majoring in biology but I was on a scholarship so I kind of had to gravitate toward classes I could do really well in, as I saw it. Why I lacked confidence in my math and science ability is a whole 'nuther ball of wax. But I do emphasize the importance of math and sciences with my children, and my older daughter wants to be an astronaut.

Gosh, I just realized Card's youngest is not that much older than my oldest.

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DDDaysh
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lol... I suggest pushing the science more than the match. I'm "back in college" myself, studying for an MBA, because when I was REALLY in college, peer pressure pushed me to disdain the "easy" (and inevitably usefull) majors of accounting, business, or communications. Instead, I struggled though a math major, ending up with a not so great GPA, and the discovering that no one really wants to hire anyone who is ONLY a math major.

After an attempt at going to graduate school in statics (totally beyond my ability), and a disastrous year attempting to teach Algebra to high school students who thought that a welding job paying $7.50 an hour was a dream come true, I ended up in what is essentially a clerical position with a big company.

So, in the desperation to find a job that will use at least a LITTLE more of my brain, I'm sucking it up and falling in with the fad, and am going part time to get my MBA. It's going to take me NEARLY as long as getting my Bachelors because I can only go two nights a week. Still, it's a start and I'm hopeful.

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theamazeeaz
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Welcome to Hatrack, cahn!

I've finished the book and I have to say that Card's summary is very good and touches on the most intriguing aspects of the book. To bring up an anecdote he did not mention, I found very interesting as a current college student regarding the nature of reslife activity participation.

Nathan was hoping to stay at home one weekend in January, but it was Superbowl Sunday and a party with free food had been advertised for weeks, so Nathan thought not going would be missing a big piece of culture. Six people showed up. She thought no one there cared about sports, but no, there were several small superbowl parties in individual rooms that she could hear walking back to her own room. People have a tendency to just do things with friends instead of participating in the wider dorm life.

I think I've botched the summary of that story, but she made some interesting points about indiviualism in communities. I remember convincing two other students in my program group to watch a movie the dorm was showing. The three of us made a significant contribution to the number of residents who showed. I went to a Poker event a week later and the person who chose the movie was *still* bragging about the turnout.

After finishing the book, I googled just about every write-up I could on it. There were several interviews with Cathy Small, and one had asked her whether the attitude and atmosphere of NAU was typical of most colleges. Administrators at other colleges had (Duke springs to mind, but I may be misremembering here) said that it was.

Now my general impression of Card's current view on higher education is that it is not only not worth it to send your children to private colleges, but they should commute to the nearest public school and read what they want on their own time while living at home, viewing college as a necessary evil, complete with brainwashing.

I disagree with Card and Nathan, and agree with cahn- the school does make the difference. While not doing summer research and living in the dorms in oxygen deprived Flagstaff, I'm a student at an elite women's college thirteen miles or so west of what I suspect was cahn's alma mater.

Every time someone mentions a desire to attend my college, they are usually greeted by the suggestion that they are crazy. Who would want attend a college with only women? Aren't women nothing but crazy, catty, backstabbing ... oh wait this is a family board. Don't men provide the fun in life? Isn't college secretly a place to meet your spouse? Let's not forget the blantant homophobia, nor the recent article which decided to present the percententage of virgins of our school as a function of major. Good grief.

So one portion of the people who go to my school hope to be "empowered" by the all female environment, another part go because they liked the campus or the programs or the opportunities in spite of the fact that it's a women's college and everyone else goes because they didn't get in where they wanted (cough: cough: cahn's school) to or got the best finaid offer. But what it boils down to is that people who want to be there had the classroom in mind.

Now it's not to say that my school isn't plagued by the same problems NAU is, but people don't come here with high school friends. I've always felt knowing no one makes a big difference. We have a bizarre culture of hating overachievers while trying to be overachievers at the same time. Maybe it's because the department is so small and I have zero choice of what classes to take, but my primary friendships are within my major. My roommate makes pictures of Physics jokes and sends them to everyone, and her door is decorated with Physics paraphenalia. We're allowed to be dorks, and things that totally fly at my school would get laughed at at most other places.

I think if you find a school that really touts its classroom experience as its selling point, or a school that attracts a different sort of student, that you'll get an intellectually focused experience.

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BlueWizard
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I have no idea what 'essay' you are talking about since no link or reference was provide.

Sadly, I am at a point in life where I can't follow the advice that will follow, but none the less, I give the advice.

If you want you kids to be happy in life, and if you too want to be happy, then follow this advice.

"Follow your biss." - Joseph Campbell

"Do what you love, the money will follow." - Marsha Sinetar (from the book by the same name)

Do, you want to be secure in life? That is, is your soul goal to have a roof over your head, and the bills paid. If that's true, then take any old job that is adequate.

But, if you want to be happy, you have to spend your life discovering yourself. Finding out who and what you are, and what you love. In 'what you love' you will find your bliss.

Now quoting myself -

"One of life's great tragedies is to have never found what you love in life. Life's greatest tragedy is to have never looked."

What advice would I give a young person regarding their future?

"Invent yourself."

That is a young persons sole purpose in life. Dare to dream, dare to look into the future, and see yourself doing what you love. Then come back to the present and start gathering the resources to take you to that place. You can even change your mind along the way, because whatever resources you gather toward finding your love, are still valuable resources.

"Seek out and find love. In love, you will find life."

Find out what you love in life. Not just who you will fall in love with, though that is certainly part of it. But test life; try it all. Find the people, the places, and the things you love in life, and in that love, and in those things, you will find yourself and your life. In that love, you will find your bliss.

In find and doing what you love, you will be able to follow your life with a passion. It is that undying passion that give life to life. It's not about money, certainly we all need to pay the bills, but it is the satisfaction that the task that bring the money, brings to our lives that counts.

Just a thought.

Steve/BlueWizard

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pooka
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Oh, it was the current review at the time I posted this. Let's see...
http://www.hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2007-07-08.shtml

There you go. I guess he was saying that college is some kind of compromise between what parents, students, and educators hope for. Compromise in this case being less of a positive result and more of a "cut the baby in two" result.

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theamazeeaz
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You want links, you got links.

http://www.hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2007-05-13.shtml

http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2003-08-31-1.html

http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2002-08-12-1.html
http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2002-07-08-1.html

Why reporters shouldn't go to college:
http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2003-07-28-1.html

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Neakley
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Oh, if I remember when I went to college, I had real problems. Especially when I needed to prepare documents for admission. If it hadn't been for the help of these guys mba essay editing service. I probably wouldn't have gone to college. I think this is a great option for you too, so be sure to take a look.
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hawser
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quote:
Originally posted by Neakley:
Oh, if I remember when I went to college, I had real problems. Especially when I needed to prepare documents for admission. If it hadn't been for the help of these guys mba essay editing service. I probably wouldn't have gone to college. I think this is a great option for you too, so be sure to take a look.

No, that won't work.
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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by hawser:
quote:
Originally posted by Neakley:
Oh, if I remember when I went to college, I had real problems. Especially when I needed to prepare documents for admission. If it hadn't been for the help of these guys mba essay editing service. I probably wouldn't have gone to college. I think this is a great option for you too, so be sure to take a look.

No, that won't work.
Itís spammer versus spammer. Like Spy vs. Spy, but not as cool
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DustinDopps
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Still kinda interesting. The computers aren't even close to being self-aware, but at least they can argue with themselves now.
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