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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Juicy Tidbit: State School

I know a woman who has "struggled" a bit with her second child. First child joined clubs, earned straight A's, garnered scholarships, nailed internships. (Note the resume/cover letter active verbs here.)  First child got money to attend prestigious private college. First child upon graduation quickly landed coolest job in the world in coolest city in the world. First born, frankly, is a poster child for boomer parenthood.  Second child? Always wanted to be a PE teacher. One day, I asked mom what colleges second child was applying to.

Mom said, after a pause,  "She'll probably go to a..."

She paused again. Then added, I swear, in a stage whisper, "state school."

I instantly thought of Rob Lowe. (See clip below.)

St. Elmo's Fire: "prison"

I happen to like this mom very, very much. In fact, I helped her first child get into that fancy college by helping her edit her personal statement/essay.  We sort of laughed after we both realized she had whispered the "dirty words."  Still, I think of this encounter often. I think about how skewed we've become. How parents surely mean well but somehow get caught up in the hysteria. How I have seen college students cry because they received an A- rather than an A. When did so much shame enter into the picture?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Stupidist Test Question: #1

You are a junior in high school. You are 16 years old. You study three days in a row for your honors lit test, which will be on a contemporary novel. You feel confident. You know the book's major themes, characters, plots and why the teacher felt compelled to make you read it -- that is, why the story is important in terms of understanding the world.  You actually DID read the novel (rather than skim Spark notes) and never missed a day of class and paid attention and took notes. You believe that you "get it." You have especially enjoyed the class discussions on what the story means. You sit down at your desk the day of the test and see this:

How much money did the main character owe to the IRS?: 
a.  $22,000
b.  $27,000
c.  $32,000
d.  $14,000

You start to sweat. Damn. You look around. Do other kids actually have this dollar amount cpmmitted to memory? You get distracted. You skim the test and see other similarly random questions. You DO understand that owing money to the IRS is central to the book's plot -- the debt forces the main character to go to work in a camp, a place where most of the story unfolds -- and you would love to discuss that. Heck, you would even be able to stand up at that moment and provide a 10-minute soliloquey about the debt and how it effs up the main character's life. BUT:  You must answer the question. If you get it and the other random questions wrong, you just might not get into college. Seriously. Because you need an A+ to get into college. Not a B. Certainly not a C.

You sort of feel like crying. After class, you talk to your friends. They panicked over the same random questions. Maybe the teacher will curve it?  Ah, but herein lies the problem:  five or so smarty-pants kids WILL know the answer. When they studied, they probably made flow charts. They probably used five-color highlighters. They wrote down every dollar amount or number in the book on index cards and taped them to the walls of their bedroom.  Or not. Maybe they were simply born with photographic memories for numbers.

The worst part?  You just know that you will bomb the next test -- for the same reason. And you can not see a way around it.