Recommended Parent Reading

Emma Keller:

Is your teenage son camped out in the basement surrounded by pizza boxes and Red Bull, playing video games 24/7 ? Does your daughter lie around ‘reading’ tabloid magazines or watching the Kardashians on her laptop until it’s time to eat when she graciously comes in to pick at the food you’ve spent the day making? Is your fridge completely empty because the TV-watching boy has eaten everything before noon and is now complaining of hunger?
Was your holiday gift-opening tranquility sabotaged by your girl who became enraged that her BFF (who she texted nonstop while opening every painstakingly wrapped item) got the iPad while she’s going to have to make do with an iPhone 5S FOR GOD’S SAKE?
Take solace mums and dads: Gigi Levangie Grazer has written just the book for you.
Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Talea is a book of short stories set in the Los Angeles Mark Frost Academy, where kids and parents embody every tabloid, reality show or gossip column attribute you know. It’s a view of humanity (if that could possibly be the right word) seen through the eyes of narrator, Perry Gonzales, a 14-year-old Hispanic scholarship student. Perry gets right inside the mansions of her academic peers thanks to her tutoring skills. Like most of the regulars of these homes, she’s a paid Latina. But the joke is, she has something all of these kids seem to lack: brains.
Here she is on the moms at Mark Frost Academy:

Age of Ignorance

Charles Simic:

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.
An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.
It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.

Gifted in Math, and Poor

New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up” (“Numbers Crunch” series, editorial, Dec. 15): Educators know that when the curriculum is set at an optimal difficulty level, students learn to persist, attend carefully and gain self-confidence. For mathematically gifted students, the curriculum must move more quickly and in greater depth so that they can become disciplined, resilient students.
When the mathematically gifted sons and daughters of affluent, well-educated parents are not challenged, their parents spend considerable amounts of time and money finding tutors, summer programs and online courses. As a psychologist who has worked for more than 20 years with the families of gifted students, I have seen how much time and money is required for this effort.
For mathematically gifted students from poorer families, there is neither the time nor the money to seek educational opportunities outside the public schools. A weak public school system without flexibility or adequate challenge can seriously limit the educational experiences and lifetime employment opportunities of these students. A weak public school system ultimately limits quality education to those few whose parents can pay for it privately.
Brooklyn, Dec. 19, 2013
Related: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine — NOT!

Many private college president make $1 million


Presidents at 42 private colleges scaled the $1 million annual mark in total pay and benefits in 2011–a slight bump from the year before, according to a survey based on the latest federal tax information from the 500 private schools with the largest endowments.
Total median compensation was $410,523, or 3.2 percent more.
A high salary can be a sign of prestige for presidents, but it also opens them to criticism. The Obama administration and consumers are pressuring schools to rein in tuition costs, increase graduation rates and strengthen the value of a diploma.
The Chronicle of Higher Education’s report released Sunday used federal tax information from 2011, the most recent available.
The top earner in the survey was Robert J. Zimmer, the president of the University of Chicago. His base pay was $918,000, but his total compensation was $3.4 million. About 40 percent of his total earnings stem from deferred compensation–a retention tool commonly used to keep college presidents on the job longer, according to the Chronicle.

We’re Constantly in Fear: The life of a part-time professor

Elizabeth Salaam:

Several weeks ago, I approached my friend Jenny (not her real name) for information on how to get hooked up with a teaching position at one of the local community colleges. Jenny currently works at five different schools — three community colleges, one private university, and one online university. My guess was that if anyone could point me in the right direction, it would be her.
I always figured I’d end up in academia. While in graduate school, I taught a semester of undergraduate creative writing, but then after a few years in elementary-school classrooms, I gave up on the idea of teaching. Still, I keep it in my back pocket as a go-to if I absolutely have to do it again.
I approached Jenny not because things have gotten dire, but that the scramble from one freelance writing job to another is beginning to take its toll. I figure why not take it easy for a while, supplement my income with a consistent, guaranteed paycheck and balance out the uncertainty of the freelance life. And, yes, after years of living hand-to-mouth, I have lofty dreams of tweed, sabbaticals, retirement plans, and picking up the check while drinking beer with graduate students.
But, halfway through our conversation, after we’ve covered whom to contact, what to do with my résumé, and which schools not to bother with, Jenny knocks my professorial fantasy on its ass.

Geography and American Destiny

John Steele Gordon:

Imagine that North America was somehow flipped, so that East was West and West was East. The continent’s West Coast, as we know it, would face the Atlantic and Europe. That would have greatly affected the history of this country.
Before the Industrial Revolution, bulk goods such as grain and lumber moved by water or they did not move. People and news also traveled fastest by boat.
The East Coast is rich in harbors large and small. Its many rivers are navigable, some for hundreds of miles inland.
The Pacific Coast of the U.S. is practically a blank wall, with high mountains that often hug the coastline. It has only three good natural harbors along its entire length–Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, and San Diego Bay. Only one river that flows into the Pacific, the Columbia, has deep water for more than a few miles inland. Its mouth, however, is blocked by a sand bar that has brought many a ship to grief.
Settling along the West Coast would have been difficult, developing a viable economy there equally so. But because of the East Coast’s water communications, commerce thrived in the British colonies and the settlements served as bases for exploring and occupying the interior. A further advantage: The wide alluvial plains east of the Appalachians made farming easy.

How to get into UC Berkeley after failing in High School- Dorian’s Story

Dorian Walder:

When I graduated high school, I had a cumulative grade point average of 2.1, hadn’t taken any advanced placement classes or the SATs, and didn’t apply to any colleges. Five years later, I graduated from the nation’s best public university: UC Berkeley. Here’s the story of what happened.
I grew up in Laguna Hills and Malibu with an older sister and loving parents. My father was a drywall contractor and my mother stayed home to take care of us while working part time as a nanny/ housekeeper. While growing up in El Salvador, my mom ended her schooling before graduating middle school. Similarly, my father dropped out of high school in San Diego to work and support his parents. They worked incredibly hard to support my sister and I.

College Football Coach Investigated for paying a Player’s Tutor

Tom LuPoi:

On Thursday, recently departed Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian told he was informed last week that Lupoi was being investigated for potential violations of NCAA rules after he allegedly paid for tutoring and online classes for a recruit. Sarkisian said the investigation likely will prevent Lupoi from getting a job on USC’s staff.
“I learned of the allegations this past Friday and I was obviously surprised by them,” Sarkisian said. “I think this potential allegation could affect not only Tosh’s future at USC but moving forward anywhere.”
The Times reported on Wednesday that Washington and USC were looking into the allegations against Lupoi, who is in his second year as the Huskies’ defensive line coach. He was hired in 2012 by Sarkisian, who was Washington’s head coach at the time of the potential violations. Sarkisian left the Huskies for the head-coaching job at USC earlier this month.

The year in education: Wins, losses and unsung heroes

Alan Borsuk:

Did not much happen? Consider the waves of flat data on how kids are doing.
It may take a while to sort out this year. But that won’t stop me from offering a few awards for, um, distinguished something or other.
Most jaw-dropping moment of the year: Adding into the state budget a statewide private school voucher program. Literally in the middle of the night, with no public hearings or advance word, this emerged from a backroom deal by key Republicans and voucher lobbyists. It is limited to a small number of students now. But if Gov. Scott Walker wins re-election in November and Republicans keep control of the Assembly and Senate, there is a strong possibility vouchers will become available widely in Wisconsin.
Education person of the year: Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton. In his fourth year, Thornton and his powerful behind-the-scenes chief of staff, Naomi Gubernick, are at the center of so much. Thornton is both tough and a nice guy, each an asset in his work. He is good at spreading optimism. He’s got plans and goals that sound good and, in many ways, are. And he’s politically adept. But he is a perplexing figure who seems eager not to be challenged by subordinates or pesky people like reporters. A “gotcha” style of management by bosses seems to be pretty common in MPS, undermining morale.
The Same Old Same Old Award: Waves of test data and a second round of the new statewide school report cards told us that the Have kids are doing OK in Wisconsin and the Have Not kids are not. As for the Haves, they’re not doing so well that we shouldn’t be talking about how to give their schools a fresh burst of energy, and that seems to be happening in some places. As for the Have Nots, so little has changed, despite so much effort. There are a few bright spots on the scene, and we need to do more to grow them. Overall, we’ve got to find paths that are better than the ones we’ve been on.
The Gone-At-Last Award (Hopefully To Stay): Dr. Brenda Noach Choice School. This was one of a handful of voucher schools that was a model of what’s wrong with oversight of Milwaukee’s nationally important program to pay for children in private schools. The school was “an abomination,” as one strongly pro-voucher leader told me recently. But for years, it fended off attempts to cut off its funding. Finally, this year, after receiving $7,299,749 in public money over a dozen years, the Brenda Noach school ran out of options — it couldn’t find anyone to accredit it. But that doesn’t mean the school leaders aren’t shopping for accreditation to re-open for next year.

Millions of American Students Need to Learn English

Trevon Milliard:

“In the words of teachers themselves, they don’t feel qualified,” Gandara said.
About 40 percent of American teachers have ELL students in their classrooms, but only a third of these teachers have training for them. However, this training usually amounts to just four hours over five years, said Granada on Saturday, laying the ground for a panel of ELL experts and teachers discussing why intensive efforts have failed to close the gaps of ELL students.
“This is really difficult to do,” said Gandara, quoting a bilingual teacher who still struggles to keep ELL students on track despite speaking Spanish, the native language of three-fourths of America’s ELL students.

Expensive cities are killing creativity

Sarah Kendzior:

On May 5, musician Patti Smith was asked what advice she had for young people trying to make it in New York City. The long-time New Yorker’s take? Get out. “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling,” she said. “New York City has been taken away from you.”
Smith was not the only New Yorker to reject the city that had nurtured artists for decades. In October, musician David Byrne argued that “the cultural part of the city – the mind – has been usurped by the top 1 percent”. Under Michael Bloomberg, New York’s first billionaire mayor, homelessness and rent both soared, making one of the world’s centres of creative and intellectual life unliveable for all but the richest.
At play, notes Byrne, was more than a rise in the cost of living. It was a shift in the perceived value of creativity, backed by an assumption that it must derive from and be tied to wealth. “A culture of arrogance, hubris and winner-take-all was established,” he recalls. “It wasn’t cool to be poor or struggling. The bully was celebrated and cheered.”
New York – and San Francisco, London, Paris and other cities where cost of living has skyrocketed – are no longer places where you go to be someone. They are places you live when you are born having arrived. They are, as journalist Simon Kuper puts it, “the vast gated communities where the one percent reproduces itself”.