Legacy Admissions: a handout to the already haves.

Legacy admissions are not a leg up, they are a hand out to the already haves.

Data shows that the number one predictor of the likely education level a child will receive is the level of education the parents have already attained. This is not due to some sort of amniotic intelligence transfer but rather the tendency of most teachers (parents) to teach others, to simply do what they did.IMG_9436

People who have gone to elite colleges are more likely to know the application process, understand the school’s expectations, and better yet, they often know the people making the admissions decisions.IMG_9508

If you look at those who attend elite schools you will find that most of them had parents who went to elite schools, or at least good schools, and as one might guess, these parents also have a good amount of money. Whether the schooling or the money came first doesn’t really matter, but there is surely a solid correlation. In addition, you will find that most of those who are accepted into elite schools had tutors and took test prep classes during grade and high school. These kids being tutored are the A students, not the ones at risk of athletic ineligibility. On top of that, you will also find that most who gain entry into elite colleges attended high schools that have previously sent other students to elite colleges. Turns out that following well-traveled paths is more likely to get you there than forging new trails.

There are few, if any, immaculately conceived scholars who rise from nowhere with potential so obvious that Harvard can see it.crew guys

Most people who haven’t been to Harvard don’t know many others who have. Most who never attended Princeton, don’t really know what Princeton is looking for in an applicant. Most at mediocre high schools, are unaware that most at great high schools are taking extra SAT prep classes. Some, who never went to Yale but still managed to accumulate wealth, spend some of that wealth to send their kids to schools where the children of Yale grads go.IMG_9500

That is how people get in.

If you want to investigate potential unfairness in admissions to elite schools, maybe we should look first, I repeat first (not as an afterthought), at the practice of giving preference to those who are already advantaged in the application process.

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BLM, Police, and Kids These Days

When I was 14 my friend Matt and I were supposed to be sleeping over at Eric’s house, but we all snuck out the window. We didn’t have anywhere to go, or even anyone to meet, but it was summer, we were bored, and we were going to manufacture some adventure in any way we could. In my pocket I had a brick of firecrackers my dad had brought back from Wyoming where they were legal. We headed off for the gully where it was rumored devil worshipers held strange ceremonies involving kidnapped children. Where else would adventure seeking suburbanites go? When we got there we did not find the pagans, but we did find a lone cop, sitting in his squad car with the windows rolled down.usguys1

Eric told me to wait in the bushes and he would be back in a minute. I dumbly complied. About two minutes later a string of firecrackers lit up the inside of the cop car. I could hear the officer shouting in shock even louder than the pop-pop-pop of the Black Cats. Eric came hurdling over the bushes and ran down the street not waiting to see if I was following. I was.IMG_0496

That was more than 20 years ago and I have told that story a million times to thousands of people. Eric is a responsible well employed adult now- no harm no foul. Funny thing is this story gets different reactions depending on who hears it. Most of my white friends laugh in wonder at the foibles of youth. Most black people with whom I tell are at best, annoyed. Some are quite upset.1923755_1165089124994_2895697_n

You see, most of my white friends, more than you might think, counter with their own stories. Thanks to them I have quite the collection of stories about idle vandalism and general teenaged delinquency; enough to re write American Graffiti ten times over. But this would be a very white movie. None of the black people I know have the same sorts of stories. No, that isn’t quite true. They do have those stories but the endings are very different. The black stories I hear trend towards much less actual destruction and much more police involvement. It is possible that the black people I know are just lames. Maybe they were blerds. I of course have not met all black people, nor do I represent all white folks, I am just a middle aged collection of anecdotes. But with that being said, we, my black friends and I, are all Americans but we did not grow up in the same world.

This reality was made even more clear to me, and more alarming, last night.IMG_2749

I attended a local public forum on race and policing. Up on the stage were a row of chiefs. There was the local police, the county sheriff, even the school district pd. The mayor, a black woman, sat there too, joined by another row of pastors and local clergy. Out in the auditorium the public lined up behind two microphones to ask their questions, make their comments, and the chiefs gave their answers. It was a mostly cordial event. I support having more of them. Yet there was a theme coming from that stage that troubles me.

More than one officer, and a couple pastors, even one black officer from the crowd, talked about how the youth are different today. They talked about how the youth of today don’t respect the police. One officer suggested kids are responding to things they see about cops in the media and two pastors said this is all a result of the lack of Bibles in school. There was a common thread that the police wanted to understand, more so to be understood, and that they are constantly frustrated by the public’s lack of cooperation.IMG_0503

The challenge of policing in a violent racialized society is definitely complex and difficult. I get that.

But I also get that American Graffiti was released in 1973. I also know that I knew all the words to that Officer Krumpke song from West Side Story when I was ten.  That movie was released in 1961. I know that all through my youth the cops were the ones who got mad at you for throwing water balloons or eggs, chased you when you hopped the neighbor’s fence, and cops were the ones who stopped your car when they got calls of possible gun shots coming from a black Tercel. The car was blue, not black, and the sound wasn’t gun shots, it was the noise made when a bat hits a mailbox.

We were never respectful, we were too annoyed that our spirits were being oppressed.IMG_2750

But maybe I haven’t spoken to enough young black kids today. Maybe they are the ones who have changed. Maybe it is the black people of my generation who would never have dared to throw a lit firecracker into a cop car or who got arrested for being out too late. Maybe the black kids today would hit the mailbox or would throw the egg.

Does this mean things have gotten worse?meandpetedisco

Maybe bad guys and cops have both been pulling triggers for generations and the only thing different now is cameras. Maybe the black folks who never threw eggs back then are more afraid of bullets and are now willing to throw bricks. I know that plenty of the guys I grew up with, the ones who did the same things as me, have grown up to be cops. These are great guys. I love them.choirhazing2

But did we forget? Where is the empathy? Why has the phrase “kids will be kids” been replaced by the word thug? Is it because these kids today, these thugs, are worse than we were? We, the Dazed and Confused kids were just messing around but these thugs are a real danger? Really?highschoolgroup

I struggle with this. I struggle because in 9th grade I watched my classmates smoke weed and shoplift. In 10th grade I watched a bunch of kids hop out of a car at a strip mall and beat up a stranger for no reason. I saw one kid beat another with a bat behind the movie theater over a girl. Jed got stabbed at school. My good friends did meth, dropped acid, sold coke. Stole a car, drove drunk, walked away. I saw all of that. But we are all older now and we have learned our lessons. We have matured now and we teach our children better. We were kids.highschoolgroup2

Really, the biggest difference I can see between us back then and the kids today, is that for the most part, we were all white.

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The Letter on My Chest: Hillflint

I once spent a day in the archives of the University of Pennsylvania. I was doing research on the history of American football, focusing on its roots as an elitist quasi military ivy league creation and then its metamorphosis into a blue collar American religion. In the course of investigation I was able to handle a number of artifacts of various type and description, but my favorite item, was a sweater.sweater stuff

After handling this 100 year old piece of knitwear, woven back in those primitive times, I was a bit surprised at how hard it was to find one of like quality today. I started in my own college’s bookstore, one of those misnamed retailers of pennants and polo shirts but no dice. Plenty of t-shirts, but no classic P. In my various travels and continued research I was able to find some schools with similar items, but not the one I wanted. I looked everywhere. Lots of sweaters, but not the right one.

Then there was the internet and this one website. Hillflint.
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I found it and finally, over the holiday, I got it.

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The letter was not a felted applique patch but rather an intarsia knit letter woven right into the chest, just like the original I found in the archive.

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The little bit of branding in the waistband was their own touch but I liked it. This was not a jersey meant to be worn on Franklin Field, it was a sweater meant to be pulled over a button down on a crisp campus afternoon. Or in my case, a California evening when it dips down to the unheavenly temperature of 60 degrees.
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When Traditions Rightfully Die

Traditions are the wisdom and rites of days and sages passed, carried on to the present. These traditions feed the roots of young saplings striving to be trees.

When one is blown about by the winds of fortune, or driven by the desolation of misfortune, it can be hard to find native soil; where roots can dig deep for nourishment.
Steinbeck had something to say about that, but then again so did JD Clampett. Same people going to the same place while remaining worlds apart.struttin

We are not, nor have we felt, Californian. Who you are or were means more come the holidays. We were not originally, but we became, Philadelphian. When you are not, or are not where, you want, you feel a little empty.

So then what?

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I have read and discussed at some length the ins and outs of assimilation, the tragedy of cultural genocide, and most recently quite a bit about our modern murdering of all that was once good in popular culture. We are now horrible and depraved when once we were honorable and chaste.
Traditionalist versus progressive. Culture wars. War on Christmas. War on rights. All the while I’m just getting used to saying “the” 10 versus “I-95”.groveband
I read a Wall St Journal article decrying the decline of American WASP rule. The author said things were better when the United States had an Anglo Saxon ruling class. Those with this birthright quelled scandal and instilled morals on the masses. Now that class has lost its throne and the world is horrible.
He was right that much of what is normal now is horrible.

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But too often the traditionalist forgets what was also horrible back in the good old days.
In the case of Mr. Wall St. Journal what he really meant is not things were better back then but that things were better for HIM back then. Were he a black woman perhaps his article would read a little different.
Then again, any one of us is only what we are. We can’t be what we are not.

So again… When what we were is no more, when we are no longer where we once were and can’t go back, then what?

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We kill the WASP!
We throw the tea in the harbor, we march from Selma, we flee the potato famine, we strap Granny in her rocking chair, toss it up on top of the jalopy and head to Californy! You take what can come with you (that is worth taking) and you strike out. You adapt. You be you, but in a new place.

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Merry Christmas.
Happy Hanukkah.
Off to a New Year and a Brave New World!

Pomona: yes. just yes.

If you are going to build a campus in Southern California you should do it like Pomona.

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In 1887 a group of graduates from schools like Dartmouth, Yale, and Colby wanted to found a college in the New England style… but without the snow. They built Pomona.

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They must have done something right because in 2013 Forbes.com ranked Pomona the #2 college in the country. Stanford got #1.
Pause for a minute. #2 over all. This means it beat Harvard, Yale, Princeton, M.I.T., Duke, Cal, and pretty much everyone else.

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You may not have heard of Pomona before. Don’t feel bad. A lot of people are just like you and just like you, most people don’t really know what a liberal arts college is. Pomona is a liberal arts college. When I was 17 I thought a liberal arts college was a place for democrats. I was not too bright; one of the reasons I didn’t go to Pomona.

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A liberal arts college is normally small, which is why most of us haven’t heard of most of them. These schools focus a bit more on critical thinking ability than a specific marketable skill. If education was stretched out into a line, one end would be poetry and the other would be engineering; business perhaps. A large research University normally lets a student choose one point on this spectrum and focus on it. Upon graduation the student should be proficient, and employable, in whatever they studied ie chemistry, marketing, or even -gulp- English.

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A liberal arts education aims to give a student experience and knowledge on as many points on that spectrum as possible. Then, upon graduation, the student should have the ability to look at problems, tasks, or anything, and draw on a wealth of knowledge to generate answers, ideas, or whatever is needed at that moment.

What this does not always generate is a job; or so many think. Many people are wrong.

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Now lets not us get this wrong. A job on Wall St. is not and should not, be the sole purpose of college. That being said, about 20% of Pomona grads work in finance. But it is not a pipeline, that would be Wharton. Now if you want to go to grad school, or get a Fulbright (the class of 2007 alone won 24 Fulbright scholarships), or be a lawyer, or simply want to learn in a rigorous and supportive environment, consider the liberal arts route.

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There are plenty of such schools around, but at places like Pomona it is kinda hard to get in. 23% of those admitted were their high school’s valedictorian. Most were in the nation’s top percentile on the SAT. They accept less than 1,000 students year to year. That is small.

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Don’t worry about the money. When it comes to the top American schools, never worry about the money, worry about getting in. Pomona promises that if you get in, they will make sure you find the money. They also promise that money won’t come from a loan.
But ya gotta get in first.

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Providence College

Providence Rhode Island may be the coolest town you never hear about.  At least I never hear anything about it.  I visited Providence College having never heard a thing about it before. that was some time ago and I haven’t heard a thing about it since.
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Our modern TMZ society would assume that this lack of buzz means there is nothing there worth knowing about. I would just ask that anyone who may think this way should please explain to me the details about how the internet actually works.

How does what I clickety-clack on my keyboard wherever I am, get to your eyes in wherever you are? I never hear anything about that but I am glad someone knows how to make it happen.

Such is Providence College… kind-of.
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You probably haven’t heard of the “Friars”, because the student body is mostly local. They are so local in fact that the Princeton Review deemed Providence the most homogeneous student body in the country. What this means is that unless you fit a specific description, you likely don’t know anyone who went there.

Though you may have at least heard of some of them: Chris Dodd, Pat Kennedy, or Richard Daley.glass building

Providence College requires all students to take an expanded program in the development of western civilization. This is two years, 5 days a week, and everyone takes it. The courses are all taught by full professors and the program has its own dedicated building.

I like that. Or rather I would have liked that had I known about it when I was a potential undergrad.clock

What I may not have liked is the school’s national number one ranking in consumption of hard liquor.

So the school, unlike the city, is not for everyone, but if you are the right specific someone, it is fantastic.

J Press Redeems Itself: or at least that one guy did

Walking past the Washington D.C. Brooks Brothers ‘Gatsby’ window felt like Halloween. I like some of what I saw but getting dressed shouldn’t be playing dress up.

A few blocks further down I felt like I was looking at a lackluster meal. The kind with all the right ingredients, a lot of labor, that just doesn’t turn out right. Not a bad meal at all yet still a huge disappointment. Remembering Cambridge, I inhaled and stepped inside.press doorsI was dressed much like last time, flat front khakis, blue button down, tan v neck, solid blue tie.

A man behind the counter said something along the lines of “hello.”

madrasI explained I was just looking a little but mostly wasting time he replied that he thought that was great and to enjoy myself.

Panama hats are obviously a thing right now. I saw one that might suit me, picked it up to maybe try it on, when a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out the window. Outside was a little old woman sporting that Panama hat. The man chuckled and in a heavy accent said, “I guess it is summer time.”ivy books

While staring at cuff links a man asked, “which ones were you looking at?” I told him which ones I liked but that I was on strict orders to buy nothing. He smiled and said he understood.

He had grey longish hair. Not long enough to tuck behind an ear but enough to pass the collar in the back. I’m sure he must have had some wrinkles but his face, his eyes perhaps, seemed young. He was not bothered by me and I consequentially relaxed.

What he did next was remarkable.summer weight

A young black man walked into the store wearing shorts and a hooded sweatshirt. The salesman looked up, smiled a hello, and went right back to our conversation.

I wandered off on my own and the salesman directed a cheerful, “how are you doing today?” to the guy wearing Air Jordans. He did not tailgate the guy, hover over his shoulder, not did he ignore him in hopes he would go away. It was almost the same greeting I got, perhaps a little friendlier as the guy in the hood was a little nicer than I was.press capitol

By the time I walked away those two were chatting away. The black man had just gotten a job at a local shoe store, the sales rep knew everyone there, including the one who had just left. The black man knew every make of shoe imaginable but wanted a new suit. “well, you obviously aren’t working today. I’m sure {insert female name of shoe store boss here} wouldn’t have you walking in dressed like this?”

“Naw. I have today off,” he chuckled.sweaters

Maybe it was just Spring or perhaps not having your location listed on the corporate logo strips away the pretension. Whatever it was, this location was not like the last. Maybe it was just the grey haired guy with the young eyes but when I left there that day I wished I had money to spend.

I liked the clothes better, the sun was a little brighter, and I felt better about me.

Those two were still chatting when I left. I have no idea if a suit was purchased but I’m sure the newly minted shoe salesman will be back.

Me too.