Dear Committee Members is the second novel from PEN/Hemingway award finalist and creative writing professor Julie Schumacher. Written entirely in the form of letters of recommendation, the novel relays the academic trials and tribulations of Jason Fitger, a floundering novelist, creative writing professor and self-proclaimed "dinosaur" in the rapidly changing landscape of liberal arts education. At a time when literature departments are in danger of extinction and bureaucrats wield unprecedented power over university funds, Fitger aspires to speak truth to power through his rambling, disjointed, and cranky letters of recommendation. The best use for these letters, he believes, is not to praise his misguided students and colleagues but to [...]
A few months ago, at the stroke of midnight, I found myself—quivering, and naked but for sturdy running shoes—in the hallway of my college library. I was surrounded by two of my best friends and twenty or so acquaintances; we held bags of candy and bags of our clothes, waiting for the signal. Our leader raised her hand.
"T-B-I!" she cried out. "Y…T…B!" we answered in unison1. And then, loudly, we were off, down six flights of stairs to confront the inevitable spectators.
College campuses, as places, as settings, are these arrested works of beauty, where faces, festivals, and feelings change, but, fundamentally, the state of things remains the same. [...]
Serial entrepreneur millionaire Jason Calacanis is joining the crowd of rich people in turning against college: "In my estimation college is worth it if you have a ton of money and don’t care about ROI, or if you can pay less than $50k-$75k and get a job with starting pay of $50k or more (generally technical, trade or finance work)." Don't go to school, kids!
But there's an answer. And the answer comes from brave disruptors in tech! That's where all good answers come from. "They’re blowing up education by making it a) free, b) on demand and c) engaging—and even fun!" Yessir. "Did you know you can [...]
I'm sorry for reporting you to campus security.
This was September 1989, at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. In the Marshall Dormitory at the north end of campus, where I shared a much-too-small space with two roommates, Sean and Jeremy. (Sean is now the communications director for the Republican National Committee—he had to shave his head on live television last fall after losing a bet he'd made that Mitt Romney would be president. Did you know that? Crazy, right?)
You and I didn't know each other at the time. I didn't know anybody, really. Classes had just started that week. I had come to recognize most of the [...]
In my case, this year's Internet experience didn't suck, exactly, but it was—at least in the precincts I frequent—drearily focused on the predictive. Ninety percent of what I read, excluding pornography, maybe, was either authored by, a celebration of, or a brief against Nate Silver. And that's nice! On balance, that a smart, gay adopted son of Brooklyn is a big deal is a good thing. But oh, how I wish we purveyors and consumers of the written word would spend a bit less time quantifying the probability of future events and a bit more [...]
"I'm a 23-year old undergraduate at a small liberal arts college. In my view, there's nothing inherently wrong with having a very close relationship with your parents. Calling your parents five or six times a day–why not, especially if you consider them your friends? Just because the Boomers (and the Gen X-ers, to a certain extent) had bad relationships with their parents doesn't mean we need to repeat that experience." —This comment, in response to Terry Castle's essay on what it's like to teach the current crop of parent-attached young people, is pretty amazing! It's gonna be a long couple decades.
"Prof. John Michael Bailey's popular Human Sexuality course, which came under national scrutiny following a controversial after-class, optional sex toy demonstration in February, will not be offered next academic year." —America's most infamous college class is dead. But according to one student's account of attending the class, it was the best course at Northwestern.
Yes. This. RT @ravisomaiya: I am always so impressed by this generation of 20-somethings. So confident and articulate.
— Felix Salmon (@felixsalmon) May 19, 2014
Jill Abramson gave a commencement speech at Wake Forest today, her first public statement since her firing. Ravi Somaiya was there to cover the event for the Times: Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of The New York Times, made her first public appearance since her abrupt dismissal last week, speaking about resilience in a long-scheduled commencement address on Monday at Wake Forest University.
After telling the students she had been fired, Ms. Abramson said her father had always emphasized that [...]
Sometimes when we walk through the mall, my boyfriend Scott will whisper: “How many people here do you think have held a human heart?” Or: “Do you think that guy ever removed a brain?” Scott has held a human heart and he says it's heavier and whiter than you would think. He will remove a brain from a female cadaver in March.
Scott is in his second year of pre-med. He, along with two other students, based on their high grades in anatomy class, are the body preppers for this semester’s anatomy lectures. The dissections are supervised by two part-time anatomy professors. One practices as a physician’s assistant, [...]
It is once again time for the NCAA "March Madness" basketball tournament. The eventual champions will get to bask in the national spotlight until the next cruise-ship disaster/shark attack/episode of "Girls"/baseball season/ happens. And sure, winning a basketball title is worth bragging about; but we all know the real champion is the institution of higher education that can charge the most tuition and still have enough students to keep its rejection letter printer warm. It's The Awl's annual NCAA bracket by tuition, using the college information resource Peterson's.* (Where available, in-state tuition was used.)
Can you go to college on your computer? Some say yes, and others respond with a resounding no. But one thing is for sure: there is a boatload of public money to be vacuumed off an overcrowded, underfunded educational establishment desperate for at least the appearance of a quick fix.
Enter Udacity, the foremost provider of Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Does what's above look like college to you? Or rather, is this how college should look now?
They've been described as "a relentless force that will not be denied," revolutionary, "the single most important experiment in higher education." Also MOOCs are getting a drubbing from [...]
Meticulously Documenting Their Binge Drinking And Incessantly Checking Facebook Has Apparently Made College Students Smarter
Early during my freshman year of college, in 1989, I was sitting in the student center when a reporter from the school paper walked up and asked me whether I would be interested in talking to her for an article she was working on about the social life on campus. I made the mistake of agreeing, on record. Her story was about the dangers of underage drinking, and what might be done about the problem. One of my own roommates had spent a recent night in the hospital, having his stomach pumped to avoid alcohol poisoning. But I used the opportunity to mount an attack on the school's policy [...]
Since I'm a graduate student and drunkenness on a Thursday night is practically required, last Thursday I was terrifically far from sober and, as a direct result, read an article about Das Racist. I read this article because whenever Das Racist pops up on my radar, I read about them, like I read about MGMT even though I've only ever listened to MGMT once, and that was their song “Kids,” and, when I listened to it, it was about two years after “Kids” was a hit. I try to avoid dwelling on Das Racist, but, like I said, last Thursday I was drunk. Even when I'm not drunk, [...]
This is not quite what I expected to see in response to the death of Osama bin Laden. I guess it makes sense? It must have been weird for them to have tried to understand 9/11 in 5th grade. Good thing we don't have a draft. I guess.
Neighbors made $51 million this weekend, which is about as much as Spider-Man 27, The Other Woman and Heaven Is For Real combined. It's an easy movie in the way the best Apatow spin-offs and descendants are: There are no real villains, all adults are basically children, and everyone is eventually rehabilitated.
It's also incredibly careful in its representation of fraternities, which are painted as silly but never sinister. A former fraternity brother might watch this movie and feel empowered or proud. Certainly he wouldn't feel embarrassed. He might feel handsome! At the very least he would feel relieved, after years of defending his own experience in the [...]
I know it's only April, but I wanted to get a jump on the Commencement Addresses for various Colleges, Junior Colleges, Trade Schools, and other institutions of Higher Learning, while reminding everyone I am available for such speaking engagements, to inform and inspire the Youth.
Here is the "Uncorrected Proof" of my current address to the Recent Graduate. It helps to imagine it being read in a shouting voice.
"See your future, be your future" is not just a line one may quote from the movie Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Rodney Dangerfield, it is a Way to live one's life. Like millions of people, I bet, [...]
It was a supply closet off the main classroom, six feet across, with the only wall decoration being a length of pine board with a row of nails sticking out. Because of the terrible noise inside, the door was always shut. The two machines, industrial-era things that clamored and shook, spewed out a steady stream of hurt and lies and death. On this San Diego afternoon I was in the little room with my coffee, going through the accumulated Associated Press and UPI news that had cranked out of the wire machines during lunch and whatever regular classes I might have attended that day. Local stories, national and international [...]
Appearing here Wednesdays, Turning The Screw provides existential crisis counseling for the faint of heart. "Because misery becomes you."
I’m a college junior abroad at a British university for the year. During the months I’ve been here, I’ve been getting increasingly anxious and depressed about my schoolwork and general life situation, to the point where I’ll just stay in bed for days on end watching "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and compulsively eating bits of compressed bread. I’ve stopped doing work, which had before been something I would always complete, no matter what. Before, other life things—things like self-image, friendships, romantic relationships, creative outlets, family life—had not [...]
Part of a two-week series on the pull of bad influences in our lives and in the culture.
I don’t remember all that much about my first year at university except that it was the year we converted from pounds, shillings and pence to "decimal currency." I shared ground-floor rooms, overlooking the Third Quad in college, with a bearded, bear-like chap I called (for reasons which need not detain us) Eighty Two. He was impossibly good: for all practical purposes a saint. His father ran a school for the blind. He had just spent part of his gap year (though the term wasn’t in use back then) in a 12th-century [...]
"By any financial measure, the investment in a college degree is the winning choice, with a rate of return of a whopping 15.2% a year on the $102,000 investment for those who earn the average salary for college graduates. This is more than double the average rate of return in the stock market during the last 60 years (6.8%), and more than five times the return to investments in corporate bonds (2.9%), gold (2.3%) long-term government bonds (2.2%) or housing (0.4%)." —You should totally go to college, say some guys from the Brookings Institution. I reluctantly agree! I mean, I used to think college was a total scam, [...]