Ready or Not

Anna and red boards

Photo: Julia Ozab

It’s the first day of third grade. She’s ready … I’m not.

It’s her first ride to school on the bus. She’s ready … I’m not.

It’s Monday through Friday out of the house after three months of summer. She’s ready … I’m not.

She talks about what she wants to be when she grows up. She talks about going to college and getting a job. She’s only eight and she’s in a hurry to grow up.

She’s already eight and she’s growing up too fast!

She asks when she can have …

  1. an email account,
  2. a Facebook account,
  3. a driver’s license,
  4. and a credit card.

I tell her …

  1. when she’s nine (and takes the Girl Scout Internet Safety pledge),
  2. when she’s fourteen (and shows she’s mature enough to handle it),
  3. when she’s sixteen (and takes Driver’s Ed),
  4. and when she’s eighteen (and shows she’s responsible with money).

Eighteen? That’s less than ten years!

In ten years, she’ll be an adult. In ten years, she’ll be going to college. It’s too soon for me, and it’s not soon enough for her.

But as much as she wants to hurry up and as much as I want to slow down, we’re both traveling into the future at a constant speed of sixty minutes per hour, and twenty-four hours per day.

The time is coming and it will soon be here.

Ready or not.


Bloggerhood Etc. 8/5/13

The Geisel Library at UCSD

The mothership is calling (Photo: Buzzfeed)

My favorite links from around the blogosphere this week.

Most Nostalgic. “Top 20 Things You’ll Remember From UCSD” by Shereen at Buzzfeed. It’s been twenty-three years since I graduated and I still look back fondly at this great and quirky university.

Most Encouraging. “Why My Christian Memoir Has R-Rated Words” by Addie Zierman at Convergent Publishing. Many writers—myself included—find ourselves stuck between secular publishers who find our work too “Jesus-y” and Christian publishers who find our work too dark, doubtful, and shadowy. It’s encouraging to find a publisher brave enough to venture into this no-mans land and promote challenging writing.

Most Poetic. “I’m Leaving the Church” by Antonia Terrazas at Stuff Antonia Says.  A beautiful, touching tribute to a faith community.

Best Dad Post. “Snappy Answers to Stupid At-Home Dad Questions” by Kevin McKeever at NYC Dads Group. Multiple-choice comebacks  inspired by MAD Magazine.

Best and Worst Day. “A Day of Note” by Robert Rummel Hudson at Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords. A painful anniversary contrasted with a magnificent accomplishment.

Best Beginning. “The Teacher is Talking: Special Back-to-School Series” by Leslie Lindsay at Live, Write, Love: The Art and Craft of Writing. The day draws ever closer and both parents and children need to be ready.

Best Ending. “Farewells and Perfect Weekend Getaways to Eugene” by Melissa Haskin at Two Pots of Coffee and a Slice of Pie at Midnight. A food writer and fellow MyEugene survivor closes out her blog and moves on to a paying gig at Cooking Light with a farewell to her former blog and former home.

And because outtakes often follow endings, here’s a fun collection from my Favorite Viral Puppets.

“It’s definitely funnier, but it doesn’t make any sense.”


Go Beavers?

Anna all with her OSU stuff

I am a University of Oregon alumnus and therefore an Oregon Duck. Since I went there for grad school, I’m not the diehard, bleeding-green-and-gold Duck fan that many people in Eugene are, but I root for them as all good alumni root for their alma mater.

Well Anna has decided—perhaps to spite me—that she is an Oregon State Beaver fan. And being the good parent that I am, I let Julia buy her all that Beaver stuff in the above photo. All but the little bear cheerleader sitting on the pom-poms. I bought her that.

What can I say? I guess she wore me down.

Continue reading

A College Degree is Always Valuable

Kevin Carey in The New Republic on “why the media is always wrong about the value of a college degree:”

Sally Cameron thought she had done everything right. After studying French and Arabic at a tony liberal arts college, she knew that graduate school would help her career chances. But when she hit the job market, her Ivy League management degree didn’t seem to matter. The worst recession in decades had pushed the unemployment rate to nearly 10 percent and good jobs were scarce. Sally paid the rent by tending bar and filled her time with volunteer work.

Meanwhile, experts and government officials warned that the days ahead would be grim. For decades, a growing number of students had streamed into higher education assuming that their degrees would lead to prosperity. Now people were openly questioning whether college was really worth it. As one George Washington University labor economist said, “A surfeit of any commodity—a BA or an MA—means that eventually it will stop paying off.”

Sally’s story sounds like the kind of depressing story filling the pages of newspapers and the popular press these days . . . There’s only one difference: Sally Cameron earned her master’s degree from Yale in 1980.

Carey goes on to say that these same stories run in every recession. The writers and editors who push them on us count on our short memories, otherwise we’d be on to them by now.

The truth is this: a college degree is always valuable, whether you graduate during a boom or a downturn. Your first job is always going to be a crummy one, but with a degree you’ve got the chance to move up. Without one, you’ll be stuck in crummy jobs the rest of your life. Even vocational training isn’t enough anymore, given the rapid pace of technological change. Any skill learned in a vocational school can, or will, be automated for less money. Then you’re back to the bottom again.

Only a college education prepares you to adapt to a rapidly changing job market. A couple of examples: I’m a musician, but I’ve also worked as a college instructor, a web designer, and a writer. My wife has a teaching degree, but has spent the last eleven years in account management. Neither of our paths would have been possible without a college education.

Plus a college degree shows a prospective employer that you are intelligent, motivated, and able to finish what you’ve started—qualities that can’t be gained “on the job.”

A professor of mine once compared a college degree to an admission ticket to an amusement park. Once you get in, it’s up to you where you go and what you do, but without the ticket you’ll be left outside. No one wants to be left outside.

So where’s Sally today?

She’s a senior manager at an international development consulting company that works under contract with USAID.

You think she still wonders if her college education was worth it?

Learning to Think

The Seven Liberal Arts

The Liberal Arts (Wikimedia Commons)

Michael S. Roth, President of Wesleyan University tells why liberal arts matter:

In recent years university leaders in Asia, the Mideast and even Europe have sought to organize curricula more like those of our liberal art schools. How, they want to know, can we combine rigorous expectations of learning with the development of critical thinking and creativity that are the hallmarks of the best American colleges?

But in our own land we are running away from the promise of liberal education. We are frightened by economic competition, and many seem to have lost confidence in our ability to draw from the resources of a broadly based education. Instead, they hope that technical training or professional expertise on their own will somehow invigorate our culture and society.

Many seem to think that by narrowing our focus to just science and engineering, we will become more competitive. This is a serious mistake.

Anna is over thirteen years away from starting college, but I am already concerned. In the two decades since I got my B.A. I’ve seen a decided shift in higher education—from learning to training. Colleges and universities are turning into vocational schools, with hyper-specialization at lower and lower levels. General education requirements are something to be gotten out of the way before the important work begins.

It’s an extension of how we’ve turned primary and secondary education in this country into extended test-prep training. Everything we do is aimed at passing the test, getting the job, which leaves no time to learn, to read, to explore, or to think.

But that’s what an education is supposed to do—teach you how to think.

In ancient times, the Liberal Arts (Latin: liber, “free”) were the educational subjects worthy of free people: grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music. Slaves didn’t need an education—they were given training in what ever manual skill was necessary to complete assigned tasks. They weren’t even taught to read, let alone to reason or to understand the workings of the world.

Granted, our current educational strategies are grounded in basic literacy and math, but beyond that they focus on specific goals—pass a test, get a job—only a little more noble than the manual training of a slave.

Critical thinking and creativity—the marks of a free people—are being cast aside.

I can guarantee that Anna will gain those advantages either inside, or if necessary, outside school. But not every parent is in the position to provide a supplemental education to their kids.

And I worry for the future of an upwardly mobile, politically informed, middle class in our country when our educational system is designed to produce wage slaves.