24%?

rich parent

I live in the New Trier school district which is one of the best high schools in Illinois. The district is affluent and parents, most of whom are professionals, can easily afford tutors and summer enrichment programs. I was stunned to learn that a whopping 24% of these high school students get extra time on the ACT test. In discussing this matter, one mother I spoke with told me that there’s a high school college counselor at New Trier whose main task is to manage all these requests for extra time or accommodations.

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New Trier District’s Average Income

Reported in the Chicago Tribune in 2012, New Trier is one of many well-funded schools with a higher than expected number of students with special needs. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, New Trier spent $29,272 per student, which is

New Trier students tend to come from homes that offer advantages other than wealth. Their parents tend to be married (82%) and to have completed college if not graduate school (90.9%).

The Varsity Blues college entrance scandal has made this matter return to the spotlight. I’ve figured that this investigation in Los Angeles is just one of many and that gaming the system is rampant among parents without morals who’ll do anything to get their child into a school with status.

What really goads me is that parents are teaching their children to seek additional advantages to gain status.

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Operation Varsity Blue

Unless you’ve given up television for Lent, you’ve no doubt heard about the elite parents who allegedly conspired to get their kids into elite universities. Some schools are Ivy League, but not all were. They used a man who ran college prep center to game the college entrance tests and create fraudulent athletic histories to

This story and the one on people who allegedly got international students visas through the fraud of having imposters take the TOEFL English proficiency test. Neither story really surprises me, but nonetheless when corruption is revealed as fact, and your worst fears are exposed, I feel disgust.

When I taught in South Korea, an English professor gave his friend the questions for our school’s entrance exam. After this came to light, both men were arrested and jailed. The Ministry of Education (MOE) had contacted the university president had been told that there was cheating at our school, the president said that was impossible and didn’t help much with the investigation. Because the claim was proved, the president felt guilty for not believing the MOE and he resigned. I didn’t think the president should have resigned, but I was impressed with his sense of honor. I doubt that will happen with this case.

The stars involved are getting a lot of negative attention, which is part of the price for their crime, yet there are other millionaires who did worse. As many as 750 parents and coaches are part of this.

I hope most see the evidence and realize the right thing to do is to plead guilty and hope for mercy. It’s hard to say what a fit punishment should be, but we aspire to compete on a level playing field and these folks sought out an easier route.

It’s a shame. Some kids aren’t suited for a competitive college. If these kids needed to cheat to get in, how would they be able to stay in without cheating? College itself is stressful, so the stress of applying is no excuse to cheat. There is no excuse to cheat. There are other schools that would take these kids based on their own efforts and achievements. There’s no reason to Photoshop an applicant’s face on to the body of an athlete. How low would you go? Did the students see these fraudulent documents upload on their application? To what extent were the kids in on this?

The truth will out and it has. I hope colleges clean house now.

Operation Varsity Blue also reminded me of the discovery of rampant cheating that was reported with the English proficiency test where I worked in China. A couple of us reported the students and the agency they used to get higher scores. One girl took the TOEFL test in July and got an average of 45 (an 80 was needed). She paid a service $3000 in August and got a 98. No one’s English improves that much in a few weeks.

I reported this to the testing company and to my school, but while we were told an investigation was conducted. None of the four students suffered any consequences. We had recordings of students talking to the shady company that procured the high test scores and sent them to various agencies and newspapers. No one was interested. I submitted the information again this morning. I hope this fraudulent service is shut down.

I’m Finding this Fascinating

I think every now and then when I get captivated learning something new, or relearning something in a deeper way, I’m going to share it.

I’m in lesson 6 of Hillsdale College’s course on the US Congress and it’s enthralling. I really think this is a must-see for any US citizen and for anyone curious about how our government works.

Now I got an average or maybe above average education on US government in high school as was and still is required, but I didn’t learn about how congress changed through the centuries, about how administrative laws proliferated and how the government had to figure out, through trial and error how new regulations should be made and how the agencies should approve them. I didn’t learn about the powerful Speakers of the House Thomas Brackett Reed or his successor Joseph Gurney Cannon, of whom it could be argued was more powerful than either of the presidents he served.

The professor also shares how the U.K. Parliament’s Question Hour influenced American legislators and others who wanted this sort of give and take. I’ve seen snippets of the Prime Minister’s Questions, but now that I’ve found the Parliament’s YouTube Channel, I’m sure to watch more often.

I urge you to check out Hillsdale’s online courses. They’re free.

Free College?

tuition-costs

I appreciate how stratospheric tuition costs can make higher education out of reach, unless a student is willing to take on massive debt. I blame colleges for the most part. They’ve allowed costs to spiral. They’ve added well paid administrators and programs, (while cutting salaries and benefits) for teachers, more and more of whom work part time because there are few full time positions.

Many politicians are calling for free college. I was with Bernie Sanders when he first proposed this, but I’ve given the issue further thought. I’m now for an alternative — or a few alternatives.

First of all I realize that in the US education is managed more by each state than by the federal government, so I think each state should decide how to provide affordable college options to its citizens. I think the Federal government can come up with some programs, but each state should take responsibility for its own citizens’ education.

For years, students who served in the military through the their service or will serve through the ROTC, get free education. It isn’t free since they do have to work for their education and if they don’t fulfill this obligation, they must pay back the tuition and fees.

A friend of me funded his medical school through a program which required that after graduation, he work in either a rural community or an urban prison.

What I think we should do is to replicate this program through other agencies. A state could find areas where there’s a need for employees. Students could either work part time in a government office while in school or could complete a couple years of work to pay off the money the state has spent on their schooling.

I also believe that since 4 year colleges have gotten so expensive that state governments should offer these programs via 2 years at a community college and 2 at a university. Also, I’d require that the colleges make the most of online education and cut back on extras such as building fancy dorms or state-of-the-art fitness centers. The cutbacks would be done on a school by school basis.

Another option would be for students to work as they do at College of the Ozarks. College of the Ozarks doesn’t charge tuition. Students are required to work for the college, e.g. caring for the landscape, working in an office

I think making higher education something you earn, rather than get for free is a better option. When you’re in college, you’re old enough to work as many do through the private sector, but most of these jobs don’t pay enough to pay all your tuition.  If we made the most of the idea of Work/Study, students would graduate with experience and education. Our state governments services could improve. States could update their antiquated websites (like we have in Illinois). They could offer better customer service so lines wouldn’t take hours at the DMV or other offices people commonly use.

While this is a rough idea, I think the general premise is well worth developing.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that the song’s from Guys & Dolls, which I saw yesterday at Northwestern University are playing in my head. “Luck be a Lady” and “A Bushel & a Peck” alternate in my head this morning.

Today was my Great Books Club meeting. We discussed Othello, a play I consider as not one of my favorites by Shakespeare. Yet meeting with a dozen smart folks to talk about Othello made me like the story more.

I did a good amount of editing last week of my own play. I hope to finish another draft by Thursday this week.

I went to the Lyric Opera’s Elektra, but didn’t like it as much as I hoped.

A friend sent me a copy of the anthology which includes a short story he wrote. I get so excited when someone I know accomplishes a literary goal.

I’ve finished two lessons from Hillsdale College’s free online course: Congress: How it Works and Why It Doesn’t.  It’s amazing. The professors are good communicators and researchers. They examine the US Congress as well as the UK Parliament and other legislatures. I’ve learned a lot including how the Parliament building’s structured with both sides facing each other support debate (better*) than all the other legislative buildings which are design more like theaters. Hence we get a lot of grandstanding and playing to the camera. Also, I learned that in the early days, the representatives and senators didn’t have offices. Their desk in their respective chamber was their office, which promoted further deliberation and community amongst peers. If you want to better understand US government, take a look at this free class.

*in my opinion

Cheap College

A friend recommended University of the People, an online international college that offers practical degrees in Business (up to MBA), Computer Science (up to BS) and a Masters in Education. From what I’ve read online they aren’t accredited in the US, which could be a problem depending on your needs. I see a problem with the education degree because if you need certification in a US state, they might not recognize this.

However as the fees are reasonable, i.e. $60 to apply and $100 to get credit for a class (free if you don’t care about the credit) this option is even better than community college since where I live an undergraduate community college course is $136/hr.

I may take a class with University of the People and since I’ve already got two masters degrees I may get an MBA just to know more about business and possibly get a job. The thought here is that since I’ve proven that I can get in and complete a degree from a good university, I don’t need to prove my academic gravitas. I just want to understand computers or business better.

I think this is marvelous for online learners, particularly those in developing countries.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that last night I went to my nephew’s Boy Scout Troop’s Spaghetti Dinner. It was a fun event and good to see the boys (and one girl) in uniform serving food and selling raffle tickets it looks like everyone had a good time and the scouts and their parents worked hard for a successful event.

Yesterday, despite some snowfall, the library was super busy and we had lots of time consuming questions and problems to solve. We’re glad to help and the time flew by. It was my first weekend at this branch and though I’m new I was the Librarian-in-Charge. So glad there weren’t any emergencies to handle. As it was, we were surprised that no one working that day knew the alarm code, which is needed at closing. I realized this midday so we did manage to find it.

I loved Northwestern’s production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, which I’d read in school. I’m lucky to live near a university with a strong drama department so I can get inexpensive tickets to see great acting and direction.

I had lunch last Monday with a dear friend Kasia from high school. She introduced me to Polish cuisine. Though she’s half Polish, growing up she didn’t often eat Polish food. Now she and her husband have taken to exploring different cuisines. She thought that Ewa’s Pierogi was better than the place out by her house.

Wednesday my cousin and I had lunch at Venus Szechuen & Mandarin Restaurant in Park Ridge. It’s a Chinese restaurant, which used to be her favorite. I have high standards for Chinese fare and always thought it was average. This was the second time she came and they said their credit card machine wasn’t working. This inconvenienced us and the other customers. Most people expect to easily pay with a card. We’ve decided to take Venus off our list. It was odd that this happened twice.

I’m signed up to start an online course on Managing Information Systems through my community college. I was going to drop it if there was a group project. I’ve worked for years and have done many group projects for grad school so it’s not like I need to learn how to work with people. Gladly, there isn’t one. I’ll go over to campus and flip through the book. The syllabus makes it look like I already know a lot about the topic. If you’re guessing I’m on the fence about staying with this, you’re right.

41YzEFJi9tL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_As for books, I’m thoroughly enjoying Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale. It’s a 19th century novel with wit. Bennett looks at the foibles of small town life. I’m also reading Zola’s Money (L’Argent), which I love, but don’t have as much time as I’d like for.

I’ve had a tough time finding or making time to write. I plan to revise Act I of my play this week. So no lunches with friends and no giving other chores precedence.