Thursday Door Challenge

Hosted by Norm 2.0, Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

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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.

Free College?


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.

The Horizontal Man

In 1947 Helen Eustis won the Edgar Award for best mystery for The Horizontal Man. Set at a small New England women’s college where a young Irish English professor, Kevin Boyle is murdered; someone took a fireplace poker and bashed him over the head with it. Soon Molly Morrison, an introverted freshman with a huge crush on Prof. Boyle has a breakdown and while in the school infirmary confesses to the murder.

No one buys that and she’s eventually cleared, but the question remains: Who killed Boyle? As the novel progresses Eustis provides an up close look into the psychology of the students and professors. Surprisingly, police and detectives play a small role in the novel, a technique I can’t remember seeing in other mysteries.

I liked her precise style, which transported me to the late 1940s.

Academic Accreditation: Chinese Style

This coming week our university is due for a visit from the Ministry of Education. A few weeks back at a meeting we were told we would have to submit several documents for the accreditation, but we’d be told what they were. Rumor had it that we’d have to submit every handout, quiz and test we’d given. We’d have to collect and give every single student’s work, as well as daily lesson plans. When I checked with the foreign affairs office they said we wouldn’t have to submit anything. Well, that works for me, though I began to keep one clean copy of every new handout.

Later a veteran Australian English teacher informed me that all that mattered in accreditation visits was:

  1. The quality of the hotel where the assessors stayed and
  2. The quality of the prostitutes hired for them.

Say it ain’t so!

We have been told that our classes may be observed, which I’m ready for. Tomorrow two classes will have literature circles. On Tues. and Weds. students will present their group videos. So there’s a lot of interactivity and student work to be seen. Students will also do some sustained listening and extensive reading. Since next Monday’s a holiday and it would be foolish to have an exam on the Friday before a holiday, one class will have a final on Thursday, the last possible day for observations. Well, that is part of education, like it or not so it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

For months the administration has arranged for the buildings to be spiffed up. New posters are in the classrooms, the walls were painted and we got new desks in September. It’s been quite nice to work in a brighter, cleaner environment.

I’m pretty confident of my courses and relieved I didn’t have to collect every handout I’ve ever given students so I’m ready for the observations.

Yet, on Friday a Chinese professor told me that perhaps no one will visit our campus. They may must review the Qingdao campus, which has about 40,000 students to our 1,500. That makes some sense. It’s easy to forget that our school is very small in the scheme of things. So easy to feel that the issues we face are major issues. We just guppies in a small pond connected to a larger sea.

Still I’ll be prepared for tomorrow.


Our classrooms for the last few years had been pretty run down, dirty and grimy. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went into them today. I knew they were going to be remodeled, but I didn’t expect much.

I’m thrilled to say they cleaned the floors, painted the walls, gave us all new furnishings. It’s like a whole new school.


Students’ view


New desks, not nailed to the floor


Tiles in the halls and stairwells should be easy to clean

This still needs to be installed so it works

This still needs to be installed so it works

Note how white these walls are

Note how white these walls are

Before the bathrooms were horrible. Trust me. I won’t go into detail, but they were. Now these are like the washrooms in a department store.



English Names

The new semester has started and I’ve got freshmen with some interesting English first names: Brown, Lincoln, Neutron, Patient (a boy),  Amy (a boy),  John Smith, Susa Clear.

I’m not sure where Susa Clear got her name.

I do tell the boys who chose feminine names like Amy, that that’s a girls’ name. For names like Neutron, I let them go in the name of student-centered teaching. I may say, “If you want to change your name at any time, it’s okay.”