Why College Is Not Home (And Should Not Be)


The following is from a recent article about a situation this past fall at Yale that had crept back into the news and is still as mind-blowing as it was when they reported on it back in December.

Erika Christakis used (keyword here) to teach a course at Yale titled “The Concept of the Problem Child,” a discussion of child development and socialization in a historical and modern context. It was so popular she had planned extra sessions this semester to accommodate the hundreds of interested students. Then she sent and email subject line: “Dressing Yourselves” to students in the residence hall where she and her husband serve as masters. In it, she criticized a detailed memo from administrators advising sensitivity in their choice of Halloween costumes and activities. The essential point in the email was that the university’s memo infantilized the students. The term, in developmental psychology, refers to a parenting approach that uses a level of assistance and control more appropriate for much younger children; ultimately, such behavior can hinder capacities to develop independence and resilience.

Sounds logical, at least, it does to me. But what happens next is mind-boggling: An open letter denounced her views as degrading to marginalized people and garnered nearly a thousand signatures at the University, and a video of students confronting and verbally assaulting her husband went viral. What’s more, and worse, is that she will no longer be teaching at Yale.

This is just one reason kids today lack decision-making skills and resilience; this is why they are unable to accept, understand, or work through failure or setbacks; this is a problem.

“Instead of promoting the idea of college as a transition from the shelter of the family to adult autonomy and responsibility, universities like Yale have given in to the implicit notion that they should provide the equivalent of the home environment….To prepare for increased autonomy and responsibility, college needs to be a time of exploration and experimentation. This process entails “trying on” new ways of thinking about oneself both intellectually and personally, which is possible only if a certain degree of freedom is allowed. While we should provide “safe spaces” within colleges for marginalized groups, we must also make it safe for all community members to express opinions and challenge majority views. Intellectual growth and flexibility are fostered by rigorous debate and questioning.”

Get a grip, Yale, and everybody else who does not see how damaging this is. Read more here, here and here if this makes you as livid as it makes me.

Nerd Alert: Word Facts from Grammarly

English is currently the nearest thing we have to a global language; it’s the official language of seventy-nine countries and territories. English not only acts as a lingua franca, a common language that unites people, but also offers some quirky vocabulary, such as whipper-tooties, which are “silly scruples about doing anything,” and shivviness, or “the uncomfortable feeling of new underwear.” Did you know that English is spoken by all international airline pilots? Or that no word in English rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple? There’s a lot to learn about English and its origins, so let’s take a look at five fascinating English word and language facts.

1.  The word alphabet comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta. The Ancient Greek word ἀλφάβητος (alphabētos) came from the Phoenician aleph (“ox”) and beth (“house”), which are pictograms of those objects.

2.  “The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog” uses every letter of the alphabet. You may see typefaces displayed using this sentence, because it allows you to see what each letter looks like.

3.  E is the most common letter in English. For every eight letters written, E is one of them. Despite this, Ernest Vincent Wright completed managed to write a 50,000-word novel titled Gadsby entirely without the letter E. This type of writing is known as a lipogram, a long written piece in which a letter or group of letters is avoided.

4.  The word “spam” refers to junk mail, partly because of a Monty Python skit from the early 1970s. A couple asks a waitress what’s being served and she replies, “Well we have eggs and Spam, eggs, bacon, and Spam, eggs, sausage, bacon, and Spam, eggs, Spam, sausage, Spam, Spam, bacon, Spam, eggs and Spam, Spam, spinach and Spam.” A hacker in the 1980s then thought of the skit’s repetition of the word “spam” while he was contemplating the mindless repetition of email messages in his inbox. He began using “to spam” to mean repeatedly receiving emails and it caught on.

5.  The word battologize means “to repeat a word excessively.” It comes from the Greek battologeo, which is an eponym after a stutterer named Battos. Originally, it meant “to stutter,” but later came to mean “repeat mindlessly.” This word was then used in English as battologize, meaning “a needless and tiresome repetition in speaking and writing.”

Check the Grammarly blog again next week for five more fascinating English language and word facts.

President’s Computer Science for All Initiative


The new initiative seeks to provide $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly to school districts to provide computer science training in K-12 public schools.  Getting CS into the curriculum will make it more accessible. These pushes are already happening on the local level, so getting federal $ into the mix is crucial. Coinciding with the announcement, not surprisingly, a handful of organizations (Google and Microsoft, to name a few) are launching campaigns to expand computer science investment and training. Most on this list have initiatives of their own already in place.

If you are interested, I suggest reading the statement from the White House here.

If you want suggestions on extracurricular opportunities related to computer science, engineering or coding, message me!


SAT Will Be Offered in August in 2017 (?)

2017-18 SAT Dates

2017-18 SAT Administration Dates (Anticipated)
SAT Date SAT Subject Test Available?
Aug. 26, 2017 Yes
Oct. 7, 2017 Yes
Nov. 4, 2017 Yes
Dec. 2, 2017 Yes
March 10, 2018 No
May 5, 2018 Yes
June 2, 2018 Yes

Probably a good move on their part. Let’s see what the ACT comes back with now. Stay tuned for more SAT / ACT drama.

2016-2017 Common Application Essay Prompts

No changes to the CA essay prompts for the upcoming admissions cycle; yay!

Most of my students disregard the prompt when thinking about their essay, but when it comes time to submit end up categorizing it as #1. See all five options below. Time for juniors to start brainstorming!

2016-2017 Essay Prompts
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.



Geographic Diversity as an Admissions Priority?

Penn’s admitted student pool has for some time now represented all 50 states and is ~10% international. What would be interesting and insightful to publish would be the socio-economic diversity within the pool per state. This recent article attempts to highlight that Penn is diversifying their class by admitting more students from previously underrepresented states, but does it really make a difference if they are from the same socio-economic backgrounds as those from the east coast, Texas and California? I also wonder what the admit pool per state would look like if legacy admits were taken out? The world may never know!

Don’t Believe The Hype

No, this post is not about the famed Public Enemy jam (but if you’ve forgotten it, sit back, relax and take a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vQaVIoEjOM). It is about the onslaught of “college admission revolution” talk/projects/reports of late. Remember a few months ago when 80 colleges and universities joined “The Coalition” for access, affordability and success, and everyone freaked out? Well, the hype train has left the station again with “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions,” a report who authors hope to inspire a more caring and authentic generation of young people. But, these hyped coalitions and reports are just that. As Sarah Harberson’s HuffPost College article aptly points out:

“Turning the Tide” beckons our youth to focus on quality and authenticity. What’s missing is a call to action for colleges who have been complicit and damaging to the “common good” of youth and opportunity. If colleges want to encourage caring, authentic and ethically-sound students, they need to make sure they are living by the same mantra. It is time to rebuild the playing field of college admissions. It should not only be a level playing field, it should be hallowed ground. To do that, colleges need to come clean about who really gets admitted before students believe that being authentic is more valued than being privileged.”

I won’t be holding my breath for colleges to change, but it could happen. Maybe, hopefully, someday.



Hip Hop and High School

Hip hop has been making its way into schools for some time now (both in the US and abroad). Brian Mooney did it last year, even prompting a visit from Kendrick Lamar to his classroom, which you can read more about here and here, as well as on his blog. And long before, Tomas Alvarez III, a social worker in Oakland, California started one of the first programs called Beats Rhymes and Life at Berkeley High School in 2004. Based on a club he launched as part of his dissertation research, Ian Levy has developed a program at New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science II in the Bronx as part of an expanding education movement to harness the widespread appeal of hip-hop music and culture to promote academic and social goals.

“Hip-hop education is everywhere,” said Christopher Emdin, an associate professor of science education at Teachers College at Columbia University who moderates a weekly chat group on Twitter called #HipHopEd and, along with the artist GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, sponsors an annual competition for students to rap about science. “There is no school in an urban area that does not know about hip-hop, or that has not experimented with it.”

Read the full article here and check out Mr. Levy’s Donors Choose page here.