Quote: Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say – NYTimes.com

From the article:

It’s important to emphasize these shortfalls because public discussion today — for which we in the news media deserve some responsibility — often focuses on the undeniable fact that a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee success. But of course it doesn’t. Nothing guarantees success, especially after 15 years of disappointing economic growth and rising inequality.

When experts and journalists spend so much time talking about the limitations of education, they almost certainly are discouraging some teenagers from going to college and some adults from going back to earn degrees. Those same experts and journalists are sending their own children to college and often obsessing over which one. The decision not to attend college for fear that it’s a bad deal is among the most economically irrational decisions anybody could make in 2014.

The much-discussed cost of college doesn’t change this fact. According to a paper by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That’s right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars.

via Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say – NYTimes.com.

Graduation: the reality check that stings

Joey, my former boss & colleague, describes college as a place of “hyper community,” one that sets up unrealistic expectations for how the world will work once you’re out.  It takes a while to transition out of that world into the reality of adult life, trying to forge new friendships with co-workers and neighbors and professional communities when you aren’t glued together by pressure-cooker academic stress.

I think one of the strongest arguments for shifting to a year-round model for school (calm down – you’d still get all the same weeks of summer break; they’re just spread out more) is that a year-round approach would soften the blow of adulthood, where making a living  consumes the vast majority of your time, energy, and attention.

The LA Times ran this delightful essay from a father about his 23 year old daughter. Enjoy the dose of realism, kids! Graduation season is over! 😉

American colleges. If theres a more troubling and decadent place to shred 200 grand, please text me the exact address.

I am a man of tiny doubts and strong opinions. I think Broadway shows are bloated, phony and overwrought. I think supermarket cheeses are tasteless replicas of real cheese. I think Elvis is the poor mans Jesus.

And I wonder now, on the anniversary of my daughter’s graduation, whether I let her down, didnt counterbalance all the hedonism of college with more practical fatherly advice, didnt prepare her sufficiently for the transition between Camelot and 50 weeks of office work a year, no more summers off.

via One year after college graduation, a degree of reality – Los Angeles Times.

around this time, a few years ago….

…. I was celebrating my 18th birthday, having just graduated from high school.

My parents and I on the night of my high school graduation.
My parents and I on the night of my high school graduation.

This photo is rare for a few reasons.  One, the reality of anyone over the age of 15, every photo from my pre-digital age is still packed in a box somewhere. So I have to resort to bootleg pictures-of-a-picture taken with my cellphone because I don’t own a scanner and who has time to send this stuff off to Wal-Mart?

Secondly, we weren’t a huggy, feely, photo-taking family.  I owned a small camera and shot pictures all the time — well, as much as I could when film was $2-3 a can and developing cost at minimum $6 for the super-cheap 3×5 prints you could get through the mail, and $7-9 at a drugstore counter.  I didn’t have a huge film budget, so I had to make those images count.  Taking photos of my parents didn’t really occur to me. I lived with them…. I mean, like, duh.

Thirdly, my dad just didn’t “do” pictures.  He didn’t “do” suits either.  He’d owned a suit and some sport coats about 10 years before this photo was taken …. but then he’d lost half his sight, his job, and any reason to dress up from time to time. In fact, his woodcutting beefed up his entire torso, so none of his sport coats would have fit anyway.

Someone gave my dad a suit. I don’t remember how it happened, exactly … if the person had actually handed my dad money he would have bought groceries with it.  Suits were a lavish waste of resources when he had a family to feed and too little income to do it.  But I do remember helping my mom pick out that tie, wondering whether Dad would like it, or even consent to wear it.  I guess the benefactor gave the money to Mum, and she and I shopped together.

Anyway, sorry for the digression ….   Dad, in this photo, looks almost nothing like the mental image that’s burned into my memories.   To really be Zeke, he needs to be wearing Dickies pants (in brown) and a plain pocket t-shirt, and a black ball cap that’s seen too many years of working in the sun. His shoes need to be steel-toed work boots, and he really ought to have a pair of work gloves sticking out of his back pocket.

And a smile.

My parents both had wonderful smiles, wonderful laughs.  You wouldn’t know it from this photo, though. 😉

Maybe they were feeling what all parents of high school graduates must be feeling: My word, when did our baby grow up?! 

The rhododendrons would be blooming, just to the right of where this photo was taken. The azaleas in front of the school / church building would be blazing in their orange-coral glory. The irises (“flags,” my mom called them, because they were up in time for Flag Day) would be budding, preparing for a glorious show of color.

It was late May. That evening I would don a white graduation gown (the boys wore kelley green) and tassel and honor cords and give a valedictorian speech. A speech about pressing on, moving forward, getting ready for an exciting new stage of life. Don’t hold back.  My principal asked me twice to tone down my “Yeah! We’re done!” rhetoric. I didn’t really understand that request, and I still don’t. The whole point of commencement is to start something.  I knew the meaning of the word.

More years ago than I’d like to admit 😉 I commenced a life that has been rich and good, though often unexpected.  I’ve been joined in the journey by a man who loves God and loves me, and I walk the road with friends for whom I care deeply.

So as I come to another turning of the sun, another birthday (shout-out to Bob Hope and JFK and Patrick Henry, who share my natal day), I’d like to think I’ve got a few more great decades ahead to explore and experience life under the sun.


Quotable: How Not to Talk About Purity | RELEVANT Magazine

By using metaphors that objectify women and girls, we are following the example set by our larger society. While we may not be plastering up images of Victorias Secret models, we are placing the bodies of girls, and with that, the value of their virginity, onto a pedestal. We are reducing women to objects, which may be used and disposed of when their “value” declines.

By a youth pastor telling a group of girls that their value is less because of sex, much like a “chewed up piece of gum,” that individual is guilty of objectifying women, and following in the steps of this world. As others before me have noted, this model of objectification feeds into rape culture.

Please, let that sink in.

When we reduce women to disposable objects or objects of any kind, we are diminishing their humanity. We are taking away their autonomy, their individual will by comparing them to inanimate objects without power. Its easier for a perpetrator to exert force over a victim if the victims body has been objectified. When we, as members of the Church, use these reductive object lessons, we are participating and enabling a destructive culture against the bodies of girls and women.

“Purity culture” needs to be redeemed, and this begins with the Church.

via How Not to Talk About Purity | RELEVANT Magazine.

Get out your pencils, everyone.

Hm. I’d had a hunch this was true, just based on my own classroom observations.  There’s a new study out that suggests writing lecture/meeting notes by hand ends up helping you remember them better:

Mueller and Oppenheimer started by having subjects watch a lecture on a screen, and assigning them to take notes either by hand or on a laptop. About 30 minutes later, subjects were quizzed about factual and conceptual elements of the lecture. They found that students who took longhand notes performed significantly better, particularly on conceptual questions.

Something even more surprising happened when the researchers waited a week to quiz their subjects, and then allowed them to review their own notes first. Because the laptop users could type faster than the writers could write, they had taken more notes, which other research has shown to be beneficial. “We though we might see [laptop users] rebound because they had extra content,” Mueller said. But the longhand note-takers still outperformed them. “We were really surprised that they seemed to not get any benefit from that.”

All notes are not created equal. Because laptop users are better able to keep up with the pace of speech, it turns out, they are more susceptible to transcribing lectures verbatim, a style of note-taking that previous experiments has shown to be inferior. “If students are taking down notes on everything that’s said in class, they’re just functioning as a stenographer,” said Michael Friedman, a cognitive psychologist who is conducting note-taking research as a fellow at the Harvard Initiative for Learning & Teaching.

via Taking notes? Bring a pen, skip the computer – Ideas – The Boston Globe.

The Backstory: Memorial Day, America, God, and Country

My Backstory series offers stories about my upbringing and background. You can find the whole series under the category “Biography,” if you’re interested.

Memorial Day was never complicated when I was a kid.

We lived on top of a mountain in Appalachia in the middle of the woods. Flagpoles weren’t part of the natural landscape, but my mom had inherited her mom’s 48-star American flag (so – pre 1950?) and bought a bracket for it one year.  Dad found a pole, strung up the flag, and installed the bracket on a tall tree that flanked the gravel pathway from our circular driveway up to the house.   It was a huge flag and I don’t remember how it came into our family. I’d guess it could be from World War 2.  I wish I’d asked.

But it was cool to see that huge flag wave in the breeze among the trees.  We eventually stopped putting wear and tear on the 48 star specimen and switched to my maternal grandfather’s funeral flag, with its crisp white edges and all 50 stars.

Dad was a Korean War era vet, so he was particular about the flag’s handling — he never left it out in the rain or overnight and folded it carefully back into its triangle at the end of Memorial Day and 4th of July.

the original RameyDomus. This is either my dad's flag or my grandfather's - I'm not sure when this shot was taken. My guess is that it's 1999 or 2000, and that would make this flag -- which is nearly as big as our first house! -- my dad's honor flag.
The flag tradition continued at the first RameyDomus. This is either my dad’s flag or my grandfather’s – I’m not sure when this shot was taken. My guess is that it’s 1999 or 2000, and that would make this flag — which is nearly as big as our first house! — my dad’s honor flag. Oh, and Coart had to climb onto the roof to hang it up.

I always liked the rhythmic visual symmetry of the 48 stars even though the flag was technically “out of date.”  A holdover from when life seemed simpler, to my young mind wrestling to pin definitions on the words my dad used when ranting at the news about “commies,” “pinkos,” Democrats, Reagan, union-breakers, and Japanese steel imports (which to his mind were entirely responsible for destroying the Pittsburgh steel industry, not the failure of the unions to negotiate within a realistic understanding of a global economy.

But church on Memorial Day and July 4 and Veterans Day always themed around America, blending together Jesus’ sacrifice and the soldier’s.  We sang the Battle Hymn with no sense of irony:

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I met anyone who even began to question the easy elision of Christ and Country. Early in our dating days, it came up that Coart would not sing the Battle Hymn out of principle – not a Southerner’s simmering rage at the War of Northern Aggression, but because he could not sing words that suggested America’s bloody history of war and violence were the same as Jesus’ work of redemption.

Honestly, I’d never even realized what the hymn was saying, linking the Union war against Southern slavery to the advancement of God’s Kingdom.  Or that God would judge people based on how they reacted to “his contemners.”  It was awkward and uncomfortable and eye-opening.  If you have to kill 700,000 of your own citizens to bring them God’s Kingdom, you might be doing it wrong.

I was raised in a Christian school and community and household that thoughtlessly linked America and God, placing us without question on the same side of all issues.   I’ve since come to realize that the landscape is more complex.

It wasn’t until I got to Presbyterianism that I discovered people who refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  In fact, I taught in a school where no one said the pledge ever, it seems.  We experimented with pledging to the American flag and Christian flag at some early assemblies and ceremonies, but that fell aside quickly. Presbys understand that we are citizens of another country, and they mean it enough to risk (or enjoy) being “unpatriotic.”

But I’m not really happy with that approach either.  Is the Pledge really that big of a deal?  My dad and hundreds of thousands of other men and women have dedicated themselves to preserve an idea of an America where freedom matters, where people have chances, where democracy takes root and thrives.

It’s not an accident that I was born in the United States and not Zimbabwe, Peru, Denmark, or Thailand.  God placed me here, in this nation, to be good at both Kingdom work and civic virtues.

American Christianity, at least the Evangelical flavor, could use a dose of wisdom and discernment to separate their American ideals from what the Bible teaches. With no apologies to my friends, I cannot see Capitalism as a biblical virtue. (I’m not saying it’s evil; I’m saying it’s a system that’s just as broken as the humans who inhabit it.)  War is not a virtue either — it’s the last resort of sinful, broken people in a world that’s so twisted by sin that we couldn’t find any better solution. So we kill people.

I’m tired of conservative mantras showing up in Sunday sermons as truth, as middle class Christian Evangelicals adjust to living (once again) in a country where immigrant culture, changing demographics, and a shifting economy threaten to disrupt their traditional values. (America’s been through this before.)

But — all that aside —

My father, January 1953, Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)
My father, January 1953, Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)

I’m proud of my father, my grandfathers, and the friends I have who served proudly in the US Armed Forces.

I’m thankful for the many who have chosen military service (or were drafted but served anyway, even when they disagreed) because they see value in trying to give people the gift of self-direction.

I live too far away from my home to visit my dad or grandfather’s grave today for Decoration Day.  I know the local VFW has placed a flag and maybe a wreath on their brass military plaques.   And that’s the right thing to do.

1 Peter 2:17:
Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.