Links: Fiber, sex lives, suburbs, competition, food (which may all be linked)

* “Startup claims it will build fiber network in LA and wireless throughout US;” like everyone else I will express skepticism.

* “Why So Many People Care So Much About Others’ Sex Lives,” which makes a number of points I’ve observed at various times.

* “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies,” which matches my (anecdotal) experience.

* “Multiple Lovers, Without Jealousy: Polyamorous people still face plenty of stigmas, but some studies suggest they handle certain relationship challenges better than monogamous people do;” has anyone written the great polyamorous novel? Could anyone?

forgotten bike and pink woman* Suburban sprawl and bad transit can crush opportunity for the poor.

* Nicola Griffith: Who Owns SF?

* Dubious-seeming, but: “Are siblings obsessed with moral hazard?

* Germans Love Getting Naked at the Beach. So Should We. Maybe.

* “French Food Goes Down,” which I have heard independently from other sources; I find it interesting that many countries that start with or develop a major lead in some field eventually lose that lead. Think of Japan’s giants losing out in consumer electronics to Apple and Samsung.

* Important news rarely covered: “Rand Paul introduces bill to reform civil asset forfeiture;” for background and a terrifying story, see Taken: Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?, in The New Yorker

* “What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right.”

* The power of Google used for evil, or, why I will never rely entirely on Gmail or associated services, and you shouldn’t either. Note however that the author is not blameless.

4 responses

  1. I read Deresiewicz’s article and while I agree with the general sentiment and ideals (a more class-diverse elite, more liberal arts emphasis in elite schools), I find his arguments to be weak and potentially misleading for a high-school student or parent. I would say that a) the situation at Ivy League schools is not as extreme as he depicts, and admissions committees are trying to address many of the “character” problems of overachievers, and b) for many students, Ivy League schools are still the best choice; jumping on the anti-elite bandwagon would harm their self-interest (even if we define self-interest in a more thoughtful way–as Deresiewicz put it: constructing a self.

    A) The caricature of all Ivy League students as zombie-like cash cows is a picture that collapses many nuances of the admissions system and the student body. This is just anecdotal, but out of the dozen or so Ivy-League students in my high school clique (+extended clique), all but one were children of first-generation Asian immigrants. According to Deresiewicz, these children were born into privilege, because their parents managed to reach the middle to upper-middle class. Deresiewicz also tries to completely cut the link between affluence and character development. However, among my debate friends, for example, the students who went to summer debate camp and traveled to out-of-state tournaments ended up committing the most time and effort to the activity. These were the smartest, most purposeful people I knew in high school and all of them have stated the debate was probably the most valuable component of their high school education (which is an indictment of the high school as much as it is praise for debate). All came from families that were affluent for the middle-class, with parents willing to spend a lot on education. One can imagine that in an average non-immigrant family, income would need to be higher before the parents would spend as freely on education.

    The admissions game is complex and evolving. Adcoms are aware of the zombie overachievers. As Deresiewicz states:

    With so many accomplished applicants to choose from, we were looking for kids with something special, “PQs”—personal qualities—that were often revealed by the letters or essays. Kids who only had the numbers and the résumé were usually rejected: “no spark,” “not a team-builder,” “this is pretty much in the middle of the fairway for us.” One young person, who had piled up a truly insane quantity of extracurriculars and who submitted nine letters of recommendation, was felt to be “too intense.” On the other hand, the numbers and the résumé were clearly indispensable. I’d been told that successful applicants could either be “well-rounded” or “pointy”—outstanding in one particular way—but if they were pointy, they had to be really pointy: a musician whose audition tape had impressed the music department, a scientist who had won a national award.

    This is not, as Deresiewicz implies, just a symptom of simple achievement inflation. Adcoms are not merely asking for more extracurriculars and more expensive activities. The scientist who won a national award is almost certainly a better potential scientist than someone who hasn’t, BASED OFF OF ONLY THE INFO AVAILABLE TO ADCOMS. There could be an argument to be made for weighing intangibles more heavily, i.e. more attention given to recommendations, essays and interviews, but from my experience, these intangibles have already increased drastically in importance, with GPA and SAT scores increasingly being glossed over (as long as they are reasonable).

    Recently, Ivy League schools have changed their financial aid awards so that low-income students can attend for free, or close. Ivy Leagues are also under fire for admitting low-income, minority students that are less qualified than middle-class, overrepresented minorities or majority students AKA affirmative action, more specifically: individually tailored affirmative action in which income and cultural background are factored into decisions. This is a much thornier issue than Deresiewicz makes it out to be. It is not simply a matter of class, profit and privilege versus working-class authenticity. It is a matter of dividing up the pie, often between minority groups that are right in different ways when they say they’ve been jilted, or demographically bland white people who have nonetheless worked their butts off and are in the unenviable position of only being able to send social signals that explicitly reflect only individual merit, even if they implicitly rely on class and wealth.

    B) Boycotting the Ivy League, as Deresiewicz advocates, may benefit the system, but not the individual. Here’s how most of my friends reasoned: I am aware that Ivy League culture is unhealthy for critical thinking, but learning how to think is not something colleges (ivy or otherwise) have a monopoly on, so my ideal situation is to develop independently as a thinker while accruing the material and social benefits of an Ivy League school. Material benefits are underappreciated! If I had attended Reed (which Deresiewicz praises as a true liberal arts school) or UChicago (another “thinker’s school”), it would have cost 40k a year. If I attended Harvard, I would have paid 10k-15k a year, due to recent reforms in financial aid. My main reason for choosing a state school is because I planned to attend graduate school, which ideally would be at an elite university. Would I be doing something socially laudable by opting to attend a public school for graduate work? Even if the work I do would likely not have as much of an impact?

    The tone of the article reminds me of an unpleasant conversation among a group of a white, affluent college students I found myself incongruously caught up in. All were attending my a public state institution, and were bashing Ivy culture. They were sharing their experiences working in the service sector, praising themselves and each other for developing the perspective, promising to tip waiters well for the rest of their lives. One of them stated, “I’m grateful for the experience of working in this blue-collar job because I get to talk to the kind of people I’ll be managing later on in my career. I can understand that culture.” I highly doubt that this level of noblesse oblige, reminiscent of social performance art, will be the solution to societal inequality. I doubt also that going to a public institution to mingle with a more diverse student body is, by itself, enough to make a difference. What’s your plan for developing yourself? Are you going to self-study, do social work, travel, or will you write a book about what it’s like to socialize with the other half? One can turn out to be an entitled shit in any institution, and one can do great work as well. By focusing so much on the public/second-tier/Ivy-League distinctions, Deresiewicz has turned what should be a nuanced, complex argument into an absurd inversion of elitism: that what is authentically good is actually found in what is perceived as bad. People aren’t stupid. They will attend an Ivy League if it’s the best choice for them.

    Like

  2. I read Deresiewicz’s article and while I agree with the general sentiment and ideals (a more class-diverse elite, more liberal arts emphasis in elite schools), I find his arguments to be weak and potentially misleading for a high-school student or parent. I would say that a) the situation at Ivy League schools is not as extreme as he depicts, and admissions committees are trying to address many of the “character” problems of overachievers, and b) for many students, Ivy League schools are still the best choice; jumping on the anti-elite bandwagon would go against their self-interest (even if we define self-interest in a more thoughtful way–as Deresiewicz put it: constructing a self.

    A) The caricature of all Ivy League students as zombie-like cash cows is a picture that collapses many nuances of the admissions system and the student body. This is just anecdotal, but out of the dozen or so Ivy-League students in my high school clique (+extended clique), all but one were children of first-generation Asian immigrants. According to Deresiewicz, these children were born into privilege, because their parents managed to reach the middle to upper-middle class. Deresiewicz also tries to completely cut the link between affluence and character development. However, among my debate friends, for example, the students who went to summer debate camp and traveled to out-of-state tournaments ended up committing the most time and effort to the activity. These were the smartest, most purposeful people I knew in high school and all of them have stated the debate was probably the most valuable component of their high school education (which is an indictment of the high school as much as it is praise for debate). All came from families that were affluent for the middle-class, with parents willing to spend a lot on education. One can imagine that in an average non-immigrant family, income would need to be higher before the parents would spend as freely on education.

    The admissions game is complex and evolving. Adcoms are aware of the zombie overachievers. As Deresiewicz states:


    With so many accomplished applicants to choose from, we were looking for kids with something special, “PQs”—personal qualities—that were often revealed by the letters or essays. Kids who only had the numbers and the résumé were usually rejected: “no spark,” “not a team-builder,” “this is pretty much in the middle of the fairway for us.” One young person, who had piled up a truly insane quantity of extracurriculars and who submitted nine letters of recommendation, was felt to be “too intense.” On the other hand, the numbers and the résumé were clearly indispensable. I’d been told that successful applicants could either be “well-rounded” or “pointy”—outstanding in one particular way—but if they were pointy, they had to be really pointy: a musician whose audition tape had impressed the music department, a scientist who had won a national award.

    This is not, as Deresiewicz implies, just a symptom of simple achievement inflation. Adcoms are not merely asking for more extracurriculars and more expensive activities. The scientist who won a national award is almost certainly a better potential scientist than someone who hasn’t, BASED OFF OF ONLY THE INFO AVAILABLE TO ADCOMS. There could be an argument to be made for weighing intangibles more heavily, i.e. more attention given to recommendations, essays and interviews, but from my experience, these intangibles have already increased drastically in importance, with GPA and SAT scores increasingly being glossed over (as long as they are reasonable).

    Recently, Ivy League schools have changed their financial aid awards so that low-income students can attend for free, or close. Ivy Leagues are also under fire for admitting low-income, minority students that are less qualified than middle-class, overrepresented minorities or majority students AKA affirmative action, more specifically: individually tailored affirmative action in which income and cultural background are factored into decisions. This is a much thornier issue than Deresiewicz makes it out to be. It is not simply a matter of class, profit and privilege versus working-class authenticity. It is a matter of dividing up the pie, often between minority groups that are right in different ways when they say they’ve been jilted, or demographically bland white people who have nonetheless worked their butts off and are in the unenviable position of only being able to send social signals that explicitly reflect only individual merit, even if they implicitly rely on class and wealth.

    B) Boycotting the Ivy League, as Deresiewicz advocates, may or may not benefit the system, but it would most likely harm the individual. Here’s how most of my friends reasoned: I am aware that Ivy League culture is unhealthy for critical thinking, but learning how to think is not something colleges (ivy or otherwise) have a monopoly on, so my ideal situation is to develop independently as a thinker while accruing the material and social benefits of an Ivy League school. Material benefits are underappreciated! If I had attended Reed (which Deresiewicz praises as a true liberal arts school) or UChicago (another “thinker’s school”), it would have cost 40k a year. If I attended Harvard, I would have paid 10k-15k a year, due to recent reforms in financial aid. My main reason for choosing a state school is because I planned to attend graduate school, which ideally would be at an elite university. Would I be doing something socially laudable by opting to attend a public school for graduate work? Even if the work I do would likely not have as much of an impact?

    The tone of the article reminds me of an unpleasant conversation among a group of a white, affluent college students I found myself incongruously caught up in. All were attending a public state institution, and were bashing Ivy culture. They were sharing their experiences working in the service sector, praising themselves and each other for developing perspective, promising to tip waiters well for the rest of their lives. One of them stated, “I’m grateful for the experience of working in this blue-collar job because I get to talk to the kind of people I’ll be managing later on in my career. I can understand that culture.” I highly doubt that this level of noblesse oblige, reminiscent of social performance art, will be the solution to societal inequality. I doubt also that going to a public institution to mingle with a more diverse student body is, by itself, enough to make a difference. What’s your plan for developing yourself? Are you going to self-study, do social work, travel, or will you write a book about what it’s like to socialize with the other half? One can turn out to be an entitled shit in any institution, and one can do great work as well. By focusing so much on the public/second-tier/Ivy-League distinctions, Deresiewicz has turned what should be a nuanced, complex argument into an absurd inversion of elitism: that what is authentically good is actually found in what is perceived as bad. People aren’t stupid. They will attend an Ivy League if it’s the best choice for them.

    Like

  3. “I find it interesting that many countries that start with or develop a major lead in some field eventually lose that lead.” Regression to the mean, not necessarily the whole story, but seems like a pretty good start.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Links: The will to power, Peter Watts, chairs, prostitution, empathy, Beowulf, and more | The Story's Story

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: