Monday, November 17, 2014

FTT Off-Topic: The Eldest And The Future

My kid's first professor
Not sports, you've been warned.

My eldest is 14 and a high school freshman. Like many such creatures, she's worried about what college and her life will be like, because planning everything out is something that people do, and not knowing where she will be or what she will do is intolerable.

I get that. So I jumped the gun by more than a wee bit, and took her to my college this weekend.

Why so soon -- literally years before the other kids? Well, my college is Syracuse University, and I don't really enjoy driving in snow, so making a drive up in deeper winter was not high on my list of priorities. She's also a gymnast, and has meets on two of three weekends in November, so yesterday was really the only day that was going to work.

Which was a bit of a large problem, in that it was the day after my every three-week Friday night poker game, which can run as late as 4am... and we were due in Syracuse, a 4+ hour ride, at 8:30 am. Things got done a little earlier than usual, so I was able to get an hour nap before getting her and a friend in the car for the ride up, but still, yeah. Tough grind.

A few words about Syracuse: I'm very conflicted about my time there. I got two degrees in three years, and have had a lucrative career as an adult with part of what I learned there as a base... but I also graduated with over $40K in debt (in 1990), despite working constantly throughout my time there. I worked 70+ hours a week while also taking a full course load, and I stole food and rang up credit card debt, and it was just nothing but struggle. The school also increased tuition by double digits every year while doing things like paying an ad agency several million dollars for a new logo, rather than let the kids learning such things take a shot at it for free. It's also something like $60K a year, so absent some absurd scholarship action or wildly happy moments in my professional life, it's not that feasible a place for her to go. She knew all of this going in, and that this was going to be a sales pitch. But it was also going to be a little bit more.

My school knows something about selling... so what they did instead of the usual tour of buildings and talks with teachers and students was to give their guests a couple of sample lectures, following a visit to individual colleges with your majors inside the main. The first bit was with kids from the school of education, in that my kid's first instinct for a profession is teacher; that was OK but middling. And the second session was with Professor Stephen Kuusisto, a blind man and the professor of disability studies, who you see pictured above. The professor is an expert on the changing definition and subject of how the defined disabled are integrating with society, and he's absolutely aces.

It turns out that the modern definition of disabled is purely an invention of the Industrial Age, with scary government and economic forces promoting the subjugation. That such people were employed once, and then not any more, and then eventually murdered by eugenics monsters, and even prosecuted if they just showed their face in public. (The last part? In America. Recently.)

And the magic is that my kid is getting it, understanding the vast majority of the vocabulary and concepts, and the scales of how she isn't smart enough to be on this campus, or that she wouldn't be able to understand what's being discussed... are just falling away. Next session wasn't as interesting, but my kid is as with it from an intellectual level. Then we have lunch in a residence hall, and the idea that you have to live off-campus? Fading. And so on, and so on.

We're a long way away from completing the process, and the money terrifies everyone involved. But the future has been seen, if not at my school than somewhere else, and that was so worth the pain and trauma involved in all of that driving, on that little sleep. And hopefully, I'll get to the point where my kid isn't applying to dozens of schools, having massive freakouts and a crisis in self-confidence.

Next, we'll work out visits to some other schools -- my wife's alma mater is West Chester, Rutgers and Princeton are close and relatively solid, I worked at Penn once and think it might be a good place for her, and I've got friends at Hofstra and North Carolina, and there are other ideas as well.

We've got plenty of time.

Especially when the future is no longer is filled with uncertainty and fear.

A good day.

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