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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 4, 2011 / 28 Adar I, 5771

America's College Obsession

By Mona Charen




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Andy Ferguson, one of America's most engaging and perspicacious journalists, has not -- as Andre Malraux said of Whittaker Chambers -- returned from the hell of college admissions with empty hands. In "Crazy U," his chronicle of his son's senior year of high school -- a year of college visiting, application, essay writing, open-house attending, interviewing, financial aid seeking, and waiting, waiting, waiting -- is by turns hilarious, shrewd, and revealing.

The "crazy" in the book's title refers to our national obsession with college -- a little piece of insanity to which Ferguson is more prone than most. Preoccupied by his son's prospects of being admitted to a good college, Ferguson devours advice books, college guides, and, in weak moments, websites like College Confidential, prompting this reflection about anonymous advice websites: "I'd been bewildered by [too much information] before … Before a business trip I'd go online to find a recommendation for a rodent-free hotel or a reliable restaurant. Half a dozen websites would be waiting to help … From them I learned that the local big-chain hotel was in fact a good bargain, with pleasant service and an excellent location, and also a hellhole staffed by human ferrets, with overflowing toilets and untraceable smells that had ruined the honeymoon of vox-12popula and iwantmyrum, who were now exacting their revenge by abusing the hotel on every website they could find."

But along with the confusion and the profusion of contradictory advice he found on the Web and elsewhere about getting into college, Ferguson notes the dismaying effects of following the advice. He quotes an expensive "consultant" who advises "'Early on in high school your child should find a teacher they like and go that extra mile. They should … cultivate that relationship … be enthusiastic in class … and spend time outside of class with the teacher, if that's possible.'" The aim, Ferguson summarizes, is to "release" at recommendation time "a gusher of praise."

In other words, Ferguson interprets, the process "turned them into Eddie Haskell . . . It guaranteed that teenagers would pursue life with a single ulterior motive . . . It coated their every undertaking in a thin lacquer of insincerity."

If the process encourages a certain amount of obsequiousness and even dishonesty in America's youth, it also elicits more than a dollop of deceit by the colleges themselves. Fixated on their US News & World Report rankings, colleges "fudge" numbers like the SAT scores of incoming freshmen, the graduation rate, and average class size. Wall Street Journal reporter Steve Stecklow compared the data schools submitted to US News with the data they submitted to bond rating agencies. "(I)f they lied to a rating agency, they might go to jail; if they lied to US News they might make the Top Twenty. Reviewing credit reports for more than one hundred schools, he caught one in four fudging the numbers."


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The college admission rigmarole reflects in so many ways the cultural and political preferences of the liberals who run the vast majority of these institutions. A "sample" college essay Ferguson purchased online reflected the fashion:

"There was no question our hired hand thought he knew the magic words that would make an admissions committee coo: 'I would be proud to work collaboratively with diverse populations to solve problems … my readiness for greater challenges in the diverse learning environment … my enthusiasm for history, diplomacy and cultural diversity…'"

Just as gag-inducing is the spiraling cost of this four-year excursion into diversityland. The annual cost of a typical private college went from $3,663 in 1975 to $34,132 in 2009. (Many are above $50,000 now.) Ferguson analyzes it succinctly: "It's the same problem that afflicts health care (the other sector of the American economy that has seen skyrocketing costs in the past few decades), a large portion of the people consuming the services aren't paying for the service out of their own pocket. The costs are picked up by third parties." No one has the incentive to cut costs.

But even paring away the layers of folly that surround the quest for college does not, in the end, disillusion Ferguson. A year's research and experience has revealed that the application process is needlessly complicated and stressful, that college admission is marred by many injustices, that college itself is perhaps a "bubble" investment that has been way oversold, and that the costs are completely unrelated to the value of the product.

But when his son is accepted at the school of his choice, Ferguson and his wife rejoice. They've drunk deeply of the Kool-Aid. We all have. But after reading this hugely entertaining book, we at least see it more clearly.

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Comment on JWR contributor Mona Charen's column by clicking here.

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