Re: First generation college students

1

I could get my dad to pick a pseud and you could ask him.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 6:47 AM
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That's probably easiest. Thanks.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 6:49 AM
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He's usually napping now, but he'll be awake soon.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 6:52 AM
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This is urgent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 6:56 AM
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Does being a first generation college graduate count? Both my parents are some college, no degree. But to answer my own question, no, it doesn't count. I have no idea.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:05 AM
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My dad actually doesn't have an undergraduate degree either. Just an LLB.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:06 AM
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I've got a license to ill.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:15 AM
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I think people here will probably have some really interesting firsthand things to say, but I'll just mention a few more formal sources that I think are really useful:

1. Alfred Lubrano's book Limbo, about (mostly white) working class kids "straddling" the boundary between classes after they go to college

2. MDRC's research, particularly "Terms of Engagement," on young black and Latino men in community college.

3. Research by the Lumina Foundation and its grantees and partners on college access and success.

In general I think the literature on first-generation college students is both more copious and more genuinely useful than in many other areas.

But if you don't want to read reports, the biggest takeaways I have are:

- NEVER underestimate how much people may not know. One of the most heartbreaking conversations I ever heard was with a young person who thought that the *per course* fee for college classes was a *per class* (that is, every week or twice a week) fee. Other conversations have involved the existence of in-state tuition, the availability of books or course materials on loan or used rather than new, and finding creative solutions for "required" fees.

- Present information without people having to ask. Use generalized hypotheticals to get people talking. "What might be some questions that a person would have?" is a safe distancing method that allows people to air all kinds of questions that they don't want to admit to having for themselves.

- Explicitly recommend that students learn to code-switch (if they haven't already), without demeaning their existing social codes and practices.

- Provide help that a) doesn't look like help, b) is group-oriented and mandatory, and c) is provided by people who can effectively speak to the students' own experiences (they don't have to be from the same cultural or class background, but they have to be viewed as authentic by the students themselves).

- Expect that regardless of how well you or anybody does the above, there will be students who are so wounded and so angry that *any* suggestion that they are not totally self-reliant and totally prepared and knowledgeable about the adult world will result in a complete retreat.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:18 AM
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Oh, and while this is wildly out of scope for your question, one of the issues that made me volcanically angry in college was the economics professor who would not grant more than two As in his class, no matter how hard anyone worked. I have never seen a more clear example of contempt for the financial realities faced by night school students, who were working for a living and whose tuition reimbursement was matched by their employers in relation to how well they did in class (e.g., 100% reimbursement for an A, 80% reimbursement for a B, etc.)

It's been almost twenty years and I'm still furious on their behalf.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:22 AM
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Come to think, Buck's first generation, but he's out of town and probably too busy to check in. I'm trying to think of what he's talked about as an issue, but the only thing that's coming up is money issues -- having to drop out and work locally for a year to qualify for in-state tuition, not having enough money for food, the time his roommate sold his bed (with the best of intentions, but still), sleeping in an unheated porch room in Erie, Pennsylvania in winter.

Nothing particularly academic or social-class related that I recall him talking about much. A big state school like Penn State might have been easier on that front, as having a reasonably large population of first-generation students.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:26 AM
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Thanks, Witt. That's a fantastic answer.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:27 AM
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10: Plus, Happy Valley is far enough from the lake that it is warmer in the winter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:30 AM
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I got my flippy-floppies.


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:31 AM
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I forgot another one. I don't know if this is a problem in Texas, but: Have a plan for how to help students who are horrified and ashamed when they get to college and are placed in remedial classes.

At least here, it's not unusual for someone to get good grades and to graduate at the top of their high school class, and be utterly unprepared for college-level work. I was so naive I didn't realize how prevalent this was until I actually looked at a form filled out by the senior class president and salutatorian of her class, who could not write a simple English sentence.

Her writing was at about a sixth grade level, maybe. And yet she had gotten all kinds of positive strokes and support and reinforcement from the adults at her high school, who with the best of intentions were instilling in her a sense that she was skilled and competent, and even above average. Talk about a painful comedown.

It's the one area where I think conservative complaints about prioritizing self esteem over high expectations have some merit.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:38 AM
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Call me a jellyfish!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:40 AM
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That's a good insight. Yep, super common experience here, too.

There's a fine balance - you want to reassure someone that they are capable of growing and mastering the level demanded of them, so that they're not totally demoralized, but you also want to instill a real wake-up call about the gap between the previous expectations and the new expectations.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:43 AM
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(Also I have to run, but I'll check in a little later.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:44 AM
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...about the gap between the previous expectations and the new expectations

That was something that hit quickly when I went to college and was taking honors classes. There were the big city kids with their sophisticated Omaha ways and then there were a whole bunch of people who were like me used to being in an environment where only one or two kids in the class were academically-oriented. Fortunately, I had a whole bunch of family members who'd been through this before and prepared me for it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:48 AM
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I don't know how easy this would be to get across to a kid in that position, but my belief would be that their relative level of achievement (salutatorian, whatever) would be a better indicator of their ability than their absolute level of knowledge -- that a kid like that might need the remedial work to catch up, but would be fine after a finite amount of remedial work. I figure that anyone who can excel within the scope of the expectations they're given can probably excel given any reasonable set of expectations.

But getting that across seems hard: "Your good grades in the past mean you're a smart kid, the fact that you don't know anything means you went to a terrible school, we can fix the latter and then let the former show through" is going to be hard to accept. No one wants to admit that they don't know anything.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:51 AM
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18: I had all sorts of mean-spirited amusement from watching that happen to U of C freshmen. I went to a very academically solid high school, and then MIT, before taking the U of C core courses; I was very familiar with not being the smartest person in the room. But U of C gets a lot of kids who were the brightest light ever to shine in wherever their high schools were, who initially don't know how to deal with a roomful of people who are all just as clever as they are. All those kids came in really cocky, and deflated like popped balloons a couple of months into their first quarter.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:54 AM
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Yes, but I was at UNL. We all went to the non-honors classes to keep our balloons inflated. I think I've mentioned this before, but my freshman roommate simply could not read quickly enough to pass a freshman class.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:58 AM
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He was a first generation college student. I probably should have helped him.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:01 AM
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Many first generation kids alsO need explicit socialization to school. They have never seen a syllabus. they don't have much of a filter--I. E. Saying things like, I need to skip Class to go deer hunting or I wasn't in class last week because I was in jail. Where I teach they also usually have insane family obligations as well. Their cousin is having gallbladder surgery and they are expected to be at the hospital. Etc. You need to be Aware that the family can try and pull them back. Often families may want their child to go to college but they are really worried about losing their influence over the child. I would say for most first gens I teach, family will be a higher priority than school.


Posted by: Miranda | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:01 AM
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I need to skip Class to go deer hunting

I'm not so sure that wouldn't be a perfectly reasonable thing for an undergraduate to say here.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:03 AM
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I was a first-generation college student, but I don't think my experience counts. I just kind of wish someone had told me to go to more parties and start drinking sooner.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:06 AM
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Fortunately, my sophomore year roommates were very good at telling me just that type of thing, often by going out to get kegs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:11 AM
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I do not give an excused absence for deer hunting, but I have given an excused absence for being in jail. I stand by both decisions.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:14 AM
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12: 10: Plus, Happy Valley is far enough from the lake that it is warmer colder in the winter but it snows a lot less.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:14 AM
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27: You're like a modern-day Sheriff of Nottingham.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:16 AM
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I was a first generation college student. Also, as far as I can tell, last generation, as none of my younger relatives have gone. Money was an issue, but my undergraduate degree was at an institution that had a lot of people in a similar boat to me, so there wasn't any social awkwardness or other problems. I did have the popped-bubble thing when I first went to University (at 16) but that was due to being a lazy sod studying entirely the wrong subject, rather than anything specific to being a first generation college student. I didn't do well because I underestimated how hard it would be, and completely lacked motivation. When I went back after having worked for a three years, the situation was reversed.

Some of the comments above sound a bit dramatic; as if first-generation college students are first-generation homo sapiens. Being able to code switch is useful, mind.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:16 AM
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28: Wikipedia says you are right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:18 AM
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Wikipedia also says "Happy Valley" isn't the real name of the place which suggests the local chamber of commerce is really asleep at the switch.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:20 AM
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Some of the comments above sound a bit dramatic; as if first-generation college students are first-generation homo sapiens.

I think part of the difference is that you're coming from a country with much less class inequality in secondary education. A first generation college student here is fairly often going to be someone like Witt mentioned, who was in an environment where normal academic functioning wasn't a possibility.

Buck's college experience was like yours (that is, not particularly academically or socially shocking) but it's because he went to a nice middle-class high school with plenty of other kids who were expecting to go to college and being academically prepared for it. Here, that's not going to describe all, or even most, first generation college-goers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:22 AM
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30 Some of the comments above sound a bit dramatic; as if first-generation college students are first-generation homo sapiens.

Yeah, I kind of feel like the potential problems may be being overstated. On the other hand, I grew up middle-class in a house full of books, so my parents' lack of formal education probably isn't the most relevant variable.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:25 AM
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My boyfriend's grandfather had nothing beyond "a grade 8 education in Alberta." His Dad worked full-time at the YMCA as an undergrad. He didn't have the greatest grades. He did have a successful career marketing surgical supplies.

My Dad's generation was sort of first generation. My grandpa didn't go to college because of the depression, but was offered a small cross-country scholarship to Cornell. I believe that his father did go to ag school. Grandpa was,, however, a VP for contracts at a major company despite only having a high school education. However, their household did not have any books etc. My Dad has time-management problems, but I think that those are real psychiatric issues and not attributable to grrandpa's lack of a college education.

My Mom's family is completely different. Granddad had a Ph.D. and was quite intellectual. He was the 8th generation of university educated men in our family in America, and I believe that our English ancestors were also University-educated.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:29 AM
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Yeah, I posted before reading, but my Dad and his siblings grew up in a middle-class household in neighborhoods which would now be considered almost upper-middle class though not elite, and there was every expectation that he and his sibligns would go on to college.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:35 AM
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I'm a first generation college student, and I had the exact same reaction as 30. (And I even grew up in a working-class house with a single mom who owned exactly two books -- a VC Andrews novel and a book about how Hitler was bad.) I can't imagine an orientation for first-generation college students that wouldn't have made me feel patronized, like next you were going to get up and tell me "Everyone may not know this, but here in college, we shit in the toilet.")

But if Witt has met people who don't understand what "per course" means, then there's a population that needs help.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:35 AM
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re: 33

I suppose. I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the culture-shock of moving into a different social environment. I grew up on a moderately rough Scottish council 'scheme', far from the worst in the country, but certainly _radically_ different to the sorts of places a lot of the people I know from Oxford, say, would have grown up. I expect the difference is, code-switching was something I learned fairly early. I went to a very mixed high school both in terms of social class and academic ability, as the school had a large catchment area, so took in both large working class* council schemes, and fairly comfortable middle-class 'bought hooses' alike. Scotland is, culturally, somewhat more egalitarian, though, I think. Social class divisions are very real, but are not an insurmountable barrier.

* as this was the peak-Thatcher years, a lot of people weren't working at all, obviously.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:35 AM
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re: 37

Yeah. We did have a lot of books in the house, so that was one obstacle we never had to overcome. My parents didn't have any formal education at the time, but my Dad, in particular, is the sort of well-read working class autodidact that's quite common in Scotland. Common enough that it's something of a cultural cliché. I always resist the assumption that being well-read is a hallmark of being of a particular social class.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:43 AM
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Yes, to be clear, I was thinking of the (large) subset of 1st generation college students whose parents do not have a middle-class socioeconomic background. I've also worked with young people whose parents didn't have degrees but who were established and successful in other realms -- what I would call "technically" first generation college students. Their adjustment is much more like what ttaM and essear are describing.

I will say that over the five or six years I've been most closely involved in this work, I've consistently adjusted my expectations farther and farther away from the norms I grew up with. Finding a way to protect these young people from the worst disasters, while not coming across as condescending, is hard but really, really important.

I feel as though there is an entire body of literature that could be written about the spiraling effects that lack of endowments have on small HBCUs, for example. Student comes out of super-poor neighborhood, has no family financial support and little emotional safety net, goes geographically far from home to a campus that can barely pay its professors a living wage and can certainly not offer any real financial-aid package to the student. They pick a major based on television (CSI has a lot to answer for) and wind up several semesters later, overwhelmed with debt and coursework, dropping out. Now they have a financial millstone that is not dischargable in bankrupcy, no marketable skills, and often a deep sense of shame -- that the people who told them they were just going to wind up dead or in prison are right.

Often, when I get angry and ranty about academia here, it's those kids I have in the back of my mind.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:44 AM
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It's not directly on point, but the following piece has always struck this first-generation ivy leaguer as spot on:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1423138


Posted by: semi-occasional commenter who can never remember the name he last commented under | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:46 AM
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"I need to skip Class to go deer hunting"
I'm not so sure that wouldn't be a perfectly reasonable thing for an undergraduate to say here.

You'd probably get away with it at Christ Church or Magdalen. Not Balliol, though, they're all a bit lefty there.

(Note: going deer hunting indicates something radically different about your class status for Brits than it does for Americans.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:46 AM
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And wasn't Prince Charles a first-generation college student? I don't think either of his parents went...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:48 AM
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There aren't many "very mixed high schools in terms of both social class and academic ability" in the USA. The main reason why well-off people live where they do is so their kids can go to better-quality schools with other well-off people. This situation can never be changed as far as I can tell because if you change the school district that a certain neighborhood is in, the value of a house can change massively. Look at real estate listings in most suburbs and the beginning of the listing is probably something like "3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, Highland Park schools".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:49 AM
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42: I thought the upper class thing to do with deer was stalk them, rather than hunt them. With one of those goofy hats.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:50 AM
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41: Was it "Wry Cooter"?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:51 AM
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45: As opposed to a bright orange hat combined with a bright orange vest and camo pants.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:51 AM
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re: 44

Well, yes. We've all read enough my ranting about segregation by economic class and educational ability to last a lifetime. Much of the UK isn't that different from the US, I don't think, but the educational funding system is very different which probably ameliorates some of the segregation.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:52 AM
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44: There are some -- a big enough school in a non-dense enough area is going to be economically integrated. Those are usually still segregated by honors/academic/vocational track or something similar, but a bright kid from the wrong background, like Buck, can end up in the college-bound track.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:52 AM
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When it gets really non-dense, everybody goes to the same school and the school is too small to have tracks or honors programs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:55 AM
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Article in 41 highly recommended.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:57 AM
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51: Somebody really needs to go around to all the law reviews and explain that if you routinely have more than 1/2 the page for footnotes, you've somehow lost your ability to come to the point.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:01 AM
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43: Wikipedia says that Prince Albert Victor, George V's older brother, attended Trinity College Cambridge. George VI did attend the Royal Naval College, though that's not really a university education per se.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:03 AM
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49: Our kids' high school is a prototypically snooty suburban one here in the area, but actually has some significant economic diversity (involving maybe 30% of the students) but is still rather economically segregated within the school socially (although the Buck track does happen). Leads to some interesting (and generally depressing) sociological interactions.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:04 AM
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48: I was just listening to the Today Programme, and they were comparing a school in Nick Clegg's affluent constituency with one down the road in David Blunkett's. They sounded academically very different. Both were facing cuts, and I think that the former was planning on becoming an "Academy." It sounded a lot more like the U.S. than I had expected.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:06 AM
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When it gets really non-dense, everybody goes to the same school and the school is too small to have tracks or honors programs.

And if you live in Forksville, PA and your kids go to the only school in Sullivan County, your house is probably worth less than $100,000 no matter how fancy it is, so who cares. Now, if those corn subsidies get cut, that'll upset the local equivalent of gentry.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:08 AM
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52: Which is a point that is indirectly made by that article itself as anyone who even bothered to read the first page would see.

For instance footnote 1 (to the section title of "Introduction") reads, Following the advice of a recent article I start the Article with a footnote; after all, given that "author's should directly address the issue of footnoting before writing an article," what could be more appropriate than excessive preliminary footnotes?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:12 AM
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57: I didn't read it because a quick scroll showed way too many footnotes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:14 AM
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your house is probably worth less than $100,000 no matter how fancy it is, so who cares.

That's absurd. Everybody knows who has the "nice" houses in a farming area.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:16 AM
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51 seconded


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:23 AM
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one of the issues that made me volcanically angry in college was the economics professor who would not grant more than two As in his class, no matter how hard anyone worked. I have never seen a more clear example of contempt for the financial realities faced by night school students

Economics: living up to the tag "the dismal science" every day of the week.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:30 AM
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the economics professor who would not grant more than two As in his class

A more Pareto-efficient distribution of grades would diminish the deadweight loss brought about by this artificial scarcity. Tut tut.


Posted by: eliot | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:34 AM
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I third the article recommendation. Skip to "learning to like Brie" for the more interesting and readable bits.


Posted by: Parodie | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:39 AM
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If there were more "A"s lying around someone would have already gotten it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:41 AM
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63: Yes, it does maybe try to do "too much". Read the first part if you enjoy meta.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:42 AM
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"Readable Bits" would be a good name for a tattoo shop specializing in genital tattooing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:42 AM
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Put out of business by "Big and Readable".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:45 AM
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Put out of business by "Big and Readabletldr".


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:48 AM
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"If you can read this, come closer."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:48 AM
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You guys are the best. THE BEST!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:50 AM
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I recall seeing a bunch of articles, online and other, a few years ago, about the plight of what I believe was called "the working class academic." Those articles seemed pretty thin stuff to me -- there was a lot of "working class people behave at gatherings like this, but upper and upper-middle class people behave at gatherings like that" -- but there might be a gem or two that I missed that could be turned up by Google or something.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:55 AM
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"I need to skip Class to go deer hunting"
I'm not so sure that wouldn't be a perfectly reasonable thing for an undergraduate to say here.

You'd probably get away with it at Christ Church or Magdalen. Not Balliol, though, they're all a bit lefty there.

A very good friend of mine actually tried to get permission to take the Balliol JCR banner on the Countryside Alliance march in the late 90s.
Didn't work, funnily enough.

(Mind, lest you get the wrong impression, he later spent most of 2003-2005 involved in NGO work in Iraq.)



Posted by: Richard J | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 9:57 AM
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I'm going to assume that means he chased NGO workers from horseback with a pack of hounds.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:01 AM
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I cannot encounter mention of Balliol College without being reminded of John Charity Spring, M.A., in the Flashman novels.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:02 AM
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I have wondered about that on occasion, but he does appear to have been genuinely campaigning for Iraqi debt relief (and, um, causing minor diplomatic scandals.)


Posted by: Richard J | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:05 AM
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74- I always think of the limerick in Murder Must Advertise, but I think that's just because until I read it I thought "Balliol" had a short (bath) A. But if it's going to rhyme with "sesquepedalial" then it obviously doesn't.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:08 AM
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My son's high school makes sure to have a couple days off at the beginning of elk season.

He's about to enter his senior year. I find that I'm torn between disparaging his favored plan for next year -- there are too many spoiled rich kids -- and my most important bit of advice for college students: make rich friends.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:14 AM
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There are some limericks in The Documents In The Case that informed me that Caius is pronounced "Keys". Dorothy Sayers -- your limerick-based guide to British college pronunciation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:15 AM
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78: Oh, for God's sake. Isn't Magdalen bad enough? To say nothing of all the Beauchamps, Cholmondeleys and Barmy Fotheringay-Phippses.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:17 AM
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77.1: Along with most schools in our area, first day of deer hunting is a school holiday (conveniently the Monday after Thanksgiving).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:19 AM
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his favored plan

What is the favored plan? Ski bum? Yacht crew?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:20 AM
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Why do you befriend rich people?

Because they're the ones with money.


Posted by: White Collar Willie Sutton | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:20 AM
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80: But not for the city schools.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:23 AM
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Because we're sophisticated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:23 AM
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30: Some of the comments above sound a bit dramatic; as if first-generation college students are first-generation homo sapiens. Being able to code switch is useful, mind.

I've read the thread only as far as 30, but I second what ttaM says.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:24 AM
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78: Wikipedia says that "The college is often referred to simply as "Caius" (/ˈkiːz/), after its second founder, John Keys, who fashionably latinised the spelling of his name after studying in Italy."

That seems like a very irritating thing to do with your name. Also it would have such a bad impact on your academic prospects!


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:24 AM
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That seems like a very irritating thing to do with your name.

Previously quoted by somebody else:

"[Tyler] Brûlé's father does not appear to have used any diacritical marks or accents on the family surname."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:26 AM
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86 -- But maybe it attracts the idle rich.


Posted by: CarolusCarpio | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:29 AM
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81 -- Current favorite is CU.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:32 AM
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Also, there is a long tradition of golddiggers social X-rays adding "de" and "von" and such to their names, willy-nilly.

As for Oxbridge names, I think someone in one of Robertson Davies' novels asks, about an Oxford college, "Isn't that place full of people with names like Reptilian Cork-Nethersole?"


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:34 AM
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That seems like a very irritating thing to do with your name.

I dunno. Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim Latinised his name even though it was pretty much Latin already, and look where that got him!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:35 AM
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Idle rich who want to sue someone, anyway. Any lurkers want to invest in the hopelessness and despair that is our legal system?


Posted by: CarolusDeCarpio | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:38 AM
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Perhaps an orientation session or several involving second or third year students (especially ones who excelled in highschool and struggled once they reached college) with the topic "Things I didn't know when I arrived at college that I wish someone had told me" would be helpful. Having it peer-directed could, at least potentially, lessen the sense of being talked down to.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:39 AM
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91: Similarly, Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, or Balthus.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:42 AM
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93 is a very good idea. How would you recruit second or third year students for this, I wonder? Talk to any relevant existing student organizations (whose members have shown themselves to be outreachy-joiner types already)?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 10:50 AM
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Most student groups are looking to do outreach and recruitment anyway, so getting representatives from various relevant groups isn't generally a problem. When I was in law school and a member of a committee tasked with improving recruitment and retention of "non-typical" law students, we made sure that the part of first year orientation with the topic "Things I wish I'd known . . ." included quality representation from, for example, African-American, Latino, LGBTQ, and other "non-typical" law-student groups.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:00 AM
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95: "'Meet freshmen before their social awkwardness is gone and their standards too high to even look at you."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:02 AM
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97: That too, of course.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:11 AM
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a big enough school in a non-dense enough area is going to be economically integrated

Well, there's non-dense and then there's non-dense, and regional demographics vary a lot. If we had stayed on the Reservation I would have gone to Monument Valley High School. Great name (and location), but not really the most promising academic environment, and my parents never seriously considered it as far as I know.

As it was, the high school I ended up going to was actually quite integrated economically and otherwise, due to the nature of the neighborhoods it drew from, but internally tracked in the usual way so that my academic experience was quite different from that of most of my classmates


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:18 AM
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My entire physics class, including the teacher, would have fit on a golf cart.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:21 AM
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100: Let's not get into esoteric theological debates, Moby.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:22 AM
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I read 100 three times over as "have a fit". WHY, Moby? Why would they have a fit on a golf cart?


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:30 AM
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102: They were first-generation golfcart riders.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:34 AM
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And I'm a first generation hyphenator.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:35 AM
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83: Indeed, in my county all the high schools got off for the first day of deer season except for the one city school.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:40 AM
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That seems like a very irritating thing to do with your name. Also it would have such a bad impact on your academic prospects!

It's interesting how much more variant names could be before, perhaps, the onset of library cataloging. All those old names that have to be written bilingually in Brussels, whereas modern people's names don't (except monarchs).


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:59 AM
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OT: I liked the Economist's obituary of Patrick Leigh Fermor, but it's tough to beat the following from the TLS:

A discussion of cannibalism in the correspondence columns of the TLS was just the sort of thing to elicit a contribution from Fermor: "Apropos of the recent letters about the ethical and culinary aspects of cannibalism, may I quote from a book I wrote years ago . . .".

Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 12:09 PM
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Most of my students over the past 8 years have been first-generation. In fact, it feels kind of weird to be moving to a school where almost all of the students' parents went to college.

So, as I think about your question, it's hard for me to figure out what of my teaching experiences have been related to first-gen-ness and what is just teaching.

I am not first-gen, as my dad did finish college, but neither he nor my mother, who dropped out, had any idea what my college life would be like. They wanted to be supportive, but my experience was vastly different from theirs. They wanted me to have a good time, at least, which is something a lot of my students' parents never seem to consider, and they didn't ask to see my "report card" the way my students' parents do. But they would do things like call my professors on the phone, out of the blue, and say "Mrs." and "Mr." to them, and ask them ridiculous questions about whether they could help me find an apartment, etc.

But Jesus Christ, my students' parents need to be tied up. They see no problem with editing--or even writing--their kids' papers for them, despite having no idea what the assignment is or how college writing works. They ask their kids to tell me they disapprove of the sex and profanity in the texts I've assigned. They tell their kids they have to get A's, while also demanding that they do all the chores around the house and work two jobs at fast-food restaurants while taking seven classes. First-gen students cannot tell you why they're in a particular major. (This was true during my college years too.) You say, "Why are you majoring in X?" and they sort of stare into space and say, "I... never thought about that before..."

I know their parents mean well, really. But whether parents went to college or not, the number one thing they all need to do, across the board, is back the fuck off. If I had my way, there would be an entire counseling office devoted to handing out pamphlets and providing counseling services for parents to learn how to back the fuck off, and for students to communicate with their parents about how to back the fuck off. The Office of BTFO.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 12:12 PM
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108: AWB's experience seems like it applies to a subset of first-generation college students who are also the children of immigrants.

It wouldn't apply to the half-Indian guy from Nebraska who had relatives on the reservation and whose Mom had been on welfare. And he got into a lot of trouble.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 12:22 PM
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108: There was one guy I knew who majored in Physics who was quite organized about getting his papers done early, so he always e-mailed them to his mother so that she could edit them. He won a Rhodes scholarship. I think he was from Oregon which I don't think is non-competitive.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 12:25 PM
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I also heard a lot of stories from students who said their parents deeply resent them for going to college, despite having encouraged them to do so if they could. Part of all that crap going on is, I think, an expression of their ambivalence about having kids who did something they didn't. They want to participate somehow, either in a way they think is supportive, or in some way that they know undermines the student. Both end up undermining the student.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 12:37 PM
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In my experience with community college students (many of whom will be first generation college students*), the overwhelming majority are a lot more concerned with not having explicit instructions about what is expected of them than they are with being condescended to. Among other things, this results in syllabi for classes that are 7 to 10 single-spaced pages.

They also, however, tend to feel a lot less self-entitled to doing well in school. That means when they're doing poorly or confused about either the material or logistical issues they won't necessarily try to discover what kind of help exists for them (though a lot of them will use the avenues of help that they know about).

* Though this is changing. A lot of the students are increasingly people who would normally be going to public 4-year universities (including the "flagship" ones) who are just taking advantage of the cheaper tuition.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 3:16 PM
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Miranda, way above, and AWB just up there, bring up the principle that we call in these parts "Don't Get Above Your Raising." If you don't want to be a traitor to family and friends, you have to keep up your home relationships. In Appalachia leaving your home county is a big deal. All the young people are leaving anyway because there are no jobs, but traveling as far as Local Regional University -- driving two or three hours -- is abandoning your family. And as Miranda said above, family obligations are real, while obligations to college are not. When your grandmother is hospitalized for three days for a minor surgery, you must be there to tend her lawn, attend gatherings of extended family, visit her every day, keep up your network of relationships. But the need to consistently attend class? Completely unimportant.

I had a guy tell me that, even though he had signed up for a full schedule of classes, he would have to skip most of the class meetings to continue to work as a full-time firefighter in his hometown an hour away. Why? Not to pay the bills, but because if he switched to part-time, it would look bad and hurt his father's chances of being elected Fire Chief. We can't have a Fire Chief whose son skips out on work just to play around at college.

So, yeah, there's the danger of being condescending, but then again there is a real cultural difference in what school means, what it is, how it matters.


Posted by: rm | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 6:36 PM
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I'm not first generation, but my wife and father were. My wife had a rather idiosyncratic approach to the college experience, having worked and saved since an early age so that she could afford to go to a private school (she's still not entirely sure, looking back, why this was important to her), but only for the first two years, after which she transferred to a state school. She wasn't expected to go to college, but a couple of her cousins also went, so she wasn't an anomoly in her extended family (or rather she was, but because she chose not to live in the same chunk of WI her entire life, rather than the college thing). The main things I see in her experience related to her class background are not having any real understanding at the time of how to choose a major or how a liberal arts degree in general could have anything to do with what you did for a living afterwards.

My dad went on full scholarship to an elite private college, but felt both unprepared academically, and like he would be found out as a fraud at any moment. He dropped out, joined the army, learned languages, finished up at a state U, went on to UChi and then dropped out of that to become a mechanic. He was pretty happy about this final choice.

I think M/tch's suggestion is very good. I'd say one thing that might help is a) emphasizing campus resources available in an "everyone needs help" way (won't land with everyone, but nothing does) and b) finding a way to convey that some of these feeling of inadequacy or not belonging are nigh unto universal. It was reassuring in the culture shock of meeting actual rich kids at Hippie Bagpiping College to realize that they, coming from private and suburban public schools, were going through much more of an expectations adjustment, in terms of having to really work to get decent grades, than I was, having come from a public G&T magnet.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 6:37 PM
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My experience teaching state college students mirrors CB's with CC students. They would break your heart disappearing or failing to turn in a paper, but they never did any grade grubbing.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 6:49 PM
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19

I don't know how easy this would be to get across to a kid in that position, but my belief would be that their relative level of achievement (salutatorian, whatever) would be a better indicator of their ability than their absolute level of knowledge -- that a kid like that might need the remedial work to catch up, but would be fine after a finite amount of remedial work. I figure that anyone who can excel within the scope of the expectations they're given can probably excel given any reasonable set of expectations.

This makes no sense to me. It's hard to excel when you are the dumbest kid in the class by a substantial margin.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 6:51 PM
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116: Opportunities to learn differ in different institutions. A school may not teach much, but the kid who does best is likely to be one with unusually high innate ability.

You may disagree if you think that many schools aim low because of the low innate ability of the students, rather than that some students underperform because their schools aim low.

It is also plausible that attributes other than intelligence (desire for approval, conscientiousness, willingness to do stupid busywork) may become more important in determining relative performance, as the difficulty level of the coursework is lowered. This would also reduce the signaling value of valedictorianship.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:00 PM
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Piling on, but I was in the first generation of men in my family to go to college, and the gender pressure was (and remains) fairly opposed to the entire institution of higher education.

Just recently, I remarked to my grandfather that I felt lucky to have a college degree, and he responded grumpily, "Look at your cousin. He has a Master's degree, and he was unemployed longer than anyone else in the family."

Prior to going to college, I would also have appreciated a kind but firm explanation that, privileged though I certainly was, I was about to encounter a whole new level of privileged twat.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:43 PM
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I was close to being the first in my family in many decades to fail to finish college, but I fucked it up. I wish I could say I was the first in my family to attend five or more undergraduate institutions, but that isn't true either.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:48 PM
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I cannot encounter mention of Balliol College without being reminded of John Charity Spring, M.A., in the Flashman novels.

- I always think of the limerick in Murder Must Advertise


--For me, it's:

My name is Jowett;
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am Master of this College;
What I don't know isn't knowledge.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:50 PM
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I wish I could say I was the first in my family to attend five or more undergraduate institutions, but that isn't true either

Said Beefo Meatypalin.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:56 PM
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I have a college-aged (like normal college-aged, not like me when I started commenting here) relative who is currently struggling with school; he's been forbidden to attend his (public, local, but basically selective) college of first enrollment until he's spent some time at community college and brought his math and science grades up. I'm trying to think of a non-shitty way to say to him "well, that's just how we do it in our family."


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 7:59 PM
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I often wonder if there's a productive way to encourage my dad to take advantage of his work's tuition-reimbursement program (basically 100% if he gets As, which I'm sure he would) to do the B.S. in chemistry he once thought about going for.

I'm not really sure what keeps him from doing it, and I get the impression he'd really be happy to have the degree under his belt.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:04 PM
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"productive and non-pushy", I should have said.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:05 PM
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Lotta good points above.

I was not the first in my family to go to college. Kinda the opposite in fact -- both my parents went to highly selective small liberal arts colleges, and both on academic scholarships, while I went to a hippie last resort school and dropped out after a semester. The other students at the hippie last resort school were, more often than not, first-gen college students. And quite a few of them were from rural midwestern backgrounds, where the really bright kids in their HS classes had gone to Big State, and they were shunted off to the school that accepted 98% of its applicants. My SAT wasn't quite twice the average, but I think it was half-again as much, easily.

But for the most part, it seemed to me like almost everyone did alright. Yes, there were a few kids who got on academic probation right away and wound up dropping out midway through their second year, after it became clear that they could never graduate. And it has to be said that a pretty big proportion of the freshman class was always enrolled in at least one remedial class. But it felt to me like most people had had decent enough HS educations, and could succeed if they were really trying and not getting too distracted by other stuff. They were mostly, like me, kids who really didn't like school all that much, didn't want to try very hard, but were smart enough and middle-class enough that it was reasonable to expect them to get credentialed. Not the ideal way to run a college, in my view, but there were definitely people who blossomed in that environment who wouldn't have done as well at a directional or suburban commuter campus.

Frankly, I think there is a sizable proportion of people who should just take a couple of years to work and be independent of their parents before they even starting trying to decide whether to continue with their education. Lack of self-discipline/unconsidered adherence to parents' wishes seems like the biggest problem that faces the average frosh, in my experience.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 8:49 PM
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I was such an average firt geeration student that I eventually dropped out, but that was more than a decade ago so I don't know how relevant my experiences were other than that a) I totally chose the wrong subject (artificial intelligence) at b) probably the wrong university and c) had no clue whatsoever what going to uni actually meant.

Things I should've done differently: get a subject I'm actually interested in (history) rather one that seems cutting edge/financially attractive, prepare better for student life.

Which is probably what your first generation students need support with most, how to deal with being a student and all the assumptions that being at college brings with it, especially all the normally unspoken social rules.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07-11-11 11:21 PM
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re: 126.1

Heh, my experience was identical. I also chose AI, hated it, dropped out after 8 months and got a job. When I went back a couple of years after that, however, once I settled on the right subject area, I loved studying and being at college. It probably helped that Glasgow is a fantastic place to live if you are a 20-something who likes music and drinking.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 12:12 AM
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the biggest problem that faces the average frosh

"Frosh"? Fresher, please.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 1:12 AM
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I'm rather baffled by the idea that AI is a financially attractive choice of course.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 3:20 AM
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I'm guessing that was back when everyone was worrying about Japanese "4th Generation automation" and whatnot.

Meanwhile, I'm amused by the notion of a "public G&T magnet". As in, a magnet for gin and tonic?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 3:48 AM
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I'm amused by the notion of a "public G&T magnet".

It sounds like Boris Johnson.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 4:08 AM
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Yeah,

AI was sort of hip, new kewl (this was jut before the internet hit Holland) and multidisciplinair, so broader than doing computer science and since everything computer related was supposedly gonna make you rich, this should make you megarich.

Instead it turned out that the real money was in turning some hobby project into a multibillion valued startup while everybody else in the computer lab was busy fraggin each other with rocket launchers.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 4:16 AM
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"G&T" = "gifted and talented" (at least, this is what it usually means in a US educational context).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 4:29 AM
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Mind, I did get to meet Andy Tanenbaum [1] [2] so it was not a total loss...

[1] and asked him about the possibilities of using Minix because I needed a Linux boatloader on my piece of crap pc
[2] whose lectures were equally incomprehensible in English or Dutch [3], allegedly
[3] and now you know which university I went to too


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:01 AM
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This was 1989 when I started at Edinburgh, which at the time was into that area and the area was hip and exciting and seemed to combine the philosophical and techy sides. FrOm the current pov that was dumb.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:02 AM
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I'm rather baffled by the idea that AI is a financially attractive choice of course.

Really? When my father was going through the Scots universities doing things like language processing (in Prolog natch) it was v v much a growth area with lots of of expectations of cash etc.

Turns out a knowledge of weird programming languages, logic, and linguistics equips you to teach other people programming lanuages logic and linguistics.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:04 AM
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Hah! Dad was at Edinburgh around then, though he would have been doing post-doc work I think. (Though he didn't have his doctorate then.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:09 AM
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I did AI at Edinburgh. I concentrated on machine learning, gaining skills now worth a lot of money, so there's that.

Speaking of education, I've finished my PhD and started a company. We went to talk to a client -- a big University -- the other day. Went to the pub afterwards with a few staff. One has stopped her PhD ~6 months short of graduating to do some temporary work. The other has graduated and has done admin work for a year or two. She's great to work with -- smart and hard working. Much easier to interact with than the normal admin staff. I think she's given up all hope of getting an academic job. I'm damn glad I'm in computing, where a few thousand quid will get a company off the ground. I'm also glad I've started a company. I can fail or succeed on my own terms, and I've learned a hell of a lot about getting what I want out of life (tip one: try asking -- most people are too scared to do this).


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:30 AM
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Yeah, machine learning is still a growth area. Right? Right?

W. Breeze's story mimics my current and future story in odd and not-necessarily-expected ways.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:41 AM
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I think machine learning remains definitely viable and profitable, but in the 80s, universities were still obsessed with strong AI goals which won't happen in our my lifetimes.

Mrs y started a psychology degree in 1983, only to find it was dominated by strong AI enthusiasts. She switched quickish.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:44 AM
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Really? When my father was going through the Scots universities doing things like language processing (in Prolog natch) it was v v much a growth area with lots of of expectations of cash etc.

So it was a growth area in ... 1975?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:55 AM
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139: In that case, future you turns out just fine!


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:55 AM
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Speaking of education, I've finished my PhD and started a company.

Congrats!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 5:57 AM
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Thanks H-G!


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 6:49 AM
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So it was a growth area in ... 1975?

More like 1985, I should think.

(There is something hilarious about a thread about first generation college students devolving into a discussion of my father's university experience.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 07-12-11 6:49 AM
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All those old names that have to be written bilingually in Brussels, whereas modern people's names don't (except monarchs).

Well, in Ireland lots of people have two versions, although whether they use the other one varies a lot. I had to decide when going to college which I was going to go for, and I went for the Irish version - I was applying also to Oxford (didn't get in though I got an interview) and that may have influenced my final decision. My older brother went the other way - he'd been registered in his boarding school with the Irish version and got fed up of being taken for a republican (i.e. IRA supporter). Certain Norman-origin names actually become "de (whatever" in Irish, too.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 07-13-11 3:06 AM
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he'd been registered in his boarding school with the Irish version and got fed up of being taken for a republican (i.e. IRA supporter).

I knew a guy who referred to the Anglicised version which appeared on his birth certificate as his official name, and the Irish spelling as his provisional name.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-13-11 3:23 AM
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147: neither, of course, was his real name.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-13-11 10:01 AM
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Well, the country itself has a "description" - "Republic of Ireland" - which officially is not its name.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 07-15-11 11:25 AM
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