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  1. #1
    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    I read this from yesterday's NY Times and thought it very good.

    I touches on so many topics. About how things used to be, about how things are now, how there continue to be spectacular kids, elitism and class-ism, how we all find out paths through life however varied and different they are, and how to love and appreciate your children for who they are.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/ny...44c&ei=5087%0A

    Parenting
    Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    By MICHAEL WINERIP
    Published: April 29, 2007

    ON a Sunday morning a few months back, I interviewed my final Harvard applicant of the year. After saying goodbye to the girl and watching her and her mother drive off, I headed to the beach at the end of our street for a run.

    It was a spectacular winter day, bright, sunny and cold; the tide was out, the waves were high, and I had the beach to myself. As I ran, I thought the same thing I do after all these interviews: Another amazing kid who won’t get into Harvard.

    That used to upset me. But I’ve changed.

    Over the last decade, I’ve done perhaps 40 of these interviews, which are conducted by alumni across the country. They’re my only remaining link to my alma mater; I’ve never been back to a reunion or a football game, and my total donations since graduating in the 1970s do not add up to four figures.

    No matter how glowing my recommendations, in all this time only one kid, a girl, got in, many years back. I do not tell this to the eager, well-groomed seniors who settle onto the couch in our den. They’re under too much pressure already. Better than anyone, they know the odds, particularly for a kid from a New York suburb.

    By the time I meet them, they’re pros at working the system. Some have Googled me because they think knowing about me will improve their odds. After the interview, many send handwritten thank-you notes saying how much they enjoyed meeting me.

    Maybe it’s true.

    I used to be upset by these attempts to ingratiate. Since I’ve watched my own children go through similar torture, I find these gestures touching. Everyone’s trying so hard.

    My reason for doing these interviews has shifted over time. When I started, my kids were young, and I thought it might give them a little advantage when they applied to Harvard. That has turned out not to be an issue. My oldest, now a college freshman, did not apply, nor will my twins, who are both high school juniors.

    We are not snubbing Harvard. Even my oldest, who is my most academic son, did not quite have the class rank or the SATs. His SAT score was probably 100 points too low — though it was identical to the SAT score that got me in 35 years ago.

    Why do I continue to interview? It’s very moving meeting all these bright young people who won’t get into Harvard. Recent news articles make it sound unbearably tragic. Several Ivies, including Harvard, rejected a record number of applicants this year.

    Actually, meeting the soon-to-be rejected makes me hopeful about young people. They are far more accomplished than I was at their age and without a doubt will do superbly wherever they go.

    Knowing me and seeing them is like witnessing some major evolutionary change take place in just 35 years, from the Neanderthal Harvard applicant of 1970 to today’s fully evolved Homo sapiens applicant.

    There was the girl who, during summer vacation, left her house before 7 each morning to make a two-hour train ride to a major university, where she worked all day doing cutting-edge research for NASA on weightlessness in mice.

    When I was in high school, my 10th-grade science project was on plant tropism — a shoebox with soil and bean sprouts bending toward the light.

    These kids who don’t get into Harvard spend summers on schooners in Chesapeake Bay studying marine biology, building homes for the poor in Central America, touring Europe with all-star orchestras.

    Summers, I dug trenches for my local sewer department during the day, and sold hot dogs at Fenway Park at night.

    As I listen to them, I can visualize their parents, striving to teach excellence. One girl I interviewed described how her father made her watch the 2004 convention speeches by both President Bush and Senator John Kerry and then tell him which she liked better and why.

    What kind of kid doesn’t get into Harvard? Well, there was the charming boy I interviewed with 1560 SATs. He did cancer research in the summer; played two instruments in three orchestras; and composed his own music. He redid the computer system for his student paper, loved to cook and was writing his own cookbook. One of his specialties was snapper poached in tea and served with noodle cake.

    At his age, when I got hungry, I made myself peanut butter and jam on white bread and got into Harvard.

    Some take 10 AP courses and get top scores of 5 on all of them.

    I took one AP course and scored 3.

    Of course, evolution is not the same as progress. These kids have an AP history textbook that has been specially created to match the content of the AP test, as well as review books and tutors for those tests. We had no AP textbook; many of our readings came from primary documents, and there was no Princeton Review then. I was never tutored in anything and walked into the SATs without having seen a sample SAT question.

    As for my bean sprouts project, as bad it was, I did it alone. I interview kids who describe how their schools provide a statistician to analyze their science project data.

    I see these kids — and watch my own applying to college — and as evolved as they are, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. They’re under such pressure.

    I used to say goodbye at my door, but since my own kids reached this age, I walk them out to their cars, where a parent waits. I always say the same thing to the mom or dad: “You’ve done a wonderful job — you should be very proud.” And I mean it.

    But I’ve stopped feeling bad about the looming rejection. When my four were little, I used to hope a couple might go to Harvard. I pushed them, but by the end of middle school it was clear my twins, at least, were not made that way. They rebelled, and I had to learn to see who they were.

    I came to understand that my own focus on Harvard was a matter of not sophistication but narrowness. I grew up in an unworldly blue-collar environment. Getting perfect grades and attending an elite college was one of the few ways up I could see.

    My four have been raised in an upper-middle-class world. They look around and see lots of avenues to success. My wife’s two brothers struggled as students at mainstream colleges and both have made wonderful full lives, one as a salesman, the other as a builder. Each found his own best path. Each knows excellence.

    That day, running on the beach, I was lost in my thoughts when a voice startled me. “Pops, hey, Pops!” It was Sammy, one of my twins, who’s probably heading for a good state school. He was in his wetsuit, surfing alone in the 30-degree weather, the only other person on the beach. “What a day!” he yelled, and his joy filled my heart.

    E-mail: parenting@nytimes.com

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  2. #2
    Potential Lunch Winner Dom Heffner's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    One of the more sobering moments in my life came when I was reading the Princeton Review's LSAT prep test booklet.

    In so many words, they told me I wasn't going to Harvard. No matter how good my grades and LSAT score were. There were thousands of people just like me, and Harvard had room for 1% of us. It was written in such plain English- and laugh out funny to boot- that it didn't hurt a bit.

    In a matter of seconds, I was over it. With a smile.

    A few years ago I was in Hollywood where my girlfriend was taking a film makeup class.

    One of the models they used on their mock fillm set was attending Harvard and was in Los Angeles for the Summer.

    Knowing how hard it was to get into Harvard, I made a big deal out of it when we were out drinking one night, much to his embarassment.

    The guy was pretty humble about it, telling me it was honestly no big deal. His dad had connections, he was grateful, but he was finding it to be extremely overrated.

    He was studying political science, which was my major, and we talked for an hour about the thesis I did on the First Amendment's establishment clause.

    Obviously, I was a little bit more familiar with the subject matter having lived and breathed the topic for 9 months, but I can honestly say I gave him an education that night, one he fully appreciated.

    Here we were at the Pier in Santa Monica, drinking Jack Daniels, and Dom Heffner with his University of South Florida degree was holding his own with a Harvard kid. In fact, there were matters concerning our government he was pretty lost on, even on things that were first year type of stuff- Things I knew before I set foot on a college campus. To be polite, it was "Jaywalking" level information.

    On one hand, it felt good to know that information is information, and if you study it and work hard, you can know as much as anybody else. There's no secret Ivy League ritual that let's these students in on some higher level of understanding on some topics. On the other, it is a little sad that because his dad knew people, he was going to get a much better start than I would have at his age, just because of where he went to school.

    But things are like that at every level of life. In the workplace, elementary school, heck, even at the roller rink: I had an 8 year old friend who never had to pay for admission or concessions because his dad owned the place. That's life. We can't control who our parents are. I even get perks because of who my dad was: I've paid 2% under invoice for every car I've ever owned because he worked at Ford.

    I'd love to rail on here about how things aren't fair and that things should change. Everybody should be able to get into a Harvard type school. But alas, that's not how things are. At the end of the day, though, we can have a huge say in our own destiny. My father never graduated high school and was worth more money than I ever thought an auto worker could be. My uncle is a millionaire several times over, has dinner with the Linder family every month, and takes pride in letting you know he doesn't have a diploma: "Not bad for a high school dropout," he'll proudly rub in my face (It's especially bad now being at the age where he repeats himself everytime I see him lol).

    And then there are the riches that really matter. We all have people and experiences in our lives that we wouldn't trade for an Ivy League education.

    If going to Harvard means having a different dad, no thank you, I'm proud to be a USF Bull.

    I love my life to the point that it overwhelms me sometimes. All the ingredients that went into making me- I don't want a dash more or less of any of it.

    Don't get me wrong on the Harvard kid. I'm not saying I was smarter than the guy- heck, maybe he could do more with the same information than I could once he was further along with his education. But it was good to know that on a warm June evening in Los Angeles during the late Spring of 2005, I held my own with someone I never thought I could have. Even if it was at a bar in a one way competition in my own mind.

    I should have known I could, though, because even my father, the simple auto worker who didn't have a high school diploma, could - and did- tell me that all my life.

    I think the author of this piece has the right idea, and it was a terrifc read.

    Thanks for posting this, Roy.
    Last edited by Dom Heffner; 04-30-2007 at 12:21 PM.
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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Yours was a terrific read as well Dom.


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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Quote Originally Posted by Dom Heffner View Post
    One of the more sobering moments in my life came when I was reading the Princeton Review's LSAT prep test booklet.

    In so many words, they told me I wasn't going to Harvard. No matter how good my grades and LSAT score were. There were thousands of people just like me, and Harvard had room for 1% of us. It was written in such plain English- and laugh out funny to boot- that it didn't hurt a bit.

    In a matter of seconds, I was over it. With a smile.

    A few years ago I was in Hollywood where my girlfriend was taking a film makeup class.

    One of the models they used on their mock fillm set was attending Harvard and was in Los Angeles for the Summer.

    Knowing how hard it was to get into Harvard, I made a big deal out of it when we were out drinking one night, much to his embarassment.

    The guy was pretty humble about it, telling me it was honestly no big deal. His dad had connections, he was grateful, but he was finding it to be extremely overrated.

    He was studying political science, which was my major, and we talked for an hour about the thesis I did on the First Amendment's establishment clause.

    Obviously, I was a little bit more familiar with the subject matter having lived and breathed the topic for 9 months, but I can honestly say I gave him an education that night, one he fully appreciated.

    Here we were at the Pier in Santa Monica, drinking Jack Daniels, and Dom Heffner with his University of South Florida degree was holding his own with a Harvard kid. In fact, there were matters concerning our government he was pretty lost on, even on things that were first year type of stuff- Things I knew before I set foot on a college campus. To be polite, it was "Jaywalking" level information.

    On one hand, it felt good to know that information is information, and if you study it and work hard, you can know as much as anybody else. There's no secret Ivy League ritual that let's these students in on some higher level of understanding on some topics. On the other, it is a little sad that because his dad knew people, he was going to get a much better start than I would have at his age, just because of where he went to school.

    But things are like that at every level of life. In the workplace, elementary school, heck, even at the roller rink: I had an 8 year old friend who never had to pay for admission or concessions because his dad owned the place. That's life. We can't control who our parents are. I even get perks because of who my dad was: I've paid 2% under invoice for every car I've ever owned because he worked at Ford.

    I'd love to rail on here about how things aren't fair and that things should change. Everybody should be able to get into a Harvard type school. But alas, that's not how things are. At the end of the day, though, we can have a huge say in our own destiny. My father never graduated high school and was worth more money than I ever thought an auto worker could be. My uncle is a millionaire several times over, has dinner with the Linder family every month, and takes pride in letting you know he doesn't have a diploma: "Not bad for a high school dropout," he'll proudly rub in my face (It's especially bad now being at the age where he repeats himself everytime I see him lol).

    And then there are the riches that really matter. We all have people and experiences in our lives that we wouldn't trade for an Ivy League education.

    If going to Harvard means having a different dad, no thank you, I'm proud to be a USF Bull.

    I love my life to the point that it overwhelms me sometimes. All the ingredients that went into making me- I don't want a dash more or less of any of it.

    Don't get me wrong on the Harvard kid. I'm not saying I was smarter than the guy- heck, maybe he could do more with the same information than I could once he was further along with his education. But it was good to know that on a warm June evening in Los Angeles during the late Spring of 2005, I held my own with someone I never thought I could have. Even if it was at a bar in a one way competition in my own mind.

    I should have known I could, though, because even my father, the simple auto worker who didn't have a high school diploma, could - and did- tell me that all my life.

    I think the author of this piece has the right idea, and it was a terrifc read.

    Thanks for posting this, Roy.
    Did you say "How'd you like dem apples" at the end of the night?
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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Good stuff.

    Smartest person I know just eeked his way through high school and is a retired auto mechanic.

    Best lawyer I've ever seen got his BA at Miami-Middletown and his JD at NKU, both in night school.
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Quote Originally Posted by dabvu2498 View Post
    Good stuff.

    Smartest person I know just eeked his way through high school and is a retired auto mechanic.

    Best lawyer I've ever seen got his BA at Miami-Middletown and his JD at NKU, both in night school.
    No, I went to Tulane.

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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Quote Originally Posted by Puffy View Post
    No, I went to Tulane.

    I've never seen you. yo.
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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Quote Originally Posted by Puffy View Post
    No, I went to Tulane.

    And someday you'll certainly be a footnote in my Wikipedia entry as having gone to the same school as me.

    I loved Tulane. Having said that, I'd trade it all in a second to have not gotten rejected from Harvard.
    Last edited by Caveat Emperor; 04-30-2007 at 01:46 PM.
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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Quote Originally Posted by Caveat Emperor View Post
    And someday you'll certainly be a footnote in my Wikipedia entry as having gone to the same school as me.

    I loved Tulane. Having said that, I'd trade it all in a second to have not gotten rejected from Harvard.
    At least in some fields, a Harvard degree is a golden ticket. It doesn't matter if I get straight "A"s at my law school. If I am up for a job against a "C" student from Harvard, the Harvard person is probably going to get the job, even though firms in the area know my school produces great lawyers. Firms and schools want those Ivy League lawyers because it raises "status" of their firm or school in the eyes of potential clients or students.
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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Yep, there will always be people who get a leg up on me whether they deserve it or not.

    There will also be people I've gotten a leg up on whether I deserved it or not.

    What's important is what I do with my life, not worrying about what school is on my degree or who knows more/less than I do.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

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    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    When my four were little, I used to hope a couple might go to Harvard. I pushed them, but by the end of middle school it was clear my twins, at least, were not made that way. They rebelled, and I had to learn to see who they were.
    Every parent has their hopes and dreams that their child will be a doctor, lawyer, great scholar, president, whatever. When your kids are little and the future is limitless, it's easy to dream to and to expect that *your* kid will be all of those things you've hoped for. It happens to somebody, why not you?

    And then, a few years pass and reality begins to set in. The child experiences some successes and some failures. The child gravitates to where their abilities take them. As a parent, it's an easy out to be a little disillusioned. I think this is when a parent truly grows up into an adult.

    What I tell my kids is all I expect is that you try your hardest. If you try your hardest and you gets C's, well then, that's OK with me. How can I expect you to do anything more than your best?

    It's a hard lesson to learn. I had some trouble with it. I was unreasonably hard on my kids sometimes. I expected them to succeed beyond their capabilities. And *that* is a bad thing for a parent to do. I've lived and learned.

    I'm still hard on my kids (it's my job), but not unreasonably so. I understand their strengths and weaknesses. I understand who they are and what their capabilities are. I want them to perform up to their limits. Maybe stretch them. But I don't expect them to be something they're not.

    At least I try. I'm an imperfect carbon-based unit and prone to inconsistencies. Sometimes I backslide. Sometimes I'm unreasonable and ask for too much. Sometimes I create some hard feelings. I sometimes have to apologize to my kids for being an idiot. I'm still a work in progress.

    Pay attention to the open sky

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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Tucker View Post
    What I tell my kids is all I expect is that you try your hardest. If you try your hardest and you gets C's, well then, that's OK with me. How can I expect you to do anything more than your best?

    It's a hard lesson to learn. I had some trouble with it.
    I think one of the hardest lessons to swallow in life is that no matter how hard you try at something, you're rarely going to be the best at anything you do.
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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Tucker View Post
    Every parent has their hopes and dreams that their child will be a doctor, lawyer, great scholar, president, whatever. When your kids are little and the future is limitless, it's easy to dream to and to expect that *your* kid will be all of those things you've hoped for. It happens to somebody, why not you?

    And then, a few years pass and reality begins to set in. The child experiences some successes and some failures. The child gravitates to where their abilities take them. As a parent, it's an easy out to be a little disillusioned. I think this is when a parent truly grows up into an adult.

    What I tell my kids is all I expect is that you try your hardest. If you try your hardest and you gets C's, well then, that's OK with me. How can I expect you to do anything more than your best?

    It's a hard lesson to learn. I had some trouble with it. I was unreasonably hard on my kids sometimes. I expected them to succeed beyond their capabilities. And *that* is a bad thing for a parent to do. I've lived and learned.

    I'm still hard on my kids (it's my job), but not unreasonably so. I understand their strengths and weaknesses. I understand who they are and what their capabilities are. I want them to perform up to their limits. Maybe stretch them. But I don't expect them to be something they're not.

    At least I try. I'm an imperfect carbon-based unit and prone to inconsistencies. Sometimes I backslide. Sometimes I'm unreasonable and ask for too much. Sometimes I create some hard feelings. I sometimes have to apologize to my kids for being an idiot. I'm still a work in progress.
    I guess it is a little late to ask you to adopt me eh?

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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Tucker View Post
    Every parent has their hopes and dreams that their child will be a doctor, lawyer, great scholar, president, whatever.
    Something my father taught me at a young age is that there are plenty of doctors, lawyers, scholars, and yes, even Presidents, that aren't worth a darn as human beings. Yet there are plenty of mechanics, ditch-diggers, clerks, plumbers, and so on that are worthy of admiration.
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    Re: NY Times: Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

    I think it's interesting that academic elitism and classism get under people's skins, but the classism exhibited by the captains of industry somehow doesn't.

    Is it based on the misty-eyed notion that the capitalist got to where he is by the sweat of his brow but the academic nob inherits his spot through some kind of feudal primogeniture?

    It's an honest question. Outside of outliers like Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, Americans seem fine and dandy having their backs flayed in corporate class rigidity, but they get snipey when they smell academic bluebloodism. Why?


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