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Education

Sex Is Nothing, Until It Isn’t

Sex Is Nothing, Until It Isn’t

This one comes to us from Scott Larousse.

Last spring I was sitting in on a seminar on marriage at a prominent California university. The professor put forth a hypothetical about whether the state should recognize an intimate relationship based on a shared love of muscle-cars (rather than sex). Like a sort of intimate muscle-car form of romance. Although the bulk of students would’ve likely described themselves as liberal, it seemed like the hypothetical stretched them some. The appreciation in the room was palpable, like when you’ve been looking at a rabbit for several seconds but finally, you see the duck.

It’s strange…

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We Are Volunteers (Even on the First Day of School)

We Are Volunteers (Even on the First Day of School)

Prior to this academic year, I thought that there were certain criteria for being a Room Mom. Specifically, that you needed to be blonde, not tall, have had a previous career in JV cheerleading, be “good at” Pintrest, have the organizational skills of a C.E.O, and perhaps have married someone who enjoys shopping at Michael’s Craft Store on the weekends. Retrospectively, I have to admit that I’m not sure this is a real person.

So you can imagine my surprise when an email with the subject line “Introduction to Room Mom Responsibilities” landed in my inbox. After all, I am brunette,…

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The “Trigger-Warning” Life

The “Trigger-Warning” Life

Universities have historically always been on the leading edge of American cultural change. The university has, or at least tries to be, the place where new ideas are tested, refined, and put into meaningful action. Today’s college students become tomorrow’s leaders, which is to say that the recent explosion of “trigger warning” policies are not an aberration or fad that can be ignored.

As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt so astutely outline in their cover story for The Atlantic (see DZ’s take here), the muting of “triggers” from pedagogy is an overt form of censorship of anything that might create unwelcome,…

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Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

I promise you, I had no intention of writing about this subject again. Not for a long while at least. I’m talking about the whole culture of offense/outrage/oversensitivity/correctness/humorlessness/what-have-you that seems to have overtaken our nation’s universities, and by extension vast swaths of media, social and otherwise. It may be one of the primary places where the thematic rubber is meeting the road (for now), but it doesn’t bring out a terribly hopeful side. And one needs all the optimism one can get, especially at the dawn of a new semester. Or election.

Plus, we’ve already covered most of this stuff at…

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Passionate vs. Cool: Performancism in College

Passionate vs. Cool: Performancism in College

Set to start my senior year of college, a few interactions from my first semester in Charlottesville still stick with me. One was a question my advisor asked me as I anxiously slumped into a chair in his office for the first time. The second is a comment I made over lunch with a professor I respect and am hugely intimidated by.

The question that sent me squirming in my seat was a seemingly simple one: “What are you passionate about?” … Crickets. He prodded, offering up easy suggestions for an 18-year-old male: sports, food, money, girls … “Sex?” he even asked, in…

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ORG XMIT: VTBUR101 In this Tuesday, April 19, 2011 photo, Ashley Koetsier, 21, of Woodstock, Vt., reads about a college student who died by suicide from a small laminated plaque attached to a backpack on the green outside Davis Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt.  Active Minds, a student group dedicated to promoting increased dialogue about mental health and incidents and impacts of sucide, placed 1,100 backpacks representing victims, dozens with personal stories of student suicide. (AP Photo/The Burlington Free Press,  Ryan Mercer) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT TV OUT

Penn Faces and Campus Tragedies: More Notes on an Epidemic

Here’s why I didn’t want to write about Julie Scelfo’s recent article “Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection” in The NY Times:

It is not because we’ve written about the phenomenon too many times already–though we have. It is because writing about it again only serves to underline how futile-seeming these kinds of reflections are. Who wants to spend an afternoon basking in despair? Or mitigating the despair by placing oneself above it all? It is deeply unpleasant.

This past year Charlottesville witnessed four undergraduate suicides, and I’m not sure I can muster the energy to cartwheel yet again over the…

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Check, Please!

Check, Please!

Being a college student means asking for separate checks at restaurants. Generally, my friends and I wait until the end of the meal to say, “Oh yea, could you split those up by the way? Yeah that’d be great, thanks,” as if it was an afterthought and the waiter/waitress had no idea what was coming all along. In truth, splitting up checks is pretty annoying. It means more buttons pressed and cards swiped and pens gathered, and I do often feel pangs of guilt asking servers to do it. But generally they’re accommodating, and they know what to expect when…

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Thou Shalt Never Feel Bad: Inside Out for the Ivy League

Thou Shalt Never Feel Bad: Inside Out for the Ivy League

Sadness is having a cultural moment, and that makes me happy. Much of this is thanks to Pixar’s Inside Out, that rare film which deserves all the success and acclaim being heaped upon it.

There are any number of reasons to laud the movie, as DP pointed out a couple weeks ago. Its artistic merits are beyond question, but so are those of, say, The Box Trolls (seriously!). What makes Inside Out so remarkable is its message. Pete Docter, et al, are saying something that strikes the almost impossible balance of timely, courageous, and, well, true. Which is that sadness, grief,…

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Best Anti-Commencement Speeches of 2015 (So Far)

Best Anti-Commencement Speeches of 2015 (So Far)

Each year I make a hobby during graduation season (May/June) of paying attention to college commencement speeches. We’ve covered quite a few here on Mbird over the years. It’s a rhetorical phenomenon that sheds light on philosophies of the world that are either long on law or lame optimism about human potential: Look inside yourself, follow your heart, failure is just a stepping stone to future success. Oh, the places you’ll go! These are some of the many cliches that are repeated year after year. They’re also often insufferably boring.

Yet, it seems each season a glimmer of hope breaks through the the cracks from…

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Grace in Admissions

Grace in Admissions

In the mid-day haze following a 4 AM After-Prom chaperoning experience at an arcade, I’ve been reflecting on the year before and the year ahead. Perhaps this is what four hours of go-carts, laser tag, and skee-ball encourage you to do. More likely, it just happens to be May. In the world of education, this is my New Year’s Eve, my time for reflection and resolutions.

As a college counselor at an independent school, late May is especially conducive to rumination. The seniors who once (rightfully) complained about the roller coaster ride of the college admissions process are…

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The Devil Went Down to Georgia

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

It’s not every day that my hometown is trending on Facebook, but my wife assured me that it was. Yes, Lilburn, Georgia, was trending because of what Slate has dubbed—in a year that has already seen Kim Kardashian publish a book of selfies—“The Year’s Most Perplexing News Event.”

Last week, Lilburn’s TNT Academy hosted an explosive graduation ceremony in which the principal, Nancy Gordeuk, concluded a lengthy rant about the rudeness of the guests with “Look who’s leaving: all the black people.” The rant was, of course, caught on video, from several angles, and was followed by an on-camera semi-apology and, later,…

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Simultaneously Frazzled and Fragile: Surviving a Culture of Overachievement

Simultaneously Frazzled and Fragile: Surviving a Culture of Overachievement

It’s getting to the point where I’d almost rather not draw attention to articles like Frank Bruni’s “Best, Brightest–and Saddest?”. Not just because I wish their subject matter wasn’t as urgent as it is, or that their claims were more groundless, but because the whole thing has become so excruciatingly obvious. As performancism escalates, so too does its fallout, and the affected demographics only seem to be getting younger. Reading about each new upping of the ante feels like watching a massive collision unfold in slow motion, one where we’ve all had our turn at the wheel.

Bruni’s article focuses on the teenage…

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