Teacher Bias

by L

Article about teacher bias and how it affects grades:

Teachers Give Girls Better Grades on Math Tests When They Don’t Know They Are Girls

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222 thoughts on “Teacher Bias

  1. This is not really new, but saddens me. Go back to the early 1990’s report “Short Changing Girls Short Changing America” that showed the effects teachers have on how girls vs boys do in math. Given that these were observations of how they were treated differently in the classroom, it is of no suprise that those treatment differences would continue into how they graded the exams. Some examples from the 1991 report:
    * Teachers typically initiate more communication with boys than with girls in the classroom, trengthening boys’sense of importance.
    * Teachers tend to ask boys more complex, abstract, and open-ended questions, providing better opportunities for active learning.
    * In class projects and assignments, teachers are more likely to give detailed instructions to boys, and more likely to take over and finish the task for girls, depriving them of active learning.
    * Teachers tend to praise boys more often than girls for the intellectual content and quality of their work. They praise girls more often for neatness and form.
    * When boys perform poorly, teachers often blame failure on lack of effort. Girls receive a different message; the implication is that effort would not improve their results.

  2. This is a much bigger issue than just gender bias. I’m sure if we did a study we’d find the same results when comparing good looking and charming students vs. the awkward and homely.

    Or, to use the example from the other day.

    A. Mom works at the school.
    B. Mom volunteers often and the school and knows most of the teachers personally
    C. Mom just goes to parent teacher night and that’s about it
    D. Mom was elected to the school board on a reform platform

    I think we’d see a grade impact, even subconsciously, for a given graded assignment depending on the parents relationship to the teacher.

    I find this especially troubling as so much grading has moved from the scantron multiple choice tests of yore to the math essay questions, notebook organization, homework neatness, subjective criteria of today.

  3. Pinewood Derby/travel update. We stopped in Huntsville, Al to visit Rocket City. The video tribute to Werner Von Braun, the German rocket scientist primarily responsible for the Apollo Program, mentioned that he consulted with the Lucas who owns Lucas Oil while putting together his kid’s pine wood derby car circa, 1960.

  4. “They praise girls more often for neatness and form.”

    This — and the converse. I totally remember a few teachers in ES/Jr High who just did. not. like. me, or give me any kind of positive feedback/praise. But these were also the same teachers who paid a lot of attention to the appearance of my notebook was and the neatness of my handwriting. Woe betide the child who does not meet stereotypical gender expectations.

    I was lucky to be bullheaded and obstinate enough (and blessed with a mother and other teachers who continually reaffirmed that I was really really smart) that those teachers didn’t do much harm — I just remember, even at that age, being befuddled over why that crap seemed to matter more than whether I actually knew the material.

  5. “befuddled over why that crap seemed to matter more than whether I actually knew the material.”

    because that was the stuff the teachers were actually good at and liked doing. nevermind the idea that knowing the material was actually more important.

  6. One DD at leading single sex prep school had a Latin teacher (male, actually) who on parent night praised her abilities at free translation and higher level achievements and said with a straight face, it was a such a delightful surprise – her handwriting and work papers are so incredibly messy.

  7. “I find this especially troubling as so much grading has moved from the scantron multiple choice tests of yore to the math essay questions, notebook organization, homework neatness, subjective criteria of today.”

    @Rhett — good point. I would add that if you asked the teachers, they would argue that their grades are *more* objective today. For ex., DD’s classes have a very specific grading policy, which you can see any time you pull up the grades — so homework will be XX % of the grade, and they list how many points your kid got out of how many possible for each assignment, and then do the same for classwork, tests, etc.; so the “grade” is just math. And then the various assignments all have rubrics, with a specified number of points available for different components.

    But the underlying data points — the “points awarded” for each category and each assignment — is just as vague and undefined as ever. Just over break, DD was surprised to discover that her SS teacher gave her only 4 points instead of 5 on an extra credit assignment; she had absolutely no clue why, and he never explained.

    So it’s the same subjective bullshit as ever, but it’s now hiding in a cloak of objectivity — which then, of course, shields the teachers from criticism or allegations of favoritism. All of which troubles me way more than if they were just straight about how subjective it all is.

  8. OK, so I forwarded this article to my mom, and here is her e-mail back to me:

    “In my second year teaching high school in [TX] I had an impossible class (the only non-G&T class I taught) and they acted non-gifted. So half way through the semester I devised a story for them: I told them that most of them had been incorrectly assigned to a “regular” English class but the assignment was wrong–they were among the students with the most potential in the school, and of course they were bored with regular textbooks. From now on I was giving them “real” books that they would have to obtain permission slips from their parents to read . . . and that they were going to be challenged with double/triple the outside reading. Yes, of course they had to read the textbook, but each week we were going to read a novel that was “appropriate” to their intellectual level.

    Talk about a successful experiment. And even now, I still hear from some of them, telling me how much that class (that I understood how gifted they really were) meant to them.”

  9. My son and I are both familiar with people being surprised to see that we are smart. Some of this, I suspect, lies in me being female and him being black. I got less of it than he does, because I stayed in the same school district, so people saw me coming a grade away. I also had the blessing of being socially obtuse, so I may not have noticed signs people were trying to send me. We are both familiar, though, with how unpopular it can make you among your classmates.

  10. I can’t get riled up about this. You go into the game knowing the cards are stacked. I’m short and female, so I’ve got a double bias working against me in the academic and business world. DS will apply to college as an Asian. Lots and lots of bias. He’ll have to score much higher on his standardized tests than others to get the same shot at admittance. You just play the game as best as you can and try and make improvements as you go along.

    I’d rather have these problems than so many others…

  11. shields the teachers from criticism or allegations of favoritism

    I would argue that in 80% of the cases they aren’t even aware of their own favoritism and bias. I bet if you asked the power that be in 1972, if they were biased against female classical musicians. many would honestly say that they were not. But, the data shows that they were:

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903

    So, to expand on your point, if they just stated that grading was extremely subjective and the teachers were highly biased – that would be one thing. But, they think it’s objective and they aren’t even aware of their own bias. Which makes it so much worse.

  12. Rhett +1. Take another slice at this and how different is it from the networking we do in our professional lives? How often do you get a perk because of a relationship? And, how often do we talk about knowing the unwritten rules of our work place to get along and get ahead?

    Then, why is it surprising that relationships matter in school? In practice, the teacher is the boss; the kids are the workers.

    With a MS and HS kid, we talk often about – listening to what the teacher says AND observing what the teacher does, then using that information to shape what you do and how you do it. My HS freshman is in junior level math – the class is 10% freshman, 40% sophomores, and 50% juniors. The teacher’s belief – fairly clearly stated a parent-teacher conference – that freshman should be struggling in this class because they are freshman, regardless that they had to take a test to qualify to be in the class. Then the light turned on….my freshman needs to say she needs help that the class is super hard for a freshman. After much prodding, my freshman does this, but reports that the teacher’s answers to any question are so vague that it was a waste of time. Well, this was until the last few assigments/tests were graded. Lo and behold, more partial credit was given in every problem than before, even though what the freshman turned in was not significantly different in any way. My freshman’s observation — Well I guess if I didn’t do any better after the teacher helped me and I followed the direction given, then if my grade didn’t go up (1) it would reflect badly on the teacher and (2) the teacher would have to admit that the “help” wasn’t helpful.

  13. Then, why is it surprising that relationships matter in school? In practice, the teacher is the boss; the kids are the workers.

    It’s not. But, many (most?) kids are naive and aren’t going to pick this up until they are pretty far along. It also doesn’t help that parents tend to want to explain the world to their children as they wish it were, rather than how it actually is.

  14. ” You go into the game knowing the cards are stacked. ”

    You did? I presume you didn’t come into the world with that knowledge. At what point did you figure it out?

    We do basically what Austin Mom describes–talk about how to figure out what the rules are, and how best to respond. Much of this is joking “imagine if you…(extremely inappropriate response) in that class!” or as commentary on tv shows–it’s one of the reason he/we started watching shows a few years ago. We did not come into the game knowing the cards are stacked, nor do we have prior knowledge of the degree or manner in which they are stacked in every round.

    I think it’s everyone’s job in this world to try to leave it a better place. That includes pointing out and working against unfairness. Hard to do in your kid’s classroom, but can be done safely via methods like this study that point it out.

  15. Houston +1. I think there are biases for boys too, you just have to deal with things as they are.

  16. Same issues as Houston. I have a boy and girl. I am not at drop off/pick up and my volunteering is limited but I do communicate via email with the teachers and they know that both DS and DD will come prepared to class. I haven’t been in the classroom, so I haven’t experienced gender bias. I have had women (other mothers) say that they HATE math. I wish they didn’t advertise this to the kids (male or female). This is only for math. No other subject is mentioned.

  17. I’m astounded – maths is a “right or wrong” type of subject, essentially. Marks are sometimes awarded for incorrect answers based on a strict criteria of showing certain processes. So how can they be girl / boy bias in the marking?

  18. andyc37 – in math, the incorrect answer that follows the steps exactly the way the teacher did it will get more points than the incorrect answer that follows valid steps, but not exactly in the same order. The harder the teacher has to work to figure out where your steps went awry or if you just made a calcuation error takes more effort and is usually awarded fewer points. This is partly why IMO, teachers stress solving problems the way it was taught in class.

  19. Houston – agree both girls and boys are subjected to biases, but with two girls, I am much more aware of that side of things.

  20. It has been my experience that math is not just the “right or wrong” of solving problems. In various years, my kids have had to write narratives explaining how they solved the problem. (“Used math” is not an acceptable answer.) This year my child has a math class, and a separate math lab where they use an online program to practice problems. In this math lab, he is required to keep a journal where he writes up any problems he missed x number of times, how to solve it, why he was missing it, etc. This child had dysgraphia and would choose a daily root canal over journal writing, so has a 0 average for his journal writing. Although he has an A on all of the actual math-solving work, he has a B in the class because this journal is 10 or 15% of the grade. Yes, I know – the obvious answer is for him to just write in the damn journal. He already has two English classes that he keeps up with writing for, and a social studies class with a writing component, and science labs, etc. I choose not to hassle him about the journal. But my point is, it’s my experience that math is not just the right or wrong of a given mathematical solution.

  21. Austin: I’m the opposite. I grew up with a sister and went to a women’s college. I grew up knowing the biases associated with being female. Imagine my surprise when I had 2 boys and figured out it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for boys!

  22. “teachers stress solving problems the way it was taught in class”

    I agree.

    But when a perfectly good alternate approach has been applied to reach the correct answer, I have often gone to bat for my kids and discussed this with the teachers. I have found it less apt to occur in HS, where higher level math seems to result in teachers who are more adept at recognizing alternate valid approaches (and where kids should be able to better fight their own battles), but in elementary school I remember having to talk with each of my kids’ teachers >1 time about this. Honestly, some of them, IMO, just “didn’t get it” and couldn’t grasp the idea that there is more than one way to skin that cat. I’m thinking this was especially applicable when learning division.

  23. Saac – That’s sad. When I did my NASCAR driving experience, I was terrified of going too fast and losing control, in no small part due to the fact that I was responsible for something like a $2,500 deductible for any damage to the car and track/wall. And you’re just not familiar with the driving dynamics of the car, or what the warning signs would be of losing control, and there was no electronic traction control, plus it’s disconcertingly loud. I’m pretty sure that I drove my own car faster on the way to and from Richmond than I did the race car.

    I didn’t know that Disney had that, but when we recently watched a “documentary” about all the different things the resorts offered, I was surprised. For example, they have private surfing instruction in their own wave pools, and the instructor can dial up precisely the size of wave that you want to practice on.

    We’re going back to Disney World this summer.

  24. Milo, the driver was 24. Until what age do boys pay more for car insurance because they’re statistically more likely to drive recklessly?

  25. saac – 25, I think, which is also when they are no longer discriminated against by rental car agencies with hefty age surcharges. (That’s what I told myself to justify purchasing my new car–when my old one broke down I was getting raked over the coals to rent a cheap Nissan Sentra to get to work)

  26. I’m pretty sure that I drove my own car faster on the way to and from Richmond than I did the race car.

    Have you ever seen the Top Gear episode where Richard Hammond drives a F1 car?

  27. In my case – kid chooses the teacher shown method because it becomes confusing to keep track of both the parent and teacher methods. Kid does understand the parent method- just chooses not to use it. Also, there are sample problems given, with a step by step solution so the kid uses that as guideline to work through their homework. We have had emails sometimes from teachers asking parents to hold off explaining another method right when certain topics are introduced – again to avoid confusion.

  28. In my case, the kid figured out an easier way to do it, the principle refused to let him back into school, because he was required to show his work. I didn’t argue, because although the kid was right on this one, there were others where he hadn’t shown his work and couldn’t tell me the method he’d used. I think I’ve mentioned this on here before. The problem was something like 48*3, which my kid translated in his head to (50*3)-(2*3), which is entirely correct. Idk if he faced similar battles in the classroom. Come to think of it, getting over that suspension was a major step in him figuring out that it was the teachers’ house & he has to play by their rules.

  29. Houston, why can’t he just decline to answer the ethnicity question? Unless your last name makes it pretty obvious.

  30. Milo, I assume the car rental rates are based on the same stats as the insurance rates. I don’t consider it discrimination though, because there are ways around it (good student discounts) for those who show themselves to be different from others in their category, in ways that are statistically significant. But yeah, it is a drag, just like not being allowed to read a book on your phone because other kids text each other is a drag.

  31. “The problem was something like 48*3, which my kid translated in his head to (50*3)-(2*3)”

    My kids were taught those methods. There was a section, back around 4th or 5th grade, where they were taught how to make quick estimates, and how to refine those estimates to the answer, instead of simply using the brute force approach to everything.

  32. “My son and I are both familiar with people being surprised to see that we are smart.”

    Saac, my friend, I am constantly amazed that so few people see that my son and I are dumb.

  33. “Houston, why can’t he just decline to answer the ethnicity question? Unless your last name makes it pretty obvious.”

    It’s apparently becoming pretty common for kids who are half Asian on their moms’ sides to not mention that in applications.

  34. Finn, my kid’s second grade class learned 3 different ways to solve problems, and was expected to know the name of each method, then write out the reasons for choosing a particular method to solve a problem. I found that entirely unreasonable at his age, but sure do think a principal could understand them! Unfortunately, when we tried to explain, he fell off the track right when it took the first unexpected turn, no matter how slowly we went.

  35. “I don’t consider it discrimination though, because there are ways around it (good student discounts) for those who show themselves to be different from others in their category”

    Not for renting a car.

  36. ““My son and I are both familiar with people being surprised to see that we are smart.”

    Saac, my friend, I am constantly amazed that so few people see that my son and I are dumb.”

    Who knows what people actually see, or who’s actually smart or dumb. Saying “gee, you’re a smart one!” strikes me as a way to take someone down a peg. Neither of us are the type to try to show off. With him, it often comes when he’s responding to a question they asked him, or is asking me something (like when he was five and didn’t understand a sign in the store, he’d read it to me to ask, & then get the “surprised” comment. Ugh)

  37. If you don’t answer for ethnicity, it’s pretty obvious that you’re Asian.

    LFB- 10:56 makes it sound like we had very similar experiences in early school years. I hated the busy work/organization stuff. And my handwriting was (and is) horrible. I remember being so embarrassed the times I’d forget to write my name on an assignment and the teacher would say “I don’t know who this belongs to- clearly it’s a boy” and of course it would be mine. Teachers loved my sister who would recopy homework assignments just to make the handwriting more perfect and color coded everything.

  38. Milo, I can’t believe you and I are in a conversation where I’m telling you the same rule applies to all 24 year old guys, deal with it, and you are telling me you want to be treated according to your special abilities.

  39. “If you don’t answer for ethnicity, it’s pretty obvious that you’re Asian.” or black. I often don’t answer, just to confound them.

  40. Saac – I don’t think that’s what I’m saying. I simply pointed out that the policy is discriminatory, you said it’s not because you can get a good student discount, and I replied that this doesn’t apply to renting a car.

    I did deal with it. I bought a new car. That doesn’t mean the policy is not discriminatory.

  41. “If you don’t answer for ethnicity, it’s pretty obvious that you’re Asian.”

    At least for college admissions.

  42. “At least for college admissions.”

    Yes that was the specific situation I was addressing.

  43. “I am constantly amazed that so few people see that my son and I are dumb.”

    Never met your son. But your own personal “not remotely dumb” falls in the “duh” category.

    “Milo, I can’t believe you and I are in a conversation where I’m telling you the same rule applies to all 24 year old guys, deal with it, and you are telling me you want to be treated according to your special abilities.” — LOL.

    @Rio — I was honestly lucky that I can remember only two (and only one from ES) — most of my teachers tolerated that stuff because they were just really happy to have a bright, interested student. But I have definitely seen from DD how being “different” in a stand-out way can grind you down and lead to a lot of anxiety, which gives me a little more insight into how these kinds of things can pile up over time and wear down your self-esteem and belief in your own competence and abilities.

  44. “I think we’d see a grade impact, even subconsciously, for a given graded assignment depending on the parents relationship to the teacher.”

    It’s not just parents.

    DD has a couple of the same teachers this year that DS had when he was in that grade, and their expectations of DD are clearly influenced by their experiences with DS. This is especially true with her social studies teacher, who did not know of the family connection until partway through the year, after which DD has noticed that teacher’s expectations have risen.

  45. Speaking of discrimination, I saw an ad for one of those coding academy bootcamp type things. It said something like “ideal applicant will be between 20 and 25.” Is that legal? Could they get sued by an equally qualified 45 year old? Just curious.

  46. “I have definitely seen from DD how being “different” in a stand-out way can grind you down and lead to a lot of anxiety, which gives me a little more insight into how these kinds of things can pile up over time and wear down your self-esteem and belief in your own competence and abilities.”
    Yes, yes, yes, yes, and I think that I applies to all sorts of discrimination in the US today. Signs reading “no dog or Irish” are not permitted, poverty is supposedly not a crime, and people look down on “the n word” but any of them can result in the same kind of 1000 little cuts you describe here.

    Rio, I’m curious to see the lawyers’ responses to your question. My guess is that because it is not a hard and fast requirement, just a “suggestion”, that kind of thing is legal.

  47. Fred – New to fairly new teachers regardless of grade level taught seem to have this issue of seeing multiple ways to get to the answer.

  48. LfB, your not remotely dumb struck a cord with me.

    You are so articulate and so talented, and on this one– and this one perhaps only– you are so wrong.

    I am constantly, constantly amazed at how dumb I am. Every day. Really. Every single day. The things I can’t figure out, but others do are immense! If you listen to people, they can often be funnier than I will ever be. Who could be better with a devastating (and right) quip than Rhett? Doesn’t Milo know everything? Can’t one of our contributors write a book (while it has two flaws) that leaves us all devastated? I mean you and Meme write the best, and I swear Saac (who I adore) just likes to provoke us, but so many of you have skills and talents I could never have.

    Oh, yeah. I am dumb. Damn dumb. And each and every day, I enjoy learning from others.

  49. Milo, on insurance rates, if it’s based on statistical claims history, is it discrimination? They charge higher rates for some cars than others, and in some counties relative to others, all based on past claims. If they have statistical proof that they pay more in claims for male drivers until they reach the age of 25 or get married, isn’t charging more to insure those drivers reasonable? (I would like the answer to be that it’s not justified, as I soon will be adding a male teen to our insurance, and am not looking forward to the cost)

  50. DD was having trouble with the sticks and circles (or whatever they called it) method for subtraction, so I taught her how to borrow the 10’s and she quickly got it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only parent who did that, because the teacher told them the next day that they could use either method as long as they showed their work.

    I honestly do not recall any gender discrimination in elementary school thru college. Yes, it was hard being a minority in engineering classes, and calculus, physics, drafting, etc. in HS, but I always got better grades than my male friends. Of course, I would go to office hours or seek help if I didn’t understand. And going back to elementary, middle & high school, I was a “good girl” – did all my work, didn’t cause problems in class, helped the teachers, etc. I think the only B’s I ever got in ES were for handwriting. I didn’t experience gender biases until I joined the business world in an industry full of male engineers, architects, and construction managers.

  51. Doesn’t Milo know everything?

    Not even close. Not even more than average. I just don’t let that stop me from opining on a lot of things, figuring if I’m wrong, I’ll learn something when corrected. And in the areas of professional sports and foreign affairs, I’m completely dumb. I’m what pundits classify as a “low-information voter.”

  52. Stop with the damn block quotes, Milo. You have gone beyond tedious. Tee, hee. I am in a very bad mood today. I am working on taxes today and I seem to have lost everything.

  53. Re: discrimination: There’s a difference between “legal” and “illegal” discrimination. Basically, most discrimination is legal, as long as there is a “rational basis” for it. So insurance companies and car rental companies get away with extortive rates, because they have a claims history to support it.

    The overlay to that is the Constitution and various federal statutes: discrimination is legal only so far as it is not based on certain immutable traits, like race and gender. When you have something that targets one of these traits, the courts will look a lot more closely at the rationale behind it, to see if it passes muster. This is where the “protected class” idea comes from, and this is where most of the current court wrangling comes into play (i.e., what level of “scrutiny” is appropriate).

    So the way it plays out now is that discrimination based on race generally gets strict scrutiny. Discrimination based on gender tends to get somewhat less scrutiny, and discrimination based on age gets something below that — it’s all very waffly and moving around a lot (and it also varies based on whether it’s direct discrimination or just discriminatory impacts, i.e., something that is facially neutral but impacts one race or gender more).

    So the short version is that the age-based ad is probably ok, as long as they have a “real” non-discriminatory basis for it that they can justify, and as long as they can point to legit reasons for, say, rejecting an older applicant. But the real version of things is most people and companies get away with stuff like this all the time, because it takes a lot to sue, and it’s extremely hard to prove your case or win sufficient $$ to pay your lawyers.

  54. paying taxes puts me in a bad mood, too. That’s why I build in a couple-thousand-dollar refund, as motivation for preparing them (and to drive Fred crazy).

    I had to physically mail my state return this year, but at least I got that refund about two weeks later.

  55. My accountant is still not calling me back. Grrrrr. Sometimes I don’t like being the non-VIP customer!

  56. I don’t trust Slate’s summary of the original article, found here. See section 4 and the charts of blind and non-blind bias by subject in the original article. I don’t have time to read the original article, but it looks like teachers grade girls a bit higher in general, which doesn’t surprise me given that they tend to be more compliant and more willing to follow standard forms answering questions. LfB, S&M, BAM, RMS, Meme and I all post that we were NOT what teachers wanted in many cases.

    There are a bazillion ways that girls and boys (or men and women) differ on average so even evidence of a difference doesn’t necessarily mean that the difference doesn’t reflect reality. I was encouraged by the perfectly aligned blind and non-blind scores for physics, as compared to literature. Physics, where you get the grade you deserve vs. comparative literature, where you get the grade some liberal postmodernist professor thinks you deserve. :)

    Original article
    http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/vlavy/lavy_j.public.e_10.2008_gender_steriotypes.pdf

  57. SWVA, if I had played along with all that crap that girls (but not boys) are expected to do, and had joined the girls who *loved* practicing their handwriting on the chalkboard, I’m sure my teachers wouldn’t have found me so difficult. But girls who behave the same as boys are subject to much more approbation than the boys. As for being a female in a male-dominated subject, I only got as far as physiology, where the prof continually called on me the instant my eyes flickered, insisted my study partners let me stand in front of guys shorter than me for class demonstrations, and generally took every chance she could get to point out that I was a girl and “should” be treated differently. I wish now I had been better able to deal with it, but I couldn’t. My grade in that class and the one where the prof told everyone to look at my legs, because they were classic, just what Leni Riefenstahl was presenting, were my worst two in college. My calculus prof, otoh, told me that being near the end of pregnancy was not a valid reason to put off an exam, I needed a medical reason. Turns out I went into labor before the exam, but her insistence that I was not weak for having a female body was the best anyone could have done for me. She had a bunch of kids, 5 iirc.

  58. I am constantly, constantly amazed at how dumb I am.

    You write like Hemingway – enough with the humble bragging.

  59. OK, PTM. I just had a settlement fall apart, so I’m feeling argumentative, too. But I just cannot tolerate that. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: I know dumb. I work with dumb. Dumb people are friends of mine. Senator, you ain’t dumb.

    No one can write like you do and be dumb. Seriously.

    It’s also striking a chord of my own imposter syndrome, where all I noticed for decades was all the stuff that other people saw that I missed, and never noticed the stuff that I got that they missed. Took me 35 years (not to mention and many, many really smart people whom I admired beating it into my head repeatedly) to truly believe/accept that I was smart. So it makes me angry when I see other people doing that to themselves.

    Although ITA about this board. It’s seriously intimidating. I wish anything I could tell a story like PTM, or whip out Rocky’s innate smart-ass (and, you know, I always considered myself a high achiever on the smart-ass scale), or be as clear/concise as Meme, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. I just try to (make myself) see it as keeping me from getting too big for my britches, instead of (my natural response of) “OMFG I could never do that.”

  60. “LfB, S&M, BAM, RMS, Meme and I all post that we were NOT what teachers wanted in many cases.”

    Great list, WCE! Didn’t we have the same taste in desserts, and in shoes (not heels) and make-up (less is better) in past posts?

    Otoh, “some liberal postmodernist professor ” I resemble that remark! And there are clear differences in students’ writing. Referencing counts because it matters.

  61. “I had to physically mail my state return…”

    NY requires returns be filed electronically. State law prohibits a fee for electronic filing. With so many free-file links on irs.gov it seems reasonable to me.

    Uhhh, L – maybe time to switch providers to one where you will be a VIP.

  62. ITA with Rhett at 1:42, and I’m not just being provocative. (Actually, I think provoking people is Rhett’s thing, but whatever.)

  63. Fred – Interesting. In my case, TurboTax was doing everything correctly, except that it could not actually transmit the final return to the state. I tried twice and kept getting a notice that they were working on the issue. I called them and the rep advised me to just print out the state forms and mail them certified/registered/signed for/whatever. The forms that it printed were a lot of gobbly-gook with a bar code at the top, and that was enough, apparently. So in a way, it’s still filing electronically.

  64. DAMMIT RHETT!!

    So I guess I should have added into my list “or say things better and faster and with 1% of the words like Rhett.”

    :-)

  65. Do people really think I’m trying to stir up trouble? Is that why it is so extremely rare for anyone to say anything on my behalf when anon bullies show up and say rotten things to/about me? I have seriously wondered about this a lot, especially on a recent day when many people on a different posts were expressing concern about a teen-ager bullying an adult. That was one of the few times that someone stood up for me, and I am grateful to him. But the way those remarks are generally permitted to go unchallenged is what tells me people think I don’t belong on this board, far more than the excellent writing of LfB and many of the other regulars.

  66. @SM: FWIW, for the most part I don’t comment on a lot of the gratuitous anon comments under the “don’t feed the trolls” philosophy.

  67. Saac- I often consider defending you against the troll(s?) but I figure the more we engage them the more they’ll show up.

  68. Laura, that’s usually my thinking too, but I do appreciate it when *someone* stands up for me. I think that if I reply, it’s like giving them a Power Bar & a Red Bull, but someone else flipping them off might be dry & salty enough to make them notice how hungry they are.

  69. “You write like Hemingway ”

    Nope. I don’t.

    It was morning. Dark. Foreboding. I shat out the bug that had infected my stomach for days.

    Pauline came into my room. Unclothed.

    I got a beer. One, too, for her. Unhappiness enveloped me. I had things to do and she was not one.

    The bull appeared. Vivid. I leapt. Frightened.

  70. It’s always nice when a kid really feels a connection with a teacher, and in addition to whatever benefit of the doubt that may lead to in the grading, it usually also leads to more effort being put in by the kid. But on the converse side, I have had to remind my boys especially that although you don’t have to like your teacher, you do have to show her the respect that goes with the position, i.e. do the work, and avoid passive-aggressive challenges to the teacher’s authority. The teacher may still not love you but at least s/he won’t have you in mind as the problem-student-likely-to-bomb-class.

  71. Oh, stop it right now, Saac.. We love you and you are a valued member of this little board.

  72. PTM,

    If you keep it up I’ll cut and paste your story of the dashing southern golden boy from a few weeks ago. That was one of your best.

  73. We went on a cruise over the week passed, and I imagined everyone who was reading a book was a Totebagger.

  74. “Oh, yeah. I am dumb. Damn dumb. And each and every day, I enjoy learning from others.”

    The truly dumb ones are the ones who don’t even know what they don’t know.

  75. A parent,

    There is a new show on Smithsonian Channel called Mighty Cruise Ships. They just had one about a cruise to Antarctica. It was veeeery totebaggy. Freezing cold, howling winds, rough seas, climbing aboard zodiacs to ride through ice filled waves to wander around some desolate beach. Totally the half cookie of cruising.

  76. SM – I have considered saying something but that would just feed the trolls so I just ignore them.

  77. “NY requires returns be filed electronically. State law prohibits a fee for electronic filing.”

    I wish we had a law like that. I e-filed our fed returns, but TurboTax has a $24.99 fee for e-filing state returns, and we have multiple returns to file (kids’ returns included). So state returns will be mailed.

    I wish TurboTax still had the abbreviated form they had in the past, where only form name, line numbers, and data were printed, and only the lines for which there were entries. I would only have to print out one page for a mailable return that included a dozen forms.

  78. Now Josiah Duggar (18) has started courting the daughter of his former Spanish tutor. Poor Jana! Her little brother, seven years younger, whose diapers she probably changed, will soon be married and king of his own castle, and she’ll still be at home supervising her buddy team and sharing a bedroom with preschool and toddler siblings, and ultimately probably taking care of her parents.

    http://www.people.com/article/josiah-duggar-courtship-marjorie-jackson-what-to-know

  79. “But girls who behave the same as boys are subject to much more approbation than the boys.”

    I always thought girls had it easier as kids, because girls could act like girly girls, or they could be tomboys, and either was socially acceptable. Boys acting like anything other than “boys will be boys” was not widely accepted, at least when I was a kid.

  80. HM,

    That would be awesome! But, much like sever turbulence, I’d want to know that the ship is designed like a commercial aircraft to take 150% of the worst weather it would ever likely experience. But, if the engineers signed off? Sign me up!

  81. Thanks for the kind words. Great day so far at Fenway.

    Did anyone really think we’d trade Mookie Betts for Cole Hamels?

  82. L – this may be a case of you get what you pay for. Or, if the fee you are currently charged is well below the average for the firm, fairly priced for the work required, but, frankly, they make less money off of you than almost all their other clients, maybe there is a smaller, newer, hungrier for the business firm that would appreciate the revenue you bring them more than your current place.

  83. We went out of New Orleans and enjoyed seeing the bayou and shipping on the way to the gulf. Our family has a narrow window of wave conditions that allow us not to be seasick, so Antarctica is out. There was no sign of “half a cookie” anywhere on the cruise we took.

  84. A Parent – I want to do a cruise before too long–maybe a Disney cruise, since I’ve heard good things from Houston here and others IRL.

    I also want to rent a houseboat on a lake for a four-day weekend in the early Fall and be my own cruise ship captain :) But I need my youngest to be a reasonably capable swimmer first, so maybe in two or three years.

  85. I dropped the taxes off at the post office this morning. Yay!! We use the accountant at DH’s firm because she does the lawyers’ returns for half her usual hourly fee. For whatever reason, though, she doesn’t e-file. But the days of endless lines at the post office seem to be gone now that so many people file online, and I was able to use the self-service kiosk, so no problemo. Had to write an ugly check, though.

  86. I dropped off my taxes today, as well. We had a line at the post office, but it wasn’t too bad. We don’t have self-serve kiosks. : (

  87. Anyone know if this bill mandated higher professor loads is likely to pass in North Carolina? One of my hypotheses about undergraduate education is that lots of people can teach lower level classes (and lots of teachers are needed, so high demand, high supply) but not lots of people can teach upper level/graduate courses (so low demand, low supply)

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2015/04/north_carolina_education_bill_it_would_require_public_university_professors.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top

    If research at public universities fell apart, private universities would be even more in-demand.

  88. Cominmg late to this… I have seen bias in both directions in our schools. My oldest boy was already reading when he hit kindergarten. The teacher did not notice until somewhere around November when they did the first reading assessement. When I had the parent teacher conference, she said that she was amazed because BOYS DON’T READ. Well, I was friends with the moms of 3 other boys in that class, all of whom were readers, and they got the exact same story. When they formed reading groups in the spring, the top reading group was all boys. But this teacher didn’t notice for months that they could read because she was convinced that BOYS DON’T READ.

    Converserly, I see that my very active, bouncy, ADHD daughter gets criticized a lot more than the boys do, because the teachers don’t think girls should behave like that. Being messy and hyperactive is a real negative for a little girl.

    I just wish our schools were not so genderized. If everyone would stop saying “girls do this” and “boys do that”, I think our kids would be so victimized by low expectations. Every kid is a mix of “boy” and “girl” attributes, in different quantities. They need to be seen as individuals.

  89. Milo- not sure how old your kids are, but I’d assume they’d be in life jackets at all times anyway. That was the rule in our family anyway until around age 9-12ish, even though we were very strong swimmers.

    The one boating tragedy involving people we actually knew was a kindergarten-aged child who presumably slipped out of his life jacket when no one was looking and tried to go swimming without telling anyone. They only lost track of him for a couple minutes but it was already too late. Keep in mind that in lakes visibility is poor so once a child goes under, there is little hope. Even strong swimmers can hit their head on the side of the boat and lose consciousness. Easy to happen with kids jumping off the boat. It’s not like a backyard pool where you can quickly scan.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love boating, but water safety is a rare area where I think the average American should be more helicoptery than they already are. Not saying you aren’t diligent, just sharing my thoughts since my extended family has lots of experience with numerous little kids and boating.

  90. I guess what I’m saying is not sure how waiting a couple years for a young child to be a stronger swimmer would help. If anything, slightly older children would worry me more.

  91. Rio – I agree, and when we’re at a lake *house*, my rule is to wear a life vest if they go down to the water at all (or at Grandma’s if they’re going out on the pier). But if you’re staying on a boat for several days, does that mean that nobody under the age of 9-12 ever removes a life jacket? IDK. I need to pray on it.

  92. The Slate author seems to have written without regard/interest/understanding of the original research. **sigh**

    Amanda Marcotte has never encountered a problem that wasn’t caused by sexism.

  93. that’s beautiful, HM. We have some kin out west now; it would be awesome if I could convince them to join us.

  94. We did a Carnival Cruise with kids 12, 10 and 8. It was loads of fun, but Disney may have a more tailored programming. We were left explaining why people were vomiting on the way back onto the ship. That is a teachable moment in the A parent book. We have house boated in the past. It is most enjoyable with a top side slide and someone with a ski/fishing boat.

  95. HM – yeah we did one of those when I was a kid on the sloughs in the California delta…maybe not enough water there now to do that? Great fun, no one drowned. Boat not as nice, obviously, since this was ~50 years ago. (Did I just say that?)

  96. I think the safety turtle is ideal for swimming pools or clear water. It would still scare me in murky lakes- in the few seconds it takes to respond to an alarm the child could already be impossible to see. Maybe I’m just paranoid though.

  97. Milo – I don’t think you need life jacket on inside the houseboat at all. Only on the exterior, and even then it’s probably a little bit overkill depending on if you are actually moving/hanging out on the roof or if you are docked at a sandbar, etc. One of the joys of a houseboat is of course, jumping off the top into the water. I spent many weeks on a houseboat on the Mississippi one summer, and I never once saw a life jacket, but I don’t recommend the “death wish” strategy for your young kids of course. ;)

  98. I guess I experienced a “lack of savvy” moment- everyone else realized the article was inaccurate click bait and I had to read further to confirm my suspicions. Maybe that’s why I have a hard time accepting discrimination as the source of problems in general… there are too many inaccurate claims to assume that the accurate ones are accurate.

  99. Like Fred, I’m wondering if there will be enough water in Lake Powell this summer.

  100. WCE,

    Isn’t the article talking about a different study than the one you linked to?

  101. WCE, I appreciate you taking the time to dig deeper.

    Milo, why a houseboat? If it were I, I’d rent a yacht. Even if it would have to be for a shorter period of time because of expense, I just imagine sailing across the Caribbean to be such a better experience than putzing around some lake somewhere that it’d be worth the trade-off.

    Thanks, everybody who says they appreciate having me around but don’t feed trolls. I’ll have to remember those comments next time around.

    On those kids in Maryland, here’s a story (from a Jezebel reader, so you all know how accurate that is) of a family that CPS could more fruitfully spend their time on, although these kids are also not being mistreated nearly as horrible as some others, at least on the surface. (I’m now wishing for Milo’s block quoting acumen and skill)

    I used to work at a restaurant that had a large outdoor deck. I mean huge, it had it’s own large bar, more seating than the inside of the restaurant, and a stage for live entertainment. There was also a pitiful little playground area with two swings and a slide. One day a server noticed that three kids roughly 5-7 years old had been playing on the swingset for over an hour without any adults. She alerted the manager, who scurried on over and asked the kids where their parents were.

    The children had no idea. They were under strict instructions not to leave the swingset until their parents returned. An announcement was made, but the parents weren’t in the restaurant. The police were called, and the parents were eventually located. At a different restaurant. All the way across town. Unbeknownst to us, two couples had been dropping their kids off at our deck twice a month so they could go bar hopping without having to hire a sitter.

  102. PTM – if you collected the anecdotes you have posted here and gave those essays a saleable title – the book would sell. I always get a chuckle reading about the wide as barns relatives, old uncles, deceiving friends, life in Florida, mothers group and the infamous school auction.

  103. I’ve never seen the “Safety Turtle” before. It’s unobtrusive enough that you could require your kids to wear them on the boat 24/7, then have rules about life jacket use on deck or whatever seems reasonable; the “Turtles” would just be back-up or in case a kid slipped out of their life jacket. They’d even be useful if a kid in a life vest decided to jump into the water without telling anyone

  104. Dude, when is the next school auction? Does that basket even have a theme yet? Although honestly, ever since I added myself to these groups to sell extra stuff, I’ve been stunned at the overabundance of wealthy suburbs.

  105. Some people forget to close brackets; I forget to finish thoughts.
    There is so much extra crap floating around out there, I see no reason whatsoever for people to buy even the most brilliant of auction baskets.

  106. just imagine sailing across the Caribbean to be such a better experience than putzing around some lake somewhere that it’d be worth the trade-off.

    I hate saltwater. No, I’m only partly joking. We’re going to do the Caribbean island-hopping sailboat charter someday, too. For some reason, I’ve just really taken a shining to lakes. I love the feel and taste of swimming in cool, freshwater. Also, it’s fascinating and entertaining to me how much cheesy fun all the lake stuff can be designed for when you don’t have to give the slightest design consideration to wind and seas. You can literally build a God da$ned house on top of two pontoons, attach a 100hp outboard, and call it a boat. There’s something to love about that level of fun and simplicity, because it doesn’t need anything more.

    To blockquote, type blockquote inside , then put your quoted text, then put /blockquote inside another set of . At the very least, it will annoy PTM.

  107. There is so much extra crap floating around out there, I see no reason whatsoever for people to buy even the most brilliant of auction baskets.

    ITA, I’ve kind of gotten to the point of just hating stuff.

  108. Just scrolling through but Saac, don’t think you try to cause trouble. I do think however, sometimes people read you differently than others in that it seems more people assume a negative tone to your posts than say an unknown poster (no I don’t have any data to back that up). Finally, I think I have always tried to defend you against the trolls. I don’t get in between you and Milo but I’ll be damned if I’ll let some anon come in and give you heat – kind of like family. I always value your opinion, even if I disagree.

    @Milo – I really don’t like being on water at all, but I will say I have a special distain for lakes. Can’t see the bottom, don’t know what’s in there with you (a corpse perhaps – Tahoe) and now there is that brain disease some people in the south are getting. Nope, if I must get wet, it will be in a chlorinated or salt water pool, preferably devoid of strangers and kids with bandaids.

  109. Lost my first post – #@%&!

    Milo – Lakes are dark and scary.

    Austinmom – What you described is something that happened to me in college, but I never realized it until I read what you wrote. I took a MathSci class called Optimization Theory from a somewhat renowned professor (since I did not go to graduate school this is the most I can do in terms of “slipping in” anything pretentious!). I was pretty lost. My roommate and I went to see him and he gave us and another kid a couple of review sessions. I honestly don’t think that I understood the material much better after his help, but darned if I didn’t end up with a B in the class. I thought I must have had a better grasp on the concepts, but it was probably because he didn’t want to admit that he hadn’t helped us!!

  110. Thanks Moxie. Yes, you’re right. You have often been my defender, or at least my interpreter. When people say I’m negative, it confounds me more than anything.

  111. Moxie – DH and the kids were in a boat on Lake Tahoe some years back and they dropped a grape off the side. They could see it sinking down into the lake for a very long time – the water was so clear. However, I’m sure they couldn’t see the bottom – where I suppose a body would be hidden – is this a true story or are you referring to Fredo?

  112. Saac – I like land and space, I just like uncluttered space. I spent a lot of time “going through” stuff and and throwing sh1t out this weekend. And donating some to Goodwill. A lot of it is just stuff I’m sick of looking at. Like DW’s aunt gave the kids these pea plant kits where you plant the seeds. It’s been a month, and barely a couple sprouts, and I’m looking at these dirty things in the kitchen for a month now. Tossed. We’ve got peas in the freezer, anyway.

  113. To me yes, because if I am at the ocean I am on the beach and have to walk into the water step by step – it takes a while to be over my head (which I don’t really do very often). If I am at a lake there are usually yucky rocks and vegetation to be crossed to get to the water, and the bottom is often slimy. Or I am out on a boat in the lake and the water is dark and deep.

    I’m sure a lot of this is either from my childhood, or when my children were little!

    Salt water also feels healthier to me – I don’t know why.

  114. It’s been a month, and barely a couple sprouts, and I’m looking at these dirty things in the kitchen for a month now. Tossed. We’ve got peas in the freezer, anyway.</ital?

    Boo! Hiss! You Philistine, raising kids ignorant of the most basic biological processes and food sources!

  115. at a lake there are usually yucky rocks and vegetation to be crossed to get to the water, and the bottom is often slimy

    Yes! And then to move around at slow enough speeds the bugs can keep up, for weeks at a time? Ugh! Shoot me now.

  116. “now there is that brain disease some people in the south are getting.”

    Are you thinking of the amoebas?

  117. am at the ocean I am on the beach and have to walk into the water step by step – it takes a while to be over my head

    It’s different when you’re not on a continental shelf. And oceans also have some unpleasant things you could step on, such as stonefish and spiny urchins. But I suppose you’re thinking of sandy beaches.

    Also, in an ocean, if you’re swimming over very deep water (like you’re out past the drop-off) you start thinking about those sharks whose preferred hunting style is to lurk way down and compare surface silhouettes to those of their favorite prey. Assuming you’re not in gator or crocodile range, is there anything in a freshwater lake to worry about that way?

    Of course I still prefer the ocean, familiarity and all that.

  118. It’s different when you’re not on a continental shelf.

    True. A sub leaves Norfolk or Groton, it takes maybe 10 or 12 hours to reach the dive point. 20 minute after leaving Pearl, they’re like “what are we waiting for? Let’s go deep.”

  119. @ssk – I read somewhere that Tahoe is so deep and cold that people who drown sometimes stay down there! Feeds my fears!

  120. HM – we did some snorkeling on our Kauai honeymoon and saw that, I think. Suddenly, the reef is just gone, the water is a much deeper blue, there are no more cute little Nemo fish, and the swells suddenly feel much more powerful than you. But we did see a bunch of sea turtles at that point. I didn’t feel comfortable staying out there very long, though.

  121. Moxie – ooh, that is creepy!

    Honolulumother – I don’t like to be over my head much. Most of my ocean swimming has been at Cape Cod, and they do have sharks there occasionally. I also was scarred by seeing Jaws as a girl!

  122. “Assuming you’re not in gator or crocodile range, is there anything in a freshwater lake to worry about that way?”

    Pythons?

  123. Finn, there is simply a creep factor. Things in lakes are slimier than things in the sea. True fact – maybe.

  124. But we did see a bunch of sea turtles at that point.

    I’m sure that’s part of the appeal for the sharks ^_^

  125. Rhett, I think that guy faked it – how did he stay out that long on a turtled boat without getting a sunburn?

    Having a toddler ruins the beach and the lake for me. My kids do not have much of a self-preservation instinct.

  126. BAM – Cool! I’ll look for it. And every Sunday there are two new episodes of Lakefront Bargain Hunt. Lately they’ve been in upstate NY and Maine. Typically the show requires the “bargain” price range to be around $300k. I wish they would do “Lakefront Semi-Affluent Totebagger Hunt” and aim a little higher, so maybe this show will serve that price point.

  127. For anyone interested in my weekend hijack, I discovered that Schwab has an account minimum of $100 for custodial IRAs.

  128. @Finn — cool, thanks for saving me some legwork in a year or two. :-)

  129. One word about why I hate small to average lakes – leeches. One or two episode as a small child, never again. Great Lakes, not a problem.

  130. Louise – They’re starting to all look the same to me. It’s like the only way to tell the difference between that Lincoln MKwhatever, a Ford Fusion, a Jaguar XF, and a Tesla Model S is the shape of the lights.

  131. @Milo – I saw it in beige and it looked really cool. I drove close so I could see the model. Of course, I had to post this for PTM :-).

  132. The Great Lakes are a compromise – not murky full of algae like smaller lakes. There are some really awesome small lakes, and there are some that are green with algae and kind of gross. (that is the scientific term) I still wouldn’t turn down a like nice house in the Northwoods (but I’d prefer one on the Michigan shores of Lake Michigan).

    I like ocean beaches, but I don’t much care for salt water on my skin, sharks, sting rays, big waves, tides, etc. I can deal with salt water as a price of admission, but I far prefer freshwater on my skin/hair. And I don’t like being on boats that are far from shore. Puttering around a lake where you can see the shore the whole time is fine. Open ocean? I am sure that I am going to die any minute. And I get a little seasick too.

  133. I love the small lake where my parents have a house. It’s shallow enough for kids to stand (with a sandy bottom) near our dock. It’s not too busy with boats and small enough that one loop around the lake is good for skiing or tubing and then you end up back at our dock rather than switching riders in the middle of the lake. We got a huge floating “island” a few years ago that is fun for grown-ups and kids alike. And it’s just the most peaceful place to sit and watch a sunset or a storm or a little girl and her grandma paddle-boating early in the morning before the ski and pontoon boats come out.

  134. Very late to this.

    Saac – I think of you as part of our family here, too, and a valuable member of it. I don’t feed trolls, but please don’t take my silence as concurrence w/ their nastiness. Honestly, I don’t know when you, Rhett and Milo are saying things to purposefully stir things up and when you’re simply stating things in phrasing I wouldn’t use myself. I’ve been sucked in a few times (recently with Milo) and each time, I’ve regretted my response and ordered myself to interpret things in a less narrow way the next time. Let’s see how I do …

    PTM – as I once told another friend recently, I think it’s easy to label yourself and your words and means of expression as not gifted or not unique, because you’ve lived with your thoughts, and your way of expressing yourself, all your life. Those thoughts and phrases feel old and dull and unintelligent — to you — because you’ve been exposed to them for so long. But to other people, who have not been living in your head all these years and hearing those words and phrases you find tiresome, the way you put things sounds very fresh and clever and wonderful. Trust us — you’re a terrific writer, story teller, conversationalist. And as you are certainly aware, we know better than you. :) (Oh, and yes, I caught that above. What are the two mistakes?)

    Milo – DD had her eye on Josiah. She’ll be crushed. I think Rio’s point is so valid – it’s not just the swimming skill but the lack of maturity. So, age/maturity/decision making is a big part of it, in addition to swimming skill. Of course, the added benefit to this is that you can “massage their overall behavior” (i.e., bribe them) with this. Not wearing a lifer can be a prize for behavior you want to see in and out of the water, near and far from a boat. So, even the strong swimmers don’t win this privilege automatically – they have to be strong swimmers *and* proven decision makers, rule followers, etc. A kid who’s making bad decisions on shore doesn’t get this privilege on the water, etc.

    Fred/CofC/ssk/MBT and others with kids currently in college – what say you on Greek life?

  135. I, too, would like people’s opinions on Greek life in college. Rolling Stone had an article on Dartmouth fraternities a few years ago. I was horrified at the initiation and other practices. I asked DH if it was true (he was in a fraternity). He shrugged and said yes, like it was no big deal.

    DH does not encourage DS to join a fraternity because he says that although he had fun and graduated with a high GPA, he would have graduated at least a semester earlier if it had not been for his fraternity. I don’t think that DS1 has the personality for a fraternity, but DS2 totally does.

  136. although he had fun and graduated with a high GPA, he would have graduated at least a semester earlier if it had not been for his fraternity.

    Rhett will make short work of this one.

    Risley – If I were younger and still single, I might try to court Jana.

  137. Milo – lake bottoms are slimy. blechhhhhhhhhhhh! Of course, the ocean up north is rocky with lots of sharp rocks, mussels, seaweed, etc., and is not pleasant to walk around in either. You need water shoes. I like Florida for beaches, but I don’t like to swim out a super long way.

    Also, be advised that when taking a sailboat cruise, the kids are likely not to sleep well. My family did one once in the BVI when I was in college and my berth was on the side of the boat (rocking) and also right next to the head (stinky). I was SO TIRED after that vacation. Also annoyed because my parents would not let me have a drink!

  138. Ris, I thought a certain book was brilliant. I even cherished my life for a day until I got over myself.

    To my knowledge, this book, so marvelously written– I simply could not believe it was written by a “friend”– had no mistakes. But I don’t know. I read like I write.

    But I think there were two flaws and I suspect they were both due to an editor. I’m sure you love your editor, but I don’t.

    And I’m not going to reveal what I think here. You know that. I thought it was a splendid book. The fact that the author put so much research and real knowledge into it made me realize how shallow my writing can be, and how I can never be anything like that author is.

    I have recommended this book to lots and lots of people. I am very sorry, but I’ve also lent my copy to others (I’m not even sure where it is now.)

    But I want to go after your editor with an axe. (Not really, but you get the point.)

  139. Houston & Milo,

    he would have graduated at least a semester earlier if it had not been for his fraternity.

    So, at (at UT) that would translate into saving an amount equal to the cost of a Disney cruise for a family of 4? Is saving that paltry sum really something you should organize your life around?

  140. Lakes and ponds are gross… We grew up with a few ponds in our neighborhood and there were leeches and other gross things. SSK – there are a lot of sharks on the Cape now due to the overpopulation of seals.

    Houston – I think Greek life can be valuable and really fun which in my mind is part of the whole experience. You get friends and connections for life. Dh was in a fraternity and yes they did some stupid initiation stuff, but overall it was not a big deal.

  141. my berth was on the side of the boat (rocking)

    Was that on a mono hull or a catamaran? I’ve done some research and the mono hulls are more expensive but can be a lot more comfortable.

  142. “lake bottoms are slimy”

    Where we stayed last year at SML, they had an artificial “beach” where they dumped a bunch of sand. Just beyond that, I guess it was a little slimy, but it didn’t bother me so much. But this was on a steep lot (lots and lots of stairs down to the dock) in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, so by the point where you jumped off the end of the dock, you were already in 25 feet of water, and the bottom quickly becomes irrelevant.

    I have a pretty good guess about where SWVA’s referring to.

    Good tips on the sailboat vacation. It’s not coming to me as a surprise so much as a reminder about how we tend to have memories fonder than reality. I remember open ocean racing where we were sharing beds and too exhausted to bother switching the musty and damp sleeping bags between users. My bed was right under a winch for the jib sheet, so if the course was a tacking one, there was this awful racheting right above my head every 30 minutes.

  143. I’ve done some research and the mono hulls are more expensive but can be a lot more comfortable.

    $hit, I mean the catamarans are more comfortable.

  144. oh, I haven’t found any leeches yet. knock on wood.

    Rhett – Catamarans are slow, but I thought the whole point was that they’re more comfortable.

  145. Ouch, Rhett. That one hurt (but I haven’t taken a Disney cruise).

    Being around a bunch of frat boys– so bold! so curious! so “in charge” of their lives– versus being in a law firm with partners, clients and other evil sorts six months earlier? Are you kidding?

  146. what say you on Greek life?

    I can hear Totebaggers thinking of going back and reliving life in the time of Homer.

  147. L – WHOA!! That’s incredible. I’ve never seen that. They’re literally (yes, I mean literally) flying.

    It all looks terribly uncomfortable and uselessly stressful. But I just have the wrong personality for it.

  148. “I can hear Totebaggers thinking of going back and reliving life in the time of Homer”

    Or Caligula.

  149. Greek Life –
    disclaimer: I myself was a GDI (goddamned independent).
    DW really looks back fondly at her experience in a sorority.
    Our best man had a bad experience and dropped out (or resigned) his membership. He wasn’t hurt, but felt the stuff pledges had to do was stupid.

    DS1 is an officer of his frat. I really think, channeling my inner Tip O’Neill, all college greek systems are local. I get the feeling, but I admit to not asking too many probing questions, that my kid’s frat is pretty mellow. A recent (this school year) hazing incident, at a different school, seems to have had a big impact on how things (read: initiation) are now done. Some things might be hard/gross/embarrassing, but not life threatening. No one wants that kind of publicity and the national has come down pretty hard about keeping things positive.

    I have heard positive things about my kid at frat parties…at least one instance of how he took care of a girl who’d had way too much…from a woman who goes to my gym whose daughter is at my kid’s school. Which leads me to conclude “frat behavior” is also the result of a kid’s moral compass. Some kids will do the right thing. Others could take advantage of a situation.

    In my kid’s case, I think he’s generally aware of when picking on/teasing has moved onto something more serious. I also think he realizes there are 4 other kids from his HS class, at least 4 from the class behind him (two of whom are in his frat), plus probably another 1/2 dozen or so other kids from our town whose parents we know from in-passing to really well. And, his cousin goes to another college in the same town and is really good friends with someone my kid hangs with, so if the word got out that he/his frat was really doing some bad shit, word would somehow get back to not just me but possibly his grandparents and I still think he does not want to have that conversation with me.

    There’s no way DS2 will join a frat. Just not his style.

  150. I’m a big fan of Greek life for girls. I am undecided yet how I feel about it for boys, as there seem to be more negatives. Greek life provides a lot of opportunity to try on different leadership roles, because there’s always something going on that needs organizing and volunteers. There is positive social pressure to keep grades up, and a peer group that is pretty driven. (Greeks typically have higher GPA and graduation rates than the campus population as a whole). For sending your kid off somewhere, it’s nice to know there will be people he/she can turn to in a crunch. For kids who are used to being over-scheduled in high school, they can find plenty of things to keep themselves busy with, and older students will introduce them to clubs and organizations on campus they might not have stumbled upon, and will encourage them to run for leadership positions. 25+ years after graduating, I still keep in touch with a lot of my sorority sisters, and count some of them as my best friends even today.

    I agree with Fred’s statement that it’s all local. The key is to find a group that feels like a good match.

  151. Milo – DD and I quite like Jana. Even more, now that we’ve heard (maybe from you) that she is a bit rebellious.

    PTM – ohhhhh no you don’t. It was likely my mistake, so please tell me, and I can avoid it in the next one. Tell me through CofC if you like.

    Fred/Houston/Atlanta – thanks. I can’t shake the feeling that joining is simply a means of buying a group of friends. Am I way off base? Greek life doesn’t really exist across the border, so my knowledge is based on impressions and assumptions that could be completely wrong.

  152. We didn’t have frats at my school, but had clubs that were similar (although the number of students in them was much lower). I think they provided a similar source of connections for first jobs, etc. Although there was a lot of drinking, the hazing was minor – friends who did the rush equivalent had to do things like wear a tutu around campus for a day. We had nothing similar for women when I was there.

  153. I was in a sorority. I would actively discourage my sons from joining a fraternity. For my daughter, I want to wait and see what she is like. It was really fun and I am still very good friends with some of the girls from my pledge class. But, so many of the girls had pretty severe eating disorders. If my daughter has an tendency toward that type of thing, I will steer her away from joining one. Also, academics were second place to the sorority. I was in the honors program at my school and we had a small cohort program of the same students all 4 years, so I had a decent group of friends (who were serious about school) outside of my sorority, but I saw a lot of girls kind of half-a$$ school so that they could devote more time to the sorority.

  154. Ris, that is a common criticism, although not one that I consider accurate. I would say that Greek life just makes it easier to drop into an existing structure and do you think she would enjoy doing. All Greek organizations sponsor major philanthropy, and have a major fundraising event during the year that they invest a lot of time in organizing etc. They also support each other’s philanthropies. There are intermural competitions for every kind of sport, song and dance shows, academics and other things. With the huge variety he gives kids with all different kinds of talents a place where they can contribute and take on a leadership role. Different campuses have different rules about whether you live in the Greek house or live off-campus and just meet weekly. There are weekly formal dinners, manners are taught and expected to be followed, there’s also always guest speakers and seminars on jobhunting and personal presentation and all sorts in information that students need to pick up. Greek life attracts a wide variety of kids, so it’s easy to connect with someone who shares some of your interests. I think it just makes it easier to plug into what’s going on on campus than trying to figure it out on your own.

  155. They’re starting to all look the same to me. It’s like the only way to tell the difference

    Ok, now you guys are doing it on purpose, just to mess with my head. ;)

  156. [Greek life] just makes it easier to plug into what’s going on on campus than trying to figure it out on your own.
    But it adds one more very big thing to figure out–the sorority and how it works.

  157. I’m agnostic on the Greek system, having observed both good and bad. Through my relatives who highly value their fraternity affiliations I have mainly seen the benefits. If I can believe what they’ve told me, their fraternities maintained high standards for GPAs and imposed mandatory study periods for faltering members.

    You know, I don’t think I can be opposed to the idea of “buying a group of friends”. Isn’t this similar to what we all do when we buy into a particular neighborhood or decide where we want our kids to enroll?

  158. Risley – Both my kids joined the Greek system. DD was at a very large flagship state university, but out of state. The rush process was pretty brutal for her because even though she had some connections (multiple aunts, etc.) it wasn’t enough because of the vast number of legacies from that school. However, she got into a sorority and made very good friends. It made a big school seem smaller.

    DS is at a medium size private school and ended up joining the fraternity that my dad was in (different school), so that was fun. His school is slightly nerdy so the partying facet is not huge, and they even have something like “no hazing week” on campus. He really likes being part of a group. He is actually rush chairman this year (hopefully not like Eric Stratton).

    For background, DH was in a fraternity and was president; my school did not have the greek system, nor did my mom’s. My sisters were both in sororities and loved them.

  159. CoC – Good point. And I think Finn is very vocal about that being one of his primary parenting objectives.

  160. “All Greek organizations sponsor major philanthropy, and have a major fundraising event during the year that they invest a lot of time in organizing etc. They also support each other’s philanthropies. ” Ugh, sounds like it is just building annoying PTA moms.

  161. I agree that Greek Life is very local and varies greatly from school to school. The Greek life at Northwestern (arcane rules around alcohol) vs. U of Chicago (where fun goes to die) vs. Penn State (party school) vs. UVA (Southern) could probably not be more different! I was not in a sorority, but my school had local organizations that were much looser than at some schools.

    I don’t know that I would encourage or discourage my kid from joining. I see pros & cons, and I really think it is an individual choice. Plus, there is so much difference between organizations and individual houses – if he found a good fit, I wouldn’t discourage it, but I wouldn’t encourage him to go looking for one if he didn’t seem interested on his own.

  162. My room mate was in a sorority. I really admired her organizational skills and ability to get people together to do things. I think it is a good skill set to have.

  163. Slimy lakes? Wear water shoes. Or anchor out in a deep bay and use the boat as a swimming platform.

  164. But it adds one more very big thing to figure out–the sorority and how it works.

    This is looking at it through the filter of the high-percentage of non-neurotypical people (and their kids) here. Most college kids don’t have to put mcuh effort into figuring out how social groups work.

  165. DD, a Greek organization isn’t just a social group. It is a social group with mandatory study hall, mandatory parties with strict rules on attire, hairstyle, and make up for those events, social and charity events that may conflict with other campus activities–and an attitude about which takes priority. Greek organizations apply peer pressure in a unique way, because of the fees associated, and because people often live in their frat or a sorority dorm. There are lots and lots of things to figure out in a Greek organization besides the social. If you really want to pledge, that’s fine, but it seems strange to me to say “join this organization so you can do these other things”.

  166. It is a social group with mandatory study hall, mandatory parties with strict rules on attire, hairstyle, and make up for those events, social and charity events that may conflict with other campus activities–and an attitude about which takes priority.

    Sounds vaguely familiar to my own experience.

  167. At some schools, the Greek system is a huge part of school life. At the college in my town, over ninety percent of the students pledge, so if you don’t join a sorority or fraternity, then I would guess that your social life would be very limited.
    S&M not sure what sorority you were in, but the one that I was in had none of the requirements that you listed. We were just a bunch of girls who enjoyed each others company and who tried to do good things for the school and the surrounding community.
    Every few years two or three college boys stop by my house and say that they have a class assignment that they have to have their picture taken with a sheep and would I mind if I took their pictures with my sheep. I always ask them if it is really for a class or a pledge task and they always sheepishly (pun intended) tell me the truth.

  168. “mandatory parties with strict rules on attire, hairstyle, and make up for those events,” – I’m not sure where you got this, but this is not an accurate statement. Mandatory study hall is only for new members (first few months of the year) and people whose grades are below a certain point, in some organizations. I’m not sure where you’re getting your comment re: peer pressure, or if that’s an assumption you’re making. As has been stated, all organizations are different, and what may exist at an organization you have seen does not necessarily exist at all organizations.

    Greek life is certainly not for everyone, and I would never try to pressure someone to join who was not interested. Risley asked for opinions from people with experience, presumably because one of her children is interested, and I gave her mine. I thought it was a great experience, my husband thought his experience was an overall positive, and I was enthusiastic for my daughter when she expressed interest.

  169. I was not in a Greek organization, but over a third of my undergrad campus was, and I’ve certainly had students ask for a make up exam because their group was doing some kind of stunt for charity when out class met. When I denied the requests, I could see that they were really conflicted and worried about what to say to their sorority/frat. Most of the mandatory clothing & makeup rules I’ve seen have been around rushing and pledging, with different rules for inductees and “older sisters”.

    MBT, I appreciate hearing what you and others have had to say here, because I’ve never understood why people would join one of these. My last comment was not directed at you; it was in response to Denver and Milo reducing the whole thing to a social organization. I was trying to expand on the things (of which I know only a little) that go way beyond a social group to make a Greek organization.

  170. One DD joined a sorority. It was only one of many choices she has made that are non standard for our larger family. It suited her, and she has used the connections from time to time. I am not, however, agnostic on traditional Greek Life. To me it seems exclusionary, not inclusionary.

  171. Saac, I know what sororities and fraternities are. My undergrad had a very large Greek system so so I am very familiar with them. My point is that for most college kids, learning how to navigate them is not the big challenge that you seem to think it is.

  172. Denver, it’s one more on the list, and its interactions with others have to be considered as well, so it adds more to think about than most campus activities. To me, a huge plus of the campus experience is the chance to figure out what interests you and who you want to be connected with. Sororities often rush before the first semester even starts, and fraternities after one semester. So it’s not that Greek organizations themselves are that hard to figure out the “real rules” in, but that they insert themselves in the midst of that bigger task of that stage of life.

  173. “they insert themselves in the midst of that bigger task of that stage of life.”. That is one perspective. Another perspective is that Greek organizations support and facilitate that task. It differs by student, Greek organizaiton, and campus, I’m sure.

  174. To me, a huge plus of the campus experience is the chance to figure out what interests you and who you want to be connected with.

    Studies have found that most friendships form based on proximity. People tend to become friends with the people they are sitting next to on the first day of class, or the people on their dorm floor freshman year, and so on. Here’s one study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602163842.htm

  175. My college banned sororities and fraternities because the university doesn’t believe in secret societies.

    So, I wasn’t part of a sorority, but I am a PTA mom. Most of the PTA moms in my community also work – full or part time. There are some dads on the PTA Board, and some run committees too. It is easy to make fun of PTA parents, or use an outdated stereotype about the type of person that volunteers for the PTA. The “training” that you mention often comes from their work experience or other experiences that they had with fundraising/non profits. As public schools make very difficult choices about spending, some districts rely heavily on the money that the PTA raises for their schools.

    I’ve been on both sides of the aisle in the many years that I’ve contributed here and TOS. I am splitting my time evenly now between the corporate world and home. It is disappointing that there continue to be frequent snide remarks about how SAHMs dress, assumptions about their cars, and trashing the volunteer work that they do in their communities.

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