Our Public Schools Are Doing It Right!

I just went on a middle school tour and I nearly cried in gratitude for the whole two hours. Ainsley is off to 6th grade and that’s middle school where we live. It’s a big transition that I’m sure she’s ready for.

Progressive Piece of the Planet

We live in Fort Collins, Colorado, a progressive piece of the world. Colorado State University is in the center of town. People are heavily into the arts, mystical healing professions and craft beer. The roads are lined with bike lanes and pedestrian paths connect the city. There are composters on public streets. My real estate agent describes our city as a the perfect marriage between engineers and environmentalists. This city is often listed in the top 10 places to live lists. The schools are equally progressive.

I feel extraordinary gratitude to have the privilege to live on this particular spot on the planet, and to raise my children here. During the middle school tour, Lesher Middle School, it struck me again. My children are so lucky to have access to a top-notch education in a public school. 

School of Choice Creates Competition

We have a school of choice policy, which means that your neighborhood does not necessarily dictate which school your children must attend. You can attend your neighborhood school, but you can also enter a lottery and win a spot in a different school. This does create competition between schools, if the school is not excelling then the neighborhood kids choice out and their enrollment drops. The dollars follow the student. Schools are at risk of closing if they don’t perform. As it should be.

Why would you want to go to a different school? Is it because your neighborhood school sucks and your children will have a terrible education and their life track will change? Not here. The amazing thing is that the district is full of fabulous, top-notch schools. But, each school, though they do have to adhere to state minimum guidelines, has the creative and educational liberty to focus on a variety of teaching methods. They focus on different skill sets and serve their students in unique ways.

Different Learning Styles Are Legit

For instance, my book club is full of smart, educated mothers who all choose different schools for their children based on their own values and their own kids’ individual learning styles and special needs. Some want a more project-based education, others want to focus on core knowledge, others want college prep and a rigorous academic standards, others are more interested in science, others art, others have kids with special needs who want the best curriculum for their kids’ special gifts and challenges.

The school that we’re choosing for Ainsley is an IB (International Baccalaureate) World School. Essentially, it’s a college prep school with high academic standards, but which focuses on the whole child, placing emphasis on arts and physical fitness equally with science, reading and math. The emphasis is on giving students a world view, an identity as global citizens, and an education to prepare them for 21st Century-as-yet-not-invented jobs by teaching them how to learn, verses teaching them what to learn.

Their IB program is great, the curriculum is structured, the academic standards are quite high, the extra-curricular programs they offer are fantastic. Equally as important is that it will be convenient for me to drive to because I’ll have to handle drop offs and pick ups. We’re using her dad’s address to get her in.

Culture Before Curriculum, Rise to Expectations

I also love the philosophy of the school: they put culture before curriculum, which means they create a positive learning environment. They teach to the top third of students and provide the necessary scaffolding and support to help the other students rise to that level of excellence. Expect students to rise to the occasion and they will. And their test scores offer the evidence for the skeptics. It is a school with a large Hispanic population, a subgroup often under-served and exhibiting lower test scores. They are a school with 40% free or reduced school lunch, an indicator of poverty which is also an under-served population with traditionally lower test scores. Often these statistics end up lowering expectations. Rather, this school maintains its expectations and teaches every class at an honors level, providing support for every population to experience growth. In other words, the population is diverse, the standards are high, and the results are exceptional across the board.

Geeking Out is Cool Here

But, what really touched me at my core and made me teary-eyed was that the kids were so happy there. They are being pushed to achieve, for sure. They are held to a very high standard with all honors level courses. But they love their school, their education, their teachers and the administration. Their creativity is allowed to flourish, their assignments are very hands-on, with collaboration between real scientists and researchers at various universities and research labs, they have access to technology and other essential learning tools. And they love it. They rise and they do it happily. Their self esteem is high, they are set up to excel, not fail. The vibe in the halls is electric and exciting. They love being there. We dropped into classrooms and asked questions and the students were so well-mannered, articulate and just glowed from the positive, enriching environment. They had such great things to say about their education. Geeking out is cool there.

The staff too is creative and passionate about their work. Given the latitude to get to state and federal standards in whatever creative ways they think best and most appropriate, they too rise to the expectations and exceed them.

My kids are so lucky. I wish every kid in this country were this lucky. I wish every state, district and school were rising to this level of achievement and attitude.

Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach at www.traceesioux.com.  She is the author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Contact her at traceesioux@gmail.com.

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Book Review: Bullied

BULLIED: What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear  is written by Carrie Goldman. Goldman was prompted to write this book after her daughter, Katie, was teased for carrying a Star Wars lunch box to school. Her blog post on the matter has been called “the post that launched a thousand geeks,” and came with its own hashtag #MayTheForceBeWithKatie and she got a lot of media attention.

The statistic I like best from the book is that half of bullying behaviors will stop in less than ten seconds when another student intervenes. This means that bystanders and witnesses are one of the primary means of bullying prevention.

So, teach your kids to stand up for someone else. In other words, teach them to be a good human, it will change their lives.

Cell phones are a fantastic weapon in the ant-bullying crusade. Often when students report bullying behavior there is no evidence so teachers and principals tend to play the offenses down, and try to make peace. Some even blatantly ignore it because they lack the power to actually do anything about it. But, cell phones have cameras and video recorders on them now. That’s right. Any witness can pull out their cell phone on a bus or on the playground and get footage of what’s really going on. It’s hard to ignore hard evidence.

Bad at Being Human

We hear a lot about bullying these days. Lady Gaga has a foundation and everything. Glee addresses the issue a lot – mostly by featuring a lot of bullying behavior between both students and adults.

And our kids come home with stories. Stories of being teased or someone said something mean. Or the girls decide to shut another girl out. Or someone passes a cruel note.

We call it “bullying.”

Sometimes though I think we overreact. Just because your kid got their feelings hurt doesn’t mean they are being “bullied.” Just because someone doesn’t want to play with your kid doesn’t mean they are being bullied. Teasing someone about what they are wearing or what lunch box they bring to school isn’t necessarily “bullying.” It’s not very nice, but it’s not necessarily insidious, damaging behavior either. This kind of behavior doesn’t have to scar your child for life. It could just be a learning experience about how to stand strong in who you are.

Kids aren’t very good humans by nature. Hang out with a two-year-old sometime. They bite, hit, kick, steal, scream, throw tantrums and cry at the top of their lungs if they don’t get their way. They’re lousy humans really.

Parents socialize their children so they aren’t banned from the Mommy playgroup. They want to avoid their kid getting kicked out of pre-school for anti-social behavior — otherwise they are stuck with the little monster 24-7 and it’s exhausting trying to teach a feral beast the manners in which to operate in society.

In other words, we become good humans by sheer peer pressure and a desire for social acceptance. We teach our children how to be good human for the same reasons.

So, no I don’t think that a lot of what we’re calling “bullying” is actually bullying. I think a lot of it is just kids learning to be good humans. And learning takes practice. And mistakes. And social issues ensue. Some kids learn it easily and it becomes their currency. Others have a harder time at it, making more mistakes than others. Some have a terrible time learning impulse control – like just because I feel like kicking you doesn’t mean that I should.

The Real Mean Girls and Bullies

Then there’s the real bully and mean girls. These are the people who, rather than figure out a way to get what they want by being kind, realize that they can get away with a hell of a lot by being intimidating jerks.

This is demonstrated by repeated and malicious attacks against another person or people. I would say kid, but adults bully other adults all the time. To find out how to change your life and relationships using the Law of Attraction, click here.

You’ve heard plenty of stories, so I don’t need to give you a bunch of examples. Childhood can be like Lord of the Flies.

When I get out of high school it will be over, many people think. But, then you realize there are people who never learn how to be good humans. They just walk around being a-holes forever. And sometimes you’re going to run into one of them and God forbid they are your boss or your next door neighbor.

When Good Humans Confront Bad Humans

You know that whole be kinder to them advice? That never works when dealing with a bully. It works when dealing with someone who is just trying to learn to be a good human and made a mistake, but with a bully it’s just inviting more bullying.

The old adage keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Also bullshit. A bully is a bully. A mean girl is a mean girl. You keep them close and you’re just a sitting target. It might feel like this person will attack others and not you because they *like* you. But, it will be your turn soon enough. No one gets a free pass when dealing with a bully.

My favorite bullying scene ever is when Ralphie finally just loses it and clobbers the hell out of Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story. I loved the story that Joe Biden told at the Democratic Convention in 2008 about when he came home without his coat and his mother told him to go get it from the bully and he punched his lights out. I like these stories not only because the kid deserved to get socked in the mouth, but because the bullied took back their power. They decided to stop being afraid of the bully and decided to get their own power back.

Of course, if you’ve ever seen My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, you know that a cat fight doesn’t always turn out this way. You might end up with your $10,000 blinged-out mini-dress pulled up to your waist, with clumps of hair ripped out and a missing tooth and … the other gypsy wife is still a big fat bully. Fight. Repeat. Fight. Repeat. It’s their thing.

The point is you have to take back your power. I’ve been bullied by a few people this year and it did stop. And I didn’t punch anyone’s lights out or kick their teeth in. I just took back my power. I calmed down and thought, “Ok, what can I do to take back my power?” Once I gave her exactly what she threatened to do, which took away her ability to use it against me. Once I hired a lawyer and stood my ground. Once I called the cops, held my ground and stood back and watched her self-destruct. The Universe has been giving me awesome opportunities to overcome my fear of being bullied.

People always say “ignore it,” or “forgive it.” And sometimes that works – but only if you’re doing it in a confident way and not a cowering in the corner way. Don’t take anything personal is likely some of the best advice I’ve gotten. In each case I thought, the only reason this hurts is because I expect something different from this person. I expect them to be loyal, or sane, or rational, or fair, or kind. When I remove that expectation I can better find a way to take my power back. Here are some of my own rules and the ones I try to teach my kids. And this year, I’ve had the opportunity to teach them by example in real life.

1. Don’t hang out with bullies. They are feeding off your energy because they aren’t generating their own. Do not give it to them. Stay as far away from them as possible.

2. It’s about them. Their stuff is their stuff. You didn’t do anything to make bullying happen. They choose how they behave.

3. Don’t make excuses for them. I don’t care if their parents got divorced or their daddy touched them wrong, or they had a rough time of it or whatever. Everyone has a story. Their story doesn’t give them the right to treat other people badly. No exceptions. Do not let your own sympathy put you in the line of fire.

4. When people tell you who they are believe them. The first time. When they show you who they are, you better believe them or you’re in trouble. By which I mean, if they say things like, “I’m a Christian, but I’ll still kill you!” Which truly is the way a neighbor introduced herself to me. Realize that her belief in Jesus won’t prevent her from killing you if she gets upset. So maybe she shouldn’t be your new best friend.

5. Listen to your inner voice. You’ll hear the warning, “don’t hang out with her,” or “this guy is bad news.” Always listen and act accordingly.

Really Unpopular (but worth considering advice) 

Listen folks, I know we try to tell ourselves that our kids can be anything they want and that our kids should be their authentic selves 100% of the time and that all stereotypes are bad and we should get rid of them. And everyone should jump around in clouds and rainbows and be nice to everyone all the time, especially to my kids. Yada yada.

To some degree this is a worthy goal. Without ambitions like these we’d still have segregated schools and gay people couldn’t come out of the closet.

But, remember that when we’re dealing with children we’re dealing with people who haven’t learned how to be good humans yet.

Have you read the story about the couple who decided not to tell people the gender of their child in order to negate all stereotypes? They send the kid to school cross-dressing with weird anti-gendered hair. Not only does the kid wear girls clothes and boy clothes, but it doesn’t even match and its decidedly, purposefully odd. Not in a cute way. But in a political statement way. Political statement really isn’t the best look for a Kindergartener. There is no pronoun for the kids or teacher to use.

That’s just asking for it. Their great social experiment really puts their kid at risk – basically it’s painting a target on its forehead. Not just for bullies, but for everyone who doesn’t know what the hell to do with a kid who dresses in a skirt one day and camo the next. A kid who doesn’t disclose whether it’s a boy or a girl and uses both restrooms. Come on. Noone knows what to do with this, not bullies, not kids, not teachers, not parents, certainly not five year olds.

These parents are expecting FAR too much from people who haven’t learned how to be good humans yet. This is not to say their poor kid deserves bullying, but these parents are increasing the odds pretty heavily.

Everyone has to learn how to function in society. School is essentially a Lord of the Flies training ground for this. You’ll learn or you’ll pay. You’ll compensate for your weird or the other kids will point out the fact that you’re weird and it won’t feel very good.

This, of course, is based on my personal experience with bullying and is not taken from the book.

Back to the Book

BULLIED: What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear  gives a lot of great advice for what to do if your kid is being bullied, bully prevention initiatives that schools can use, great advice about how to negate and prevent online bullying, how to prevent your kid from being the bully, and how to teach kids to be witnesses and defend the defenseless. Read it if this issue is a concern to you.

Last but most important — teach your kids how to be good humans. If it’s your kid that’s doing the bullying don’t let them get away with it. Teach them to be better than that. Teach them to step up to defend another. And teach them that just because someone says something asinine doesn’t make it true of them. Teach them to listen to their inner voices that tell them who not to hang out with.

Oh and, Don’t be a bully. 

Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach at www.traceesioux.com.  She is the author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Contact her at traceesioux@gmail.com.

 

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The Jig is Up Standardized Testers

 

The whole state just finished their Standardized Tests. If you’re a parent you know that the entire school year has been hijacked by making sure kids pass these tests. It’s legislation called No Child Left Behind and was the major education reformation of George II.

The test had a number of consequences some good, some bad. The good part was that it created a national tracking system that allowed us to get some idea of who was learning what. Prior to No Child Left Behind schools and districts were using their own tracking system or no tracking system at all.

The bad part is that it took a lot of creativity out of the classroom, substituted rote memorization for actual learning and put a ton of pressure on school boards, principals, teachers, parents and students.

In other words, the Standardized Test became the central focus of education. Which robbed our kids of the experience of actual learning through creativity; substituted artificial learning for an organic, authentic education. It made kids conform to a “cookie cutter” education.

It also increased Title 1 participation, because if your kid diagnosed with autism, ADD, dyslexia or whatever their issue is, their test scores are counted, but they get special tutors, services and accommodations in order to ensure that their test scores improve. If you’re a parent, you want your kid to have the best education and performance possible, and if you’re on the faculty you NEED these kids to perform well. In other words, it is likely that the increased number of kids with a diagnosis is, in part, a result of Standardized Testing.

Another downside is that it really isn’t appropriate for schools and the public education system to bear the burden of making sure kids learn well when it is obvious that there are other factors at play. Time Magazine’s article Why It’s Time to Replace No Child Left Behindpoints out that there actually arechildren left behind and they are the samechildren that were being left behind before this supposed magical reform of America’s education. While middle-class and upper-class kids have improved their scores and do well, poor minority children still lag behind.

Part of this is the way we fund education in this country. If you live in a rich community there are dollars to spare for education through higher property taxes or at least property taxes on more expensive homes, which equates to more education money. Money buys better technology, safer classrooms and halls, better faculty, better and more extra-curricular activities, more educational resources in other words, a far better education. If you live in a poor one you’re screwed. Education isn’t equal in this country and it never will be unless we reform how we fund the education of our students. One solution is to distribute dollars equally through gambling or lotteries as Nevada and a few other states do. Another is to fund education entirely by the state, property taxes which fund education dollars go to the state school board, as opposed to the local one, and the state distribute funds equitably regardless of the income of certain neighborhoods and parts of town. For obvious reasons upper- to middle-class communities will likely oppose this, because hey, their kids’ get a great education.

But, money is not the major issue here, as New Jersey schools show quite clearly. New Jersey spends far more per student thanaverage and they have far more than average failing schools and failing students.

Yes, yes, fire the sucky teachers, sucky administration, etc. You’ve heard it all before as the big solution to education’s problem. God bless the teachers who are willing to go into these failing schools, stick their feet into quick sand and fight the battle for these kids. Certainly, moving away from a failing school and students who don’t score well would be most prudent for their careers. Unless, of course you choose to believe that all teachers who enter these institutions couldn’t get a job elsewhere and don’t care at all about their students, only their retirement. I think that’s pretty far fetched.

What I don’t understand is why schools are being held accountable for the factors that have nothing to do with education at all: the culture of African Americans where the numbers of single mothers and absent fathers is staggering; the astronomical number of minority males who are in prison; the communities that are drug-infested nightmarish nests of violence; or the culture of certain communities whether from religious persuasion, cultural norms or just plain apathy that don’t value education at all. It seems absurd to me that we expect schools to overcome theseobstacles, in fact, it’s absurd to assume that schools have any responsibility to change theconsequencesof these environments for these kids. It’s simply not their job.

For the most part, I haven’t had a serious problem with Standardized Testing. Probably because Ainsley performs well on them and I have no reason to believe that Zack won’t perform well too.

My problem this year was the way Standardized Testing is being delivered to students. Ainsley sobbed that she went over and over her writing essay and didn’t finish the last sentence. It was confounding to me.

I didn’t finish the last sentence, now I won’t get my candy bar and I won’t get a good score!

You’re a better writer than most people in your class, how will they even know you planned to add one more sentence at the end? I’m sure your score will be above average. If not, it’s not a big deal. Everybody bombs a test now and then.

No, my teacher saw me not finish when she called time.

Your teacher isn’t grading the test.

My grade is going to go down.

This test doesn’t effect your grade at all!

What? It’s practically my WHOLE grade.

It’s NONE of your grade. They aren’t grading you with this test, they are grading your school, your teachers, your principal. If you don’t score high on the test then they take money away from your school.

No it’s not. It’s a big part of our grade, the teachers said it was really, really important that we do our very best on the test.

Yeah, because they need the money and they want to keep their jobs. Not because it effects your grade.

Well, I don’t want my teacher to be fired either!

People, my daughter didn’t believe me at all. My neighbor’s daughter didn’t believe her mother either. These are high-performing students who work hard and care about their grades and their performance on tests. The school bribed the children with candy bars of their choice and class parties if they showed up, finished the section and tried their mightiest to score as high as possible. They told, or at least implied, students that this test would be a majorpart of their grades. Good God, the emotional trauma this testing has inflicted on faculty, school boards, parents and children should be enough to motivate us to think of a better method.

As Americans we’re supposed to be innovative. This isn’t innovative at all, it reduces a real education to a factory line. We’re not going to be more effective in the global marketplace with this stunted thinking. Genius is born of creativity and the guts to make million mistakes before success. Intelligence is born of exploration. Things do not not get invented by the people who have excellent scores on Standardized Tests, things are invented and discovered by curious people who daydream a lot. The people who ask, “what if this is possible?”

Surely, we can think of something more . . . creative. Surely, we can dream a bigger dream for our kids, for our futures.

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Women Invented Language, Equal Pay is Stupid & Smart Women Don’t Run for Office

Women Invented Language

You know how “they” always say that women weren’t allowed to be literate until like the 1800s or somethingridiculouslike that?

Well that’s just stupid.

One only has to compare the verbal and written communication skills of a boy toddler and a girl toddler to know what one is more naturally gifted with language than the other. Surely every Kindergarten and preschool teacher has witnessed the obvious. One only has bein a relationship to know that the idea that menfelt the strongest desire to communicate is a down-right absurdity.

Women invented language. They formed words and wrote them down and then taught those skills to men, finding a way to force them to communicate.

At some point in history men got intimidated and wanted to flex their muscles and burned, destroyed and otherwise silenced women to gain power. Destroying a vast amount of world history in the process. Which is a tragedy.

It’s true. I would prove it, except they destroyed all the evidence.

Equal Pay Is A Dumb Idea

We’ve been begging congress to give women equal pay since 1963. They don’t want to. If they did, we’d have accomplished this by now. It’s not because they are sexist (well, maybe it is), but it’s mostly because they arecapitalistsand men derive pleasure from competition. It’s the merit system.

Equal pay as a law was probably a good idea in 1963 when men held all the power and ran all the companies and women were just barely entering college in mass.

But, in 2012 it’s a low, low bar. We shouldn’t rob ourselves and our sisters the opportunity to out-earn their male counterparts after 2,000 years of economic oppression. That would be short-sighted and wrong.

Women are attaining higher degrees than men. In large cities young professional women are out-earning and out-advancing their male counterparts.

Most important, women are starting more businesses than men. THIS is how we’ll achieve equal pay if such a low bar is to be achieved. Women CEOs will decide whether they choose to reward gender, merit or pay a flat rate for each employee in a certain job. It will be interesting to see what we choose when we hold the power in our own hands.

Smart Women Don’t Run For Office

We always say we want more female representation in political office. Well, mostly liberal women say that. Of course, they don’t mean they want more female representation, what they really mean is we want more pro-life Democratic female representation. Republican pro-life women are to bepubliclytarred and feathered.

Personally, I think a more feminine Republican party benefits everyone. If only because it’s getting stale looking at those smug stubborn grey-haired men’s faces. Women are more creative.A good maternal Republican woman would slash the hell out of extras in the budget and lock those smug men in a room with generic bags of cold cereal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until they could agree on budgets and bills.

Still, that would be the only fun part. The rest of it sounds like a lot of crap that no woman in her right mind would want to deal with. I mean, what’s great about the job? First you have to spend all your money in theridiculouslyjunior high school popularity contest they call campaigns, you have to put up with rude, disrespectful and insulting questions from journalists and tabloid writers calling themselves journalists, people dig in your garbage to find scraps of paper with something incriminating on them, they hack into your email, you have to make your taxes public, half the world hates your guts and wants to see you dead, they drag out all your old boyfriends and lovers to say something bad about you, they Photoshop your face on naked people and have porn stars pretend to be you in ironically titled adult films, they rake your religion over the coals, they harass your children, they criticize your every parenting choice and the neighbors tattle about the time you yelled out the door “Get your butt in here and clean up your room or you will face DIRE CONSEQUENCES!”

Then, you get the job and every word, choice, haircut and lipstick color gets picked to death by the blogosphere. You can’t accomplish everything you said you would because that’s how the system was designed but they blame you anyway. You never make enough money to make back what you spent on the campaign in the first place. Then you have to pay for an apartment in Washington and kiss people’s ass all the time.

Repeat.

Who in their right mind would want this job? Essentially it’s committing quality-of-life suicide. If you love yourself Ladies, don’t run for office.

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Is College Becoming a Money-Sucking Debt Trap?

Time Magazinehas an article about the money sucking, drastically bad investment that many college degrees are becoming in this country and it’s making me rethink my attitude about my kids getting a college education.

Our parental attitude is this: GET A COLLEGE DEGREE!!!!!

Debt Burden

My student loans are our biggest debt burden. I owe about $60,000, having originally borrowed $15,000. I made a crucial mistake having fielded repeated, harassing calls from solicitors insisting I consolidate my student loans, I accidentally consolidated one measly $1,000 unsubsidized loan with my subsidized loans, causing them ALL to be unsubsidized at a 9.5 percent interest rate, until they finally put a cap on interest at eight percent (after the scoundrels had already racked up a good $30,000 off me) which has cost me about $40,000 in interest over the last 15 years. It’s the single, most crucial, dumbest financial mistake of my entire life. Once again, I have to thank College Algebra for being utterly useless and wonder why they don’t require Practical Life Math in universities.

Yet, Time’s articleI Owe Umade me feel like a lucky freakin’ genius!

Students will take out $1 trillion in debt this year. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS! And many of these college graduates can’t get jobs. Or they are resorting to jobs in the service and hospitality industry that they could have gotten without a college degree.

The article, which obviously cited extreme cases that make for good stories, but still, real stories, mentions liberal arts majors graduating with debts of $125,000. It talks about kids who were awarded full-ride scholarships to state schools andturning them downbecause they got into Ivy League brand name schools, even though they were out $55,000 a year that they didn’t have and then majoring in philosophy or poetry it reminds me of high school kids who work at McDonalds buying Gucci purses and Fendi Sunglasses. It sites one dude who got a masters degree in multi-media design for a whopping $120,000 (by the way a friend of mine has his own multi-media design shop, makes a decent living of $60,000 a year and doesn’t even have a degree, thus no college debt at all). It sites bullsh!t degrees like “specialized studies” (try selling that on a resume) for $67,000, history degrees for $50,000, and a “global studies candidate” who is about to spend $112,000 for that degree (don’t do it dude myself, husband and brother essentially all got this degree 15 years ago and we’re all making under $70,000 after 15 years of hard work and we’re scraping by with no where near this debt burden.)

Predatory Lending & Another Bubble

What possesses a bank to loan a POETRY MAJOR $125,000?

The same thing that possessed that same bank to loan a dental assistant and a computer technician $500,000 on a home worth $200,000.

They knew they would make more money on the penalties and interest than they ever would on a good loan that could be paid back by a solid candidate. They got greedy. They lost their moral compass. They got predatory. They capitalized on the Mythology of College being the Golden Ticket to the American Dream.

And many economists are predicting another bubble blowing up on our already struggling, shaky economy how can it not? We have an entire generation of Liberal Arts Majors with what amounts to massive mortgages without homes they can live in or sell. Nor, because of bank lobbies and legislation, can a person ever get out from under a student loan. They are not allowed to be written off in a bankruptcy, unlike a home, which you can walk away from and cut your losses. And this is what they have to bring into their adult lives into marriages and families, into first jobs with starting salaries. If they are lucky enough to score one, that is.

This is one major issue of the Occupy WallStreet Movement. It’s a legitimate question. It’s a legitimate issue. It’s a protest-worthy complaint.

Mythology of College being the Golden Ticket to American Dream

Maybe it’s time to reexamine the Mythology of a College Degree being the Golden Ticket to the American Dream. It used to be that college was the Golden Ticket and if you got good grades, got into a decent, reputable school and worked hard you were essentially guaranteed a good job and a career path in an upwardly mobile direction. Or at least we believed this to be true.

But, even in my generation this hasn’t turned out to be particularly true. As I’ve approached 40 and looked around, I’ve noticed that my peers without college degrees that are in sales, insurance and for a long time real estate and construction are doing far better than I with my gig as a journalist in a profession struggling to hang onto itself in the face of the digital revolution. My friends who have two-year trade degrees in medical fields are making far more money, with far more job security than I am. My friends who work in industrial fields, electricians, auto mechanics, specialized laborers, tend to get laid off more frequently (which they treat as extended vacations on workman’s compensation), but when they work they make quite a bit more money.

Then we have the reality that President Obama is challenging America to producemorecollege graduates. But, we don’t have enough jobs, as the Time article points out, for the college graduates we currently have. The article then states that what we’re really flooded with is a bunch of unemployable Liberal Arts majors and we’re sorely lacking in Science, Technology, Information and Medical graduates and we’re forced to hire immigrants or outsource these jobs. We’re not being competitive in the right fields.

The question then becomes, why is the US Government continuing to back Liberal Arts Degrees? Evidently, having a college degree itself is a meaningless debt burden. Having a practical degree with an actual career plan and a real job available at graduation is what’s going to make a student a reasonable candidate to pay back student loans. Why is the Federal Government backing loans it can’t reasonably expect students to be able to pay back?

Reduction in Interest Rates Could Help

TheFederal Housing Finance Agencyrecently announced that it will allow underwater homeowners to refinance their homes, allowing them to reduce their interest rates from over 6 percent to around 4.1 percent. This could put up to $200 a month back in their pockets, which one hopes will stimulate the economy. (There is a fair bit of skepticism about this, though the idea is a good one and I intend to apply.)

The Obama Administration recently signed a student loan reform bill as part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which is supposed to help students of the futureavoid some of the problems current and former students are making. But it’s not retroactive and won’t help students who have already taken out a loan, are already in repayment or are delinquent on their loans. This does nothing to help the millions of students who are now walking into their lives burdened with enormous debt, caused in part, by the government giving cart blanche access to students and subsidizing banks while they issue predatory loans to naive teenagers and young adults with no real world experience to enable them to fend of or resist these loan sharks.

The U.S government should seriously consider enacting an interest rate reduction for current loan holders, as they are in the mortgage situation. Student loans are under much stricter regulation than mortgages and can never be written off in a bankruptcy. An entire generation of college graduates are burdened by enormous debt, the likes of which this country has never seen. I can’t see how they’ll ever be able to pay it off and become upwardly mobile. And if student loans really are another economic bubble that’s about to burst, well, one has to wonder just now much our stumbling economy can bare at the moment.

A reduction in interest is the least we can do for perpetuating the myth that college was a sure thing that would ensure their futures. A dream that is quickly turning into a pretty fairytale or an ugly farce.

Tracee Sioux is a freelance writer, the creator ofThe Girl Revolutionand author ofLove Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Love letters from editors and clients can be found on herLinked Inpage,like her on onFacebookand follow her onTwitter.

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