This is my goal over the next four years, and foolhardy it may be: To get my daughter admitted to the University of Michigan. She doesn’t have to go there. But as I have told her since we moved here:
1) It’s the best education for the money that we are likely to have available to us; however,
2) If you can get into Michigan, you can get into a lot of other schools. We have money saved, and you’ll be able to get more elsewhere. All bridges will be crossed when we get to them. But for now, aim high. Aim for Ann Arbor.
So. Last year she took two courses that offered high-school credit. She got an A-plus in Spanish I, and a B-plus in Honors Algebra, missing the A by a whisker. Still, a very good start, I thought. Earlier this summer, a letter arrived, informing us that we could have those grades entered on her high school transcript as credit only, or grade and credit. I did what I always do with perplexing or disturbing mail — set it aside for the remainder of the summer.
But now the deadline for deciding is approaching, so I called her high school, figuring the counselors were back on the job by now, and sure enough, the phone was picked up by the person I needed to talk to. Explained what I just told you, and asked her opinion.
“Hmm, well, the thing you don’t want to do is take credit for one and grade and credit for the other,” she said. “That’s a red flag.” Noted. Grade and credit for both, then?
“Well, there’s that B-plus,” she said, as though I’d presented her with a dead mouse or something.
“It’s an honors algebra course,” I pointed out. “Accelerated math.”
“There will be many other factors determining whether she’ll get into Michigan,” she said. “But for now, you want to play it safe. We’ve had students with 4.0 averages not get in.” She advised credit-only. I put down the phone with a variety of emotions, but one swam to the surface first — eye-crossing anger. It just occurred to me what my poor, sweet, smart daughter will be up against to join the student body at my state’s premiere university four years hence. She’ll be angling for one of the spots available for kids who aren’t rich, who aren’t Olympic athletes, who contribute nothing special to the diversity profile, and who aren’t — a burr under my particular saddle, because they’re so thick on the ground hereabouts — a Topsiders-and-madras-shorts-wearing, entitled brat whose lawyer daddy is a legacy.
Four years stretch before me, years of applying the whip on the grades front, and winter months scouting the sorts of fascinating summer camps and volunteer opportunities that will make her stand out in this crowded field. All so my sole offspring can get a toehold into the middle class, a stratum her own parents are rapidly sliding to the edge of. All so she can maybe attend a university I had my own experience with a few years back, filled with undergraduates who didn’t have the sense to change out of flip-flops on a February day, among many other dullards. (This really happened. A girl stopped in front of me to adjust her backpack in the vestibule of a building. I looked down, and beheld her toenail polish. The temperature outside was in the low 30s. I asked her why she was wearing rubber sandals. Her answer: “Because my dorm is, like, really hot.”)
I’ve told this story before, about the UM women’s sport-redacted coach, who complained in one of our Wallace House seminars about her players, who stand like children before her, awaiting orders. “They have to be told when to warm up, when to cool down, what uniforms to wear, when to wash them. It’s like they’ve spent their entire life getting into the back seat and being driven to their appointments.” And they have. Their mothers and fathers have functioned as their personal assistants. They’re like the powerful men I know, whose jobs are so all-consuming they’ve come to rely on their wives to run every other aspect of their lives. One gets a weekly allowance. Srsly.
I don’t want to raise that kind of kid.
I told the counselor, “I’d rather she swing for the fences and miss a few than play it safe for the sake of a grade-point average.” She said playing it safe isn’t enough. You must swing for the fences and clear them, every time, to get into a top college.
Personally, I think she’s full of shit. But for now, credit only.
Perhaps you’re wondering where Kate wants to go to school. (Ha! Like that matters.) The only one she’s mentioned so far is UC/Berkeley, because she remembers Telegraph Avenue from our trip a few years back, and “it seems like a cool place.” Maybe if mom writes three best-sellers in the next four years, we can swing it.
OK, time to hop to the shower and embrace the day. A little bloggage:
Via Nancy Friedman, Hollywood clichés in infographic form. Funny.
That Mark Bittman can even figure out a way to improve spaghetti and meatballs. I think I’m going to try this one.
When you can get a fantastic steak three blocks from your office, why go elsewhere? This is not to ignore Chicago’s other fine steakhouses, in no particular order: Gibson’s, Chicago Cut, The Capital Grille, Smith & Wollensky, Ditka’s, Ruth’s Chris, Sullivan’s, Harry Caray’s, Chicago Chop House, Lawry’s — there are many more, but those are the ones off the top of my head, places that I have patronized.
I haven’t been to the new Michael Jordan Steak House that opened this week in the InterContinental, and frankly, as much as I love the hotel it’s in — my wife and I were married there — I don’t plan to go. You have to wonder at the savvy of somebody who could survey the Chicago restaurant scene and conclude: “What this city needs is another steakhouse!”
And I’m off.