The big story in higher ed this week appears to be the New York Times article  that suggests that — hold on to your hats — some people are actually forgoing college and making a living anyway. That this story appeared in the Style section is perhaps the first clue that we shouldn’t be taking it too seriously; that the people cited as examples were almost all privileged and white is almost certainly the second.
My far more frequent blog colleagues Matt Reed  and Lee Bessette  have already posted cogent and thoughtful responses to the piece, and I have little to add. It does seem to me, though, that the piece is symptomatic of the same thing I was writing about last week —if college is really about immediate job payoffs, and you can maximize those right away, then why bother? The problem—or one of them, at any rate—is that we don’t really seem to agree about what college is for, right now—and articles like this one really don’t help.
But it’s the last week of classes—for me, anyway—and that’s a tough time to start this kind of conversation. Right now I hope my students have figured out what their classes are about (or at least what my class is about), and are maybe even having some of those moments of synergy where they find evidence for their final paper wherever they go—but the big picture may take quite a bit more time.
So I’m going to change the subject and offer you, instead of further reflections on higher education, a foolproof cookie recipe. Something quick, delicious, and seasonal: spice cookies. These can be your contribution to a holiday cookie exchange, or gift bags for colleagues, but I’m not sure you really need to give them away. That part’s up to you.
(I got this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks ever, the I Hate to Cook Book, by Peg Bracken, published in 1960. It’s very much of its time, with all kinds of shortcuts and “timesavers” like powdered onion soup and cans of almost everything, but the cookie recipes are very good, and this one has been a family staple for years. If you have the ingredients in the house you can have cookies in less than half an hour.)
3/4 cup shortening (I use a stick of butter and a 1/4 cup of non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening; I believe the original recipe is assuming you’ll use Crisco or the like)
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1/4 cup molasses
Then sift together and stir in
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon powdered cloves
3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
Now mix it all together and form it into walnut-sized balls. Put them two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for about ten minutes (you could start checking them after nine if your oven is fast, as mine is). Cool briefly on the cookie sheet, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
This recipe makes a lot (about 60, if you make them as specified); they'll puff up a bit and then settle and crinkle on the top, just like spice cookies should. For a real treat, toast one on a tray in the toaster oven with a small square of dark chocolate on it; the chocolate will melt slightly and the cookie will crisp up a bit. You can thank me later.