• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Friday Fragments

Applying to college; a horror film classic; more.

November 1, 2018
 
 

The Boy’s college application countdown continues. Back when I applied, when the Earth’s crust was still cooling, there were two deadlines: early decision and regular decision. Early decision was (and is) understood as binding. That meant a student might have to do an application in October, but the rest of them could wait until December.

Now, lots of schools have “Early Action,” which is like Early Decision, but it’s non-binding. The idea is that conscientious-but-undecided students could step up in October, but they wouldn’t have to commit anywhere until they had multiple offers in front of them. That’s the route TB has chosen for a half-dozen schools.

I know that Early Decision tends to skew affluent; I don’t know if Early Action does. As a parent, I like Early Action a lot more. TB was able to get out from under some stress-clouds, but maintains the ability to play offers off against each other. 

Does anyone know whether Early Action skews in the same ways that Early Decision does?

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The Girl spent time with some friends on Halloween night.  They decided to watch “The Shining.”

I first saw it about ten years after it came out. The scene that creeped me out the most was when Danny asked his father, played by Jack Nicholson, why he was attacking him and his Mom. Jack paused wayyyy too long before answering, slowly and in a menacing monotone, that he would never hurt him or his mother. I remember almost crawling out of my seat during that scene.

TG and her friends watched it differently.  When I came by to pick her up, one of her friends complained “why does he say “here’s Johnny!”  There’s no Johnny!” On the spot, the best I could come up with was that Johnny Carson was the Jimmy Kimmel of his day, and that was his catchphrase.  They looked at me like I was a dinosaur.

The world has changed in less obvious ways, too. Before watching the movie, TG went online and read some film criticism about it.  On the drive home, she explained its counterintuitive use of music, and the uncanny effect it has on the viewer. She’s in ninth grade.

I could never have done that in ninth grade. 

Back then, I learned about film criticism by reading movie parodies in Mad magazine.  The asides in some of those were surprisingly literate; it was where I first encountered the concept of “genre.”  Now, a ninth grader can go online and read scholarly analyses ahead of time.

Four years from now, some lucky college won’t know what hit it.

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Speaking of movies, next Wednesday I’ll be moderating a panel after a showing of Fail State at Princeton. (It’ll be at the Lewis center, on Nassau Street.) Fail State will be streaming soon, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s about for-profit colleges and their effects on their students. It’s a documentary, technically, but in many ways it’s a horror film.  If you’re near Princeton on Wednesday night, and you don’t mind the abject terror of knowing the ways that we allow people to be treated, check it out.

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