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This weekend we made the trek to Charlottesville for parents’ weekend to see The Boy in his adopted habitat.


I’m happy to report that he took to UVA like a fish to water.  He loves it there.


Apparently, students at UVA are called “Hoos.”  TW participates in a Facebook page for parents of the class of 2023 in which they trade stories of their Hoos.  TB is a happy Hoo.


Other than the football game, we ignored the scheduled parents’ events and let TB lead the way.  On Friday afternoon he had to interrupt our tour of campus for a chemistry study group, so the three of us ducked into an open auditorium nearby to see what there was to see.  A music performance class was meeting in the middle of the auditorium. Each student performed -- one cellist, one violinist, one vocalist, etc. -- while the other students listened and took notes.  After each performance, the other students would ask questions and offer suggestions. We couldn’t hear the questions from where we were sitting, but that was okay; there was something much better. While each student performed, the sheet music they were playing was shown on a jumbo screen above, where we could see it.  The Girl was enraptured. She had never seen sheet music of such complexity, let alone seen it while hearing it played live. She knows enough music theory, from her piano training, to know just how difficult what they were doing actually was. After we left, she mentioned that it solidified her resolve not to be a music major.  That wasn’t really the point, but I was glad to see that she found meaning in the moment.


TG’s interest in the football game was mostly about the marching band.  We all came away impressed with the band. I expected it to play well, which it did, but I didn’t expect such a high-energy show.  (Hap-tip to the sousaphone players who managed to keep up with the rapid-fire high stepping.) TG’s high school band does choreography, but nothing like that.  The UVA band also changes some of its repertoire on a weekly basis; the high school band picks one and sticks with it for the entire season. I could see her taking mental notes.


When we got home, she muttered that it’s hard to go back to high school after you’ve seen college.  I just nodded. Academic ambition is a good thing.


Going from a community college to a place like UVA, it’s hard not to be struck by the sheer wealth of the latter.  You could see it in the parade of SUV’s as parents came by the dorms. While I know there are students there on Pell, the overwhelming majority comes from money.  TB is looking for an apartment for next year; the other students he hopes to room with aren’t the least bit concerned about the rent. I let TB know that while the laws of economic gravity may not apply to some of the others, they do apply to him.  He’s a good sport about it.


The football game was an experience in itself.  My only other large college football experience was taking TB to a game at Rutgers a few years ago.  The contrast with UVA was dramatic. I didn’t see a lot of school pride among the Rutgers students, but the UVA students had it in force.  Judging by the stands, plenty of alumni and families were there, too. I couldn’t help but reflect on the fundraising opportunity it presented.  


Wealth begets wealth.  Having involved and affluent alumni allows you to stage bigtime football with bigtime marching bands, thereby engendering school pride and loyalty among future alums.  Beautiful new dorms and music performance spaces with jumbotrons make impressions in ways that utilitarian classrooms just don’t.  


I don’t begrudge UVA anything.  It’s a remarkable place, and I’m happy to see that The Boy is thriving there.  He mentioned that the other students there are strong enough academically that they’re pushing him, which I’ll admit having been happy to hear.  He worked hard in high school, but this is another level, and he has had to raise his game. To my mind, that’s exactly what college should do.


I just wish we could direct some meaningful fraction of those resources to the state and community colleges that together educate the majority of college students.  Every student deserves an experience that good. Community and state colleges work wonders on shoestrings, but could do far more with actual resources. And that wouldn’t just benefit the few.


Still, on a personal level, seeing a happy Hoo in his natural habitat did my heart good.  (Seeing him bantering with his sister did, too.) His absence left a gap in the house. Only a few more weeks until Thanksgiving...


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