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ERIC Number: EJ841246
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Apr-24
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
College? No Thanks, Mom and Dad
Ruark, Jennifer
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n33 pA1 Apr 2009
Robin Wagner, director of the library at Gettysburg College, remembers a few years ago when her son, Ben, was a high-school senior. While all his friends were talking about their college plans, Ben, who had been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh's engineering program, refused to return the offer card. On the band-room whiteboard where kids listed where they were going to college, he wrote "goin' to Cali to chill"--which he did, moving to the San Francisco Bay area after graduation to work for minimum wage at a coffee bar. Like traditional Roman Catholic families who always thought at least one son would become a priest, most college administrators and professors can not imagine their own children not getting a higher education. Talking about it with colleagues sets their stomachs churning. "They know that among their peers their child is going to be seen as less of a success," says Sarah E. Hill, an evolutionary psychologist at Texas Christian University who studies social competition. It's bad enough for a professor if her colleague down the hall is sending his kid to some brand-name university while hers is going to a second-tier public, but refusing to go at all? That's beyond the pale. "It's not just that we're college-educated, it's that we college-educate," says Kevin J.H. Dettmar, an English professor at Pomona College. "It's kind of what we sell. So if your child doesn't choose to avail himself of that, it's sort of an indictment of the whole system." It may be worse when an academic's child does try college but goes down in flames. A chemistry professor at a university in western Canada says his elder daughter entered science fairs and was an honors student in high school, then flunked out of college--spectacularly. Worse yet, she was enrolled at his university. Colleagues who had her in class started avoiding the professor. What bothers many academics is the nagging feeling that they've failed to pass on the pleasure of higher education for its own sake. That all those dinner-table conversations, visits to college recitals and exhibits, and access to campus life somehow didn't take.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A