President Barack Obama joined David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, for a live chat about student debt Tuesday. One-third of Americans who applied for an educational loan this year also have a Tumblr account, said Karp, who fielded questions about educational costs submitted by Tumblr users. Here’s what POTUS had to say to today’s students.
My student debt was manageable, unlike yours.
Obama said that when he graduated with an undergraduate degree he was able to pay off his student loan debt in a year with a job that wasn’t particularly high paying. But today student loan balances average about $30,000.
Shonda Rhimes’ Dartmouth commencement speech just hit Medium. It’s ostensibly posted by Ms. Rhimes herself, which — I mean, I really want to break this down for a minute, she could have picked anywhere to post her speech, anywhere from HuffPo to The Atlantic to Kindle Singles, and she picked Medium? (Does Shonda Rhimes really need a gatekeeper-free publishing platform to share her message?)
Anyway, the speech is great, and the pull quote about “dreamers vs. doers” works, but to me, the most interesting part of the speech was the section that began:
Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life.
That is the truth, right there.
Yesterday’s piece, Why I Didn’t Study STEM, was true but, as you all noted, incomplete. Fair enough. Here are seven more reasons why I didn’t go from Mathlete to math major.
7. I lived in a small town, so I didn’t have any real ideas of what STEM careers were besides “crime-solving math detective.”
6. When I taught myself how to program in BASIC, I was much more interested in the nodes of the massive text adventure game I was building than the actual programming language.
5. When I signed up to take a programming course at the local college, I dropped it after the first session because the lab section would have conflicted with community theater rehearsals.
4. Also, community theater gave me actual jobs where I was paid money. Clearly, theater was where the jobs were.
3. I was also getting work as a church organist and choral accompanist. Nobody was interested in paying me to do science to things.
2. I never understood trigonometry (even though I probably could have learned it eventually) and have only the vaguest idea of what calculus actually is.
1. I spent most of high school writing a novel titled The Red Book of Cordia. The minute that was finished, I started writing a musical.
I would have been the ideal STEM candidate.
As a young kid, I was fascinated with numbers and patterns. My favorite show, long after I should have outgrown it, was Mathnet. In elementary and middle school, I swept up ribbons at the regional Math Contests, and in high school, I was a Mathlete — for one year.
What happened after that year, of course, changed everything.
My rural school, which boasted 500 students from grades K-12 and fit them all into one building, was great at teaching arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and anything that you could do with pen and paper. Our science classes were fantastic at instructing us in the parts of a cell, the phylums and species, and anything that, again, could be solved with pen and paper.
Once the TI-89 calculator got involved, or the microscope, or any instrument more sophisticated than a mechanical pencil, everything fell apart. We just didn’t have the resources.
+ UT-Austin signs tell women how to dress so as not to be distracting and, according to Jezebel, crop tops are out.
Here are the things you cannot wear, if you want to learn to be a nurse at the University of Texas:
Midriff-baring shirts Short-shorts Low-rise pants Low-cut shirts that reveal cleavage
My K-12 religious school had a dress code that prohibited all of these things and I still feel funny if I wear them. My mind has been warped forever on the issue of modesty, which means I can’t be trusted to know whether this is egregious. Dress codes! Always unfair, if they’re only targeted at women? Justified in a context that has something to do with God, or taxes, or death? Can we trust students at a certain age to know how to dress appropriately and/or to not get life-threateningly distracted by a glimpse of skin?
+ Uh oh. STEM magic doesn’t work as well for black folks.
Scientists love to give us data to tell us that what we already suspect is true: calories are not created equal; climate change is already cooking our planet and it’s our fault; and so on. Well, in case you’ve ever wondered whether slut-shaming, or bullying people, usually women, for their sexuality, is more about richer folks consolidating their in-group power at the expense of poorer, out-group folks, congratulations! The scientists say that you’re right. According to Al-Jazeera America, slut-shaming is more about class than sex:
Sociologists from the University of Michigan and the University of California at Merced occupied a dorm room in a large Midwestern university, regularly interacting with and interviewing 53 women about their attitudes on school, friends, partying and sexuality from the time they moved in as freshman and following up for the next five years.
The researchers discovered that definitions of “slutty” behavior and the act of slut-shaming was largely determined along class lines rather than based on actual sexual behavior. What’s more, they found the more affluent women were able to engage in more sexual experimentation without being slut-shamed, while the less-affluent women were ridiculed as sluts for being “trashy” or “not classy,” even though they engaged in less sexual behavior.
Overachiever Anna Shechtman had her first crossword puzzle printed in the New York Times when she was 19 years old. That’s, like, par for the course if you’re T.S. Eliot and, at 19, writing “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Compared to ordinary people, that’s stunning. At 23, she has graduated from Swarthmore (well hey there!) and is about to follow in the footsteps of James Franco by getting a PhD at Yale in English and Film. She has also been Official Puzzle Guru Will Shortz’s assistant and the intern for the Slate Culture Gabfest.
KATIE BARNWELL: When did you construct your first crossword? ANNA SHECHTMAN: I constructed my first crossword right after I saw the movie Wordplay. I saw it when I was 14 and I had, I think it’s fair to say, my first moment of cinematic identification, which I probably should have been having with Drew Barrymore or Greta Garbo, but instead I had with Will Shortz and Merl Reagle. I was editing my high school newspaper at the time, so I started constructing puzzles for it. They were pretty bad! They were pretty topical, related to high-school gossip and the midterms that were coming up. I fell madly in love with this very niche pastime. …
That’s something he often asks me: “Is this a thing?” That one recently was actually HUMBLEBRAG. He asked me if it was “a thing”—it is indeed a thing, Will. …
I think he really values the fact that I have such a different frame of reference from him; he’s in his early sixties and from Indiana and I’m 23 and from Lower Manhattan. Despite our differences, he really does let me push back, and encourages me to, because I think he knows that the beauty of all crossword puzzles and, I think, the Times puzzle in particular, is that it is a democratic puzzle. Anyone can do it, everyone should do it, and so he wants it to appeal to as many diverse audiences as possible—and ideally, all diverse audiences. He has to appeal to me and my grandmother, and that’s a hard needle to thread, and I think that he does it really well.
Exercise caution reading while eating; the interview — as well as this one in the Times from 2010, when she first published a puzzle – may induce jealousy-related choking.
Photo via Horia Varlan
We love to poke holes in the idea that going into debt to get a college degree is always “worth it” but according to this article in the Upshot, new income statistics show that the pay gap between bachelor’s degree-holding people and everyone else is bigger than ever. The numbers come from the Economic Policy Institute’s analysis of Labor Department statistics, and report that “Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree” (up from 89% in 2008, 85% in 2003 and 64% in the early 1980s).