Disney just bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. This was our first thought.
Disney just bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. This was our first thought.
You can educate yourself about candidates, but at the end of the day, most people will vote along party lines. That’s just the way things are.
But in most elections, there are other things at stake than just who will take office. The times democracy really gets to chance to shine are with propositions (or ballot initiatives or measures or whatever your state calls them).
That’s when doing your homework before the election really matters. You can’t just say, “More like NObama! LOL! Straight Republican ticket!” or “Binders full of women! LOL! Straight Democrat!” When you’ve got an initiative, you actually need to pay attention to what’s being asked.
This election, college students (and rising college students) in California are faced with two competing propositions, Prop 30 and Prop 38, that could significantly impact how public institutions earn money. If neither of them pass, students should expect to get a tuition hike of around 20%. The schools have to find the money somewhere.
Here’s what each of the propositions are asking:
Prop. 30 — The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012
Prop. 38 — Our Children. Our Future. Local School and Early Education Investment and Bond Reduction Act
Only one of these will be accepted, so if they both receive enough votes to pass, then the one with more votes will get passed into law.
That creates a weird situation, since it makes the two propositions half-compete with each other. The ballot wants you to consider each of these propositions independently, allowing you to vote “yes” or “no” for both, if you want. But both can’t pass.
That means you need to vote strategically. Do you want CA schools to get more money no matter what? Vote both. Do you think the difference between these propositions is significant enough that you want to pick a favorite? Vote for one. Do you think any tax increase isn’t worth it? Vote neither.
I was an out-of-state student. For four years, my family and mailing address were in Virginia, but I spent the majority of the year up in Massachusetts. I kept my voting registration in Virginia, mostly because I’d rather cast a vote in a swing state than in one that tends to lean blue.
Many students might not realize it, but it’s a choice all out-of-state students can make. Confirmed by the 1979 Supreme Court case Symm vs. United States, students are permitted to register as voters in either their home state or the state where they attend school. This applies at the local level too. (The Supreme Court case actually dealt with a dispute over voting in a particular county.)
A website called Countmore.org is designed to help students with the decision by comparing the number of electoral college votes, the breakdown of votes in the last election, the number of issues and candidates on the ticket, and the registration deadline to determine which state is “worth more” in the election.
One the one hand, it’s kind of sad that the value of a vote can measured by a simple online algorithm. It’s kind of sad that we can say, and prove, that one vote counts “more” than another. On the other hand, it’s the way our society is structured and I applaud the site for keeping potential voters informed.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that could potentially change the way our country handles affirmative action.
Here’s the bare-bones facts of the case. Abigail Fisher, a student whose application to the University of Texas was rejected, sued the school for discrimination. She’s white, and arguing that if she had been a racial minority, she would’ve been accepted.
This isn’t the first time a case dealing with affirmative action has appeared in the court. 1978′s Regents of the University of California v. Bakke declared that a quota system, that is, saying that a certain number of spots are reserved for people of a certain race, is unconstitutional. 2003′s Grutter v. Bollinger, regarding the admissions policy at the University of Michigan, upheld affirmative action by arguing that a school has an interest in diversifying their student body, and should be permitted to consider race as a contributing factor in admissions.
Like most Supreme Court cases, Ms. Fisher’s experience will ultimately not have much to do with the debate. That’s doubly true in this case, since she’s already graduated from a different university. Her circumstances aren’t particularly complicated; she just attended Louisiana State University instead of Texas.
Instead, the case could become an argument over how we can decide when we’ve had “enough” affirmative action. At least, that seems to be the direction the justices were steering the conversation. In other words, at what point will the country decide that schools and other institutions are “diverse enough” and let the policy be race-blind?
That may be a loaded question, but it’s hard to talk about affirmative action without using loaded questions.
There’s an art to designing the perfect college schedule. It’s a delicate balance between leaving time for your responsibilities while leaving ample time for a total lack of responsibility. It’s a way of spacing things out enough that you don’t overburden yourself, but keeping it tightly clustered enough that you can have long stretches of no work at all. Your perfect schedule is a set of fingerprints, totally unique to you. That being said, there’s a handful of horrible mistakes I made (or at least observed) when mapping out that elusive perfect schedule, so here’s a handful of caveats of things that might sound like a good idea, but really, really aren’t.
Don’t cluster your classes together (too much). Here’s something that at first seems like a bad idea, then seems like a counter-intuitive great idea. Stick with your first instinct. Some people will try to cram all of their classes into as few blocks as possible, but that’s just a one-way ticket to exhaustion. The more you cluster classes, the less downtime you’ll have to process information after the class ends.
Avoid classes at dinner time. My freshman year I took a number of 6:30 pm classes. Big mistake. While the idea of “Hey, I get to sleep in as late as I want” sounds pretty great at first, double check which hours you’re sacrificing in order to sleep more. Which hours would you rather have to yourself? 8-10 am — where everyone is either in class or still asleep — or 6:30 to 8 — when everyone’s either eating or socializing? You’ll just end up having a bunch of early-bird dinners by yourself.
If you must take a late night class, make sure it’s not art history. I took one night-time art history class and it was AWFUL. Why? Because once the class starts, the lights go off and the slide projector comes on. An hour and a half later they come back on, jarring half the class awake again. I wish I’d saved some of my notes from that class, since there was always a very clearly identifiable point where my notes stopped being recognizable as words.
8 a.m. classes aren’t as bad as they seem. (They’re worse.) I’m sure there are some very disciplined people out there who can handle these, but the average college student should stay far, far away. The problem isn’t waking up early. The problem is that college life leads to a lot of unexpected late nights, whether you’re partying or paper-writing. It’s better not to have that rub up against your classes. You woke up ridiculously early in the morning for high school. Once you start working, you’ll most likely start the day at 9 am. Cherish the years when you can start your day at 10 or 11 am.
Don’t take Fridays off. One of the Holy Grails of college scheduling is the permanent three-day weekend. But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s too tough to be social on a Friday by yourself, since most of your friends will still be in class. It’s even tougher to be productive, since, no matter how you try to trick your brain, it’s still Friday. A better approach? Take Monday off. It’s trickier to pull off, but if you do, you’ll feel like you added an extra day to the week. The weekend raps up, every one gets back to work, but you still have a day to yourself to sleep in late and prep for the rest of week.
If you couldn’t tell from the name of our company, we’re a teensy bit book-obsessed at Bookbyte. And despite how the old saying goes, we’re always judging books by their covers.
Some of you might not know this, but over at Bookbyte Digital we help self-publishing authors turn their manuscripts into books and ebooks through editing; formatting; distribution on Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble; and, of course, good cover design. Sometimes authors give us their own covers and sometimes they ask us to design one for them, but one thing is always true: Good covers sell books.
Here are a few of our all-time favorite book covers, and thoughts on what makes them so great. Of course, this is all just in one blogger’s opinion, so definitely tell me in the comments about all of my glaring omissions.
Click image to open up full gallery.
Quick quiz: How many forms of ID do you have?
Modified question: How many forms of ID do you have on you right now?
Once we exclude the passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and all those other documents that you usually just cram into that single, unsorted drawer of important papers that you never open, most of us only carry around a single form of ID.
For people who drive, it’s their driver’s licenses. For college students, it’s typically their student IDs, which most colleges demand that you carry at all times.
But that’s based on my experience. I grew up in Virginian suburbs where it’s impossible to get around without a car. What about college-age people who grew up in cities, where public transportation makes learning to drive mostly pointless? What about people who’re from a socio-economic background where getting a car while in their late-teens and early-twenties is impossible? Other than proving you’re old enough to buy cigarettes and alcohol, what’s the point in getting an ID?
A number of states — specifically Kansas, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin — are in the middle of legislative debates over what should be considered an acceptable form of ID. The anti-student ID group feels that non-government issued documentation is too easy to fake, so allowing student IDs is just an invitation to voter fraud. The pro-student ID group feels banning student IDs is going to disenfranchise young voters, particularly lower-income young voters who aren’t rushing out to get driver’s licenses as soon as they are of age.
There’s a lot that could be said about political motivations. Since the young and lower-income demographic tends to lean left, the Left is naturally the side complaining about disenfranchisement. And just as predictably, the Right is the side claiming that this is really about preventing fraud. But nobody can have a reasonable debate when you just start throwing out accusations of motivation, so let’s throw that discussion out entirely.
Does voter fraud happen? Sure. But virtually never with people showing up at polls claiming they’re someone they aren’t. South Carolina’s State Election Commission ran a study of 900 suspicious votes credited to dead people. They only made it through 207 of the votes before they decided the study wasn’t worth continuing. 106 were clerical errors. 56 were people who weren’t, as it turned out, actually dead. 32 were caused by stray marks picked up by scanners. And 3 were absentee ballots cast by people who died before election day.
I can understand how jarring it seems requiring government-issued ID for college students to buy beer but not to vote. But take into account the absurd lengths college students will go in pursuit of beer. If only college students were that passionate about voting…
I am sympathetic to the idea of tightening up restrictions on voter ID… at least I can see where it’s coming from, but I think it’s ultimately overstating a problem. If voter fraud is an issue, banning student IDs is the equivalent of “duck and cover” to protect yourself from a nuclear blast. It’s not going to stop the problem, even if it makes you feel better. If someone is going to commit voter fraud, it’s going to be electronically. That’s a much more efficient means of screwing things up than spending all day waiting in polling lines with fraudulent IDs.
I can sympathize with the logic, even if I think it’s flawed, of the legislators in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Florida, on the other hand, gets no such sympathy. Between the recent vote purge (comparing voting lists with DMV info and eliminating 100,000 people’s votes) and recent legislation against third-party voter registration groups, I have a lot of trouble giving that state the benefit of the doubt. That’s not just “duck and cover.” That’s blowing up the desk before the nuke gets the chance.
At a rally in Virginia, Mitt Romney said that he wanted to make sure that America remains “a place of opportunity,” where “everyone has a fair shot” and “get[s] as much education as they can afford.”
Now, we’re not a political blog. And we really, really don’t want to be one. A political blog latches on to every bit of phrasing and twists and turns it around to try to reveal some hidden truth or underlying theme about a candidate, a party, an organization, whatever. The knee-jerk reaction to Romney’s phrasing is easy: “What do you mean as much as they can afford? Are you saying the financially privileged deserve better educations than other Americans?”
That’s a boring conversation. Is Romney’s phrasing a subtle hint at an underlying bias toward the wealthy? Who cares? The last thing I want to do is contribute to the always petty conversation around election season.
But we are (or at least we’d like to think we are) a blog about ideas. And at the root of over-analyzing Romney’s statement is an interesting discussion: How much education should be free, and how much should you have to pay for?
First of all, education is never free. It can’t be. Even if, in the future, our current concepts of classrooms, degrees, and homework are completely unrecognizable, students will always need two things: equipment (books, computers, art supplies, etc.) and teachers (professors, coaches, etc.). Even if the students of the future consume all of their education through all-purpose interactive tablets, someone needs to buy the tablets. Even if the students of the future are all taught by very life-like robots, someone needs to pay the programmers and engineers making robots. Because teachers will always need salaries and equipment will always need to be purchased, someone always needs to pay for education, whether parents, taxpayers, grant donors, or the students themselves.
So when we say “free” what we really need to be saying is “accessible.” Should everyone have the same access to education? Well, sure. That should be an easy answer. That’s only what’s fair, right? No sane person would claim that the very poor don’t deserve to be just as informed as anybody else. That’s the reason why it’s important to make sure resources like libraries and public schools allow anyone to access them freely. We can’t claim to be a democratic society and prevent accessibility of information.
But at the same time, we can’t really claim that all education is created equal. Obviously, some schools are going to be better than other schools. A lot of that depends on the quality of the teachers. A lot of that depends on the quality of the administrators. But most of it, unfortunately, has to do with money. Schools with more money will be able to pay teachers better, provide better tools for their students, fund more extracurricular activities, and provide more out-of-the-classroom experiences. So while we should certainly always strive to make education be as universally accessible as possible, the sad fact is that it won’t be.
Let’s take it back to Romney’s words, specifically, the word “afford.” Naturally, when we think about affording something, we think about money, but that’s actually a secondary definition. The primary, according to Merriam-Webster anyway, is “to manage [or] to bear without serious detriment.” So “affording” education means more than just paying for it. It means being able to dedicate the time and energy necessary to achieve your goals.
Again, I’m not here to nitpick word choice of a person who’s on camera 24/7, I’m just making a point. An education is always going to be an investment. Even if you didn’t have to pay for four years of undergraduate studies, you still were dedicating four years of your life toward making your future opportunities better. That’s a cost in itself. And that’s a cost that not everyone will be able to handle.
Getting a good education is achieved through hard work and good resources. That’s always going to take money and energy. The more we can help one another have access to quality education, the better. But there will always be a personal cost to a student: long-term, like loans, or short-term, like choosing to be a full-time student instead of having a job. We can (and should) keep the cost as low as possible, but a student needs to be willing to make that personal investment.
Image via The Washington Post.
You might have seen a few headlines here and there over the past few weeks about the University of Virginia. Specifically, about the massive uproar and student protests over the ousting of President Teresa Sullivan.
I’m from Virginia originally, so I noticed the headlines but didn’t think too much of them at first. The firing of a school official didn’t worthy of national news. My fiancee, who’s a UVA alum, felt the same way (at first). But the headlines kept appearing. And other UVA alums I knew were posting their outrage all over Facebook. So I figured it was time to see what was really going on. I tried, but the first few articles I read seemed written just for the already informed. The only background information I received was that Sullivan was abruptly and unceremoniously forced out, despite the fact that she was generally beloved.
My fiancee had an old classmate fill her in on the general idea, and I’ve been reading up on it as much as I can as well. Like all great stories (and like how the Supreme Court decides what cases to hear), the Sullivan ousting is news because it’s about much more than what’s on the surface. Once I found out what that bigger issue was, the story became much, much more interesting.
Here’s the bare-bones version: UVA, like many public universities, is governed by a Board of Visitors. It goes by different names in different states, but the general idea is the same: a board of officials appointed by the governor to oversee the school and make sure it’s adhering to the general principles of the state’s education policy. Note that these people are often not educators, as is the case with most of the officials in Virginia, but people who are well-connected enough to get the governor’s appointment.
So the rector and vice-rector of this board — Helen Dragas and Mark Kington, respectively — read a few articles, heard a few speeches, and started discussing the benefits of a more online-focused approach to education, concluding that they could spend less, make more, and stay “with the times” by reshaping UVA into a more prestigious University of Phoenix, basically. The idea circulated among the board members and the board agreed to enact this new idea. But President Sullivan was skeptical. She said:
“There is room for carefully implemented online learning in selected fields, but online instruction is no panacea. It is surprisingly expensive, has limited revenue potential, and unless carefully managed, can undermine the quality of instruction.”
Sullivan was forced out a few days later, though a record of emails indicates that Dragas and Kington had been planning the change earlier than that.
So there’s two different directions the outrage can go when discussing this story:
The first is just a general policy problem, and isn’t so much about schools as it is about politics. So I’m going to leave that one alone for now. The second, however, is very interesting, particularly to my generation, which generally thinks of ourselves as digitally native, but still has clear memories of rotary phones, floppy disks, and library card catalogs. (I’m 27, if you’re trying to guess.) Open and widely available education is the way of the future, certainly. But does that devalue a traditional, four-year, living-in-a-dorm, attending-lectures-and-seminars college education?
I’ll revisit the topic in a later article, when I can spend more time on it. But in the meantime, what do you think? Who benefits the most from online education, the schools looking to cut down on costs or the students who gain a cheaper alternative to a traditional education?
Let’s start here: you were cooler than you think in college. Although movies often rest on the assumption that their viewers will suspend disbelief for a few hours and fall into their world, some films fare better at this than others. This is not to argue that movies should all be hyper-realistic — they’re pieces of art, and there’s real life for that. But there’s something to be said for the hyper-ridiculous setting. Enter: the universities portrayed in the movies. And because no one wants to be bored with a list of bad flicks, we’ve found instead the most ridiculous. While college life may be a time of wild partying, barely making it, and coming of age, these nine movies feature the most unrealistic (“the worst!”) cinematic portrayals of the subject. Sit back, relax, and thank your lucky stars that you didn’t get your degree in one of these nine worlds.
The dark comedy Rules of Attraction is one of those movies that’s so stylized and oozing of manufactured cool, it’s almost too annoying to exist. But if you’re into popping Xanax, it could be kind of good — as was the Bret Easton Ellis novel on which it’s based. Although everyone loves a good dark comedy (and the book was certainly that), the apathetic, entitled, depressed, addicted, and oversexed characters in the film make college life seem like more of a high-school chore. Love triangle drama plus pseudo-poignant paragraphs of maudlin social analysis plus crazy parties with rapes and orgies equals college life to the Rules of Attraction crew. Not what we’d bet most folks remember from the glory years of their education.
This funny movie has a lot of fans, and was an early vehicle for some of today’s top young stars, but there’s nothing about Accepted that does college on the real. The South Harmon Institute of Technology is a fake college created by Justin Long to appease his movie parents after being rejected from everywhere he applied. And on the first day of class, he learns that there’s a host of other people who were also accepted. A student-led fake college ensues. The film gets self-awareness points for the school being billed from the outset as a farce, but that doesn’t make an abandoned building that former high-schoolers inhabit and play around in all day any more of a realistic university setting.
The Skulls could take up three spots on this list, as the film spawned two(!) straight-to-DVD sequels. But we’ll spare you that to tell you this: if you’ve ever been in a secret society in college, you know that it’s less about political intrigue and more about making you binge drink ten times and wear some type of bedsheet as clothing before its members will let you in their club. Also highly dubious that any college secret society, no matter how powerful, runs mental hospitals and conspires with local police departments. And nobody wants to see Craig T. Nelson with a pencil thin mustache showing up to their secret meetings. Nobody wants to see that.
Click here for the rest of the list.