Join the Mailing List

Name*
Please type your full name.
E-mail*
Invalid email address.
Invalid Input

USING THE COLLEGE SCANDALS TO HELP STUDENTS

USING THE COLLEGE SCANDALS TO HELP STUDENTS

By

Chuck Cascio

chuckwrites@yahoo.com

 

      Emerging amid the recent college acceptance scandal is the well-known and oft-whispered reality that parents have been buying their kids' way into college for a long, long time. A donation for a building, a scholarship sponsored, a departmental award underwritten, a legacy acceptance--all have been considered acceptable ways of encouraging a college to give special consideration to a certain student.

 

element5-digital-352046-unsplash

 

     In reality, it is safe to assume that in some cases the students associated with a parental gift or donation to the school were already qualified according to the school's own standards. However, it is also safe to assume that others were not qualified...so their acceptance, it might be argued, bumped a more qualified student who lacked the monetary pull or legacy status from gaining admission. 

    I believe the degree of the recently revealed scandals involving celebrities and cheating on SATs and large payoffs to various individuals falls into a more egregious and disturbing category, and these actions bring to my mind a few reactions and thoughts that should be explored closely by the education community.

    >> Should the students who gained admission through the recent scandals be expelled from their respective colleges? 

     The idea of expulsion has been raised by various individuals in the political, media, and education arenas. My feeling is that unless it can be proven that the student had knowledge of the role he/she was expected to play in the scandal (faking a sport, cheating on the SATs, etc.), then the student should not suffer any consequences. 

     For me, it is hard to imagine a conversation in which a parent would reveal all of the underhanded practices that they intended to utilize. A 17- or 18-year old might be unaware of all that her/his parents are doing; rather, the student might be aware of intense parental interest but view it as significant parental support. If those students are now in college achieving and contributing to the higher-education community, then I say let them continue. They will have enough problems to deal with when they learn of their parents' unscrupulous activities. 

     

     >> How should the adults be punished? 

     Parents, coaches, cheating SAT proctors, and others should face whatever criminal charges are appropriate. But here is an additional consideration:   

     Make the wealthy individuals who put up the money for these illegal activities contribute an equal amount to a fund used to support current or future students who need financial aid. For the most part, the people who participated in this scandal seem to have deep financial resources and extensive contacts. Let's make them use their money, life experiences, and contacts for the benefit of others who are less fortunate than they and their own kids are.

     

     >> A Suggestion for Colleges: 

     Would you consider experimenting with a random selection process for research purposes? Having spent a good bit of my career as a high school teacher and adjunct faculty member at two universities, I came to realize that for many students all they needed to succeed was opportunity. Give them the opportunity to learn, express themselves, and engage in a positive, creative learning environment, and they will achieve in ways that surprise everyone, including themselves. 

     With that in mind, I would like to see some colleges engage in an experiment:   

     Take your pool of applicants and without looking at ANY criteria such as test scores, academic record, place of residence, etc. pick 25+ names and grant them admission. Then track their performance over the years that they are in college. My guess is that the results will show that they perform in very similar ways to the many other applicants who went through the typical college acceptance scrutiny. 

     To be sure, this scandal is appalling. The college application and acceptance systems are overly stressful, create massive anxiety in students and parents, and are so exclusionary that thousands of high school students miss out on the opportunity to engage in the life-changing experience of attending college. So let's move beyond the  rhetoric and shocked reactions the scandal has provoked toward some simple steps that would make college available to more students. 

 

Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

Fighting Intolerance Together

      A Letter from Dr. Kurt Landgraf, President,
Washington College, Chestertown, MD

     Following is a letter by Washington College President Dr. Kurt Landgraf to students and faculty. I believe it expresses a fundamental understanding of the extensive impact mass shootings have on individuals and communities and provides straightforward advice and support to help people move forward. It is reprinted here with the permission of Dr. Landgraf.—Chuck Cascio

 Dear Members of the Washington College Community,

     

     Last week, mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed 50 people and injured 40 more. Not unlike the horrific killings of 11 innocent people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last fall, and the murder of nine people at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston nearly four years ago, these reprehensible crimes have at their core one fundamental commonality—an amoral and abhorrent intolerance of people’s religious beliefs and cultural traditions. 

 

Aerial view of Washington College, Chestertown, MD.

     None of us can witness or read about these tragedies without feeling fear, anger, and heartbreak. And while it may provide some solace when I write to you expressing my sorrow and shock, there are too many of these horrible examples of intolerance and hate to respond to every one. Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel helpless.

      

     Yet, while messages like this can’t solve the world’s problems, they can galvanize us, as a community of students, educators, colleagues, neighbors, and friends, to pull together as one to fight intolerance whenever and wherever we encounter it. If ever there was a time to “think globally and act locally,” this is it. Every day, we must reaffirm our commitment to tolerance and to working together to find solutions to the very real presence of intolerance, bigotry, and prejudice within our own community. 

     

     Only in this way can our voices rise above the despicable clamor of violence, hatred, and intolerance that struggles to hold sway in so many places across this world.

     

     Note: The piece then lists contact information and locations for anyone at the college or local community who feels they—or someone they know—may need support or counseling.

Copyright: Kurt M. Landgraf, Washington College

Full Disclosure: Kurt Landgraf was my college roommate.--Chuck Cascio

Choosing the Right College...and a Glimpse of Wagner College

Choosing the Right College…
and a Glimpse of Wagner College
by
Chuck Cascio

chuckwrites@yahoo.com

     
     As a former high school and university level teacher, I am sometimes asked for my thoughts about how high school students should conduct their college search. Considerable stress is often evident in the inquiry, as parents and grandparents worry about the increasing emphasis on “name” schools as prestige takes priority over other essential considerations students should be making. 
 
     What are those considerations? Well, based on my own experience in searching for a college and from what I have heard from students over the years, a successful choice largely boils down to three criteria:
     >Comfort
     >Enthusiasm
     >Personal Development Potential
     
     Here is my own story:

 

Unknown

Main Hall on the oval as you enter the campus of Wagner College, Staten Island, NY.
     My father drove me to New York to visit Wagner College on Staten Island, a small school I had only read about. I wanted to go to college in or near New York City, where I was born and where I had spent a great deal of my childhood despite having moved to suburban Washington, DC, when I was about five years old. So the trip to New York was a familiar one, a trip that always filled me with energy.      
     
     Wagner College was certainly not a “big name” school. I had discovered it in one of those gigantic books containing details of hundreds of colleges (Those of us of a certain age remember well what it was like to plow through those books!). I requested and received a catalog from Wagner and liked what it featured, especially the 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Even at age 17, one thing about which I was certain was this: Although the excitement of a large school environment appealed to me, large class sizes and too many other distractions would scatter my attention, which would undoubtedly negatively impact my academic performance.
     
     The details and pictures of Wagner intrigued me: Located on a scenic section of Staten Island called Grymes Hill, 400 feet above sea level—the highest natural point on the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine—several buildings on and around the campus had once been “vacation” residences of wealthy New Yorkers who used their picturesque Grymes Hill homes to escape the hectic city life. 
     
     When the school invited me for a visit and an interview with an admissions officer, my father and I made the trip together. My dad, a native of Brooklyn, knew all of New York well, including Staten Island, but he had never previously driven the steep road up Grymes Hill. At the top, both of us were mesmerized as we entered the isolated campus via a tree-lined oval with stunning glimpses of New York's waterways, bridges, ships, and the Statue of Liberty visible between lovely trees and buildings. A feeling grew inside me, one I could tell my father shared: This place was different; it vibrated with a quiet energy, a sense of individuality.
     
     During my interview, the attentive admissions representative asked about my interests and what motivated me to learn and why I thought Wagner might be right for me. I responded with insights that surprised me…and I noticed that the interviewer actually listened as I explained my need to feel engaged while in a classroom, my desire to hear from other students as well as from instructors, my description of learning as a participatory process.
     
     When I returned to the car, my father stood outside intently taking in the sweeping views of New York’s other four boroughs in the distance. "So what do you think?" he asked. 
     
     To this day, I remember exactly what I said to him, "If they will have me, Dad, this is where I am going."
     
     Somehow, a few other schools with student populations several times larger than Wagner's 1,500 students accepted me. But the image of Wagner, the small classes, the proximity to the energy of downtown New York, the closeness that I could sense on my tour of the campus, overroad what other schools had to offer. And when the acceptance letter from Wagner finally arrived, I said, "This is it!" 
     
     My parents were happy because I was happy...and I was happy because somehow I could feel what I believe is most important in making a decision about which college to attend: The fit was right. In Wagner, I had found a campus that made me comfortable, surroundings that made me feel that I could engage in academics and perhaps discover new things about myself. I was right...and attending Wagner remains one of the best decisions I have ever made. Classes were small, instructors were dynamic, students had interests similar to mine, and the opportunities on campus and in the city were endless.
     
     Today, Wagner has grown a bit with 1,800 undergraduate and 450 graduate students, but it maintains a 15:1 student-teacher ratio. Following are a few of the numerous accolades Wagner has received from various college evaluation services:
   
     >It is ranked sixth in the nation on the New York Times' list of “value added” colleges.
     >100% of its students work at an internship or practicum.
     >Its “Learning Communities” programs emphasize experiential learning applied to the real world and supported by deep research.
     >Its theater arts program is ranked fifth in the nation by Princeton Review.
     >Salaries of Wagner alumni rank in the top 14% nationally.
     
     Just as when I attended, the school reaches out to the vast resources of New York City to attract teachers and guest lecturers, to provide internships, and to establish partnerships. And the school has maintained its beautiful surroundings and classic buildings while carefully adding new technology and structures. In short, it still says to me, "This is a place to learn...about academia and about yourself."  
     
     Is Wagner College the right choice for every student? Of course not; no one school is right for everyone. But I firmly believe that the key to making the correct individual college choice is not to be overly focused on prestige or size or name recognition. Rather, students should visit schools and, while visiting, sit in on a class or two, get a sense of how they would fit in, and ask themselves, "Will I be comfortable here? Will I be enthusiastic about learning here? Will this school’s environment help me develop my skills, my relationships, and my unknown talents?”
   
     If there are positive answers to those questions, then I tell students this: 
     Make your decision. Go to your college and enjoy the full scope of learning.

THE END

Copyright: Chuck Cascio. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or quote all or segments, write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

Green Book: A must-see movie...for many reasons

Green Book: A must-see movie…for many reasons
by
Chuck Cascio
www.chuckwrites@yahoo.com

 greenbook 0hero-h 2018    

 

     Occasionally an artistic endeavor—whether a movie, painting, book, poem, or something more complex or even more simple—will drive itself deep into our minds, conjuring memories of what was, or thoughts of what could be, or questions about why things were as they were or are as they are. The movie Green Book, which is now in theaters around the country, is one such powerful endeavor. Here’s why:

    Those of us of a certain age remember the 1950s and '60s. For me, those were transformative decades, moving me from childhood through my teen years. Living in Virginia for most of that time, and visiting my birthplace of New York City regularly, I distinctly recall a cloud over society, something that became more clear as I grew older, something I could eventually identify as racism.  

     To get a sense of what those times were like, or to remind yourself of them, see Green Book, starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. Brace yourself for an emotional ride through America as it was in 1962. And as you watch and laugh and perhaps cry, ask yourself the following: 

     When it comes to understanding those we consider "different," is there any substitute for interacting with them, listening to them, putting ourselves in their place, understanding their circumstances, beliefs, values? 

     And at the same time, ask: 

     How did we ever tolerate this in the United States...and would we ever accept this as the norm again?

     Green Book is the true story of an incredibly unlikely relationship between a master African American musician—the wealthy and well-educated Dr. Don Shirley—and his protector/driver Tony "Lip" Vallelonga, a classic tough guy from the Bronx streets. In a nutshell: Shirley is about to embark on a concert tour in the deep South in 1962. He hires tough Tony to drive him to gigs in racially charged cities throughout Jim Crow Country.

     During their eight weeks of travel, the two men gain insights into one another, society, and themselves. 

     Billed most often as a "dramedy," the movie is muchmore than that. The events in it, such as the acceptance of Dr. Shirley as a highly regarded entertainer performing in ritzy white venues where he is nonetheless barred from eating in their restaurants or using their restrooms, are not over-dramatized. They are portrayed instead as the reality of that era: This is how things were. 

     The men react to those realities sometimes with anger, other times with laughter, often with deep-rooted pain, and almost always with new insights brought about, in part, by the extremes of their relationship and by the fact that they must spend hours together in a car.

     What kept running through my head as I watched, and what lingers still, were recollections of what I had seen, but did not always react to, while growing up in Virginia: The "Colored Only" restrooms and water fountains; the "Colored Only" schools; the off-the-cuff inappropriate references to African Americans tossed about by many adults and kids. 

     I remembered the time my mother was accosted by another white woman who was appalled that I, a white child of five years old or so, was about to drink from a water fountain labeled "Colored Only." The woman yanked me away. My mother asked her what she was doing. 

     The woman said, "Your son is about to drink from a Colored's fountain. That's disgusting." 

     To which my mother said, "My son doesn't know about black and white; he only knows that he's thirsty." Mom then turned to me and said, "Go ahead and drink, honey. Don't listen to her." 

    Years later, at age 16, I worked away from home in the summer at a folk club in Virginia Beach that featured performers from all over the country. Part of my job was to reserve hotel rooms for visiting performers and then to escort them to the hotel when they arrived. For one performer, an African American, I rode with him to the hotel where I had reserved his room. When we approached the check-in counter, the clerk quickly glanced at us and then at the reservation list and told us that no reservation had been made. I said I had booked it myself and reminded him of all the other acts I had booked there. The clerk just kept shaking his head, saying, "No, no reservation and no rooms available anyway, so you'd better go somewhere else." 

     The performer pulled me aside and said softly, "I know what's going on. Let’s go. I’ll find a place where I can stay." We drove about 30 minutes inland, where we eventually found a rundown motel with a big sign that said, "Coloreds Welcome." The performer said, "See, this is where I get to stay." He wasn't complaining; he was resigned to the fact that this is how life was. 

     However, I did something then that I am sure was part of my mother channeling through me. I said, "We have room in our house. Come and stay with us." 

     I drove off with him and he stayed with me and my three roommates. Whenever he entered the house with us, any neighbors around stared, shook their heads, and muttered. 

     Green Book brought back so many other disturbing memories: The fact that some restaurants had two menus, one for whites and another much more expensive one for blacks, so the managers could say that they did not refuse to serve African Americans, they just had to charge more to make the kinds of food “those people” liked...if they weren't already "sold out" of that food. 

     Or the time that an African American friend and I waited to be seated at a nearly empty restaurant. The host glanced at us and said, "We are expecting a very big crowd, so hold on for a few minutes so I can see if any seats will be available." After waiting several minutes, I noted to the host that the restaurant was virtually empty. He grudgingly seated us, but we never received a menu, never had a server stop by our table, and when we finally walked out, not a single staff member acknowledged us.

    Green Book reminded me of a part of society that should be buried in the past...but I know it is not. 

     See the movie for yourself. See what memories it brings. And if you would like to share those memories with me, please email me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com. I will not publish anything you send without first discussing it with you and getting your permission. However, though I am interested in hearing your thoughts, mostly I hope you will go see the powerful Green Book and think about where society was then, how to keep that as part of our past, and how people can change. 

Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

JFK Assassinated: A Friday Never Forgotten

Episode #21

"THAT FRIDAY"

AN EXCERPT FROM THE FIRE ESCAPE STORIES, VOLUME II,

AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK OR E-BOOK AT 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M8K27KF

     On that Friday in November 1963, the final high school football game of the season was canceled.

     On that Friday, Ginny wept out loud as she sat next to me on the bus ride home from school; except for her cries and a few other kids sniffling or whispering, the bus was silent.

     On that Friday, my mother and I watched the nonstop news from Dallas in disbelief, in quiet, in fear, wondering what it meant for our country, our president shot, reaching for his throat, gasping for life, his wife standing in the accelerating convertible groping for something—her husband? her safety? her future?

     On that Friday, my father called from work to say that he did not know when he would be home again, that we should be careful but strong, that we should pray, that we should know that he was thinking about us, loving us, even as he did whatever his job demanded to help deal with the situation, to help settle the country, to help provide some degree of sanity to a world suddenly gone mad.

     On that Friday night, our phone rang again. My mother and I looked at one another, wondering who it could be. Edgidio and Marianna had already called, and my mother had already shared her horror and grief with her other friends in Virginia and New York, so she said, “See who it is, honey.”  I picked up the phone, said, “Hello,” and heard a voice I did not know, nor did I immediately recognize the name that was uttered until he said it for at least the third time: “It’s Harry, Mike, remember me? Are you and your Mom and Dad okay? This is just awful stuff. Awful.”

     I finally collected myself and said, “Oh yeah, yeah, we’re okay, Harry.” My mother looked at me and mouthed, “Harry?” and I nodded. She blew a kiss in my direction. 

     “I just wanted to check, Mike,” Harry said. “I’ve been so busy working on a big project in DC that I have neglected to call you and your folks. I am sorry. Sometimes it takes a tragedy like this to make people remember what is important in their lives. We are family. I have to do a better job of keeping in touch.”

     I didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled, “Well, yeah, we’re all okay. Dad’s not here. Would you like to speak to my Mom?”

     “Sure, Mike,” Harry said. “Sure. And when things settle down, I would like to visit with you to catch up, see what you’re up to. Okay?”

     “Yeah,” I said. “Here’s Mom.”

     While they talked, I looked out at the back yard blanketed in darkness. A small light shone on Ginny’s porch, so I went outside to see what it was. Someone moved in the narrow stream of light. “Ginny?” I called softly across the yard.

     “Yes, Mike, it’s me,” she said, shining a flashlight toward me. “Meet me.”

     We met where our yards touched.

     “You okay?” I asked. 

     She had been holding the flashlight toward the ground, but now she turned it to her face, revealing a bruised, swollen eye. “He did it,” she said. “Randy. He said I was a ‘queer’ for cryin over a dead president, one who ‘loved niggers.’ When I didn’t stop cryin, he punched me. I got one good scratch on his face ’fore Paw grabbed him and threw him out the house. Maw, she started cryin and put ice on my eye. She tol’ Paw he’s gonna have to do somethin ’bout Randy, else she’s gonna take me and move out.” Ginny looked at me, the flashlight’s beam illuminating the colors of her bruise like a flashing pinwheel. “I don’t want to move, but I jest can’t keep gettin punched. I don’t want to fight like a scared animal ’most every day. And I don’t want the president to be dead, Mike. It’s jest not right that he’s dead.”

     I brought Ginny into my house, where my mother put more ice on her eye and talked softly with her, promising that everything would be okay. After a while, my mother walked Ginny back to her house.  I stayed at home, thought about Randy, wondered why he would think it was okay to punch his sister, wondered what Sally-Boy would do with someone like Randy, wondered what I should do.

     The Thursday following that Friday in November was Thanksgiving. My father still had not been home, so my mother and I rode a quiet train from DC to New York and then took the subway to Brooklyn. In the small tenement apartment with Uncle Sal, Capricia, and Sally-Boy, we ate turkey and sweet potatoes, none of the Italian fare we normally consumed. Nor was there the usual noise and loud talk that went along with our dinners together. The world was still somber, contemplating what it had witnessed, the assassination, the swearing in, the arrest, the murder of the president’s assassin on live television while in police custody, the new president, the unanswered questions. 

     Still, during the Thanksgiving dinner, an occasional laugh slipped in, a warm gesture, a kiss.  My father called in the middle of dinner to say that he would be home when we returned to Virginia that weekend. He had my mother give the phone to each person individually, and he told everyone, including Sally-Boy, that he loved them and gave assurances that things would be okay.

     On the fire escape after dinner, Sally-Boy and I each nibbled a piece of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

     “I like Italian food a lot better than this shit, don’t you?” he said.

     “Sure,” I said. “I mean, this is good, but it’s not tiramisu.”

     Sally threw his piece of pie into the night. It splatted like one of our water balloons when it hit the street.

     “Sally, it’s not thatbad,” I said, a laugh slipping out. “You really need to stop throwing things off this fire escape.”

     “Yeah, it is that bad,” he said. Then he held up his hands as though he were holding a rifle. He squinted down his arm, focusing on the street, moving his hands slowly as if he were following something.

     “What are you doing?” I asked

     “I don’t get it,” he said. “He’s up in a building. He sticks a rifle outta the window. He spots the president’s car comin. He makes three shots. Boom! Boom! Boom! President’s head blows apart. That guy was a hulluva shot. I don’t get it. Wish I could shoot like that.”

     “Why? What are you going to shoot?”

     “I don’t know. Not the president. Some bad guys. There’s always some bad guys to fight.”

     “Did you like the president, Sally?”

     “Yeah, sure, I guess. I mean, I don’t really give a shit ’cause the stuff the president does, it don’t really matter to me. Tomorrow it’ll be a week since he got blown away. It’s too bad, sure, but, hey, I’m still here, and I got stuff to do.”

     “We all do,” I said, wondering if that Friday in November actually changed the world at all, the Friday that I thought affected everyone, the Friday that brought daily life to a halt, the Friday that channeled horror directly into our homes, the Friday that would eventually merge into a lifetime of other Fridays.

     That Friday.

End of Episode #21