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How do you know you're an adult?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 30, 2013 02:48 PM

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In the Globe last week, Alex Beam -- longtime columnist, curmudgeon, and grown-up -- surveyed the new flurry of self-help books aimed at helping twenty-somethings adjust to adulthood. He offered some advice of his own, which comes down to speaking slowly and flossing regularly. With Reach, not Glide.

Alex also recounted the day he realized he was an adult -- when a third-grade soccer player called him "Mr. Beam," and it occurred to him that his father was nowhere in sight. This got us thinking: What's the turning point, when you have to admit that adolescence is officially behind you? When you're happy to be carded? When you covet major appliances? When you realize you're unwilling to live in a micro-apartment? How did you know you were grown up? Or has it happened yet? Below are some suggestions from adults on Morrissey Boulevard. Add yours to the comments below, or tweet at the hashtag #iknewiwasanadultwhen.


You know you're an adult when you go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the ticket taker says, "Are you sure this is the movie you want to see?"
Derrick Jackson, Globe columnist

You know you're an adult when you start examining the cork that comes out
of the bottle.
Jeff Moriarty, @jeffmoriarty
General Manager,

You know you're an adult when your friends bring more wine to your party than they consume.
Farah Stockman, @fstockman
Globe columnist

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Heather Hopp-Bruce, Globe editorial page art director, @thebabysucks

In Boston, you know you’re an adult when you hit sixth or seventh grade and the school department hands you a free T pass instead of providing pick-up service on yellow school buses.
Lawrence Harmon
Globe columnist

There are lots of moments when it’s clear you’re older than you used to be: when bars in Back Bay don’t bother to card you; when you have strong opinions about hardware and furniture stores; when you take your mind off your sore Achilles tendon by dwelling on your plantar fasciitis. But no one ever really feels like an adult, if “adult” means having things basically figured out. That part you just have to fake.
Dante Ramos, @danteramos
Globe deputy editorial page editor

How much abuse should kids take from a coach?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 28, 2013 12:29 PM

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First, it was Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, who hurled basketballs and gay slurs at his players. Now, Rutgers' incoming athletic director -- who was supposed to preside over a cleaned-up sports culture -- has been accused of her own extreme bad behavior while coaching women's volleyball at the University of Tennessee. In a letter to the school 16 years ago, players said Julie Hermann called them "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled." In interviews, they told the Star-Ledger of Newark that she punished them with gossip and humiliation. Hermann says she doesn't remember the letter -- and that she was "intense," but not abusive.

Rutgers might be an extreme example of coaching misbehavior, or it might not. Many coaches and psychologists talk about a hard-core coaching culture that borders on abuse -- and a longstanding a belief that harsh practices draw peak performances. So where should we draw the line between demanding and demeaning? Are we too tolerant of bullying from coaches, or do we expect too little from young athletes? Do you have stories to share, as a player or a coach? Below are some thoughts about coaching and kids. Add yours to the comments below, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonComment.

Hermann's response

Julie Hermann mug 2.jpgAm I an intense coach? I'm absolutely an intense coach, as many coaches are. But there's a big canyon between being super intense and abuse, and this was not an abusive environment for these women. Was it challenging? It was incredibly challenging. And was I aware that there were players who were unhappy? I was aware of that by the end of the season.
Julie Hermann
Conference call with reporters, May 27

A cautionary tale for state schools?

derrick jackson.jpgRutgers is a flagship state school that lacks the national visibility of a Michigan -- and is trying so hard to be one of the big boys and girls that it clearly is not minding the store of integrity. It will be entering the Big Ten Conference next year. But the prior athletic director, Tim Pernetti, had to resign for botching the Rice scandal. The university hailed new basketball coach Eddie Jordan as a Rutgers alum, but he never graduated. Perhaps this should be yet another cautionary tale for UMass Amherst, which has moved up to the top level of Division 1 in football and the Mid-America Conference. UMass is already spending millions of questionable dollars on the move. Let’s hope the move does not cost it something that money cannot buy.
Derrick Z. Jackson
Boston Globe columnist

Why students put up with verbal abuse

Hilary Levey-Friedman.JPGOnce corporeal punishment declined in schools, verbal abuse became a lot more common. And players are more likely to tolerate verbal abuse than physical abuse. That's because, in the absence of their parents, students assume it is acceptable for adults to act this way -- especially when it is an adult they look up to and admire. And, given the high stakes of youth athletics and college sports, young people are reluctant to complain about abusive coaching, for fear of losing playing time or a starting spot on a team.
Hilary Levey-Friedman, Harvard sociologist
Author, "Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture"

SNL spoofs Rutgers (pre-Hermann)

April 6, 2013

Double standards for education

Alan Goldberg Headshot 1.jpgThere’s very little effective coaching education. So there’s a dichotomy that comes up. The behavior that we see on the athletic field would never be tolerated in the classroom. It’s almost as if coaching is not education. You have a kid in the classroom from 8 to 3, they’re not exposed to abuse, they're not exposed to humiliation. So what, does their nervous system change when it’s 3 o'clock and they get suited up and they get on the athletic field? From my perspective as a performance expert, that’s flat-out silly.
Alan Goldberg, Amherst, MA sports psychologist

Long-term consequences

diana-cutaia.jpgThere are some kids who are resilient and can get through that unscathed. But there are many kids who [don't]...I've seen kids who were all-state athletes who stopped playing. I've seen basketball players who are unbelievable athletes, who had such abusive coaches that they don't play pickup anymore. It kills the love of the sport for them...I’ve seen kids with unbelievable overuse injuries because they just didn't believe their coach wouldn't get mad at them...I always go back to the bloody sock, when Curt Schilling pitched on that ankle. We romanticize that in sport, that playing through through injury is somehow this badge of honor.
Diana Cutaia, former athletic director, Wheelock College
Founder, Coaching Peace Consulting


Who shouldn't bother with college?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 23, 2013 03:32 PM

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When Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion this week, David Karp, Tumblr's 26-year-old founder, became an instant celebrity -- and joined the pantheon of tech entrepreneurs to make it big without a college degree. In fact, Karp dropped out of high school at his mother's suggestion, to get homeschooling and a tech-world internship. And his success has rekindled some old conversations about whether college is the right place for brilliant, innovative minds. A few years ago, Paypal founder Peter Thiel launched a $100,000 fellowship for a select group of under-20-year-olds, promising them mentoring and thinking they wouldn't be able to get in college.

Karp and the Thiel Fellows are clearly special cases, but their stories spark a broader question about what college can and can't do -- and whether, in an age of skyrocketing tuition and student debt, higher ed is the best choice right out of high school. Some sports stars and performers launch their careers before going to school. Some entrepreneurs decide they just can't wait. What would make you drop out of college, or put it off? Below are some thoughts about skipping school. Add yours to the comments below, or tweet your ideas to #BostonComment.

Not unless you're very, very special

dante mug.jpgDropping out is a completely rational move for a tech genius who wants to get a world-changing idea to market before somebody else does -- just as it's rational for a star college athlete who wants to cash in, rather than getting injured while playing for free. But how many of today's 18 million undergraduates really fit either category? A few dozen, tops? Everybody else should stay in school.
Dante Ramos, @danteramos
Deputy Editorial Page Editor, Boston Globe

Reasons to start a business before starting college

What do you learn when you are young and start a business (regardless of success or failure):
you learn how to come up with ideas that will be accepted by other people
you begin to build your b------t detector (something that definitely does not happen in college)
you learn how to sell your idea
you learn how to build and execute on an idea
you meet and socialize with other people in your space. They might not all be the same age but, lets face it, thats life as an adult. You just spent 18 years with kids your age. Grow up!
you might learn how to delegate and manage people
you learn how to eat what you kill, a skill also not learned by college-goers
James Altucher, @jaltucher
Hedge fund manager, writer, and entrepreneur
"8 Alternatives to College"

Why do people go to college?

Learning how to be independent is not what I needed from college. While attending classes and gaining knowledge from professors would not have hurt, at the end of the day, my decision to skip college was about one thing: time. I didn’t want to be like my friends who went to college because they didn’t want to be an adult. They would continue further into graduate programs to avoid figuring out what they wanted to do. As if hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and twelve lost years could to solve a fundamental problem in their soul. To this day, friends still ask me whether I would ever take night classes to get my college degree. After what I have accomplished, I can’t imagine retreating backwards. Why should I?
Yashar Ali, political strategist/writer
The Good Men Project, March 31, 2012

People are talking...

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A word to the wise?

david karp mug.jpgThat is not a path that I would haphazardly recommend to kids out there. I was in a very unique position of knowing exactly what I wanted to do at a time when computer science education certainly wasn’t that good in high school in New York City.
David Karp, @davidkarp
Tumblr founder
Interview with the Associated Press

Reality, for some


Can Boston be safe for bicycles?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 21, 2013 01:22 PM

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Forget about the mayor's race; one of Boston's toughest rivalries is the ongoing battle between bicycles and cars. The city has recently taken great strides to be bicycle-friendly. Its Hubway bike-sharing system has exceeded projections for ridership. But Boston is also notoriously dangerous for bikes, and this week's tragic accident -- in which a scholar from Japan was killed by a truck in Kenmore Square -- underscores the risks of sharing the road.

So what's the solution? Some call for a gas tax to discourage driving. Others say Boston's old, narrow streets simply aren't designed for bikes. A poll by MassINC, commissioned for WGBH, found that bikers -- more than drivers -- want bike lanes and paths. A Boston Globe editorial today calls for better infrastructure, but also helmet laws and tickets for bikers who disobey traffic laws. Where do you stand? Have you been in a close encounter between bicycle and car? What's the key to a safe coexistence? Here are some opinions about bicycles in Boston; add yours to the comments below, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonComment.

The bicyclist's job

ty_burr.jpgBiking in Boston is not impossible -- in fact, it's incredibly enjoyable -- as long as the bicyclist understands it's up to him or herself to ride sanely. That means observing traffic laws, ceding right of way to both cars (they can kill us) and pedestrians (we can kill them), never riding parallel to trucks and buses, avoiding blowing through intersections (a little diplomacy goes a long way), and generally assuming that no one actually knows you're there. This mindset needs to keep shifting (will someone please tell the students of greater Boston that they're not invincible?), because only then will the folks in cars and on sidewalks understand we have as much right to the roads as they do.
Ty Burr, @TyBurr
Globe movie critic and cyclist

The city's job

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Tweets from Paul McMorrow, Globe columnist and Commonwealth Magazine associate editor

Reengineer attitudes, along with roads

david watson mug.jpgBoston is making good progress rebalancing its roadways for the new mix of urban transportation - more bikes, more transit, more walking, less driving. The planned network of bicycle-friendly roads and paths will be great, someday (though I would like it to be tomorrow). Where we need to do a much better job is communicating to drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and, most importantly, kids how to interact safely. Attitudes are much more difficult to re-engineer than roads. We have to stop treating commuting like a competitive sport - slow down, look around, and put safety first. No one should have to be brave to ride a bicycle in Boston.
David Watson, @MassBike
Executive Director, MassBike

A modest proposal: ban bikes

mcgrory mug.jpgIt’s just plain fact, painfully clear to anyone and everyone who has ever exercised their government-sanctioned right to sit behind the wheel of a combustion-powered vehicle and drive on roads that were built for, yes, cars. In a crowded city like Boston, with narrow streets, daring pedestrians, and delivery trucks double-parked nearly everywhere, this task can already be perilous enough. Throw in a bunch of cavalier cyclists who believe with every cell of their beings that they own the road, and it’s near impossible to get around.
Brian McGrory, @GlobeMcGrory
Boston Globe, July 15, 2011

A simple solution?

More bikers = more safety?

Ticketing cyclists and mandating helmets has been shown to discourage cycling, especially in low-income areas, where access to affordable transportation is already low. Conversely, efforts that encourage responsible cycling, like the Boston Cyclists Union’s Bike to Market program, should be supported because, as the biking community grows, everyone gets used to sharing the road. In recent years Boston has installed bike lanes, bike boxes and other facilities but, as the city itself acknowledges, what’s been done so far is just low hanging fruit. Once we see cycle tracks, or separated bike lanes, like the one on Western Avenue, cyclists, drivers and pedestrians will all benefit.
Noelle Janka, former board president
Boston Cyclists Union

Getting past the stereotypes

Bikers, as it turns out, are not responsible for the majority of bicycle accidents in Boston. Of the 891 crashes in Boston where a cause was listed, cyclists ran a red light or stop sign before colliding with a car 12 percent of the time, and 12 percent occurred when a cyclist rode into oncoming traffic. Blaming the problems mainly on drivers’ lack of awareness doesn’t quite hold up either. Only 18 percent of the incidents occured when a motorist didn’t see a cyclist. Many crashes were caused by car doors opening in the way of cyclists, but a disproportionate share of them involved passengers exiting taxis.
Boston Globe editorial
May 22, 2013

Ways to get along?

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Too sexy for a Disney Princess?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 15, 2013 07:07 PM


Angelina Jolie wasn't the only movie star caught up in a media storm this week. Merida, the fictional star of "Brave," officially joined the Disney princess pantheon, and appeared on Disney's website suddenly transformed from wild-haired teenage tomboy to budding sexpot. The backlash was instant. Merida's creator called the change "a blatantly sexist marketing move." A petition on drew more than 200,000 signatures. And on its website, Disney quietly replaced the new Merida with the original version. (The company denies that the change was related to the protest.)

Story over? Nope. Disney has unleashed a nation of protective mama bears, and they're furious about the makeovers Disney Princesses get once they become consumer products: exaggerated doe eyes, kissable lips, rising cheekbones and off-the-shoulder dresses. Have you lived with a child who's princess-obsessed? Do you fret over come-hither princesses? Or do you think this is too much hoopla over harmless toys? Here are some thoughts about the latest Disney Princess controversy. Add yours to the comments, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonComment.

Tone-deaf Disney?

Rebecca Hains mug.pngDisney executives' response to the Merida petition was tone deaf: They stated that because the character's redesign is only temporary, people shouldn't be concerned. But the changes to Merida completely undercut a character who serves as a role model, a counterpoint to the pretty princess trope--selling girls short in the process. Disney has failed to acknowledge that Merida means something special to parents and their daughters. (And their argument that Merida herself wanted to "dress up" for the coronation is simply insulting.)
Rebecca Hains, @RCHains
Salem State University professor, author of Growing Up With Girl Power

How to manage a princess obsession

Christine-Koh-by-Kristin-Chalmers-2-1.jpgDisney princesses are like candy bars. You can keep them out of the house, but your kids will invariably be exposed to them. And the more forbidden they are, the more coveted they'll become. I handled (then 4-year-old) Laurel's princess obsession by not fueling it with purchases (well-meaning relatives took care of that) and having age-appropriate conversations to diffuse the absurdity (e.g., princess bodies are not the norm, women don't need to be rescued by men, stepmothers are wonderful people too). When I told (now 8-year-old) Laurel that Merida of Brave was going to become an official Disney princess, she said, "Really? She didn't even want to be a princess."
Christine Koh, @BostonMamas
Founder and editor,; Co-author, Minimalist Parenting

Disney glamour, to its logical extreme

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Some girls don't mind

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Comments on

A different problem with the image?

What Disney could learn

Melissa Atkins Wardy (1).jpgMy hope is that after this collaborative and massive online outcry against Sexy Merida, Disney begins to understand the value in diverse female characters whose focus is not a narrow version of beauty and femininity. Merida's story was a great adventure, a tribute to a girl's wild heart. Her makeover stripped her of her story and turned her into an ornament. Some people were not able to see the difference between Original Merida and Sexy Merida. I believe it is a case of eyes wide shut, because we are so used to seeing women depicted in media with an identical version of “beauty” that many simply fail to see it. Once you see it, you see it everywhere.
Melissa Atkins Wardy, @PigtailPals
Owner, Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies; author, "Redefining Girly"

Have you seen the Padme Amidala Lego?

amyjussel-120x160.jpgPick a toy giant, ANY giant. Mattel. Lego. Hasbro. Disney. They're all doing the churn and burn of "freshening" play products by actually DEVOLVING into appearance-based, empty-headed renditions of their once healthier "classic" toy selves. Candyland's been sexed up....American Girl's been dumbed down...and Lego lobbed a double-whammy of "you'vegottabekiddinme," managing to turn a benign geometric chunk of plastic into a freakin' body image "sexy warrior" statement sporting ripped abs, drawn-on breasts, weaponry, wounds and wardrobe back slits.
Amy Jussel, @ShapingYouth
Founder and Executive Director, Shaping Youth

What if Disney's male characters got the Princess treatment?

Hercules, from "Hercules"

The Daily Show's "The Princess and the P.R. Disaster"

Jon Stewart chided Disney for negating a long-standing agreement with America's parents.

Who pays for that $12 t-shirt?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 13, 2013 12:53 PM

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What's the true cost of cheap clothes? The collapse of a Bangladesh factory last month, which killed more than 1,100 workers, shone a spotlight on the often-brutal working conditions in a nation that has become world's second-largest clothing exporter. It also spurred action: On Monday, H&M, Zara, and a group of other clothing companies -- including the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger -- signed onto a legally-binding plan that would require tough inspections, mandatory repairs, and worker input into factory conditions. Other companies, such as Wal-Mart and the Gap, say they're taking their own steps, but they're facing tough pressure to join the pact.

Is the agreement good enough to put consumers' minds at ease? Or is there more the public can and should do to demand better conditions in foreign factories? Do you think about the origins of your clothes? Would you be willing to pay more for pants that were made under fair labor practices? Do you seek out stores that sell American-made goods? Here are some thoughts on the reality and morality of cheap fashion. Add yours to the comments or tweet at the hashtag #BostonComment.

Shoppers: Don't back down!

Katie Kingsbury.jpgRetailers should put more faith in customers’ — even discount shoppers’ — willingness to pay more for labels that promote fair-labor practices. But consumers will also need to earn that trust. A few ideas: Demand more information about how and where goods are made. Make those origins matter. Shop chains that have committed to improving worker safety, as H&M and Zara did this week, and hold them accountable to those agreements. Avoid retailers that have not. And don’t back down when that next cute handbag catches your eye.
Katie Kingsbury, @katiekings
Boston Globe editorial writer

Consumer revolt?

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Benetton Facebook page

Change is easier than it looks

ellen ruppel shell mug.jpg There's no need to make radical changes in our lifestyles, or spend significantly more money on our clothes and other consumer goods--that's just smoke being blown by defeatists. We can simply demand fair prices and fair practices--they are not incompatible--but we need to be persistent. Dangerous sweatshops are not a necessary "first step" toward development nor the secret to low prices. Labor costs have very little impact on the final price of a garment, and indeed some very expensive clothing is made under sweatshop conditions. So the trick is to keep an eye out for labels, try to make informed purchases, and aim for affordable quality that lasts.
Ellen Ruppel Shell, Boston University professor
Author, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

Will shoppers change their ways? Can they?

Brenda Tobias mug.jpgDo any of us need a $10 shirt? Well, the truth of the matter is that yes, many people in this country need a $10 shirt. Could we buy fewer goods at a higher price? Probably, but the more we buy and the frequency of which we buy translates into jobs. If (insert brand/shop/designer) wants to roll out a splashy marketing campaign about their cruelty-free manufacturing, that’s just fine. But in the end it’s a rather small segment of the population who has the luxury of money or shopping consciousness to respond.
Brenda Tobias, @BrendaTNYC
Former fashion industry analyst

How to sell clothes made in the USA

Mark Bollman.jpgIt's our job to reeducate consumers and try to help them understand that this isn't the shirt in your closet. It may look the same from the outside, but it's not the same. Yeah, you're going pay more upfront, but over time you're not going to have to replace that item. So you may spend 30 percent more when you make that purchase, but you’ll realize that value twice over, because you won’t have to go back to the store and buy it again...You just changed from purchasing new items just 'cause you want something, to purchasing a wardrobe.
Mark Bollman, President and Founder
Ball and Buck, Newbury Street

Priorities, here and abroad?

Swimming in student debt?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 9, 2013 01:26 PM

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Are you getting crushed by student loan debt? That's the subject of Senator Elizabeth Warren's first bill, which would stave off an automatic hike in student loan interest rates --while making a statement about the political power of big banks. With no action from Congress, the interest rate for Stafford student loans will rise to 6.8 percent on July 1. Warren's bill would cap that rate at 0.75 percent, the discount rate that the Federal Reserve charges to banks.

Warren's one-year plan makes for great political theater, but it also highlights a serious problem: a college-debt burden that's holding back many Millennials. A recent survey by the American Institute for CPAs found that student debt is causing young Americans to delay buying homes and cars, saving for retirement, even getting married.

Did you take out student loans? Are you paying them back now? How has your debt affected your life? And what do you think the government -- or colleges -- should do to ease the burden? Some different viewpoints are below; add yours to the comments, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonComment.

Priorities: students vs. banks

Warren Headshot.jpgIf the Federal Reserve can float trillions of dollars to large financial institutions at low interest rates to grow the economy, surely they can float the Department of Education the money to fund our students, keep us competitive, and help grow our middle class.
Elizabeth Warren, @SenWarren
U.S. Senator, D-MA

Inflating the bubble

William Jacobson pic.jpgWe have a choice, continue to grow the bubble with easy money, or try to wean the nation off the easy money tuition subsidies...Elizabeth Warren wants to grow the bubble more by making it easier for students to borrow more money by dropping the interest rate to that charged banks by the Federal Reserve, in what amounts to a giant class warfare non-sequitur.
William A. Jacobson, Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
Legal Insurrection

The big picture


What it's like to live with debt

arielheadshot.jpgI graduated from Emerson College in 2012 and considered myself lucky to be only $80,000 in debt from student loans. I was struggling to pay rent and loans before losing my job two months ago when the Boston Phoenix ceased publication. I signed up for unemployment, but it’s not enough to pay off my landlord and my lenders each month, never mind novelties like food or transportation. It’s easy to get discouraged, and it’s hard to keep up the confidence needed to carry out a job search when every waking moment is spent stressing over bills, bills, bills. Now I know how Mom and Dad feel, with the mortgage, the cars, the insurance, the kids.
Ariel Shearer, @arielshearer
Independent journalist

Your responsibility to avoid debt?

Andrew Heaton.jpgI strenuously avoided going into debt during college. I attended a state school despite acceptance to a pretentious “boat shoes” school. I obtained my masters degree through a scholarship...However, I am still poor, underemployed, and probably eligible for food stamps. Assuming I make enough money this year to even pay taxes, should the government confiscate my income and give it to people who opted for expensive private colleges or who chose even more frivolous majors than I did?
Andrew Heaton. @MightyHeaton
The Freeman

Falling in love with the less expensive option

annblegen mug.png So far, I have had an ideal college experience and have gotten this at less than a third of the cost of that big university in Boston. It’s funny to think that two years ago I didn’t want to come to UMass just because of a price tag. My dream school seemed glamorous, and I was upset that money could keep me from pursuing anything I wanted in life. What I didn’t realize is that the school you attend doesn’t matter — you will get out of college as much as you put into it.
Ann Blegen, @annieBlegen
Boston Globe op-ed, May 10, 2013

A modest proposal

Students need solutions to student debt. There's no reason why an education should be a lifelong burden. Americans already owe over 1 trillion dollars in student loans, which is why it's even more important that we empower students to speak out about skyrocketing student loan debt and make sure that no one is shut out of higher education because of cost. We’re calling on colleges and universities across the country to take action in support of the students they enroll. After all, the first step, as it’s said, is admitting that there’s a problem.
I Am Not a Loan, @iamnotaloan
Student debt advocacy group

Rethink college -- and the amenities?

Effectively, we’ve treated the average wage premium as if it were a guarantee—and then we’ve encouraged college students to borrow against it. The result will be no surprise to anyone who has made the mistake of setting his or her teenager loose in a shopping mall with a credit card and no spending limit. Eighteen-year-olds demand amenities—high-speed Internet, well-upholstered classrooms, world-class fitness facilities—and in order to stay competitive, college administrators happily provide them. Then they raise the tuition for which the 18-year-olds are obediently borrowing the money.
Megan McArdle, "Is College A Lousy Investment?"
The Daily Beast, September 9, 2012

One way to escape

i am not a loan

Would you give your child a toy gun? Or a real one?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 6, 2013 02:56 PM

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(Photo via Flickr/louiscrusoe)

In rural Kentucky last week, a five-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his sister with a rifle designed for children. It was a tragedy, a shock, and a window into a cultural divide -- rekindling old debates about gun culture, when to teach kids about handling weapons, the ethics of marketing firearms to children.

But as we ask tough questions about kids and real guns, many parents are also fretting about toy guns. So much for nostalgia over B.B. guns; since Columbine, many parents have banned even plastic guns and pistols. Rhode Island has helped kids exchange toy guns for other gifts. New York City only allows the sale of toy guns that are brightly colored. Some water "guns" today are shaped like cylinders. Have parents gotten wise, or is pretend gun play a natural part of kids' lives? Do you let your kids play with toy guns? Have you taught them to handle real firearms? Or do you ban fake guns from the house? Below are a range of opinions about real guns and toy guns for kids. Add yours to the comments below, or tweet at the hashtag #GunPlay.

Being trustful without being reckless

Peter Gray BC.jpgI'm an advocate of trustful parenting; I don't believe in overprotecting kids. But the idea that a company would be allowed to manufacture 22-caliber rifles designed for small children or that any parent would give such a weapon to a five-year-old defies common sense. Anthropologists tell us that the superstars of trustful parenting are parents in hunter-gatherer cultures. They allow very small children to play with sharp knives and with little bows and arrows, because that's how children learn to use these tools. But they keep the poison arrow tips used for hunting far out of young children's reach.
Peter Gray
Research Professor of Psychology at Boston College, author of Free to Learn.

Child-sized guns are designed to teach safety

Nancy McDermott.jpgWhile it’s only natural to try to draw lessons from tragedies, we should be wary of attempts to recast this as a morality play about the evils of “gun culture.” Gun ownership is simply a deeply rooted fact of life for people in many parts of the country. This means they understand better than most how dangerous firearms can be and they teach their children to be safe around them from an early age. Guns scaled down to child-size were intended to make it easer to for kids to learn to shoot them safely. This family made a terrible mistake - but teaching kids about guns is integral, not just to keeping them safe but to teaching them to what responsible gun ownership really means.
Nancy McDermott, parenting blogger

Reaction to "Youth Day" at the recent NRA convention


Should we ban toy guns?

A toy that looks fake vs. a toy that looks real

Jay Ritchie.jpgIt is quite reasonable and developmentally appropriate for children to play with toys that actually shoot/launch things (water, foam, plastic, balls, and even marshmallows) out of them. Children also need time and space to simply use their imaginations while engaging in pretend play activities that may or may not involve toy guns. However, if a toy gun could be mistaken for a real gun, adult common sense should recognize that this is a bad idea. It’s an adult’s responsibility to make thoughtful toy selections for the children in their lives.
Jay Ritchie, M.Ed
Owner, The Toy Box in Hanover, MA

Trusting kids to tell reality from fantasy

Jonathan Turley.jpgToy guns are no more the cause of violence than toy kitchen sets are the cause of obesity. Hundreds of millions of men grew up with toy guns and never turned to a life of spasmodic violence. On this issue, kids seem a lot more sophisticated than their parents. They know it's just a game.
Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Law, Georgetown University
USA Today

Marathon: Heroes or hero inflation?

Posted by Joanna Weiss May 2, 2013 02:46 PM

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The word "hero" has been used a lot -- especially by the media -- in the weeks since the Boston Marathon bombings. To describe police and first responders. The brave carjacking victim whose escape triggered the manhunt. The sharp-thinking bombing victim who helped to identify the suspects, just after his legs were amputated. The calm Watertown resident who called 911 after spotting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in his boat. Even the 1950s MIT students whose technology led to the robots that tracked the suspects.

But not everyone wants the honor. Danny, the Chinese immigrant who was carjacked by the suspects, has repeatedly said he wasn't a hero -- just a guy who was trying to save his own life, and in the process wound up possibly saving Times Square. Is Danny right? Is this a case of media overreach? Hero inflation? Or just widespread admiration for quick thinking, tough jobs, and good deeds? Below are some "hero" headlines and some thoughts about what makes a hero. Share yours in the comments below, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonHeroes.

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andruzzi twitter.jpgI am definitely not a hero. I am just a bystander, and that led to my help. Many heroes that I look upon are people like my three brothers that are running into burning buildings when others are running out. Explosions are going off and they are driving their cars down Boylston right into the heart of the scene. They are the people that don't care about their safety and are worried for other people's safety and survival.
Joe Andruzzi, former Patriots guard
Carried a woman from the bombing site

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dante mug.jpgHeroism is when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary peril and act in courageous ways that protect others. Carjack victim Danny's calm, well-structured thinking in the face of physical danger is a rare and valuable quality -- or at least one that I suspect is lacking in, well, me.
Dante Ramos, @danteramos
Boston Globe deputy editorial page editor

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chomsky photo.jpgCan't define the term. It's one of those things we either understand or won't understand better with a formal definition. There were authentic heroes, particularly the runners and spectators who ran towards the explosions to help the victims, whatever the danger.
Noam Chomsky
Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, MIT

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schlussel twitter.jpgWe’ve inflated every minute action to heroism when it isn’t. We’ve equated victim status–such as Gabby Giffords having been shot in the head–as some sort of heroism. It ain’t. Heroism isn’t doing what you should do–doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s doing something super-extra beyond that, something that involves sacrifice on the part of the hero.
Debbie Schlussel
Conservative commentator

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