Once in a while a column yanks my interest away from my normal agenda, causing my gray matter to work overtime, engaging me at the level of “god, I never thought about that before.”
That happened twice this week.
First, with the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus reflections on graduation and her own experience. It was a grizzled reporter who commented to her shortly after college graduation that “she couldn’t possibly make a mistake before she was 30.”
Although I questioned her advice from the piece, I recognized rather quickly that in the age of Tiger Moms and Helicopter Parents, the counsel was underemphasized.
Marcus relates a recent lunch with Stanford President John Hennessy where she asked him what worried him most about students. “Stress is an issue,” he said. “We have kids, most of whom have never seen a grade on their report card that had a rounded curve. . . . Everybody’s expectation is that they’re going to the moon.” Then they encounter chemistry of another challenge, and “they’re shellacked.”
Whether parent or recent grad, this is one you’ll want to devour.
Second, with the Slate blogger, Matt Malady (I guess that’s his real name and not a pseudonym) writing in the NYTimes Magzine “About the undermining of one of civilization’s greatest social constructs:” the simple line that we stand in at least once a day at the coffee shop or the store.
Sadly, Malady points out that all is not well in the world of lines. In fact, this form of social ordering seems to be going sideways.
The article reminded me of a friend of mine, a young med student, who migrated from New York City for UMN’s medical school. After the first week of school, while still boarding at our house, he commented with some frustration that he’d never seen such orderliness in New York, with people lining up for all kinds of service. “It’s German orderliness,” I said. “But you ain’t seen nothing, yet. Before I drop you off tomorrow morning I want to take you to the Pillsbury foyer.”
It was about 7:45am and the elevator lines snaked out of the Pillsbury foyer into the main area with about 75 to 100 people in each line for each of the dozen elevators. He was actually shaken. He told me that in New York, it would have been a madhouse, rather than the quiet line of folk, standing, reading their newspapers or even knitting, waiting for their turn at the elevator. So much for Manhattan!
Well, I’ve never thought about some of the issues of ethics and orderliness that Malady brought up in his article. And I fully suspect you’ll find them intriguing also.