A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Farewell, Harvey Korman

Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve watching the Carol Burnett Show. There has never been anything to match the incredible talents placed on display each week.

Harvey Korman, straight man and comedic foil par excellence, passed away earlier this week. This is in tribute to him.

Besides his brilliant turn in the spoof of Gone With the Wind, Korman was always trying to smother a laugh as Tim Conway freed his inner comedy psycho, an example of which I give you above. If you want more laughs, check out his brilliant turn as Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

You made me laugh, Mr. Korman, even when my life was filled with uncertainty and strain. God bless.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Carnival of Education at the Bird's Place

Go here!

I completely admire people who take this on, since I am busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Own Thursday Thirteen: Thankfulness

As the school year winds down, I like to take stock of the year and list all my many blessings. I even like to take some of my banes and try to view them as blessings. To wit:

1. I am grateful for the assistant principal calling the one insane parent who didn't believe me the previous times I told her her daughter was in danger of failing--- until she actually did, and then the waterworks started and the dealmaking was attempted. The phone calls were coming about every hour, until I thought I would lose my mind. He told her the subject was closed, and actually knew that I had tried everything to get this girl to take her grade seriously. The phone calls blessedly stopped.

2. I am grateful that that principal was with us-- because now he's among the leaving.

3. I am grateful my husband could stay home with the kids and work from home while I finished off the school year. If they ever figure out a way for teachers to telecommute, I will be all over that.

4. I am grateful that it finally stopped raining, and that the sun is shining-- for now, according to the weather man. Drat.

5. I am grateful I don't have to spend any more time with Redneck Mother-- who elevated being a Neanderthal to an art form lately.

6. I am grateful I get to watch my son carry sticks around and make all kinds of cool architectural marvels in the back yard-- until the dogs run through them at Mach 3. I am also grateful he just shrugs his shoulders and starts over again.

7. I am grateful for my friend Little Flower as she retires. I don't think the middle school has figured out what they will be missing next year-- but they will.

8. I am grateful that i got to meet one of the foreign exchange student's parents. What a wonderful surprise! It wasn't a surprise that they were wonderful people, just as their daughter is.

9. I am grateful for discovering the band Vampire Weekend. If any music screams out "Summer!", then this is it. I believe I shall crank it as I work in my room. I love "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa."

10. I am grateful that the computerized grading system only froze once this week. Of course, it was right when senior grades were due, and I had to stay an hour after school waiting for it to get fixed, but let's not nitpick.

11. I am grateful that my most emotionally disabled student managed to really turn it on, get himself together, be an absolute angel, AND score a solid B on the final exam. My second most afflicted student actually managed to pass by a hair again. Whoo-hoo!

12. Did I mention that the sun is shining?

13. I am grateful I found this shirt. It says, "The beatings will continue until morale improves." Doesn't that just sum up life in education?

What are you feeling grateful for?

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

This is not a political pawn. This is someone's child. This is our brother or sister.

This is someone who has given an entire universe of tomorrows in service to us.

Our country is us.

This person has died for us- and for what we have allowed our government to do.

"No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends."- John 15:13.

And we can show no greater honor than to demand that no one else dies in vain.

Cross-posted at Tradition, Faith, and Reason.


Movie Madness Monday 117: Memorial edition

This will be another potluck edition, as we go about our day to remember the fallen.

This week, place your quotes from your favorite movies reminding us of the sacrifice of those who go to war in the comments section. I choose this one:

"That's war."
"What's war?"
"Trading real estate for men."


"Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid."

from The Sands of Iwo Jima, 1949

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Now THAT'S Good Teachin'!

Wow. Teachers at this school are SO good that they can get a kid to pass even when he's not there:
A public school student in St. Louis got mixed marks in a third-quarter progress report recently, receiving credit for being in class 58 times and getting two B’s and one C to go along with four F’s.

There was just one problem: The entire time, the unidentified student was enrolled in a school in Oklahoma, attending classes hundreds of miles from St. Louis.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported yesterday that teachers at Gateway High School never noticed the student wasn’t in class during the first two months of this year. One teacher marked the student tardy for class on a day the student wasn’t there.

Senior district officials were unaware of the phantom student until the Post-Dispatch provided a copy of an e-mail the school’s vice principal sent to Gateway staff chastising them for failing to notice the student’s absence.

The student withdrew from the St. Louis Public Schools on Dec. 19, 2007. After confirming the authenticity of the e-mail, officials sought to downplay the incident.

"We’re not happy about this, but it’s fixed," district spokeswoman Deborah Sistrunk said.

Sistrunk said she could not explain how a student no longer enrolled at the school could earn grades and be counted as present in classes. "We don’t know how it happened," she said.

The St. Louis public school system has been in disarray in recent years, struggling amid constant turnover in senior leadership. The State Board of Education stripped the district of accreditation in March, citing a long history of poor academic performance, low graduation rates and financial problems.

A special advisory board took control in June. Board President Rick Sullivan said he wants to learn more about the student getting grades when he or she was not at school.

"While I’m confident this is an isolated incident, we are going to look into it with the goal of eliminating something like this happening in the future," Sullivan said.

Former elected School Board President Veronica O’Brien said the Gateway lapse was another example of a city school inflating attendance in a quiet effort to increase state funding. State education allocations are tied to attendance.

"This kind of stuff goes on all the time," O’Brien said.

Attendance at Gateway and other city middle and high schools is recorded on a computer program at the beginning of each class period. Teachers note if a student is present, absent, tardy or absent for a specific reason.

The former board president saying that "this kind of stuff happens all the time," is really rich. This didn't happen just since the state took over. I know there are many dedicated professionals in that school district. But someone has got to get control of that place-- preferably, someone who knows something about education. The district is currently searching for yet another superintendent, and I wonder if they've had any offers-- given that the special advisory board has let it be known that the new superintendent will be a mere cog in their dream machine, which is interesting in that none of the people on the special advisory board seem to have any experience with public education, much less urban public education.

Sad. Oh, and it's fraudulent too.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008


And go over to luxuriate in it over at Teacher in a Strange Land.

I simply MUST worship any blog that names itself after my favorite Heinlein novel (and I have every book ever written by the Master somewhere in this house).

As Valentine Michael Smith said, "I have learned two ways to tie my shoes. One way is only good for lying down. The other way is good for walking."

Walk on over!


Mommy, I'm SCARED.

More than fifty percent of our principals leaving. Five English teachers are leaving, and maybe more, and not all of them are going to be replaced.

I was accosted in the hallway by the English dept. chairperson who had an insane gleam in the eye as she suddenly pounced,"Hey! You're dual certified in English, aren't you?" It was actually more of an accusation than a query.

When I stuttered in the affirmative, she snapped, "How'd you like to teach English?"

Why, since you asked so nicely....

I mumbled something noncommittal, and she stalked off, muttering to herself. I was left standing rooted to the spot, mouth agape. I believe she was just kidding. I think.

Ohmigawd. The year can't end soon enough.

I feel for her-- I do. Someone higher up the food chain needs to realize that they are making us crazy down here with the vibes that are being sent out. We are howling like animals that sense an earthquake coming.

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It's a RACE!

So head on over to The Best of Blogs at http://thebestofblogs.com/ and vote for the best blog in all kinds of categories. I would post a link, but when I did, blogger changed it to something else and it didn't work. I swear upon my honor.

Like Education/Homeschooling. You will see all kinds of our friends listed there. Even moi.

Aw, shucks.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A random scream from deeeep in the psyche

I just spent SEVENTY DOLLARS filling up my tank!

Sonofamuffin! Gadzooks! Egad!

Please, dear Dubya, DON'T talk to the Saudis anymore! Or hold their hands and kiss them more, or something!


Monday, May 19, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 116: graduation edition

It is May, in case you haven't noticed. The brains, they are fried. Yet still we must soldier on and try to cram a few more factoids in. All the kids want is... a day off. And then another.

But it's Movie Madness Monday time, and inspired by a few of my students, I've decided that being a retread isn't so bad. So put your quotes in the comments section!

"In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the... Anyone? Anyone?... the Great Depression, passed the... Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?... raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression. Today we have a similar debate over this. Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before? The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says? It says that at this point on the revenue curve, you will get exactly the same amount of revenue as at this point. This is very controversial. Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980? Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. 'Voodoo" economics.' "

"Look, it's real simple. Whatever mileage we put on, we'll take off."
"We'll drive home backwards."

"What do you mean nothing good? We've seen everything good. We've seen the whole city! We went to a museum, we saw priceless works of art! We ate pancreas!"

"I do have a test today. That wasn't bullshit. It's on European socialism. I mean, really, what's the point? I'm not European. I don't plan on being European. So who cares if they're socialists? They could be fascist anarchists. It still doesn't change the fact that I don't own a car."

Hit it!

****Weekend Update: I need to say nothing else, except


If only I knew then what I know now.....

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

That's why it's called a grade point AVERAGE.

Like my new haircut?

I got it from the whirling blades of the latest helicopter parents to hover over my head now that the semester is inexorably subsiding like a California mudslide into the onslaught of finality which is known as "end of semester" time.

The question before us, ladies and gentlemen, is if it possible for Sugarplum to increase his semester average 8 percentage points in the next six school days. Never mind that Sugarplum has never come within sniffing distance of the grade that this parent has suddenly just plucked out of the ether as their "dream grade."

Sugarplum has come to after school help sessions 4 times over the entire year. I speak to Sugarplum every single day after class for at least five minutes-- or for as long as I can take his whining about how something is "not fair!" or his wheedling for me to increase his grade on the latest assignment because he "tried really hard"-- as I have my planning period and Sugarplum has lunch. Never mind that I have to repeat every single thing I say to Sugarplum, and yet he still tells his mom that I never told him about deadlines. I actually like Sugarplum, since if you haven't gotten to the point that you can tolerate this behavior, you would go batty as a teacher. But liking Sugarplum and buying the crock he's selling are two different things.

Then mom carped that I hadn't entered two ten point assignments and a paragraph grade. I dropped everything and put them in-- and two other grades, one of them a test and one of them an essay, that Sugarplum bombed (Lady, if you want every single grade in, that's what you're going to get, not to mention that if members of your family wouldn't eat up huge portions of my precious grading time they would have been entered already). I will not fill my remaining time with Sugarplum's class creating extra credit opportunities to drive myself insane-- I have loads of things to do besides answer your sudden blizzard of emails and forty-five minute phone calls. I am wondering if Sugarplum isn't making your life hell at home with that whining and carping and wheedling, but there is nothing I can do about that, either. You poured the bath; now you get to sit in it, even if you've developed a sudden allergy to the bubble bath.

One problem is that Sugarplum is too involved with extracurricular fluff and the Cult That is Marching Band. Another is that his strategy for studying for tests is to come in five minutes before the test and ask me to define and/or explain half the material. No joke. But the claim is that "he tries so hard!"

Sadly, even if I had seen any evidence that this is true in this particular instance, trying hard just sometimes isn't enough. But beyond that, Sugarplum's number one problem is that he has parents who are the Baskin-Robins of excuse purveyors for their child. It's always something, just like Roseanne Roseannadanna so pithily put it.

So, since the semester is already 17 weeks old, the chances of magically raising one's grade to unheard of heights for someone with a 52% test average, is, um, about as likely as my becoming a member of the Swedish Bikini Team (and imagine Jabba the Hutt instead of Princess Leia in that bikini, and you'll be in about the right neighborhood). There are 17 weeks' worth of anchor (and about forty-two grades of varying point values) holding Sugarplum's grade where it is, Ma'am, and if Sugarplum would really have liked to have had his dream grade, perhaps he should have studied more and stopped engaging in conspiracy theories about how the universe was aligned against him. And grow up a bit.

Or invent a time machine and go back in time to start over the semester afresh. Grades are not magic numbers that mysteriously evaluate your child. They are not a judgment of your child as a person. They DO represent the amount of understanding your child has demonstrated. And Sugarplum has not demonstrated the knowledge representative of that dream grade. Unfortunately, it's time to wake up. He'll be fine. You'll be fine. Your kid is not you.

But if you want something, try earning it.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What we have here is.. failure to, um, put on clothes?

Ahhhh! I LOVE prom season!

Scroll down to get an eyeful. Trust me.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 115: advanced placement edition

Ahhhh, spring-- the time of year when advanced placement tests are given all over the world, when students are looking for some magic quick-fix to make up for all the daydreaming they did so that they can still pull out a decent score. Every year I have some students who try to use this movie to make up for their deficits in knowledge.

It won't work, but that matters little.

So here is a classic that gives you a little taste of a lot of history. Put your quotes from this movie in the comments section.

"You have to do the best with what God gave you."

"I've worn lots of shoes. I bet if I think about it real hard I could remember my first pair of shoes."

"Say, man, show me that crazy little walk you just did there. Slow it down some."

"Now, the real good thing about meeting the President of the United States is the food."

"What's your sole purpose in this Army?"
"To do whatever you tell me, Drill Sergeant!"

****Weekly Update: Of course, this tour through the last half of the 20th Century has been brought to you by


Another tour de force from Tom Hanks, and Robin Wright was much deeper as Jenny than I expected. Then there was Gary Sinise and Sally Field. I could watch this one over and over. Oh, wait-- I have.

Annnd, go!

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dooce makes me shoot saliva spritzers out of my mouth... and she's on the TODAY show.

This post caused me some serious health problems.

And then I watched her Today show appearance.

I'm trying not to indulge in one of the deadly sins here. But she was brilliant!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

COE 170 does TAKSes proud

Bellringers does the Carnival of Education with a Texas flavor rush that also lets us once again savor the feeling of taking a standardized test, in case anyone hasn't gotten enough of that already.

Head on over and take a gander.....


Can anyone say, "High Maintenance?" I thought you could.

So in this one class I have the following kids:

Commie kid
John Birch kid
Too-cool-for-school kid
District-employee's-kid-with-more-than-a-soupcon-of-underachievement, alias You-can't-make-me kid
2 kids who can handle school only 2 hours a day
Cheerleader kid
Read-a-holic kid (God bless him!)

And these are mixed in with a smattering of 2 kids with the sunniest of dispositions, a kid who only wants to talk about music, a kid who has lived in this country for three years but speaks better English than almost anyone else in the room, 2 foreign exchange students, a kid with an incredible knowledge of South Park, and a kid with a 504 a mile long who still tries really hard.

And they all get along, mostly.

It's like that painting entitled "The Peaceable Kingdom." Although I may lose my mind before rough winds finish shaking the darling buds of May.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 113: Prom revenge edition

You know what? I'm going to change it up for this week's Movie Madness Monday. It's prom season, again, and thank the LORD I don't have to chaperone it, and so I'm going to do a MMM theme week.

Pick a movie that has a dance or prom scene in it. Put your favorite quote in the comments section, along with the movie from which it came.

So put your quotes in the comments section.

here's mine:

"Even if this was not a law, which it is, I'm afraid I would have a lot of difficulty endorsing an enterprise which is as fraught with genuine peril as I believe this one to be. Besides the liquor and the drugs which always seem to accompany such an event the thing that distresses me even more, Ren, is the spiritual corruption that can be involved. These dances and this kind of music can be destructive, and, uh, Ren, I'm afraid you're going to find most of the people in our community are gonna agree with me on this. "
----from Footloose. I LOVE Kevin Bacon!

Now it's your turn!

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

If words were horses, then students would read.

The Reading First program apparently has negligible effects upon improving reading scores-- or should we say reading ability? Because there is a difference-- of elementary students:
The $6 billion reading program at the center of President Bush's signature education law has failed to make a difference in how well children understand what they read, according to a study by the program's own champion — the U.S. Department of Education.

The program, Reading First, was designed to help boost student performance in low-income elementary schools, but failed to improve reading comprehension, says the study from the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the Education Department.

There was no difference in comprehension scores between students who participated in Reading First and those who did not, the study found.

The findings released Thursday threw the program's future into doubt.

"We need to seriously re-examine this program and figure out how to make it work better for students," said California Democratic Rep. George Miller, chair of the House education committee.

Reading First was created as part of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which aims to get all children doing math and reading at their proper grade level. President Bush and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings have championed the reading program as an important part of the law.

Institute director Russ Whitehurst said the study focused on reading comprehension rather than other aspects of reading such as whether kids grasp phonics, because comprehension is the ultimate goal when teaching reading.

The study did find Reading First led to more time being spent by teachers on the various aspects of reading judged to be important by a federal reading panel.

The study also found that among schools participating in Reading First, higher levels of funding led to some improvement in scores.

Congress recently cut funding to the program — over Bush's objections — due to budget constraints and controversies surrounding it.

"It's no surprise that Reading First has been a failure," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., who led the fight to cut the program's budget following reports about management problems and potential conflicts of interest in the program.

Spellings hailed the program as a success last year when she released data showing scores in Reading First schools were up. However, those scores weren't compared with schools where Reading First wasn't in place. The new study compares those using the program to those not using it.

So, while elementary school students appear to be improving in reading across the board, there's no difference in the gains being made by students participating in Reading First and those who are not, according to the study.

Amanda Farris, deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives at the Education Department, said Reading First remains popular.

"Secretary Spellings has traveled to 20 states since January. One of the consistent messages she hears from educators, principals and state administrators is about the effectiveness of the Reading First program in their schools and their disappointment with Congress for slashing Reading First funds," she said in a statement Thursday.

Jim Herman, Tennessee's Reading First director, said he thinks the program works. He said one potential flaw with the latest study is that it doesn't measure the degree to which schools not receiving Reading First money may be using Reading First practices.

He noted that Memphis was studied as part of the new report, and he said it was in a district where Reading First methods were used in schools not getting Reading First money.

This isn't the first time supporters of the program have been dealt bad news.

Congressional investigators and Education Department Inspector General John Higgins previously found that federal officials and contractors didn't adequately address potential conflicts of interest. For example, federal contractors that gave states advice on which teaching materials to buy had financial ties to publishers of Reading First materials, according to the investigations.

Higgins also testified to Congress that the department didn't comply with the law when setting up panels that would review grant applications and in establishing criteria for what teaching materials could be used.

Miller said those problems could be behind the findings of the Education Department report.

"Because of the corruption in the Reading First program, districts and schools were steered toward certain reading programs and products that may not have provided the most effective instruction for students," he said.

The new study examining Reading First's impact has itself been the subject of conflict-of-interest questions because a contractor that worked on it was also among those that helped implement the Reading First program.

RMC Research Corp. was the contractor hired by the federal government to help with Reading First at the outset of the program under three contracts worth about $40 million. The contractor was subsequently criticized in an inspector general's report for failing to adequately address conflict-of-interest issues. For example, it did not sufficiently screen subcontractors for relationships with publishers of reading programs, the report said.

RMC also was involved in the study released Thursday, developing ways of measuring what was taught in classrooms and training classroom observers. Critics have said the company was, in effect, involved in judging its own work.

Whitehurst said he didn't think the contractor's involvement in the study resulted in an actual conflict of interest but perhaps created the appearance of one.

"If we had to do it all over again," he said, "we would have avoided the appearance issue."

The report released Thursday was an interim report. The final version is due out by the end of the year.

Having spent many years toiling as a teacher, including being a language arts teacher, there are a few things that I have noticed. First of all, the best readers use a mixture of phonics skills and context skills in reading. Sight reading skills are useful for common words, but readers need to know how to sound out words as well. Successful readers also have a good knowledge of the meaning of roots, suffixes and prefixes so that they may decode new words they encounter rather than either skipping over unfamiliar words or stopping to look them up, an activity that is anathema for most students, even with the power of the internet at their fingertips.

Phonics instruction alone will not improve reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is more than just understanding individual words! Reading is interpretation of ideas as well. Phonics is a vital place to start, but it is not the ONLY thing that goes on in the mind of a good reader.

I have also seen the destruction wreaked upon students during the repeated fads for "whole language" instruction, and the problems include inability to spell even common words such as or, are, there, their, or its, a failure to be able to decode new words or understand words with unusual spellings. Students completely give up when confronted with words from other languages, and -- news flash, people-- most words in English are derived from German, French, Latin, and Greek, with a sprinkling of Arabic, Persian, and Danish thrown in for flavor. This has resulted in students having a smaller functional vocabulary, which-- follow me here-- causes reading to be more difficult and less rewarding.

I personally find reading seriously addictive. My students often ask me where I have learned all the weird stuff I know. They think I'm kidding when I reply, "I READ a LOT." One of my pet peeves when I was a middle school teacher was when I was often presented with this claim:
Based on the paper “Learning and Teaching Styles” written by Richard M. Felder and Linda K. Silverman in the Journal of Engineering Education, a study carried out by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company found “that students retain 10 percent of what they read, 26 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, 50 percent of what they see and hear, 70 percent of what they say, and 90 percent of what they say as they do something.”

I can point to an easily verifiable flaw in the above statement: I know from personal experience that husbands remember far less than 70 percent of what they say, much less 90 percent of what they say as they do something. B'doom-CHING!

But seriously, what is the verifiability of this study? What is its reliability? And yet, this thing was passed around as the most sacred of truths for the entire time I taught at the middle school level-- and in my experience, usually by people WHO DO NOT READ THEMSELVES. It's stuff like this that led to the denigration of literacy skills in our schools and our culture in the first place. As someone who reads constantly, and who has friends who read constantly, I dispute these claims with every fiber of my being.

These are the most sweeping of generalizations, and making generalizations a standard of expectation results in expectations being lowered.

If fixing reading problems were easy, there would be no reading problems. The real problem is that we are inundated by a culture that denigrates intellectual gifts and downplays the truth that education is a difficult and arduous process that requires that you do the hardest thing in the world right now-- PAY ATTENTION. It's funny to make fun of people who spend hours with their faces in a book. They're geeks, nerds, dweebs, brains, walking encyclopedias. They're "out of touch." We don't want our leaders to appear too brainy, or we claim that they don't understand the average person.

Deep down, we know that literacy is the foundation of all knowledge. But how do you get people to want to read better when everything screams that reading isn't cool and isn't "fun?" We understand that to get a great jump shot, one has to practice repeatedly and fail repeatedly and still persevere.

But we aren't willing to do the same thing to become more literate.

You have to read to be better at reading. It really doesn't matter how you do it. But programs like Reading First or Whole Language or whatever else will come down the pike will ALL fail since they try to turn the process of reading into a mechanical procedure divorced from utility, entertainment, or fascination.

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I'm pretty sure my parents would not have gone for this

Some colleges are giving students in dorms the right to live with anyone they want as a roomie-- even someone of the opposite sex:
Erik Youngdahl and Michelle Garcia share a dorm room at Connecticut's Wesleyan University. But they say there's no funny business going on. Really. They mean it.

They have set up their beds side-by-side like Lucy and Ricky in "I Love Lucy," and avert their eyes when one of them is changing clothes.

"People are shocked to hear that it's happening and even that it's possible," said Youngdahl, a 20-year-old sophomore. But "once you actually live in it, it doesn't actually turn into a big deal."

In the prim 1950s, college dorms were off-limits to members of the opposite sex. Then came the 1970s, when male and female students started crossing paths in coed dormitories. Now, to the astonishment of some Baby Boomer parents, a growing number of colleges are going even further: coed rooms.

At least two dozen schools, including Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Oberlin College, Clark University and the California Institute of Technology, allow some or all students to share a room with anyone they choose — including someone of the opposite sex. This spring, as students sign up for next year's room, more schools are following suit, including Stanford University.

As shocking as it sounds to some parents, some students and schools say it's not about sex.

Instead, they say the demand is mostly from heterosexual students who want to live with close friends who happen to be of the opposite sex. Some gay students who feel more comfortable rooming with someone of the opposite sex are also taking advantage of the option.

"It ultimately comes down to finding someone that you feel is compatible with you," said Jeffrey Chang, a junior at Clark in Worcester, Mass., who co-founded the National Student Genderblind Campaign, a group that is pushing for gender-neutral housing. "Students aren't doing this to make a point. They're not doing this to upset their parents. It's really for practical reasons."

Couples do sometimes room together, an arrangement known at some schools as "roomcest." Brown explicitly discourages couples from living together on campus, be they gay or straight. But the University of California, Riverside has never had a problem with a roommate couple breaking up midyear, said James C. Smith, assistant director for residence life.

Most schools introduced the couples option in the past three or four years. So far, relatively few students are taking part. At the University of Pennsylvania, which began offering coed rooms in 2005, about 120 out of 10,400 students took advantage of the option this year.

At UC Riverside, which has approximately 6,000 students in campus housing, about 50 have roommates of the opposite sex. The school has had the option since 2005.

Garcia and Youngdahl live in a house for students with an interest in Russian studies. They said they were already friendly, and didn't think they would be compatible with some of the other people in the house.

"I had just roomed with a boy. I was under the impression at the time that girls were a little bit neater and more quiet," Youngdahl said. "As it turns out, I don't see much of a difference from one sex to the other."

Garcia, 19, admitted: "I'm incredibly messy."

Parents aren't necessarily thrilled with boy-girl housing.

Debbie Feldman's 20-year-old daughter, Samantha, is a sophomore at Oberlin in Ohio and plans to room with her platonic friend Grey Caspro, a straight guy, next year. Feldman said she was shocked when her daughter told her.

"When you have a male and female sharing such close quarters, I think it's somewhat delusional to think there won't be sexual tension," the 52-year-old Feldman said. "Maybe this generation feels more comfortable walking around in their underwear. I'm not sure that's a good thing."

Still, Feldman said her daughter is partly in college to learn life lessons, and it's her decision. Samantha said she assured her mom she thinks of Caspro as a brother.

"I'm really close to him, and I consider him one of my really good friends," she said. "I really trust him. That trust makes it work."

Well, the changing clothes thing actually might work. I had a roommate one year from Indonesia, which is a very conservative country, and she always changed her clothes in the closet, and I tried to be sensitive about such things beyond my normal modesty. The last two years I was at school, the university built its first "co-ed" dorm, although there were separate floors for girls and separate floors for guys. I lived in one of the girls' dorms. Males were not allowed in our dorm rooms after midnight on weekdays and after 2 am on weekends. Not that that stopped anyone if they were sneaky. And I think that term "roomcest" is hysterically funny.

I certainly have had many male friends throughout my life, having been quite the "tomboy" and I can assure that there was not sexually tension present with most of them. So I think it is completely possible to care for someone as a human being and not have issues of sex enter into the relationship. I don't know how I'd feel about my daughter having a male roommate in college. It would depend upon the boy. But after having good roomies and bad roomies myself, I can tell you that you can have problems with anyone.


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