The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 26, 2007



Being a community: after L-S

We take pride in our Carlisle community, geographically defined by our borders and sociologically marked by our concern for the environment, simplicity, education and, of course, family.

From our earliest days, school is our most important community, from pre-school through college and graduate school. When we become parents, school again is a predominant community where we meet other parents and partner with teachers to ensure that our children receive the best possible education. School is at the center of our world for much of our lives, and students feel safe there — usually.

When the safety of a school is shattered, whether it be in Chechnya, Germany, Colorado, Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, adults and children everywhere are deeply affected. "It could happen here, couldn't it?" is often heard after a school tragedy, and every administration does its best to make its school safer than before.

Last Friday's stabbing at Lincoln-Sudbury High School profoundly touched the Carlisle community. Horrified children at Concord-Carlisle High School and their anxious parents were addressed by Principal Art Dulong, who reassured them that there was no cause for alarm at CCHS in connection with L-S. In an e-mail to the CCHS community immediately after learning of the tragedy, Dulong wrote, "When we speak about being vigilant, about being a community, about having responsibility for each other during the day, these are not hollow words." He announced that several members of the CCHS counseling staff were on their way to L-S to help the grieving community in every way possible.

Out of tragedy come an inevitable strengthening of bonds among members of the stricken community and an outpouring of generosity and good will from its neighbors across town, state and national borders. From the worst of times can spring the best of human nature — think September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. CCHS students, who may have been strangers to grief until now, were among the thousands who posted messages of condolence on the Facebook page set up in memory of James Alenson, the 15-year-old L-S victim. Their compassion is admirable as they struggle to understand why such unfathomable violence happens.

The young people in our community have suffered a loss of innocence. The adults in their lives cannot assure them that it couldn't happen here. We know it could. We also know that CCHS and the Carlisle School are as safe as they can be. We can echo Dulong's emphasis on vigilance and responsibility for one another, and remind students that they belong to a caring, generous and supportive community, at school and at home in Carlisle.

College and your choice

If you have a junior or senior in high school, January is the hiatus month. Juniors begin to think about where they might go to college (if their families haven't been planning since their children's birth). They might also wonder what colleges will accept them. The thrill of fear is already coursing through their parents' veins: vacation travel plans include college towns, and not just those in Florida.

The majority of seniors have already filled out the Common Application used by many institutions of higher learning: Personal Data, Educational Data, Test Information, Family Information, The Short Essay ("briefly elaborate on one of your activities"), and the Personal Essay ("evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk. . ."). According to USA Today, 41,000 Common Applications were filed in 2001; 700,000 applications are expected this year.

Some seniors have applied under Early Decision rules: applications due by November first; decisions rendered by December 15. Others have applied to rolling admissions programs in which decisions come out in February as well as April. Most apply on the regular program, with decisions rendered in mid April.

According to the College Board, early applications to Boston College were up 20% this year alone; regular applications were up 15%. Early applications at Hamilton College in upstate New York were up 25% this year. This was not the case when the parents of the class of 2007 applied to college.

Then there are the acceptance rates. Northeastern University used to take something like 90% of its applicants; now they accept less than 50%. Those other universities known for their ivy-covered halls have been accepting less than 10% of applicants for a number of years now. Amazingly, some students still get in.

Shall we discuss tuition? The average cost of four years at a public university hovers close to $70,000; four years at a private university runs around $140,000. Got a five-year-old at home? Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $100,000 for four years at a public university and $235,000 at a private. I found these numbers on the Web after a short search. The experts generally assume a 7% a year increase in the cost of university. Currently, only 5% of families in the U.S. can afford to pay full college tuition.

So fight back: don't go to university! The income gap between those who have a high school diploma only and those with an advanced degree is estimated at only a million dollars over a lifetime.

We have a senior in our household. Last spring, summer and fall we roamed over the Northeast, looking at colleges. Since I teach high school English as a profession, I looked at the English offerings at the various colleges we visited. Most of the courses were virtually interchangeable, as were the faculty trained at our finest institutions. Once obscure colleges now boast facilities and faculty to rival the traditional best. In fact there are many excellent choices; it's a great time to look for a college.

Where one goes to college spends its force within five years of graduation; after a decade it becomes a purely personal matter. In a more-or-less pluralistic, more-or-less merit based economy and social organization, the Academy of Hard Work, Diligence, Ingenuity and Foresight remains the best choice. It has open admissions.

To the class of 2007: your Promised Land is out there, even if takes 40 years to reach it. Good luck and don't forget to smell the flowers.


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2007 The Carlisle Mosquito