Tonawanda News


September 6, 2013

ADAMCZYK: The walls behind the ivy are shaking

Tonawanda News — Status symbols exist for the benefit of people we want to make jealous, or at least those we want to make aware of what we’ve got going on. For that, the Jaguar in the driveway or the pearls around one’s neck is as valid as a Channel 17 coffee cup or a T-shirt with the Goo Goo Dolls’ tour schedule on the back.

New college freshmen (hi, kids) should be aware they are entering, descending actually, into a labyrinth of social coding with their presumed education. Harvard? Buffalo State? Dorm room? Mom’s basement? Honor societies? Some really disreputable and dishonorable societies?

These are a part of the so-called “permanent record” of which we once heard and feared, and yes, they are status symbols, symbols of the puzzle that is one’s life, that follow you “from the rocking of the cradle to the rolling of the hearse,” as songwriter Kris Kristofferson (Pomona College, Rhodes scholarship) once wrote.

The college go-getters should know about another status symbol: a table composed of somewhat self-satisfied older men, guys with the commonality of achieving their idea of success in life without the benefit of advanced educations. They worked hard, got lucky, worked harder and now sit around restaurant tables or country clubs or seniors’ places and comment on things. 

College. Going to college. Part-timing one’s way through college. Having a son or daughter in college. A good college. Or maybe no college at all. Each is something to brag about, to someone.

I thought of this when I recently read an excerpt from a new book by Tyler Cowan (an economics professor at George Mason University, which is a college), “Average is Over.” Dig this:

“Within five years we are likely to have the world’s best education, or close to it, free and online. But not everyone will sit down and go through the material without a professor pushing them to do the work.”

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