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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele — last modified Jan 26, 2024 10:49 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included pride in being an American, college applicants skipping "target" schools, a mother and daughter who hate each other, and Trump blocking immigration reform.

Yesterday's most active thread was titled, "How proud are you to be an American?" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum. This thread is currently 23 pages long and, to be honest, I don't really feel like reading a single post. The entire text of the original post is "Politically and philosophically speaking." which did nothing to increase my interest in the thread. Moreover, the thread should have been posted in the political forum because almost immediately most of the posts turned political. I skipped to the last page and, sure enough, things were even worse. As a result, I locked the thread. As would be expected, some posters are proud to be an American and others are less so. In many cases, feelings seem to be closely aligned with support or disagreement with President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump. I, of course, am not a big fan of the "love it or leave it" mentality often evinced by those with perhaps too much pride in our country. Nor, however, do I think we need to permanently hang our heads in shame. The vast majority of us had no say in becoming Americans. We were born that way and, if anything, the primary thing we should feel is lucky. America, like it citizens, is responsible for both good and bad contributions to the world. It is a country with flaws and it helps nobody to ignore or gloss over those shortcomings. Ironically, some of the most vocal critics of America today are exactly those who proclaim themselves "patriots". Many of them would have us believe that pride in the country is best expressed by waving a flag while attempting to usurp its fundamental institutions. This highlights another issue. What exactly is "America"? Is it simply a land within its borders, a legal designation, or a government? Is it its people, a culture, neither of those, or something more? Have increased travel, communication, and other aspects of globalization made being an American less significant? The few posts that I read in this thread suggested that many poster's feelings about America were tied to their support for one side or the other of the Israel-Gaza war. By the end of the thread the discussion appears to have lost all relevance to the original topic and is solely about immigration.

The next most active thread yesterday was posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum and titled, "Jeff Selingo on people skipping ‘target schools’". Jeff Selingo is an author and consultant who studies college admissions. For years his name has come up in threads in the college forum, often as a recommendation for his books. He is mentioned so much that I have at times suspected that might be astroturfing going on as part of a marketing initiative. But, I've been assured that he is a legitimate expert and that the recommendations are authentic. The original poster of this thread quotes heavily from Selingo's newsletter. Quotes so heavily, in fact, that I am a bit concerned about the post violating copyright laws. If Mr. Selingo has his own copyright concerns, I'll be happy to remove or edit the post as I am a strong proponent of protecting intellectual property rights. The point of Selingo's article is similar to something I discussed in a recent blog post about a point at which selective private colleges were no longer worth their cost. Selingo says that he has noticed that outside the "Ivy Plus institutions", families are no longer as willing to pay for private schools as in the past. This is also related to a thread discussing the so-called "dead zone" families that I also discussed recently. These are families in the top 5-10% of income who are not wealthy enough to ensure Ivy admission but have too much money to be offered aid by the next rung of colleges. In fact, Selingo's article reflects so many themes that have been discussed in the college forum that rather than using the forum to flog his books, maybe he is using it for inspiration? But, I'm probably also wrong about that. At any rate, what Selingo says that he has observed is that families are willing to fork over the money necessary for the very top universities. But, if their kids are not accepted there, they avoid the next group of selective schools and, instead choose lower ranked private or public schools that either provide significant merit aid or otherwise cost less. This is completely consistent with what I have seen discussed in the college forum. Traditionally, college counselors have advised students to divide schools into "reaches", "targets", and "safeties". The first group are schools for which the student is qualified, but which are so selective that admission is a roll of the dice. The second are schools that are not quite as good as the reaches, but ones by which the student has a reasonably good chance of being accepted. The third group are in case all else fails. Selingo says that he increasingly sees students not even bothering to apply to target schools. Instead, they either get their reach or default to their safety. Far be it for me to challenge Selingo's expertise on this matter, but I do have one quibble, similar to one I made when discussing the private school cut-off thread the other day. Students may be choosing state flagships over mid-ranked private schools not only due to cost, but because the quality of the state schools is rivaling, if not surpassing in some cases, those private colleges.

Next was a thread titled, "I told my teen I hate her, I meant it." which was posted in the "Tweens and Teens" forum. When I read the title of this thread I was going to say that this is a "man bites dog" story since it is normally the teen saying they hate their parents. But, it turns out the original poster's daughter said that first. The original poster says that her 16-year-old daughter is "unmanageable, rude, self righteous" and they hate each other. The original poster says that she is in remission from cancer and can't handle the conflict anymore. Her husband always sides with their daughter. Therefore, the original poster is going to "back off and hope she moves out in 2 years." As could be expected, responses are divided between those critical of the original poster, those supportive of her, and those critical of her husband. Many posters say they have been there and done that and that the original poster should just ride it out. Things will get better. Others are convinced that drastic changes are needed or things won't get better. I didn't read all 12 pages of this thread, but skipping toward the end it looks like the thread turned into a debate about following rules. It seems that teens naturally challenge authority and resent rules while simultaneously are expected by parents to follow rules. This obviously creates conflict as teens break rules that parents are attempting to enforce. The dispute is over how parents should address this conflict. Those who accept the rule-breaking as normal are criticized for not properly parenting their kids. Those who are too strict are criticized for not understanding teen mentality. One poster did a reasonably good job of explaining how to bridge this gap. She wrote, "If you have outbursts like a child, you get treated like a child. If you behave maturely, you get treated like an adult. It involves trust and MUTUAL respect. Many teens feel entitled to the adult treatment (I can make my own choices!) without the adult responsibilities (at a minimum, be respectful to your parents)." But, this results in a rebuttal that the original poster's behavior toward her daughter did not follow either of those guidelines. She neither treated her daughter as a child nor an adult.

The final thread that I will discuss today was posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. Titled, "Trump is blocking a border deal in the Senate", the original poster linked to a CNN article saying that former President Donald Trump is using his influence over Senate Republicans to block an immigration bill that has been the center of bipartisan discussions. According to the article, Trump does not want President Joe Biden to have a "win" and prefers to have immigration as an issue in the presidential campaign. At issue here is funding for Ukraine in it's war with Russia. House Republicans refused to approve such aid unless it was tied to immigration reform strengthening border controls. Biden agreed to a bill combining the two issues and submitted proposed legislation. Discussions over the bill moved the the Senate where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed support for a combined measure. However, once Trump announced his opposition, McConnell reversed himself and said that an immigration bill was no longer in the cards. That position didn't last long, however, as McConnell again changed course and offered support for the bipartisan bill under discussion. The best guess now is that a bipartisan measure will pass the Senate but die in the House. I wrote yesterday that Republicans are experts at creating problems and then blaming them on Democrats. This is their clearly-announced intention in this case. Biden has publicly supported stronger border controls and Senate Republicans are more or less onboard with him. But, Trump and House Republicans prefer to kill the legislation and campaign on allegations that Biden is soft on immigration. Imagine a world in which a Republican President was able to reach agreement with Senate Democrats to enact strong gun control legislation but those efforts were stymied because members of "The Squad" killed the bill, preferring to have gun control be a campaign issue. The press and public would understandably lose their collective minds and Squad members would be lambasted from one end of the country to the other. But, when Republicans not only engage in this sort of cynical ploy, but announce it publicly, it is accepted as normal politics. It is not normal, or at least it shouldn't be. Immigration has been exploited for years as a political issue. Remember the convoys that materialized routinely just before an election? Clearly Republicans who have no hope of running on the economy are desparate for an issue and immigration is their best bet. At one point they may have planned to campaign against transgender students, drag queens, and books that discuss Black people, but the Ron DeSantis implosion has undermined that idea. So, immigration it is and even that issue would be set back if Biden were able to sign a strong immigration bill. So, rather than participate in solving what Republicans claim is a huge problem, they prefer to have the problem fester in hope that it will help them in the election.

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