The week@work – March 30 – April 5

This week@work stories ranged from college admissions to a debate over foreign players in England’s Premier League and a stagnant US Jobs report.

On the college admissions front, McSweeney’s published ‘A Honest College Rejection Letter’ by Mimi Evans. In part:

“Dear Applicant,

The Admissions Committee has carefully considered your application and we regret to inform you that we will not be able to offer you admission in the entering class of 2015, or a position on one of our alternate lists. The applicant pool this year was particularly strong, and by that I mean the Admissions Committee once again sent candidates like you multiple enticing pamphlets encouraging you to apply, knowing full well we had no intention of accepting you.

However, you will be pleased to know that you have contributed to our declining admissions rate, which has helped our university appear exclusive. This allows us to attract our real candidates: upper-class kids and certified geniuses who will glean no new information from our courses or faculty, whose parents can incentivize us with a new swimming pool or lacrosse stadium…”

A high school senior in North Carolina responded to a rejection letter from Duke:

“This year I have been fortunate enough to receive rejection letters from the best and brightest universities in the country. With a pool of letters so diverse and accomplished I was unable to accept reject letters I would have been able to only several years ago.

Therefore I will be attending Duke University’s 2015 freshmen class. I look forward to seeing you then.”

The student will be attending the University of South Carolina in the fall and should be encouraged by the comments of 26 year old Jenna, described in Frank Bruni’s article on college admissions.She was not offered admission to her first choice college:

“I felt so worthless,” she recalled.

She chose Scripps. And once she got there and saw how contentedly she fit in, she had a life-changing realization: Not only was a crushing chapter of her life in the past, it hadn’t crushed her. Rejection was fleeting — and survivable.

As a result, she said, “I applied for things fearlessly.”

It’s Final Four weekend. Talented college athletes will be competing in both men’s and women’s basketball. Marc Tracy, writing in The New York Times, takes us back to 1965 when the Final Four included Princeton University and their star player, Bill Bradley. The story is about the athlete and the writer, John McPhee at the beginning of their careers. Published in The New Yorker, ‘A Sense of Where You Are’ was later released in book form. How did Bradley choose Princeton?

“Bradley was affluent. Having initially accepted a scholarship to play basketball at Duke, he chose Princeton, he said, because the summer before his freshman year he had visited Oxford University and was determined to return. A Rhodes scholarship seemed like a great way to do so, and he had read that Princeton produced the most Rhodes scholars.

“I came home from a date, woke my parents up, and said I’d like to change my mind,” Bradley recalled.

And yet in its way the book does argue the merit of incorporating athletics into education. Watching Bradley’s dual sense of where he is — on the basketball court and in life — serves as a reminder that most young people lack a sense of where they are, and that sports are one way to try to find it.”

In 2010 author Franklin Foer published his book, ‘How Soccer Soccer Explains the World’. He looked at soccer and it’s role in various cultures explaining how international forces affect politics and life around the globe. This week, in England an anti-globalization sentiment is growing as Premier League fans question how many potential players in soccer academies are losing opportunities to international players. The English league owes its popularity and skyrocketing salaries to globalization. Will England restrict the number of players recruited from abroad? The debate illustrates conversations that go beyond the ‘workplace’ of soccer and fuel the immigration controversy in both the US and EU.

The New York Times reported on the latest economic report:

“The yearlong streak of robust monthly job creation was broken on Friday with the Labor Department’s report that employers added just 126,000 workers in March, a marked slowdown in hiring that echoed earlier signs that sluggish business investment and punishing weather were exacting a toll on the economy.”

An inclination to learn from life – the value of college

College presidents used to be the influential, ‘thought leaders’ of their time, consulted by heads of state and corporate CEOs. It’s the rare college leader who steps out today and takes a stand amid the conflicting pressures of donor interests, state legislatures and government regulation.

In 2007 Michael S. Roth became president of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Five years later he wrote an opinion in The New York Times with the title ‘Learning as Freedom’. In it he borrows heavily from the writings of John Dewey, an early twentieth century philosopher and leader in education reform.

At this time of year when students are deciding where to attend college amid a growing conversation on the value of college, it’s refreshing to take a step back into history and revisit the ideas of those who defined American higher education.

President Roth asks the question, “Who wants to attend school to learn to be ‘human capital’ ? Who aspires for their children to become economic or military resources?”

Why do we attend college? For Dewey “…schools first and foremost should teach us habits of learning…these habits included awareness of our interdependence; nobody is an expert on everything. He emphasized ‘plasticity’, an openness to being shaped by experience: “The inclination to learn from life itself and to make the conditions of life such that all will learn in the process of living is the finest product of schooling.”

President Roth concludes,“Dewey’s insight that learning in the process of living is the deepest form of freedom. In a nation that aspires to democracy, that’s what education is primarily for: the cultivation of freedom within society…Higher education’s highest purpose is to give all citizens the opportunity to find ‘large and human significance’ in their lives and work.”

For high school seniors, this is an important message. For the past twelve years of education your struggles are about to be rewarded with an invite to attend the college of your choice. But what about life after admission?

Frank Bruni gives voice to the concern that it’s all about the process in his article ‘How to Survive the College Admissions Madness’. “College is a singular opportunity to rummage through and luxuriate in ideas, to realize how very large the world is and to contemplate your desired place in it. And that’s lost in the admissions mania, which sends the message that college is a sanctum to be breached – a border to be crossed – rather than a land to be inhabited and tilled for all that it’s worth.”

Look beyond the letter and imagine who you’ll be a year from now. Where will you best exercise your inclination to learn from life?