Literary Quickie: The Fatal Flame

I finished Lyndsay Faye’s The Fatal Flame last night, and I gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads.  I usually reserve that perfect score for mind-blowing reads like Cloud Atlas and The Goldfinch, but I just loved how Faye wrote about fraternal and romantic love(s) in The Fatal Flame.  In fact, I loved the love more than the actual mystery in this mystery book.

I was dreading from the reflectively, slightly regretful tone at the beginning of this book that this might be the final Timothy Wilde adventure, and by about the last thirty pages I realized that Faye was indeed wrapping up Timothy’s story arc quite tidily.  I wonder if, as a writer, Faye didn’t want to trap her authorial identity into “the Timothy Wilde series writer” and that’s why she’s moving on to other storylines.  In this trilogy, Wilde has dealt with child sexual abuse, slavery, and women’s rights, as well as the politics stretching the new country (Mexican-American war, westward expansion, democracy, immigration, labor laws, ethnic and gender equality), let alone Manhattan where the story is set.  There’s still fertile ground for future Wilde stories (the Civil War would break out in another decade), but I like that at three books she’s wrapped up the story arc without stretching Wilde’s character into thinness.

The mystery at the heart of this book is Wilde’s investigation into who has been torching a famous alderman’s properties in Manhattan.  In the course of his investigation, the young copper star (of the newly formed NYPD star police force) falls headlong into the labor strife between women seamstresses and the status quo:  working men, who prefer their women to remain the angel in the house.  Like my critique of the previous two books, Wilde’s morals are very modern.  Not only is he quite OK with his brother’s bisexuality, not only is he an abolitionist and a protector of the innocent, but he also thinks incredibly (by which I mean it tests my credulity a wee bit) like a woman.  If you had blocked out the author’s name in this book and asked me to read it, I would be able to guess at certain parts that a woman had written it; Wilde’s moral leanings are just that…modern-woman-liberal-ish.  In any case, the mystery wasn’t what drew me in.

This third book delved deeper into Wilde’s relationships with his larger-than-life brother, Val, and with Mercy Underhill, love of his life.  The most heartbreakingly beautiful writing in this book deals with those two, Val and Mercy.  Val seems like a big brute on the outside, but has such a solidly good soul in truth.  He blames himself thoroughly for what he perceives as his past sins and shortcomings, though Timothy remembers that Val did the best he could to raise the two of them after their parents died (the cause of which Val also lays at his own feet).  There was a scene that wrenched out my heart:  Val says that he blames himself for Timothy’s short stature because they were living on scraps and scavenged food trash during Timothy’s most formative years.  When the force of this admission hits Timothy, we feel the blow too, especially because Timothy remembers that Val had stolen a crate of oranges for them and that they had lived as kings on it for a little while.  What Val had interpreted as his failures as a big brother and sole guardian, Timothy remembers as pure love and good intentions.  Val had been feeling guilty for things beyond his control, but he is actually a thoroughly decent man (for all his sexual proclivities and drug use).

And Mercy Underhill, whose tenuous grasp of reality and sanity mark her as tragic, nevertheless yanks out Timothy’s heart too (and thus, also ours).  Since the first book, Timothy has put Mercy on a pedestal–distant and to be worshiped, rather than “marked” as his landlady and sometime lover, Mrs. Boehm, explains to him.  This is also a very modern take on love, I think.  The women Timothy loves, including the young Bird Daly, all teach him that women are not to be cherished at arm’s length like fragile creatures, to be protected and kept out of harm’s way.  If a man is to truly love a woman, then he must love her messily, aggressively, so thoroughly that it leaves a mark.  All the missed opportunities and regret Timothy feels when he learns this lesson just crushed me, since Faye wrote of it so eloquently.

So, the love is really what won me over in this book.  The mystery wasn’t much compelling, but Timothy’s relationships and his self-awareness were written about very well.  I can see Faye’s growth as a writer of the human condition in this book, and I’m very excited to pick up her fifth, due next year.

*Suggestion:  I think you should pick up the earlier two books first, before you jump into The Fatal Flame.

Sacramento Shakespeare Festival: Romeo and Juliet!

Magnet Logo Full ColorLast night, my friend Maryclare and I attended the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival‘s production of Romeo and Juliet.  It was an all-male cast, so that was a nice homage to the original Shakespearean productions.  Many of the actors looked so young–young enough to have been my high school students!

The festival is produced by Sacramento City College, and it makes for a nice evening out with family and friends.  It’s a low-budget production, so don’t expect mind-blowing sets or any special effects, but the young actors are earnest, and it’s a great setting (in the William A. Carroll amphitheater, next to Fairy Tale Town).  I’ve attended for several years now and always have a nice time.  You’re also allowed to picnic in the theater, so do pack a basket.  There are benches but if you bring a stadium chair, make sure it is low-backed so people behind you can see, or you can spread a blanket on the ground nearest the stage.  This year, I packed a Coleman chairstadium chair by Coleman, and ohhh my bum and back hurt throughout the show!  Next time I use this, I’m going to bring an extra cushion to sit on.

The festival is also featuring As You Like It, this time with an all-female cast set in the Prohibition era.

Reading This Week: Lyndsay Faye

Fatal Flame

But first:

Water's EdgeI read Sara Gruen’s At the Water’s Edge on my Kindle during the flights to and from Peru a couple of weeks ago.  It was a perfect flight read:  light, airy, not too much focus necessary.  I would recommend it for a beach read, too.  It’s totally cheesy, and I’m tempted to call it “chick lit,” though what does that even mean?  Do we “chicks” only read brainless but entertaining shit?  OK, so I won’t call it “chick lit,” not that this book is shit, but it is quite superficial.  I think you can see my Goodreads review on it in the widget down below.  I had a goofy grin but was also eye-rolling throughout this book (though I did keep turning the pages until the last.)  What is it about the right mix of light entertainment and cheesiness that hooks readers?  I think because it was such an easy read that I didn’t feel as if it would be too much of a time investment to go ahead and finish reading.  I don’t remember Gruen’s previous book, Water for Elephants, being this corny.


Fatal FlameThis week, I picked up Lyndsay Faye’s latest, The Fatal Flame.  It’s the third installment in her Timothy Wilde series, which follows Wilde as he maneuvers the criminal underground of the early NYPD days in the 1840s.  I devoured the second book, Seven For a Secret last week and enjoyed it (and read the first book, Gods of Gotham, a couple of years ago.  I quite like Faye’s alliterative titles!).  I’m not too far into Fatal Flame as yet, so I can’t review it proper, but as a young series, the Timothy Wilde books are proving entertaining but also educational if not a tad preachy or moralizing.  For example, Seven For a Secret deals with the unethical practice of antebellum slave catching in the North.  Timothy Wilde is shocked at the practice of “catching” free blacks as well as runaway slaves, and sending them indiscriminately down to the South to lives of utter torment.  He’s got a good moral compass, young Timothy (he’s 28 in Seven for a Secret and 30 in Fatal Flame), but Faye is after all writing from the modern era in which we know how atrocious slavery is.  Thus, Timothy’s outraged thoughts and comments about how blacks are treated read like moralizations.  In this third installment, it feels as if Faye is dealing with women’s rights (I habitually don’t read the inside left flap of books for a synopsis–is that weird of me, especially as an English major?  I just like to be surprised.).

So far, the Faye books are fun for all their dark topics (murder, child abuse, slavery, sexual exploitation), and I get absolutely absorbed into them.  I also thoroughly enjoyed her Dust and Shadow, which is a stand-alone book written in the voice of Dr. Watson as he and the great Sherlock Holmes attempt to catch Jack the Ripper.  Hers are the kinds of books I can spend all day reading, getting thoroughly immersed in the time period and in Wilde’s naive, very Holden Caulfield-ish desire to save every hurt creature he encounters.  Looking forward to brewing another cup of coffee and plunging into this latest Faye book today!

p.s.  I just LOVE the name Faye.  I was obsessed with Morgan le Fay legends and stories in grad school.

My Week-long Peru Adventure

A dream come true!
A dream come true!
A dream come true!

I returned home a couple of weeks ago from my Gate1 seven-day guided tour of Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu.  The latter was of course the highlight of the trip, but Lima and Cusco were also interesting in their own rights.

My travel partner, Vivi, and I arrived in Lima a day ahead of the tour so we wouldn’t be so exhausted from the journey.  Consequently, we had plenty of time to wander around Miraflores district and explore the shoreline a mere ten-minutes’ walk from our lodging at Hotel Antigua.  The staff at this hotel were very friendly and helpful, and the hotel provided filtered water dispensers on every floor for their guests (don’t drink the tap water in Peru!).  As we walked around Miraflores, Vivi and I were instantly struck by the traffic and the crazy driving of Peruvians: straddling lanes, cutting people off, taking stop lights and pedestrian crossings as suggestions rather than law, driving up to mere inches of other vehicles, honking at all hours of the day and night (our room that first night was right on the street).  For all that crazy driving, we didn’t see any dents on cars or witness any accidents.  I would have died of an anxiety attack were I forced to get behind the wheel of a car in Peru, but the locals took all the craziness in stride.

One of the many strays I encountered on this trip. Look at those eyes!

Lima, at least the Miraflores district, also seemed dog-friendly.  We saw a lot of dog owners walking their pets in the various parks and squares in town, and especially at the Parque del Amor.  In Cusco and Aguas Calientes, the stray dogs broke my heart.  There were so many of them, small to large breeds and everything in between, forlorn-looking and frighteningly gaunt.  Some sported fresh wounds, others mange and other street-living ailments.  As a dog-lover, I found these strays would haunt my dreams at night.  But these strays came later; on the first day in Lima, all I saw were well-taken-care of dogs.

After Lima, we flew to Cusco and stayed at the Eco Inn.  The hotel had really spotty wifi, but the staff were friendly and helpful as well.  Since we were advised not to use tap water for even brushing our teeth in Cusco, I was glad to see that Eco Inn provided us with free bottled water in the bathrooms.  The hotel is located across the street from a little tourist market, and within walking distance of the main square and many eateries.

From Cusco, we rode a comfortable bus to a train station, then took the train to Aguas Calientes.  Gate1 did a commendable job handling all our luggage during the entire trip.  For example, once at Aguas Calientes, our luggage were whisked away to our hotel (El Mapi, pretty cute and trendy) so we could go on right away to Machu Picchu.  It was a lot of sitting down that day (plane, bus, train, and then a short bus ride again), but Machu Picchu was well worth it.

Aguas Calientes, from where we'll take a short bus ride to the visitor entrance of Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes, from where we’ll take a short bus ride to the visitor entrance of Machu Picchu.

Prior to my trip, I had read Mark Adams’s book Turn Right At Machu Picchu, and I am glad I had or I would not have known an ounce of the history behind this historic site.  Our tour guide was fun-loving and he did work hard, but he wasn’t clear or very informative, especially not while walking us around Machu Picchu.  Nevertheless, nothing could spoil that day.  My weather apps slated that day to be drizzly at best, but the sun shone bright and I ended up wishing I had worn my sandals and shorts instead.  I was glad for my hat, though; the sun is very bright up there.  We spent about four hours walking around, but it somehow felt too short of a time.  At least the altitude of Machu Picchu is lower than Cusco, so I didn’t feel the headaches and slight dizzyness I had while in Cusco proper (nothing some Advil and plenty of water couldn’t cure, for which I was thankful because my doctor did not prescribe me altitude sickness pills).  Machu Picchu is such an awe-inspiring site, all the more so because we still don’t really know why the Incas built it and what exactly took place there during the relatively short span of time (about one hundred years) it was inhabited.

Read this before going to Machu Picchu!
Read this before going to Machu Picchu!
I love it!  Machu Picchu!
I love it! Machu Picchu!

After our Machu Picchu visit, we had time to wander around the tourist markets at Aguas Calientes to buy knick knacks and souvenirs.  You’re expected to barter with the vendors (they definitely do mark everything up to begin with!), but I always felt bad about bartering too much.  Consequently, I paid 20 soles (about $7) for a little woven bag while Vivi managed to score a sweater for the same price.

It was back to Lima after Machu Picchu, and while the rest of our tour group was leaving some time that day, Vivi and I had a whole extra day in Lima.  We were to depart on an 11:45 p.m. flight on Sunday, and check-out was at 11 a.m., so we signed up for a three-hour excursion to Pachacamac in the morning.  The traffic there was atrocious and nail-biting, and Pachacamac was a little underwhelming after Machu Picchu but still historically interesting.  We had a very capable and informative tour guide, who explained everything like a lovable professor.  After Pachacamac, we returned to Miraflores around 1:30 p.m. and walked around and around until we were picked up by the Gate1 transportation service at 8 p.m. to be dropped off at the airport and despite the fun trip, we were eager to be home to clean water and toilets that could take tissue paper (no flushing toilet paper in Peru!).  Alas, we were told at the ticket counter that our flight was inexplicably delayed until 2:45 a.m., which meant we’d miss our Dallas connecting flight and would have to wait until 5:10 p.m. Dallas time to embark on the last leg of the journey back to Sacramento.  That was torture.  We stayed at the Cusco aiport from 8 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. with no wifi (oh, the horror!), catnapping on the uncomfortable chairs.  Then, in Dallas, we lounged around for seven hours, eating and reading and generally growing stinkier until we could finally go home.

So that was my week-long Peruvian adventure!  Some quick highlights if you’re interested in visiting these wonderful cities and sites:

  • The travel company: This was my first experience with Gate1 as a travel company, and I’d rate them about 3 1/2 stars out of 5.  I liked that they took care of transporting and storing our luggage, and the hotels they selected were located conveniently near shopping and eateries.  We had all our admission tickets ready for us, boarding passes printed, and color-coded luggage tags to differentiate between groups.  The coach buses and small buses they provided were all clean and air-conditioned.  Everything ran pretty smoothly.  However, our tour guide wasn’t always clear about directions or explanations.  He was more fun-loving than really informative, and I could have used an even mix of the two.  He wasn’t firm about meeting times, so people wandered to our meeting locales whenever they felt like it, and we were always running a wee bit late.  Also, the Peruvian buffet and show thing that they planned for us on our first (of two) included dinners was just bad and cheesy.  Lastly, as with my experience with other tour companies (except Rick Steves’s), the tour guide will take you to places where he gets a cut of the profits.  For example, we stopped for a long time at a textiles shop that wasn’t on the tour agenda, where alpaca sweaters and tapestries were sold for hundreds of dollars (dollars, mind you, not soles).  Just be aware of that and don’t feel that you have to buy anything just because your tour guide tells you this is the best so-and-so.
  • Trash and sanitation:  Though Miraflores district is nice, if you wander around the outskirts into other districts, you’ll see plenty of trash heaped on the sides of the road.  This was true of Cusco and around Machu Picchu as well (though thankfully, the site of Machu Picchu itself is kept pristine).  Lots of stray dogs that will wrench at your heart strings.  Have hand sanitizer ready, and plenty of tissue.  Speaking of which, as I said above, tissue paper cannot be flushed in Peru; the plumbing cannot handle it.  Also, always drink bottled water.  The hotel and restaurants overprice their bottles (just like we do here in the States), so buy your water at a drugstore or supermarket.  I’m also glad I packed some alcohol wipes, because while eating lunch in Cusco, I saw our server standing not quite five feet away and picking her nose gleefully (and then popping that same finger into her mouth).  I promptly wiped our silverware with the alcohol swabs.
  • Wear comfy shoes!  Vivi wore flip flops on a walk around Cusco at night and slipped on the stone sidewalk.  There were plenty of cobblestones and uneven paving on the sites we visited, so sturdy shoes are a must.
    –>  Update to my previous post about the shoes I packed:  The Chacos did wonderfully on the miles of walking I did around Lima.  I wore the Keens, with an extra Dr. Scholl’s inserts, to Machu Picchu but wished I wore the sandals instead.  Pretty happy with my shoe decisions on this trip!
  • I’m glad we traveled during our North American summer and their South American winter.  It was about 70 degrees and overcast for all but one day of the week we were there, and that one day of sunshine was during our visit to Machu Picchu.  It was slightly muggy, but bearable in the mild temperature; I can’t imagine mugginess during 96-degree heat (which one of our local guides told us is typical of a summer day there).
  • Know some Spanish before you go.  I’m afraid I didn’t remember a lick of my high school Spanish, and I felt so embarrassed at always requesting English instead of communicating in the local tongue.
  • The Peruvians I met were all very nice, with open smiles and friendly demeanors.  Be friendly back.  Oh, they’re nice but crazy drivers!  Just try to look ahead and not at the veering traffic around you or you may pass out.
  • Try the local fare.  I always dragged Vivi to the eateries where I could see the locals lining up at, as opposed to touristy places (though we also ate at touristy places).  Peruvians eat a lot of potatoes and chicken, apparently!  I heard the ceviche was good (they’re known for it) but I didn’t try it because I’m not into raw fish.  I also didn’t eat the roasted guinea pig or drink much of the pisco sour, so I guess I broke my “try the locale fare” advice.
  • Barter for souvenir prices, but not too much.  Know that these people are poorer than us who can afford to travel.  Keep your wits about you as you shop, because the vendors can descend on you like vultures.  Also, almost every souvenir stand is exactly the same as the one before it–they all sell the same stuff, so it’s sometimes pointless to hold off on buying something in the hopes of finding a better price at another stall down the ways.

Overall, I was happy to have visited these three sites in Peru.  Seven days passed too quickly, and I sort of wish I had invested the extra money to have booked a longer trip that included a visit to parts of the Amazon rainforest.  I’ll now have to add that to a future place to visit!

Peru: The Shoe Dilemma

No, “dilemma” is not too strong a word for this post.  :)  I will be traveling to Peru for a week, and I’ve spent the past few days trying to decide which shoes to pack.  I only want to pack two:  open-toed sandals, and a pair of close-toed shoes for the flight and in case it gets chilly or rains.

When I went on a Mediterranean cruise a few years ago, I lived in my Birkenstock Gizeh in gold, seen below.  Birkenstock GizaI wore them all day, every day for two weeks, including out on dinners and on an epic “OMG we’re lost” 5-hour trek through Barcelona with my family.  I absolutely love Birkenstocks, and I have owned many pairs throughout the years.  These Gizeh did not disappoint:  not one foot trouble on the entire trip.

When I went to Germany a couple of years ago, I packed a pair of Ahnu sandals in black: Ahnu sandalsThese were fine for a few days, but then gave me some arch pain on an all-day walk around Munich.

Then, last year, on a two-week trip to Ireland, I wore mostly close-toed shoes because it was a bit chilly most days.  For that trip, I chose a pair of Clark flats.  I don’t have a good pic of me wearing them, but this pair is similar, from Online Shoes:

womens-clarks-haley-cameo-flat-black-leather-445861_366_rt These were great for all-day walking, but they do look a bit more athletic or sporty.  I kind of wish I’d gone for something a bit more feminine for my Ireland trip, but whatever, my Clarks were super comfy and I’m all for comfort over trying to look fashionable.

So, now we’re on to this year’s summer trip, and after researching exactly what I’ll be doing each day on the trip and where we’re going, I finally decided to pack my Chaco Z/1 Unaweep sandals.  They are definitely sporty, but I’m OK with that because we’ll be outdoors a lot on this trip.

IMG_3503I’m not going to win any fashion awards with these sandals, but I love Chaco.  I wore a pair while hiking in Sonoma, and except for pebbles constantly getting under my feet (I’d never hiked with sandals before!) absolutely loved them.  While in Peru, I will be visiting Machu Picchu and I want a pair of sandals that won’t get waterlogged in case it drizzles or outright rains.  I can wear these with pants, capris, and a skirt–all of which I am packing.  Those adjustable straps provide with me a snug fit, which then provides great stability while walking, and Chaco is known for fantastic arch support.  I love this brand and these particular sandals, so into the bag these go!  *Heads up: I had to break in my first pair of Chaco sandals, and if you’re a first-time Chaco wearer, I suggest you do the same.  The arch support the brand provides is a far cry from our everyday shoes.  Toms these are not, so it may take some getting used to if you’re a new Chaco convert.  If you’re not a Chaco wearer, come on!  Jump on the bandwagon.  I love this brand.

For my closed-toed shoes, again I will not win any fashion awards but I’m packing these lightweight Keen CNX shoes.  I don’t know what this style is called, but the soles of the CNX styles are generally lighter than other Keens so I can avoid that bulkiness when I walk and when I pack them.  I can wear these with or without socks, and I can tighten them using that bungee cord:

IMG_3505I’m worried about the arch support in these shoes, because they’re really light and the soles are thinner than my other Keens.  However, with mostly 70-degree weather forecasted for my trip to Peru, I plan on living in my Chacos anyway, so these lightweight shoes won’t take up too much space in my bag.

Speaking of bags, I’ll write a bit in another post about what I’m packing and some tips I have for packing light.  :)  Until them, toodle-loo and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Higher Education is One Tricky Road to Maneuver

There are tons to worry about in this present economy, but as an educator I worry about (duh) education. My bias had always been that higher education is a necessity, ostensibly to prepare for the work force, yes, but really I think higher education allows young brains time and opportunity to continue to develop. An eighteen-year old needs more time to learn as much as she can, to develop social and interpersonal skills, to figure out how to time-manage and problem-solve and other hyphenated skills. College affords that extra time to grow up. (Whether American high schools are currently structured to even prepare students for college success is a whole different topic—and one I am not in a position to write about at this point in my own growing-up-and-learning process. And this, by the way, is a really chicken way of saying I don’t want to cause unnecessary trouble for myself as a teacher. Not right now, at least.)

Realistically, however, I haven’t had a student who thought of college that way. College, to my real-world-minded students, is a path toward a career. It’s as straightforward as that to my kiddos.

But it’s not straightforward, and to compound the twisting path to employability are a number of problems.

One, as I know all too well, is the rising cost of higher education. There is, apparently, over “$1 trillion in student loans outstanding in this country,” and I suspect that many people

Education costs seem to be cramping our style.

who owe money began that debt as a college student. Contemporary students borrow a lot of money to pay for college, and college has become more expensive. If college graduates can’t pay all that money back to the government because, let’s say, unemployment rates continue to plague our country, will the default on those loans lead us to another devastating economic crisis like the mortgage crash?

That wasn’t a rhetorical question; I really am asking y’all, because it’s worrying me. The LA Times reported late last year that tuition to California colleges went up 21%. Eeks! That’s the highest tuition increase in the whole country, and no, that tuition increase is not at all in keeping with inflation. Students are almost guaranteed to incur debt (an average of $22,000) in order to get a degree and land that dream job.

Which leads me to the second problem: are colleges truly preparing students for employability? Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity cites a study which reveals that half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed (which means grads are not attaining full-time or long-term positions). Northeastern University found that 38% of recent college grads are holding jobs that don’t even require a college degree! I can attest to that problem, as the first full-time job I could land after college was as a bookseller at Borders. But it’s not simply colleges’ fault; the crappy economy is licking at our marrow, having eaten away our sense of financial security.

Success, which I’m simply defining as “landing a damn job” for the intent of this article, depends in part on one’s major in college. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce recently put out a study (182 PDF pages, people!) about the economic value of college majors. I’d already known that business was a top major, but I found that geological and geophysical engineering had a 100% employment rate. Along with geological and geophysical engineering, genetics and mining had a high rate of full-time employment. Graduates in agriculture and natural resources are also faring well, with 90% full-time employment and a median income of $50,000. Mathematics and computer science majors earn a median income of $98,000, which isn’t surprising given our tech-heavy world. And here’s another non-shocker: pharmaceutical sciences majors can earn $105,000. In contrast, median earnings for those with an art degree (film, commercial or graphic design, studio, etc.) is $44,000; secondary ed teachers are at a median of $46,000; this is weird to me, but a U.S. History major can expect a median of $57,000; and social workers can expect a median of $39,000.

A cheesy googled image. I imagine her to be thinking, “This piece of paper cost me a crapload of money! And now I need to get out of this cap and gown and into my Starbucks apron before my shift starts!”

It seems that if we want college grads to land a damn job, we should tell them to forget about their passion and go for where the money is: business, engineering, pharmacology.

I was being snarky, just in case you couldn’t tell.

Third (man, I’m only on my third point?), those students who can’t afford traditional colleges, don’t have the grades and scores for traditional colleges, want to but can’t get into compacted community colleges, and/or need to attend night school because of work or family responsibilities turn to for-profit colleges, the biggest of which is University of Phoenix. I’d always been suspicious about the quality of education at for-profit schools, but I had no evidence to support my suspicion (how, for example, can one gauge “quality” in education?). I still have no evidence, but I’m also still wary about such schools. PBS’s Frontline produced a program entitled “College Inc.” which elucidated to viewers the hard-line sales tactics employed by enrollment counselors to reel in potential applicants. Some for-profit schools are not accredited, and some that are do not even provide students with actual training to prepare them for employability. It was shocking to me. Now, I’ve seen all the University of Phoenix commercials on TV with seemingly earnest testimonials from alumni. If I trusted advertisements, I’d have to admit that it seems like there are a bajillion people out there with awesome success stories after graduating from University of Phoenix. But the ads just serve to remind me that education is now a business, and that in order to market to consumers such schools surely need to be able to pay for the marketing somehow. Enter stage right tuition and fees, baby; tuition and fees. I didn’t know until I viewed the program that tuition at for-profit schools end up being more than at traditional schools. It makes sense, though, because shareholders in for-profit schools have an obvious interest in drawing in students who are not attending traditional colleges for any of the above reasons, and they draw in those students even if the students clearly are not prepared to pay for or grapple with the material in higher ed classes.

Those who are willing to incur debt for an education at flexible for-profit schools and who are able to keep with up higher ed are sometimes misled with promises of real-world training. I was alarmed to find that some for-profit vocational schools don’t even have research institutes or connections to hospitals, which is a major problem for LVN hopefuls who find, upon graduation, that hospitals won’t hire them because they’d never even stepped foot in a hospital during their “higher education” training. It’s atrocious. It’s not, by any means, a universal story among the for-profit schools, and I’m sure the same criticism can made about some skeezy traditional colleges as well. But just like it rattles my ethical radar to see pharmaceutical drugs advertised on TV, it also doesn’t sit well with me to see billboards and commercials advertising colleges. It makes me wonder how much money is spent on marketing as opposed to curriculum and faculty.

I haven’t reached a bottom line in my research yet, but I have a vested interest in higher education not only because I love learning (nerd power!) but also because I am a secondary education teacher who is passionate about leading my students to the best possible lives they can claim for themselves. College isn’t going to be the right choice for all my kiddos, but it seems that vocational schools are doing them a disservice as well. I want to be able to prepare and advise my students well, so of course I’ll continue researching studies and articles and then I’ll add another blog post in future.

I Suck at Blogging

I’m still not certain why I purchased this blog domain, especially since I knew I would have no time during the school year to write.

Now, I have an inclination to write flash fiction and post it on here.  Maybe I’ll try that for a while.

Though I have no idea what this blog’s purpose is, I’ll just keep writing until I figure it out, dammit!