Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lisa Kogan Doth Protest Too Much

I'm appalled at the tone of Lisas Kogan's rebuttal to a letter from a Nebraska SAH (that's Stay-@-Home) mom in Julia Has Three Mommies. First of all, it was unnecessary to address her as "Miss Nebraska", as well as to specify her (Kogan's) choice of comfort foods she used to "ignore the letter": Mint Milanos, Snapples, and Cheddar Goldfish. If you ask me, this was a deliberate dig at Nebraska, who, like many Americans Kogan will never meet, no doubt cannot even dream of throwing these items into her shopping cart, if she's even heard of them. Then Kogan has the chutzpa to say that she's "resisting a smartass reply"!

This is followed by what can only be described as a condescending and elitist explanation of how much four years at an Ivy League college is projected to cost in 15 years, when her Julia will naturally be enrolling in one. Can you say "presumptuous"? She's got her three-year-old's life mapped out, and is using that map to justify hiring both a nanny and a babysitter to care for her (only) child.

This is followed by another dig: "…that…is the way the cookie (which was not made from scratch, because hey, this is 2007) crumbles". Then, just when you thought it couldn't get any more chutzpadik, Kogan has the chutzpa to "call a moratorium on snarkiness". Not only could Kogan's reply not have been snarkier, it pressed what I call my College of Your Choice Button.

This is the button that sends me into orbit whenever the discussion turns to paying the extortional sums known as College Tuition. It's unbelievable to me that the entire middle-class population of the US hasn't organized a boycott of private colleges; that people still subscribe to the concept of Getting Into a Good College. Has no one realized that where you earn your Bachelor of Arts has little bearing on your future success? That indeed, most people at age 40 are not working in the field in which their BA was earned?*

If I could give high school juniors advice before they start the rat race known as Applying to College, it would be this: Pick a part of the country that's always intrigued you, and apply to a state school(s) therein. It may be the last opportunity you'll have to choose where you live: Later on come spouses, jobs, elderly parents, and a smorgasbord of other obligations that life throws at you, resulting in the choice of where you live more often than not being made for you.

Where you earn your BA isn't as important as the fact of having earned one: A BA is nothing more than a ticket to either grad school or a job that doesn't require a hairnet. If the former is your direction, that's where you want to sacrifice, take out loans, etc. to get into the right program. Why in God's name go into debt for a BA? Is there any other product for which otherwise sane people willingly go into debt when there's a perfectly reasonable, non-debt alternative?

Yes, perfectly reasonable: They may not be Ivy League, but every state school, besides the obvious option of simply making good grades, offers honors programs that are not only challenging, but wherein, once enrolled, your little genius won't have to (God forbid) sit in the mega-lectures with the riff-raff. If you need more convincing, read here about the American obsession with Good Colleges (it's from the New Yorker, any of you who are still balking).

Indeed, my first thought while watching the travails of Nina, the overwhelmed Stanford scholarship student in the Broadway musical In the Heights: Why didn't she just enroll in SUNY Binghamton? Not only would she not have been in the Sisyphusian situation in which she'd found herself, but she wouldn't have had to listen to her rich classmates talk about their "cabins" on Lake Tahoe, and more importantly, she wouldn't have had to wipe her father out financially. But then, of course, there wouldn't have been a story…

Back to Lisa Kogan: Kogan, you're helping no one by perpetuating the disenfranchising myth that "the right college" is a status symbol. And if you're still convinced otherwise, perhaps you should consider giving up on one of Julia's "mommies" now, lest she God forbid ends up in the class of 2026 at University of Nebraska. Go Huskers!

* - "I was young and dumb and thought I really NEEDED to go to GWU to get anywhere"
— Gorijenna of the Hax commentors


  1. I agree totally with your thesis although I did not think about it when back then 2 of 4 got BAs from Ivy League colleges.

    Who the Hell is Lisa Kogan and why should we care?

  2. Anonymous, thanks for your comment. Lisa Kogan is a regular contributor to "O!" magazine, a respectable publication. You don't have to care; it was simply her snarky tone combined with her How're You Gonna Pay For College? speech that inspired the post...

  3. posting for Anita:
    I enjoyed your article about applying to the "right colleges". You're right on. Unfortunately some state schools are just as costly for out-of-staters as some private schools, but your thesis is correct.

  4. I went to a state school for college and still came out with debt. I second what Anita said about out-of-state state schools being extremely expensive. That is more affordable than a private school, but still a hefty chunk of change. But I agree that state schools should not be looked down on. I debated between a private and public university, and am happy with my decision. From talking to peers who went to that private school, I believe that I got a comparable education for a fraction of the price.

  5. You make some excellenct points about college choice. And apparently, you get your O magazine a few days before I do!!


    p.s. I assume this article is in the newest issue - the link does not work - which I received just last night.

  6. I'll try to get that link to work. Meanwhile don't waste your time looking for it in this issue; it's about two years old.

  7. Yam,
    Thanks for fixing the link. Semi-interesting article. But I think you missed the point of it - I don't see is as about her expectation that her kid is fabulous and will attend an Ivy League university. Regarding colleges, Kogan was simply expressing fear about future costs of higher education, wherever one chooses/is able to purchase it. Rather, I see it as being about different ways of living life, choices that one makes, Villages vs. Individuals when raising children. She was a bit snarky and sarcastic but probably more for entertainment value than sincere derision.

  8. p.s. Love the new name, and the graffic!