Monday, April 13, 2009

Privileged Parents Anxious on Getting Kids into Elite Universities

Guest essay by Álvaro Huerta

Now that the college application period for hundreds of thousands of high school seniors is over, the stressful part looms over their heads like a dark cloud as they await the acceptance notices. No more dreaded applications, embellished personal statements, exaggerated GPAs and expensive SAT prep courses, not to mention countless volunteer hours worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.

While filling out a stack of applications and attending classes simultaneously can be a drag for teens more interested adding new friends to their MySpace page or acquiring the latest version of Guitar Hero for the Wii, nothing can top the nagging middle-class parents who invested tens of thousands of dollars (in some cases for the rich, hundreds of thousands) over the past 17 or 18 years to make sure that little Brad or Mary gets accepted into UC Berkeley, UCLA or Stanford. For instance, annual tuition (alone) at one of Los Angeles’ top prep schools, Harvard-Westlake School, is $26,250.

As many college-educated parents are well aware, getting into an elite university doesn’t begin in high school. Not only did Mom listen to Mozart’s greatest hits during her pregnancy and read nighttime stories to her newborn, she also made sure that Dad got his lazy butt off the couch to get that needed promotion in order to live in the right neighborhood with the best schools.

Before making sure that the local elementary school is a feeder school to the best junior high school and, subsequently, to a high performance high school, leading up to an elite university, Mom and Dad first had to get their precious offspring into the top preschool program in the area. If they don’t start early in the game, they worry that, instead of Yale, their kid may end up in jail.

From electronic Leapfrog learning toys for toddlers to educational trips to Costa Rica’s rain forest, piano lessons to violin recitals, private tutors to expensive test prep courses, there’s no limit for privileged parents who want to get their kid into one of U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranked universities.

I am glad I’m not caught up in all this hoopla about getting my 9-year-old son, Joaquin, into the best university in the nation. While my wife, Antonia, and I managed to get him into a wonderful primary school, we don’t drive around with a bumper sticker that reads, “My Son is a Student at UCLA Lab School.” (Actually, the last time I checked, they didn’t have any stickers of that kind at the UCLA student store.)

Recently, however, while preparing for written exams towards my Ph.D. and contemplating my eventual job search, I started to think about which university might be good for Joaquin. So, while I requested several informational brochures from elite universities, I also requested one from Caltech in Pasadena—the 2nd best university in the country, according to Forbes Magazine.

When my wife saw the glossy brochure, she said: “I didn’t know that Caltech had an urban planning program. Are you applying there a post-doc or a job once you finish your dissertation?”

“No,” I replied.

“So why did you request a brochure from Caltech?” she asked, looking puzzled.

“Oh…that’s not for me,” I responded. “It’s for Joaquin.”

“But he’s only 9-years-old and in the fourth grade,” she said, looking more puzzled.

“Precisely,” I responded without hesitation. “It’s never too early to start the college application process.”


Guest essayist Álvaro Huerta is a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, and a doctoral student in city and urban planning at UC Berkeley. His story, "Los Dos Smileys," is featured in Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press, 2008). This essay first appeared in UCLA Today in 2006.


I am enjoying my ARC (advanced reviewer's copy) of a new short story collection, Live from Fresno y Los, by Stephen D. Gutierrez. The collection will be released on June 1st by that wonderful independent publisher, Bear Star Press. Jim Krusoe offers these words about the book: "There is an ineradicable sweetness to these stories, accompanied by the crisp and happy bemusement of a genuine voice -- the sound of one person speaking directly to another, and not from the head, but from that most mysterious of mouths, the human heart." More about the book later. Here's the cover (which I love):

◙ The UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) at the Times Festival of Books: Visit the CSRC Press at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Saturday, April 25, and Sunday, April 26, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., at booth 534. UCLA’s four ethnic studies centers --the African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Chicano Studies Centers -- will celebrate “40 Years of Ethnic Studies Research at UCLA.” The Press will have new books, DVDs, and their ever-popular T-shirts for sale, and CSRC authors will be available to sign their books. Booth 534 will be opposite the south side of Haines Hall. For more information on the Festival of Books, visit its official website. Feel free to visit or contact the CSRC: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, 193 Haines Hall, Box 951544, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1544; Tel: (310) 825-2363; Fax: (310) 206-1784.


Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Jan Breslauer tells us of playwright Octavio Solis becoming "an overnight sensation, and it took only 25 years." Breslauer continues:

Long respected in theater and Latino arts circles, the writer is having breakthrough success with his play "Lydia."

Set in El Paso in the 1970s, "Lydia" portrays the saga of the Flores family, whose teenage daughter, Ceci, has been disabled in a horrific accident. Into this household of troubled souls and buried secrets enters an undocumented caretaker who shares a mysterious connection with Ceci.

With recent productions at Denver Center Theatre Company, Yale Repertory Theatre and Marin Theatre Company, the drama opens Wednesday at the Mark Taper Forum, directed by Juliette Carrillo. "Lydia" has also been submitted for consideration for the Pulitzer Prize and is a finalist for the 2009 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award.


Opining about the play's Colorado premiere, Denver Post theater critic John Moore described "Lydia" as "very much the Latino cousin of 'Death of a Salesman.' " And actor David DeSantos, who has performed in Solis' "La Posada Mágica" at South Coast Repertory, seconds the analogy.

"I can only compare Octavio Solis to a modern-day Arthur Miller," says DeSantos, currently acting at OSF. "His unflinching take on the human condition, as Miller embraced, is one of Octavio's strongest assets." In "Lydia," says DeSantos, Solis "found a story so dark and tragic. It is desperate and painful but layered with so much love."

You may read the entire article here. (Photo of Octavio Solis: Melanie Stengel for the New Haven Register.)

"Lydia" information:

Where: Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 17

Price: $20 to $65


As the El Paso Times tells us, the Border Book Festival turns 15 this Friday:

New Mexico's longest continuing book festival -- the Border Book Festival -- will return next weekend for its 15th annual run.

Featured speakers this year include Luis Rodríguez, author of the widely acclaimed autobiography "Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days In L.A.," and journalist Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of "Democracy Now!," an award-winning national news program airing on more than 750 television and radio stations in North America.

To read the entire article, go here. To learn more about the Border Book Festival, visit its official website here.

◙ Some news from Daniel Alarcón:

Un nuevo Barco está online en la página web de Etiqueta Negra. / A new Barco is now online at Etiqueta Negra. Click here to read.

Also from Daniel Alarcón: "If you're in Lima, we'll be hosting an event this Wednesday, April 15 to celebrate the new issue of Etiqueta at a bookstore called Ksa Tomada in San Isidro. Most of the new issue is now online at Etiqueta's website, including my profile of Carlos Luján, chef at the best restaurant in the Peruvian prison system."

◙ That’s all for now. So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Not only did Mom listen to Mozart’s greatest hits during her pregnancy and read nighttime stories to her newborn, she also made sure that Dad got his lazy butt off the couch to get that needed promotion in order to live in the right neighborhood with the best schools."

This isn't sexist. Nope, not at all.