Monday, October 28, 2013

Parents Anxious to Start Early on Getting Kids into Elite Universities

Dr. Alvaro Huerta

By guest essayist Dr. Alvaro Huerta

Now that the college application season has started for motivated high school seniors, the stressful process looms over their heads like a dark cloud. While completing their senior year, they must also fill out the dreaded college applications with embellished personal statements, inflated GPAs and countless volunteer hours worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Although visiting college campuses, submitting college applications and attending classes can be a drag for someone more interested in the boy band One Direction or the new Xbox One video game console, nothing can top suburban parents who invest tens of thousands of dollars in their children’s K-12 education to make sure that little Brad or Tiffany gets accepted into UCLA, UC Berkeley or Stanford.

As many anxious parents are well aware, applying to an elite university does not begin in high school. For instance, not only did Mom listen to Mozart’s greatest hits during her pregnancy and read nighttime stories to her newborn, she also ensured that Dad got his lazy butt off the couch and tearfully missed Monday Night Footfall to work extra hours, like Mom, for 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, best college-prep high school, leading up to an elite university, Mom and Dad first had to get their precious offspring into the top preschool program in their area. If they don’t start early in the game, they worry that instead of Yale, their “gifted” child may end up in jail.

From Leapfrog learning toys to educational trips to Costa Rica’s rainforest, from piano lessons to violin recitals, from private tutors to expensive test prep courses, there’s no limit to what some privileged parents do to get their children into one of U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranked universities.

I’m glad to not be caught up in all this hoopla about getting my son into an elite university. While my wife Antonia and I managed to get him into a wonderful elementary school, we didn’t drive around town with a pretentious bumper sticker: “My Son is an Honor Student at X Elementary School.” (Actually, when I checked, they ran out of stickers.)

Recently, however, after completing my Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, I became extremely anxious over which top university would best benefit my son to ensure success in life. So, after requesting several informational brochures from several universities, I also requested one from Caltech in Pasadena, California.

When my wife saw it, she said jokingly: “Don’t you already have a doctorate. Not satisfied with one?”

“I’m fine with one,” I uttered. 

“So why did you ask for a brochure from Caltech?” she asked with a puzzled look.

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

“But he’s only in pre-school,” she said, looking even more puzzled.

“Precisely,” I exclaimed. “It’s never too early to start the college application process.”

[Dr. Alvaro Huerta, Ph.D., a UCLA Visiting Scholar, is the author of the book Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm (San Diego State University Press, 2013). You may read my Los Angeles Review of Books interview with Dr. Huerta here.]



The Latina/o Literary Landscape:
A Symposium Supported by the American Literature Association
and the Latina/o Literature and Culture Society

March 6-8, 2014
Keynote Speakers:
Norma Cantú
Michael Nava

ALA symposia provide opportunities for scholars to meet in pleasant settings, present papers, and share ideas and resources. The Latina/o Literature and Culture Society and the American Literature Association (ALA) seek proposals for panel presentations on any aspect related to the field of Latina/o literature. All scholars are invited to address a broad range of themes and genres, including inter-disciplinary fields of popular culture and Latina/o studies. We also invite suggestions for panels and roundtable discussions.

Location: The Sheraton Gunter Hotel, 205 East Houston St., San Antonio, TX
Hotel Rate: The Sheraton Gunter Hotel is offering a special rate of $159 (plus tax) per night for a single or double room
Conference Fee: $150 (includes two lunches and two receptions)
Conference Director: Cristina Herrera, California State University, Fresno

Please email all proposals to Cristina Herrera at before November 15, 2013. For more information, visit this link.

◙ “WHERE HAVE ALL THE LATINOS GONE?” This is the question award-winning writer Gregg Barrios asked in an op-ed piece in the Texas Observer regarding the lack of Latino/a representation at this year’s Texas Book Festival. If you haven’t read his piece yet, you may do so now by going here. Barrios notes, in part:

Pardon my Tex-Mex roots, but are the festival gatekeepers even aware of the boom in Latina/o literature and its growing place in American literature? We are everywhere: on national bestsellers lists, as finalists and winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and more.

As I scrolled through the festival website’s 2013 list of authors and panelists, I searched for the names of Latina and Latino writers with new books, whose presence would have made for a more inclusive festival.

Gregg Barrios

To say that Barrios caused a firestorm is to put it mildly. His op-ed has been written about in many newspapers and online news outlets including this article by acclaimed author Héctor Tobar that ran in the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps things will change, but only if we speak out. Gracias, Gregg, for being one of those voices. And as a native Angeleno, I hope that next year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will include many of the great writers that we, here at La Bloga, write about everyday. Maybe they’ll even invite me!

◙ WELCOME TO THE LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS IN PRINT! I am delighted to announce that the Los Angeles Review of Books has released its debut print edition dubbed the LARB Quarterly Journal.

The print edition does not replace the vast LARB online review but is in addition to its virtual parent. If you’re not familiar with the LARB, it is a nonprofit, multimedia literary and cultural arts magazine that combines the great American tradition of the serious book review with the evolving technologies of the Web. Founded by bestselling author and director of the creative writing program at UC Riverside, Tom Lutz, the LARB welcomes diverse voices. In the print edition, you may read my interview with Rudolfo Anaya regarding his novella, The Old Man’s Love Story (Oklahoma University Press). There are also wonderful pieces by Rigoberto González, Alex Espinoza, Maria Bustillos as well as Tom Bissell, Hoa Nguyen, Marjorie Perloff and Laurie Pepper, to name a few. Check it out, submit your best writing (not necessarily about L.A.), and become a member!

◙ ORDER THE FALL 2013 ISSUE OF HUIZACHE! The editors are proud to present the work of such honored writers as Tim Seibles, Domingo Martinez, Cristina García, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Héctor Tobar, while highlighting the early work of David Campos, Tameka Cage Conley, Casandra Lopez, and Joshunda Sanders, and many others. With a stunning new design both inside and out, a cover from the art of LA’s fabulous and famed Gronk (whose artwork, I am proud to say, adorns the cover of my novel, The Book of Want), the third issue is poetry and prose not just from the Latino world, though much is, not just from the West, though much is, but from a new American country. Order here.

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