vendredi 17 septembre 2010

Who invented proud parent of college student decals for cars and why?

So in my yoga class this morning, we were asked to come up with a resolve. This is a sentence that expresses an intention or a wish. For some reason, that line from the zen hot dog stand joke popped into my head, so my resolve was "Make me one with everything". I'm not sure I want to be one with everything, though, or even what it means. The punchline of the second zen hot dog stand joke is "Change comes from within". I'll let you ponder that one.

In the meantime, and although I am supposed to be feeling one with everything, I have been thinking about one of my new pet peeves ever since I saw a big ole SUV with a decal in the back window that read "Parent of a Dartmouth Student". I had never noticed this cultural phenomenon before, and since I saw the Dartmouth sticker it seems I can't escape these proud parents. My other car is a Mercedes.

Why do I find this phenomenon so irritating? After all, what's wrong with parental pride in offspring? Nothing, except that it is so overdone here in America that you just want to scream sometimes! You would think that all we produce here are Einsteins, Picassos, Curies and Galileos. It costs a lot of money to send kids to colleges these days; in some ways, the display of these decals is a way of telling the world you can afford the 60,000 dollars a year it takes to attend Harvard or Yale, and that your kid (probably after graduating from 23,000 dollar a year Lakeside) got in! Woo hoo! Whatever, right?

I would like to know when these stickers started popping up, so if anyone can enlighten me on that I would appreciate it. They sure didn't exist when I was going to college -- or maybe my parents just weren't into that. I suppose they could have had regular decals, and theirs would have been pretty impressive: Harvard, Occidental, Mount Holyoke, University of Washington, WSU. Except for the last one, cough cough. But I don't recall such decals on my parents' cars; and I certainly would have found it an irritating expression of superiority with no legitimate basis.

This leads me to a related pet peeve, known as résumé embellishment or lying about your education and/or career. The funniest recent example I saw is a local Seattle journalist who tried to shave twenty years off her life by indicating she had gotten her journalism degree in the 90's instead of the 70's. She tried to pass it off as a typo, but no one was fooled. A typo involves one letter or number, not multiple ones.

But consider the true story of Marilee Jones, the dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who:

...became well known for urging stressed-out students competing for elite colleges to calm down and stop trying to be perfect. Yesterday she admitted that she had fabricated her own educational credentials, and resigned after nearly three decades at M.I.T. Officials of the institute said she did not have even an undergraduate degree.

“I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to M.I.T. 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since,” Ms. Jones said in a statement posted on the institute’s Web site. “I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the M.I.T. community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities.”

Ms. Jones said that she would not make any other public comment “at this personally difficult time” and that she hoped her privacy would be respected.

Ms. Jones, 55, originally from Albany, had on various occasions represented herself as having degrees from three upstate New York institutions: Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In fact, she had no degrees from any of those places, or anywhere else, M.I.T. officials said.

A spokesman for Rensselaer said Ms. Jones had not graduated there, though she did attend as a part-time nonmatriculated student during the 1974-75 school year. The other colleges said they had no record of her.

Source: NY Times, April 27, 2007

It took a lot of guts for Ms. Jones to come clean, I think. Especially in a culture where some folks judge others on the basis of the decal in the window of their SUV. Man, that's just so messed up.