Movie Review: The Ivory Tower

24 Jun


As a freelance writer I have often thought to myself “was the cost of my private liberal arts school education worth it?” This often occurs when I am checking my student loan statement, which I am still painfully paying off more than 10 years after I earned my bachelor’s degree.

It is all about perspective. I was the first one in my family to go to college right out of high school, my degree helped me get my first job at a newspaper, and the connections I made benefited me personally and professional. For many, this is not the case. They leave college thousands of dollars in debt, with no job prospects on the horizon.

The new documentary, Ivory Tower, by filmmaker Andrew Rossi examines this new hitch in the American Dream – is the cost of tuition to many of the elite universities too high?

Ironically I am sitting in a Starbucks writing this review, Starbucks announced earlier this month that they have teamed up with Arizona State University to offer free college courses for Starbucks employees. Helping them “finish college.”

According to The Project on Student Debt, the average debt for students who took out loans in graduating class of 2012 is $29,400. In June of 2008 the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent. You can do the math.

Ivory Tower looks directly at the pressure of attending college with the nitty gritty details of how the cost higher education has ballooned. Families are looking at college bills ranging from $20,000 annually to $60,000 annually.  The film provides great examples of where this tuition is going, mostly to new buildings and the salaries of executives (not professors). It also details the predatory practices of private student loans, leaving many graduates unable to pay their ever-growing debt. The film even explores alternatives to traditional college, like the Thiel Fellowship and open sourced online education like Coursera and edx.

Though all the charts and history are interesting, the film doesn’t even address it’s initial question: was it worth it? There were no balanced examples of graduates who had “average” debt and landed a good job or who’s life was improved by taking on the debt.

Sure, we all know by now that colleges are a business and they are in it to make money, but it ends leaving the viewer with more questions than answers. If universities and lenders are just looking to cash in on the ideal of higher education and online classes (a cheaper version) are not an effective learning tool then what should one do? Learn a trade, self-educate, settle for the non-brand name education? Can the government help?

Honestly, I found the whole documentary to be depressing (I do have kids after all and I have no idea how we are paying for college). But the worst part is I found myself second-guessing the degree I worked so hard for and am still paying off. Applying to colleges and selecting one is a family decision, it is also a very personal one. Just because you got in, doesn’t mean you can afford it. It is different for each person. Really, the question should be is college worth it for me?

While the film might shock some people and remove the rose-colored glasses, it is not helpful overall. On the other hand, the website for the film is. There are links to the FAFSA, a tutorial on how to read financial aid award letters, and options for those managing their student loan debt. Now  that is worth something!


Must Watch Documentary

23 Feb

This movie will change the way you think about private education and it’s relationship with boys.


Administrators Get it Right With SnowDay Announcements

14 Feb

Since I live in San Francisco I never got to experience a snow day. We got earthquakes and fires, but I imagine waiting to hear that you got the day off from school and you have to stay home can only be made better by your Principal doing his best Freddie Mercury impression.


Finally A Diaper Ad that Gets Parenthood

6 Nov

I pay close attention to the ads that target moms. I often blame them for the pressure that parents feel to be perfect, well they don’t get all the blame. I heard about Luvs new ad campaign today and had to check it out. Boy did they do a great job (and no I didn’t get paid for this post)!

Cheers to the creative team Saatchi & Saatchi for creating an ad that for once does not push the product by watching babies crawl across the screen, but shows the realities of motherhood and how much of this whole process is all about learning what works and what doesn’t without the pressure of making it perfect.


Kids Really Don’t Know How to Play Pokemon!

24 Oct

Kindergarten has brought some interesting things into my life – massive amounts of paperwork, tons of emails from over-achieving parents, cute little girls with lisps, knock knock jokes and so on. Most of it I get or choose to ignore, but the one thing that keeps me bashing my head against the wall is Pokemon.

No I am not talking about the cute cartoon that follows Ash and Pikachu through the the Japanese countryside, but the card game. Will someone please tell me how to play this game????? According to my 5-year-old first you need cards, then another person and a coin. You draw a card, flip the coin, then read him what the card says – which all results in him winning.

According to the YouTube video above, which features my favorite drunk from True Blood sitting in the front row, the game will change your life (much like sobriety or Jesus) and takes almost a half hour to explain. It’s just that simple!

Now I can honestly tell you that a group of kindergarteners, not even 3rd graders, are going to sit through instructions on how you are supposed to play the game. They are just going to make it up as they go along. And while this brand has been around since 1996, the general concept is the same. Parents have to shell out money for cards, kids trade the cards, play some sort of game that doesn’t involve math but violence, parents then shell out more money for cards/binders, and your kid wins!

Oh, and since your kid is kicking ass on the Pokemon battle field you might have to buy more cards.

Now when the get older and you are stuck trying to force them to clean out all their crap from their room and pack for college you might want to refer them to this link


Why You Shouldn’t Get Your Kid a Cell Phone

20 Sep

A great explanation to why you should not get your kid a cell phone by Louis C.K. Not to mention you teenager might post photos of themselves getting wasted or wearing something that makes you blush. He also sheds light on why everyone is texting and driving that makes perfect sense.


One more reason to LOVE Amy Poehler!!!!

17 Sep

Can this woman do no wrong?

Not only is she BFFs with my personal hero (Tina Fey), she is a proud Feminist, funny as hell and now she has a YouTube page that features women who have great jobs along with other inspirational snippets for young girls.

Her Smart Girls YouTube page features little videos (like the one above) with music performances by young female performers, interviews with girls from around the world, an “Ask Amy” section where she answers questions about all kinds of topics (crying, stress, letting go, and of course parents). There’s even a “Boys’ Minute”. Check them all out and spread the word to every little girl, preteen, teen and mommy you know!.