Facebook, Friend or Fiend for College and Career

With the article Government Agencies, Colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords, I was again reminded how we need to be aware of all our potential readers. This message I also need to make clear to one of our teenage kids who writes as if there is no tomorrow.

The article list several cases where government agencies and colleges demanded applicants Facebook passwords. Whether this is legal and/or constitutional is not for me to decide.

But please remind your children to use modesty when posting. One of the earliest memories of online posting, was when I asked one of the kids on what to reply to someone’s post. I even asked whether I had to reply and whether silence was considered rude. There were so many things to learn. And instead of getting the occasional sigh from them for my ignorance, I asked the internet. The best answer was: Write as if your mother were standing behind you and reading every word of it.

I thought that was excellent advice.

Not everyone adheres to this,  I have seen some vulgar language on Facebook.

Be careful with your words, you might just have to eat them someday. That is, if you have trouble getting a decent job, because of your Facebook Past.

Read the article: Government Agencies, Colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords.

The Migration of Higher Education

The article Higher Education amid Financial Meltdown on today’s University World News points to some interesting facts, such as the expected drop in U.K. university applications, the migration of U.K. students to apply elsewhere, and the effect of the overall transnational academic mobility and migration.

Our son, a senior at Frankfurt International School, has applied to five universities in the U.K. And yes, starting university autumn 2012, we have to pay  £9,000 (US$ 14,200) in annual tuition fees.

Just like many other parents, we will be sitting here wondering if and how many colleges will accept him. Additionally, the criterion of getting accepted has been made more difficult by raising the International Baccalaureate (IB) points.

On the other hand, applications by U.K. born-students  have dropped 15.1% due to the increase in tuition fees.

I can foresee a great shift in academic education around Europe. Mobility in academics, among an increasing competitiveness, might just become the norm.

University Alumni Groups in Germany

During English class, while reading the International Herald Tribune’s article End Bonuses for Bankers, my student and I both questioned the plural form of bonus.

We reviewed the common form of nouns ending with -us getting the plural form of -i, e.g. cactus (cacti), octopus (octopi), alumnus (alumni), and we both confirmed the German plural of Bonus as being Boni. From bonuses in English, we then proceeded to the German translation for alumnus, where I had to pass.

Strange, I thought. It sometimes happens that I can’t even remember a word in my own mother tongue, but this one went further. Was there a word for alumnus in German? If so, what significance did it carry in the world of German academia?

First, I consulted the online dictionary, Leo. The result was a lot of ehemalige (former) student, co-worker, school, college student and also graduate.

In most countries, alumnus stands for having attended the same university, but the meaning in German is a bit broader.

I then went on to search in German for alumni groups around Germany with two results coming up. There are 40 university student alumni groups in Germany (source: wikipedia), with many other old orders, about 900,  either of a religious, political or drinking fraternity kind.

The Allies, after WWII, prohibited student alumni groups due to their sometimes pro-Nazi position. This ban was lifted in West Germany in the late 1940s, but remained in East Germany. Studentenverbindungen (college student alumni groups) were often associated with revolt.

On bdvb (network for economics majors), I learned that the act of former university students setting up alumni group (without any political attachment) was reestablished in Germany in the late 1980s.

Quoting from their page:

Im angelsächsischem Raum sind “Alumni”-Organisationen seit fast 200 Jahren fester Bestandteil vieler Universitäten. In Deutschland etablieren sich Ehemaligen-Netzwerke seit Ende der 80er Jahre des vergangenen Jahrhunderts.

Absolventinnen und Absolventen haben so die Möglichkeit, die während des Studiums gewonnenen Kontakte zu Kommilitonen und zur Hochschule zu halten und auszubauen.

“In Anglo-Saxon countries, alumni groups have been an integral part of universities for almost 200 years. In Germany, alumni networks got set up in the late 80s of the previous century.

Graduates have the opportunity to keep and develop contacts to other alumni and their university.”

Networking is a fairly new idea to most university graduates. Why, you might wonder. In my opinion, attending university free of tuition charge leaves students without feeling any kind of commitment. A certain sense of entitlement to free education is prevalent and further contact has not been seen of much value to one’s career. Of course, students remain friends over the years, but since most universities are state-run, there really is no need for any alumni groups to help support the university.

My husband, on the other hand, gets frequent mail from his former university in the U.S. Most often it is asking for donations to help build something new on campus. Tell that to a German: Please give money to help finance your university facilities. This idea actually makes me smile as I ponder the reaction.

Another fact is the relaxed attitude of repaying student loans (BAföG). Two good friends of mine have never even attempted to repay the loan. One offered me the solution of how to get away with it – just never make your first payment. The mistake of making a first payment results in having to pay everything back. I was saddened to recognize this lack of dignity on her behalf. Then again, some Germans feel wholly entitled to most benefits.

A life of tuition free university education and the chance of defaulting your student loan leaves little room for appreciating your college education.



Quote of the day

The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means to an education.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson –

Self-Reliance and Other Essays from Amazon.com

School Jokes

After the college boy had delivered the pizza to Bud’s trailer house, Bud asked, “What is the usual tip?”

“Well,” replied the youth, “this is my first trip here, but the other guys said if I got a quarter out of you, I’d be doing great.”

“Is that so?” snorted Bud. “Well, just to show them how wrong they are, here’s five dollars.”

“Thanks,” replied the youth, “I’ll put this in my school fund.”

“What are you studying?” asked Bud.

The lad smiled and said, “Applied psychology.”

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