Monday, September 19, 2011

Jim is in Chicago, accompanying his son as he embarks on his undergraduate career. In a kind of victory lap, his plane and hotel reading has been Andrew Ferguson's Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College. Ferguson, an editor at the (neocon) Weekly Standard, has the kind of mordant wit -- think Christopher Buckley or P.J. O'Rourke, two fellow Righties who provide blurbs -- that can be highly entertaining. Attentive the hypocrisies surrounding college rankings, SATs, essays, and the like, the book combines personal reflection, anecdote, and a smattering of reporting that actually makes it a resource in some respects more valuable than the profusion of guides, directories, and other aspects of the professional college industry that are out there. Ferguson is particularly acute on the factors that drive college costs ever-upward (like health care, it's an industry where consumers rarely pay the full cost, reducing pressures for efficiency).

As with weddings, college admission is (one hopes) a once-in-lifetime experience in which collective wisdom is hard to accumulate and maintain. Jim will refrain from dispensing any advice himself, but observe that there is a sense of satisfaction to be had in playing a supporting role in the completion of a complex task, and gratitude for having had the opportunity to assist one's child in making the transition to adulthood. Rarely has the work of fathering felt so palpable.