Thursday, August 31, 2006

Listening

I'm a talker. I like talking. I like telling stories, making people laugh. I have lots of ideas and I like to share them. But lately, I'm trying to do more listening, to really hear what people are saying and what might be behind those words. The talking I want to do is to ask questions, to seek understanding. This is a hard thing to do for someone who likes to talk, okay, for me. Often, when someone says something, it reminds me of something similar that happened to me or an idea and so I start talking, explaining the idea and at that point I've quit listening. The thing is, it's not that I'm trying to rude. If I start riffing off of something you said, it's because I've been inspired by it; it's made me think. But I think it's important to really hear what someone says and to allow them the opportunity to speak further before I start riffing.

The other side of this, too, for me, is to respond appropriately, to think about what someone is really saying and to say the most appropriate thing in response. Sometimes this is in a request someone has made and I have to think about whether I should take on that request and how I should take that on and when I should indicate that I can complete the request. Sometimes this is to make sure I'm heard--ironically--by responding in ways that will be heard rather than in the usual riffing I do. And sometimes, unfortunately, it's responding in ways that defend myself, that make clear that I deserve respect and consideration without responding in kind.

I've had an interesting few days as I've tried to do this, but I still have a long way to go.

Tags:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sibling (un)rivalry

One of the things I've always liked about my kids is that they get along. Oh, there are moments where they each get on each other's nerves, but there is not the constant nagging nor are there moments of sheer meanness that I have seen among some other siblings their age. Geeky Boy was genuinely happy to have a sibling when Geeky Girl came along and has been quite helpful in helping her grow up, from learning to walk to learning video games. Geeky Girl, too, looks up to her big brother and helps him stay on track and worries about him.

Last night, as the kids were going to bed, Geeky Girl was beside herself, crying in that way that one has trouble catching her breath.

"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I'm afraid Geeky Boy hates me." Bursts into tears, and I can't get any more information.
I walk over to Geeky Boy's room and he's standing there, his eyes red and filled with tears.
"What happened?"
He sticks his bottom lip out and the tears start to fall down his face. "She lost the DS charger."
"I'm sure it's somewhere and besides, we can get another one if we need to."
"We can?"
"Yes."
"Really?"
"Yes. Now go tell your sister you don't hate her because she's really upset and feels bad that she lost the charger."
"Okay." He walks past me, sits down on Geeky Girl's bed and gives her a big hug. I can see Geeky Girl's face over his shoulder. It's softened and she's beginning to smile.

I couldn't ask for better kids.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The schedule crunch

A week from today, the kids go back to school and we begin the crazy schedule thing again. Last year, the kids were on the same schedule, leaving at 8:30, going to an afterschool program and we'd pick them up on our way home between 5:30 and 6:00. This year, all hell breaks loose. First, Geeky Boy, the king of sleeping in, will have to get up at 6:00 a.m. And I will be getting up at the same time. He must leave the house between 7:00 and 7:15. I'm hoping to do a bit of work from 6:00 to 7:00 while supervising Geeky Boy's preparations. He'll be showering, dressing, eating breakfast, the usual. At 7:00, I'll wake Geeky Girl. She requires more help than Geeky Boy, so I'll be helping her with breakfast and gathering her things, etc. Mr. Geeky will probably rise between 7:00 and 7:30. Geeky Girl must be at the bus stop, which has moved to the opposite end of our street (the horror!), by 8:10. At some point during the morning, I'll need to get myself ready and be prepared to leave around 8:30. Oh, and Mr. Geeky has to do the same.

The afternoon is where things get really hairy. Geeky Boy gets out of school at 2:30. He's walking home, so he won't be home until close to 3:00. There are no afterschool programs although there are activities that meet after school that he may join, but this is a mystery right now and there's no guarantee. By law, he can't be alone--seriously, he has to be 12 to stay by himself. The plan right now, since Mr. Geeky is on leave this year, is that he will be home at 3:00 to meet Geeky Boy. Geeky Girl, on the other hand, will be attending her regular afterschool program and won't need to be retrieved until 5:30 ish.

I know I rail against this all the time, but can someone please tell me how this schedule is at all conducive to a dual income, 9-5 kind of family? How can, on the one hand, the state law declare that 11 year olds cannot be home alone and on the other hand, the state provide no programs that would provide supervision for said 11 year olds?

How long has it been since we were an agricultural country? Fifty years, 75? And still, we are stuck with a schedule that allows students to be home to work on the farm with extended time (summer) to participate in harvest. According to friends around here, the schedule now revolves around sports. The h.s. football team needs the buses at a certain time, so the whole schedule is designed to make sure that happens. I think sports are great, but can we provide the same kind of support for other activities? Let's say that the sports teams practice after school and finish by 5, a perfectly acceptable schedule for a working parent. Not everyone wants or is able to participate in a sport. What if we insist that every student participate in some aftershcool activity, be it theater or art or chess club or computer programming or a book club or music or tae kwan do? These activities too would finish at 5. Perhaps some students would ride home on buses, arriving home about the same time as their parents. Or perhaps students would be retrieved by their parents. Isn't this entirely feasible? If you can plan an entire schedule around a single sport, surely you can organize something likethis? I mean really. Alternatively, why couldn't students go to school at 9 instead of the ungodly hour of 7?

I seriously don't get this. I actually believe that the school schedule is one of the key factors keeping women out of the work force. The amount of work and money it takes to ensure your kids are cared for after school is enough to drive anyone to stay home. Our current school district makes this relatively simple and affordable at the elementary level, but our previous school district had a very small afterschool program. There was a two-year waiting list. I was lucky enough to find a student to meet the bus after school and take care of my then 7 year old. A couple of other working moms I knew then didn't have that option. They simply had their kid (a 10 year old) call when they got home. Another arranged for various family members to be there. And I've been places that have nothing--no afterschool program, you're on your own.

Flexible work schedules will only go so far. I'm actually contemplating shifting my schedule sometime in the future. Even this year, I'm thinking about going in a couple of days at 7:30. Even with that, I wouldn't get home until 4:00, a full hour after my oldest gets home. I realize asking an entire institution to change its ways is a huge undertaking, but I'm convinced that something's going to have to give here if we really are going to be a nation of dual income families. The juggling just isn't sustainable for some people over the long term.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A cool dozen

Over the weekend, Mr. Geeky and I celebrated our twelfth anniversary. We had a yard sale and then we went out for dinner. We were pretty exhausted by all the work from the yard sale, so we kept our evening out pretty low key. We stayed local, having dinner, then drove to another restaurant for coffee and dessert and then hit a bookstore. While we were having coffee, we realized we were the oldest people in the place by about 20 years. I said to Mr. Geeky, don't people our age go out? I mean, it's only 8:30. We decided that many probably trek into the city to more adventurous places. We would have been that adventurous if we hadn't been so tired. We started talking about other places we'd lived and realized that in those places, though there had been some "strictly college" joints, the coffee bars and eccentric spots had always been decidedly a mixed bag of college students, grad students, faculty, and townspeople. And that's what made them so interesting and fun to hang out in. There is no place like that out here in the burbs that we know of. That's a real shame because not everyone wants to trek to the city every weekend just to grab a cup of coffee.

Oddly, I didn't really feel particularly old among the college students, though I certainly felt a bit out of place, listening to them discuss the classes they were taking, how many hours they were working, the people they hadn't seen yet since school started and oh, by the way, is Jim still dating Lisa? It's hard to believe that Mr. Geeky and I weren't much older than them when we met. I had just graduated from college. He was a few years into grad school. We weren't sure when we began this whole adventure where it would lead to. Where once, we wouldn't have blinked at being among 18-22 year olds, we now sat listening to them bemusedly, thinking back to our own younger years and realizing that it wouldn't be long before we'd be the parents of a kid this age. Who knew twelve years ago that this is where it would lead? And who knows what the next twelve years will bring? Isn't that the joy of spending a life with someone?

Friday, August 25, 2006

What is education?

That is the question I'll be tackling this year in my class and more broadly throughout the college community. It is a question I think all of us in the academic world attempt to answer for ourselves and our students every class we teach. We may be teaching literature or writing or math, but we are also always teaching something about what we think education is or should be and how we think our students should pursue it. I think it's fair to say that many of us in higher education resist the notion put forth by "No Child Left Behind" that education is something that is easily testable and that you can say if Johnny passes x exam, he has indeed received an education. I know people with high school diplomas that I would say are extraordinarily educated and I know people with college degrees who are woefully ignorant. The idea of education, too, I think is tied up with issues of class and race and gender. Does education mean the same thing to people in different socioeconomic levels?

In my class, which I wrote about before, we will be exploring college life from many different angles and trying to answer the question what is higher education, what is its purpose? And I want my students to reflect on the reasons they are in college and what they want to get out of it. How does the purpose of college shift depending on your role in the college? A faculty member sees the purpose quite differently from a student. I spent a chunk of my vacation reading my entire reading list and it's really made me think about that question. When I went to college, I wanted it to be an intellectually stimulating place where I could ponder the big life questions. I was disappointed to find that many of my fellow students didn't see it that way. They saw it as a place to be free from parental reign and do all those things they couldn't do in high school: stay out late, get drunk, skip class. But I also found myself struggling against the strictures of the classroom. Though I wanted to learn, I was often overwhelmed by the work and had trouble balancing my social life and my school life. I gravitated toward classes where there was more freedom to explore ideas--literature, philosophy--and was less about learning facts--science. Looking back, however, I see that what I learned in college had as much to do with what went on outside the class than what happened in the classroom. In fact, I think I'd argue that the lessons that stick with me are the ones that could abstractly be called "life lessons." I'm very interested in hearing what my students' expectations of college are. I have a feeling they're very different from me when it comes to what they expect and how they will ultimately engage with college life.

In addition to my class, I'm participating in an initiative that, loosely speaking, seeks to spread the educational mission of the college to all its members, including the staff. What does education mean for a housekeeper? What can someone like me or a faculty member or a student learn from someone who works in facilities? These are tough questions, I think. I'm involved in this initiative in part because of my interest in and knowledge of various technologies. I am chafing against the idea that technology is just a skill to be learned. To me, technology, especially web technologies, can open up a whole new way of learning and interacting with information and people. Certainly there are skills to be learned before that can happen, but the point of learning the skills isn't just to say that you now know those skills. The point is you now have the ability to be learning for yourself--about whatever you want. I think, too, in the background of all of this will be the same question I'm asking of my students, "What is higher education? What is its purpose?" The staff involved in this initiative may come up with very different answers from my students. Maybe, it will turn out, they don't see that higher education owes them anything. Maybe they will feel they aren't contributing to that mission, that they are tangential to it. Maybe they want even more from than the students. Maybe they will see life-changing possibilities. I honestly don't know.

I think this will be an interesting intersection for me, to stand once again on both sides of the fence and examining the relationship between the two sides and trying to discover what each side can learn from the other. I'm not sure I'll come up with a definitive answer to the question about what education is, but I think I'll hear and see a lot of different possibilities.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Readjustment period

We're in the transition period, from vacation to school. I, of course, had to jump right in less than 24 hours after our return. The kids and Mr. Geeky get a slower transition. But it's a little rough going. The kids have shared a room for the last two weeks, had people around to play with, and have generally received all kinds of attention from all kinds of people. They've stayed up late, slept in late and generally had the kind of vacation we should all wish for. But now, they have to transition back to their own beds, shift to an earlier bedtime, an earlier waking time. It's hard on all of us really, but Geeky Girl is taking it the roughest of all. By 8, she's obviously exhausted, but refuses to go to bed, so we hold off until 8:30, but she manages to delay until 9. Tonight, I was insistent, shuffling her off at 8:35 and reading to her until a little after 9. I started moving Geeky Boy towards bed. As I settled in front of the computer to check in with some blogs before I, too, collapse into bed, I heard the crying, the kind of gasping crying I remember doing myself when I was tired and upset. Geeky Girl saw a commercial, she says, and it was scary and what she really needs is to sleep in someone's bed. I don't fall for this. I tuck her in gently, offer a stuffed animal and assure her that Geeky Boy is across the hall. She's still a little restless, but the crying has stopped and she's settled in a bit.

It's funny how we, as adults, have difficulty with transitions as well, but we internalize them. We complain to our spouse, our friends, and just muddle through. Kids, though, let it all hang out. Geeky Girl's protests are simply her way of saying, "Hey, I was having fun on my vacation. I liked sharing a room and spending time with my family. What do you mean I have to go to bed early and find ways of entertaining myself?" It will pass, but it sure brings home my own transition difficulty.

N.B.: This is my 1001 post. Wow! I never thought I'd write this much.

Work Load

Over the last couple of days, when people have asked me how things are going as the semester approaches, I inevitably tell them about my teaching a class and working on the dissertation. At this point, their mouths drop open and they ask, "How do you do it?" I explain that it's really not that much work. I mean, really, how different is working a full time job, teaching 1 class, and finishing up a dissertation that different from teaching 4 classes, maintaining a research agenda and performing various service requirements? Not so different, I'd argue. Most faculty I know work more than 40 hours a week, usually somewhere between 50 and 60 is normal. I have a 35-hour work week. With just 2 extra hours of work a day on the dissertation, that's only up to 45 hours. Throw in another 10 to accommodate the class and I'm at 55. It's not that bad and it's temporary. Besides, I love what I'm doing in all those realms. My job is really fulfilling right now. I'm enjoying the work I'm doing on my dissertation, which I think of as the glue between my regular job and my teaching gig. And I am usually energized by being in the classroom.

The dissertation should be fully drafted by the end of September. That means that there's only about three weeks where hard-core dissertation work overlaps with everything else. There will undoubtedly be revisions, so a few days of intense work there and voila! I'm also not going to kick myself if I need to extend my deadline to May.

There are a lot of projects going on on my job, but most are long term, the kind of things you work on slowly, a very different pace from either writing the dissertation or teaching. And there's just the daily tasks between that. Sometimes projects arise from the daily tasks, but generally I can be selective.

This is my second time teaching this course, so I know what it's like. My assignments will be generally the same, though the readings are different. I've pre-read all the books (some more than once), so it's a matter of prepping for discussion rather than having to keep up with the readings. Grading doesn't occur until the end. Feedback is given mostly verbally, working one-on-one with students in conferences. This is time-consuming, but I find it much more amenable than grading stacks of papers.

I have managed bigger work loads before. I think be fine, but thanks for asking.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Academic Year Resolutions

I think a lot of us did this last year as well. I'm planning a Teaching Carnival post. I actually have lots to think about as I get involved in teaching as a broader issue across campus. But you'll have to wait for that. For now, I have just the resolutions for the coming academic year (which I know has started for some; I have two glorious weeks).

1. Finish the dissertation. That's a must. I may have to put off official finishing until May, but a complete draft should be done by the end of September.

2. Yoga every morning. I'm feeling the need to decompress and start the day feeling relaxed rather than anxious. It's going to be a hectic semester and I really feel like I need to take time to focus on something besides work and dissertating.

3. Take a few hikes. The Geeky family is planning to do some hikes at nearby places. We're going to shoot for every weekend. We'll see how that goes, but this relates to #2, only with the opportunity to connect with the family as well. A side note: I'm generally planning to take small steps toward doing my part in protecting the environment. When I was at the beach, I really realized how fragile that ecosystem is. There are fewer birds now than there were 30 years ago and certain sea creatures that used to proliferate also seem depleted. So the hiking is part of that, too.

4. Put in my best effort at work without worrying about being rewarded for that effort. I really do enjoy doing a good job just for its own sake. But sometimes when doing that job doesn't result in a "thank you" or "job well done" from somebody, anybody, I start to wear down. I'm going to try not to expect anything from my work except the satisfaction of doing it well. The reward may come much later.

5. Go to every kid event I can--PTA meetings, soccer games, plays, etc. I want to be as involved as I can be and get to know some other parents along the way.

6. Quit the inadequacy schtick. I know this is Phantom's schtick (and I think she should quit too). Too often, I feel like I'm not good enough. Not smart enough. Not thin enough. Not a hard enough worker, a good enough mother or wife. I'm quitting now. No one is perfect. I'm doing my best. I'm happy with where I am and I am no longer going to worry about how I compare to others. I am not going to let others' comments demean me. Do I sound like Stuart Smalley yet?

I think that's it. There are other mini goals I have related to specific projects. I'm really focused on the dissertation, though, so everything else (besides family) is taking a back seat. Does anyone else do academic year resolutions?

My Summer Vacation

Oh, those horrible essays we had to write (neatly!). Who can possibly pack in everything about vacation into one of those. I spent two weeks at the same place with two different sets of people and one constant set. The first week I was with my family--father, stepmother and stepbrother. The second week with Mr. Geeky's family--brother, sister, father, brother's wife and 3 children under 3. My family--Mr. Geeky, Geeky Boy and Geeky Boy--were there the whole time. Vacationing with one's extended family is difficult if you don't see them very often. The first week was a bit easier in that regard than the second because we'd done this before and knew what to expect. The second week was more difficult for several reasons. We'd never spent more than a couple of days with these people and we all had different ideas of what makes a relaxing vacation. I had fun both weeks and didn't let the inevitable family friction bother me too much, but I did feel a little bad that other family members (especially the second week) weren't enjoying themselves.

Mr. Geeky's family, being from a landlocked state, don't get to the beach very often. I have been going to this particular spot for over 30 years. I know the beach and I have definite ideas of what's fun to do when there's nothing much to do. I personally like to sit in the surf in my chair and read, taking breaks to ride the surf with the kids or build a sandcastle with them. I like to go on long walks and pick up seashells and watch birds dive for fish. Sometimes I'll go crabbing on the creeks or fish with my dad. I like to sleep in and sip coffee on the deck and watch the ocean slowly rise or slowly retreat. I like to eat dinner late, preferably fresh seafood and corn and peaches. It's hard to do any of those things with three small children and I remember the years when we had to work around naps and feeding times and the kids were not enthralled with the sand. But we managed. And we kept coming back.

When the tide was low, we played many rounds of bocce ball, something almost everyone enjoyed both weeks. Later, I remembered that we had often played 4 square in years past, but we forgot this year. We rode rafts and boogie boards in the surf. Even Geeky Girl floated in the shallower water and let the waves carry her in. The first week, we made it out to a nice restaurant for dinner with good wine and good conversation and lots of laughing. We also went to the place on the corner, where everything is fried, but still tastes good. We returned to that place the next week. At first, the babies were restless, but as soon as the hushpuppies arrived, they settled in. We went for walks on the beach at night, played cards and board games and on the last night, set off fireworks, a big hit with the kids.

The second week, we all missed my mother in law. It was a kind of unspoken tension all week. Mr. Geeky said later, we should have toasted her at some point. But I think everyone was trying so hard to deal with their own grief and feelings that they couldn't think that globally. Mr. Geeky's mom really was a glue that held everyone together, that helped erase the tensions that naturally develop between people with very different personalities. Her absence was definitely felt.

The whole two weeks were a much needed break and time away from everything--even the news. I wish I had more time to sit and reflect and not be concerned with the day-to-day. We should all take time for that, not just in the summer.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Honey, I'm hoooome

Finally returned from a looong vacation, but still seems too short. There's lots to tell, and a few pictures (before the camera broke). As soon as I settle in a bit, I'll give you more info. Man, I can't believe I have to work tomorrow.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Going offline for a while

It's vacation time! We're headed to somewhere hot and humid to lie around, drink pina coladas and cook ourselves. We'll be gone for a couple of weeks and it's doubtful we'll have access to the internets. If we do, I'll try to post a time or two. In the meantime, puruse the archives or check out the many wonderful blogs on the blogroll.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Plasma screens are a girl's best friend

Eric pointed me to this article that shows that women would prefer to receive tech gadgets rather than the "typical girl" luxury gifts. Geek girls unite!

Books and more books

New Kid tagged me and I'm too exhausted to think. I spent the day outside at a theme park. Yes, I know. It was 103. I know. Besides, I love books.

1. A book that changed my life.

I can't really name just one, but The Sound and the Fury is definitely a biggie. Also, Love in the Time of Cholera was one of the best books I've ever read and probably corrupted my idea of romance forever. Both of these books were books I couldn't put down and though I'd experienced the need to read to the end before, somehow these were different.

2. One book I've read more than once.

I've read both the above books more than once and I'd read them again. Okay, I read Great Expectations twice, both required. The second time I fell in love with it so much I read sections of it to my students. I just think there's something cool about reading a book the second time and having it be a completely different book because you are now a different person with different experiences. Maybe I'll read it again and hate it. Who knows.

3. One book I'd want on a desert island.

I think I'd want the collected works of Shakespeare. There's a lot to read. We could act out some of the stuff when we got bored (and maybe loopy). And we could later use the pages as kindling. Hey, we're talking survival here.

4. One book that made you laugh.

Richard Russo's Straight Man. Seriously, if you haven't read it, you have to. I've read it three times now and laughed every time. It. is. so. funny.

5. One book that made you cry.

The Sound and the Fury. I was reading it during History class, hiding it behind my history book. I wasn't reading it because I was late or anything. I'd just gotten that hooked that I needed to keep reading through history. And then I got toward the end and started crying. Not a good thing to do in the middle of a lecture on American history.

6. One book you wish had been written.

My biography. Seriously. I used to puruse the biographies in the library in 3rd grade and I assumed one day, mine would be there. Gradually over the years, I realized I was just a slightly smarter than the average person and probably wouldn't end up on the book shelf with those other people. Yeah, there's still time, but I don't think it's happening and I'm okay with that.

7. One book you wish had never been written.

There's so many. I've read some pretty bad books in my day. There was a book Mr. Geeky and I listened to on tape once. It was given to us I think. It was The Yellow Eye or something like that. It was a detective novel and it was sexist and horrible. We kept listening because at some point, it became entertainment to point out how bad it was.

8. One book you're currently reading.

I'm nearly done with White Noise. I'm hoping to read a couple more from my class reading list in the next few weeks. Is there a service where you can look a book up online and then see which nearby bookstore is selling it? If there isn't, there should be. And if some Web 2.0 entrepreneur takes this and runs with it, all I ask is a little nod of the head (and maybe a stock option or two).

9. One book you've been meaning to read.

There are so many. I remember when I realized I would never be able to read all the books in the world. So distressing. But I really want to read The World is Flat. I purchased it, in hardback, and have only read the first 5 pages or so. Damn, it's long.

10. I'm not tagging anyone. Just comment here if you want.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Weird things about me

I've been tagged to write five weird things about myself. Only five?!

1. If I have to run to catch a plane or a train, it's highly likely I will come very close to wetting my pants. This makes me always early for flights and trains.

2. I sleep with socks on in the winter and if the air conditioning is too low.

3. I don't really like cereal or sandwiches, but I eat them because they're easy and ubiquitous.

4. I hum when I eat a really good meal, usually unconsciously.

5. I have to read before I go to sleep, even if I'm exhausted.

So, now I'm supposed to tag 5 people. Has anyone not done this?

Julie
Profgrrrrl
Phantom
New Kid (since she tagged for the book meme, which I promise to do asap)
Elizabeth
Laura at 11D

I know, that's more than five!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Corporations, education, blogging, what does it all mean

I'm still sorting all this out, but I thought I'd give it a stab. Why do I feel it important to sort through everything? Well, because Blogher was a conference supposedly for women who blog, a place to make them feel safe and free to discuss whatever they wanted. Only, I'm not entirely sure it was a conference for me. I wasn't the right kind of woman blogger. I think. Whatever you do, don't call me a mommyblogger, no offense to those who are okay with that term.

I was describing the conference to people here, who are academics, and they asked me who underwrote it, suggesting perhaps the ACM or some other professional technical organization. I said, uh, no, Microsoft, GM, and Johnson & Johnson. Shiver. The whole conference was really all about capitalism and since I'm a little unsure about how I feel about capitalism, at least so blatantly displayed, I felt a little uncomfortable at times. But it made me think about the relationship between education and capitalism. I mean, I go to conferences that are sponsored by Blackboard or WebCT or any number of other technology companies. They're less blatant but they're there. And we have a Microsoft Campus Agreement and Blackboard and purcase all our computers from Dell. I'm wondering what the relationship should be between education and corporations. Should we try our best not to succumb to using their products or taking their money? I mean, we're wary of drug company funded research. Should we be wary of the effect using a particular company's product has on teaching, research and learning? Ask yourself if having only certain products available changes what you do in the classroom.

I don't have answers for these questions, but as someone who tries to use open source software as much as possible (including writing my diss in Open Office despite having access to Word), I chafe against the idea of having only one option and that that option is really the only one available in the marketplace. Ideally, educational institutions would create their own tools, but most institutions lack the resources for that and so we turn to the corporations. I even heard on NPR that many school districts are turning to developers to build buildings and then they rent those from them. Yikes.

I think what it boils down to is that I'm tired of being marketed to. I'm tired of being looked at as a certain demographic and being told that a company understands my needs because they've done the market research. Let me make my own decisions, damn it. I'll watch your ads, but I'm going to turn to the internet and do my own research, thank you very much.