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May 24, 2005

Comments

Caitriona

mythago,

People can be Jewish by heritage and not by faith. My 24yo step-daughter is one such person. She is Jewish by heritage because her mother's family are Jewish. However, she's not determined yet what her faith will be. She is looking at both Judaism and Christianity.

jeremyw

It seems to me that there is a stronger tradition of going away for university in the US than in Canada. Of course, my observations aren't particularly broad: my impressions of what happens in the States come from Hollywood college movies, and my observations within Canada are mostly limited to what happens in Manitoba, where going away to school means going FAR -- unless for some reason you're compelled to study in Saskatchewan.

What happens elsewhere -- in Europe, for instance?

Hugo

Well, plenty of moving happens in England among the middle-class. Lots of kids from up north go down south, and vice-versa. My brother (in the far southwest of England at Exeter) has tons of students from the home counties around London. When I was hanging out up at Durham, in the north, I never met any students actually from County Durham -- they were all at least two hours drive away. England is a much smaller country, but the ideal of getting away from mum and dad seems, to me, to be fairly well entrenched.

I'm less clear on what happens on the continent.

davejones

Hugo,

Mythago, while not very tactful in this instance, has a point. For you to be Jewish, according to the Halakhah, you would have to have been born of a Jewish mother or be a convert to Judaism. Perhaps your one option to state your heritage as you did is if you claim to be an American Reform Jew, but this too has certain requirements and standards. Reform or Progressive Judaism outside the U.S. is nearly as tough as Orthodox Judaism in this regard in that it rejects patrilineal descent and intermarriage. Tough crowd, eh?

Since the definition of being Jewish is still a national, ethnic, religious, and cultural tug-of-war, there may be hope for you yet (in that you could call yourself a half Jew).

Sally

I kind of assumed that Hugo knew about how Jews defined Judaism but was stating the relevent info for this discussion. And given what Hugo has told us about his family (that his father moved from Austria to England as a child), it seems to me that it probably is relevent.

My sense is that people in Europe are much more likely than Americans to go to the closest university and, if possible, live at home. I have an Italian acquaintance who is living with her parents while she attends grad school, and she reports that's not at all strange. I can't think of a single American grad school acquaintance who's done that.

Caitriona

Hugo,

I'm coming in late to this discussion. It's been one of "those" weeks. :-)

You stated: Before I went off to Cal, parents told me (indeed, everyone in my family told me) that college was not just about getting a formal classroom education. College, we were told, is about having new experiences, creating a new identity, developing one's own emotional, spiritual, and intellectual autonomy without interference from one's family of origin! "Two-thirds of your education takes place outside the classroom", I was told. And I believe it now. If I had lived at home, I would have missed staying up until three in the morning arguing politics and religion with my roommates. I would have missed the lessons in financial accountability (and doing my laundry) that were so valuable during my college years. I would have missed the opportunity to find out who Hugo really was. (Even as I write that, I recognize my own use of the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc.)

I agree that 2/3 of a person's education takes place outside the classroom. (Actually, with a lot of schools, that ratio is much higher, which is part of why we home educate our teens.) What I don't agree with is the necessity that this very large portion of one's education be done away from family and community. Although I no longer live near any of my family, or my husband's either, I treasure the time spent close to them.

When I went to college, I initially stayed in the dorm, but at a college that was close enough to home that I could visit whenever necessary, for me or for my family. I think it was very important to me and to my relationship with my grandparents that I was available to help out during Christmas break the winter that my grandfather had hernia surgery and my grandmother broke her ankle (the night before his surgery!). Having the freedom to leave, but also the freedom to stay, has been a very vital part of our family's independence *and* dependence upon one another. It is a major part of our strength. It gives us the deep-down, core knowledge that if any of us needs help, someone is there for us, no matter how far from home we've strayed.

I see that with the strongest families I know. I'm not sure I could have made it through things I've gone through without that knowledge, even when I don't call on my family for help.

mythago

Perhaps it would be safer to say that on my father's side, I am of Jewish ancestry.

It would be more accurate. (I don't know about "safer," since nobody's issuing threats.) It's just that while there's an ethnic component to Judaism, if you're not Jewish then, um, you're not. There's no "half-Jewish" from the Jewish point of view.

jeremyw, remember that the US has A LOT more people than Canada. It does affect our universities.

stanton

Paul Newman's half Jewish
And Goldie Hawn's half, too
Put them together,
What a fine looking Jew!
...
We got Ann Landers,
And her sister Dear Abby,
Harrison Ford's a quarter Jewish
Not too shabby

-Adam Sandler

Tara

I went away for college, at least in part because that was just what people did, and my family was supportive. I regret it because my mother got sick with cancer and died while I was still basically away doing the college thing. On the other hand, if she had lived, I probably wouldn't regret it at all. You never know in life, you're always guessing, and every choice has costs. Now I live in Montreal where it's very common for people to live at home for university and grad school, if they're staying in Montreal, which they often do. I think it's kind of... great. I do think it's a little messed up for going away to be a value in and of itself.

I'm also not sure about this strict definition of Anglo - here in Montreal Anglo means anyone who spoke primarily English growing up. Words mean what they are used to mean, not what their roots necessarily stand for.

Finally, Hugo, you say you're half Jewish, I wonder what that means to you? Because Jewish by 'blood' to me doesn't really mean the same thing as Jewish by heritage, which implies that some of the culture and traditions were passed down too, and the culture and tradition vary according to the place ('anglo' Jewish versus other world Jewish communities) but it is also very connected to the "faith," or practice of the religion. I think the people are unhooking them a bit too easily.

Hugo

The "Jewish" by heritage is a way of honoring my family's past. My great-grandmother and great-great grandmother did not die in the Shoah because of their faith. Heck, they had converted from Judaism and become practicing Catholics after moving from Bohemia to Vienna! Hitler didn't care what you practiced, he cared what you were by blood. If I don't acknowledge that Jewishness extends beyond faith, then the deaths of these two women (and many other "ethnic Jews") becomes inexplicable.

I also identify as "half-Jewish", frankly,as a way of escaping the assumptions of "WASPiness" that come my way. For whatever reasons, folks who meet me get a very WASPy vibe off of me; it's my way of reminding others, and myself, that I'm more complex than that. I mean no disrespect to those who practice Judaism today. But I want to honor those who came before me, and remember why it was that they died.

stanton

Hugo, I get from what you said that there is something about being a white Anglo-Saxon protestant that puts one in a certain box. This is a box that is somehow less respectable or legitimate than other "more" complex boxes. Can you see why I would get this "vibe"?

Hugo

Certainly, stanton; it's not that I'm ashamed of that WASPiness; it's that so often, folks assume (usually falsely, but with some merit) that WASP privilege is a barrier to empathy with those who have had different experiences in this country.

Rainbow

Hugo, everything you stand for is the WASPY liberal canon, including your hatred of Israel and Israelis. Live with it. Distant Jewish relatives with no cultural ties to your daily life does not change that. Wishing the Arabs drove a couple of million surviving Jews, including a half million that were driven out of Arab countries in fear, like Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq into the Mediterranean does not change that. Latinos do not want their young women wandering all over the planet either. At least recognize your prejudices and assumptions. I will admit I cannot look at your picture without thinking about all the WASP children who beat me within an inch of my life as a child, from the ages of 2 until 12 when my mother finally wised up and moved back to the ghetto at Pico and La Cienga Boulevards.

Hugo

Um, Rainbow? I'm more pro-Israel than you know; I'm critical of right-wing Israeli politicians but an adamant believer in the right of the state to exist.  I work with Israelis all the time, and if you read my blog at all, you know I've stood up for Israeli academics.  Two weeks ago.

And I am not sure if I can help my looks. Some people say, by the way, that I look very Jewish...

Now, can we all stay on the topic of the thread? I promise to discuss the Jewish question somewhere else, but please let's keep what really matters in this post going.

stanton

Hugo - I believe Rainbow is at least partly on-topic. She refers to the cultural differences that divide us, and how these differences make it difficult to understand the attitudes of those outside our own group. This is certainly pertinent to the approach to early independence among various groups.

Rainbow

My point is your attitude towards leaving home and independence are classic WASP/American/Southern California attitudes. My first generation Cypriot co-worker in New York is not letting his 19 year old any leeway in college choices and is keeping him home. These choices are perfectly justified in his mind in order to keep the family together. But at least my Cypriot friend knows his way is not the "American" way. I don't think you recognize how much your opinions and attitude derive from your culture. Despite your love of multiculturalism, you do not seem to aware of conflicting cultural values in a lot of your blog entries. I will try to ignore your skin and hair coloring and the fact that it elicits a post traumatic stress reaction from me. Sorry, it brings back all those violent episodes. Peace.

Hugo

And peace to you as well, Rainbow; it had been my hope that my post above would have been characterized by a certain degree of ambivalence. I know how shallow my own attitude is, and indeed, closed the post by admitting that I don't know as much as I ought to.

That said, I remain a staunch advocate of sending kids away to school when money permits!

Rainbow

but would you be an advocate of that viewpoint if raised in a different culture? and can you set aside your personal views or offer a disclaimer when students ask for your help?

mythago

WASP/American/Southern California

Those are three very different social groups. WASP usually means New England/Atlantic Coast, not just white and Anglo-Saxon. (White people living in the Appalachians are also descended from British Isles immigrants but nobody calls them "WASPs".) Southern California is an entirely different attitude and encompasses many cultures--I'd think the many people of Central American ancestry would be surprised to find out they're not *really* SoCal, ditto that "American" is a particular POV that doesn't include them.

I didn't mean to start a huge discussion on the "who is a Jew?" issue, but there is not really a such thing as half-Jewish (and that term for some reason always reminds me of the scene in Fritz the Cat where the co-eds are trying to persuade a black musician of how cool they are).

Senya

Hi Hugo...Eloy (for those of you reading comments I am part 2 of office-mate) told me about your conversation and sent me the link to your posting. I am compelled to write for several reasons, but primarily for two. First, I am a convert to the keep-kids-home model and second because for all of your musings about why kids would want to stay home, you never looked there.

I went to college...away from home. I thoroughly loved the University of Washington and did attempt the "finding" myself while there. However, as I am sure you are well aware, not everyone "finds" themselves. I think that it may the execption to the "location, location, location" rule...there is a mindset and maturity that needs to accompany this process.

As for my conversion to the keep-kids-home model, there are a variety of factors that influenced this. However, most important is the realization that there are sharp limits to what you can give your child and a finite amount of time that you have with your child. Independence and individuality are not things that you need to work to instill in your child. They will come. (My gosh...our five year old already tells of her plans for her adult life!) Responsibility, integrity, humanity...those are the traits that require attention. How much richer is the person who is independent yet understands their place within a network of people. How much more content is the person who has confidence in their individuality yet is compassionate and attentive to those around them? If this is the goal, then how can you send them off with the promise of timely tuition payments?

Someone once told me that once you have children, you never sleep soundly again...ever. It's true...you can't get an 18-year lease on your heart. My doors will never close to my children. Furthermore, I could not imagine a greater joy than my child recognizing that the foundation of our family is "big" enough that she or he could continue to expand his/her horizons and self.

La Lubu

"That said, I remain a staunch advocate of sending kids away to school when money permits!"

Ummm....kids? You are talking about young adults, right? And you do recognize that those young adults are, for the most part, choosing to stay closer to home, right? And that, for the most part, these young adults who are staying home have probably already been leading adult lives, with more responsibilities than the typical "off to school" eighteen year old, right? I mean, I hate to have to agree with John too, but I dug what he said about duties and expectations that he didn't want to escape from.

This post actually surprised me, because usually you are a supporter of choices, and a supporter of the 'underdog'. But here's how this post read to me: You people are doing it all wrong! Listen to me! I have a long family legacy of college attendance, and here's how WE do it! I belong here! You people who are different from me, you have to PROVE you really belong here, by emulating me! I get to be myself. YOU get to be someone else! Get it? And that isn't generally the assumption I make about you, Hugo.

What's more, by being an instructor---part of the institution---and asserting this attitude, it sends a stronger message than if you were just Joe Blow...and it sends a message you may not intend.

See, most colleges have significant barriers to nontraditional students. Everything from housing, to daycare, to parking privileges, to campus involvement. By not having structures within the institution to accomodate nontraditional students, not only sends the message you're not wanted here, it also makes it difficult for nontraditional students to continue their education. Which is fine, if education isn't really the purpose of the university, y'know? I'm bothered by what I perceive as a (mildly, but still) hostile attitude coming from a representative of the institution. And I also detect a (mild, but still) sexism on your part for assuming that the young women are being protected, rather than making their own choice. Paternalist, much?

You don't really need a stamped-out-like-a-cookie-cutter experience to get through college. After all, you made it through high school without being on the football team, right?

Hugo

Jeez, I go for a run in the Arroyo, come back, and articulate women whom I admire and respect have taken me to the proverbial woodshed. Sheesh!

Mythago, fair enough. I won't call myself "half-Jewish" again. I'll simply say, "On my father's side, I have Jewish ancestry, and it's an important part of my family history" -- and leave it at that.

Rainbow, I always issue a disclaimer when a student comes to office hours and says "What do you think I should do?" (About anything.) I invariably warn the student that my opinion is just that, my opinion, and like all opinions, it is shaped by my subjective experiences. If they still want to hear it, I fire all guns!

Senya, you know how much I love and admire you and Eloy and the kids. I don't disagree with a thing you've said. But I also think, in practical terms, that this entire issue of family v. education is easier for those of us who live in urban areas with lots of fine colleges and universities. A kid can live with their parents and get a fine education in Los Angeles. Can they do so in more far-flung areas? There, I'm not so sure. Does the same advice apply in Pasadena as it does in Perris or Peoria? I wonder.

La Lubu, it's always illuminating to see how others perceive one's writings, as Burns says: "O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us /To see oursels as others see us" -- and all that. I have no wish to come across as some out-of-touch snob. I've given my life to the community college, not out of a sense that it is settling for less, but out of a sense that this was my calling. I love my students. But the fact that I was never a JC student myself sometimes shows, I suppose.

As to what young women want: go ahead and flame me, but I don't know that a great many young people KNOW what they want. Some do. But others are trying desperately to please parents and peers. My goal in advocating "moving away" is to get young people away from the external influences that have shaped them thus far so that they can, through trial and error, discover who it is that they are. Call it waspish elitism if you will, but to me, it still seems very much an ideal worth shooting for.

La Lubu

Fair enough, Hugo. But in the end, you always come back to yourself. I'm not sure that any of us really 'escape' where we come from; those influences come with us. I chose to embrace those influences. I've seen some family members who choose to...uhh...minimize those influences. (I had to search my mind a bit, for a nonjudgemental word! My bias shows...) Different strokes!

Caitriona

As to what young women want: go ahead and flame me, but I don't know that a great many young people KNOW what they want. Some do. But others are trying desperately to please parents and peers. My goal in advocating "moving away" is to get young people away from the external influences that have shaped them thus far so that they can, through trial and error, discover who it is that they are. Call it waspish elitism if you will, but to me, it still seems very much an ideal worth shooting for.


Hugo, it's not just young women. I know a certain 48yo man who *still* doesn't really know who he is or what he wants in life. As with so many other people, the more God hands him what he *thinks* he wants, the more he decides he doesn't want it after all. He's spent his entire life trying to get others' attention and approval by doing the opposite of what he things those others want him to do. There comes a time to stop worrying about what you think your peers and your parents wish you to do, and to just *DO* what you're meant to do. Know what I mean?

For some people, that realization comes early. But for some, they feel a drive to "escape" home, to rebel and do everything they *THINK* their parents are against (without finding out what their parents actual thoughts are on the matter - remember, I have a houseful of teens!), to be the total opposite of what they think the "establishment" (whatever that is) wants them to be.

Most people who go through that phase never really grow out of it. You yourself are still constantly questioning yourself, as you've posted here. Questioning oneself is fine. Second-guessing oneself is destructive. Losing sight of who you are in the midst of "searching" for yourself is tragic. I see people who live with the consequences of that tragedy. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but especially not on a young adult just beginning to strike out on his/her own.

Hugo

That's a fair point, Caitriona; I'm hardly a great argument for the very set of experiences I endorse. I'm still so damned open-minded the wind blows through more often than not, and my ambivalence, sometimes, is counter-productive in my work. How can I know if it would have turned out differently if I had stayed close to the bosom of my family? I can't.

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