Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Joie Jager-HymanJoie Jager-Hyman is a writer and graduate student. Her first book, Fat Envelope Frenzy: A Year in the Life of Five Harvard Hopefuls (Harper Perennial) is due out in March 2008. Joie is also finishing her doctorate in education policy from Harvard, and she writes the Kidz Today column, which appears on Wednesdays.
Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Care about Rankings
4 Comments | posted June 20th, 2007 at 12:25 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

The U.S. News and World Report College Rankings issue has become the bible of college quality. Some colleges hate it, some love it, all buy into one way or another.

Every year, there’s talk among administrators about withdrawing from the rankings (note: the majority of schools included in the magazine have given their consent by completing and returning surveys of data).

And it’s always the same schools that complain: the ones in the “middle,” who think that the rankings underrate the quality of their institutions. They may very well be right. These rankings were devised by editors to sell magazines not by educators to evaluate the quality of an institution.

U.S. News is so entrenched in our culture that few people know much about how it evolved to become “the decider” of college cache. So, here’s the skinny on College Rankings:

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: If You Raise It, Kidz Will Borrow
11 Comments | posted June 13th, 2007 at 01:58 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

Picture a nation full of kidz driving around in Mercedes.

All the people in this fictitious society believe that luxury cars owners make more money and have better opportunities in the long run. Parents proudly send their children off to car dealerships when they turn 18. Kidz are told that if they don’t buy a Mercedes,
they’ll never amount to anything.

Even though these kidz have no money, they can buy their Mercedes on credit. Not only that, but they have four whole years before they ever see a bill. What a deal! Just sign the paper, drive your new wheels off the lot and you’ll be set for life.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Us (Magazine) v. Them
10 Comments | posted June 06th, 2007 at 10:26 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

I’ve tried to quit before, I swear.

I feel guilty every time I relapse.

What are you doing to yourself? Is this really who you want to be? Just think about how much more time and energy you’d have if you QUIT once and for all.

But as much as I wonder how the hours spent reading US Magazine and Perez Hilton are effecting my brain and torturing my soul, I feel like I can’t stop. I’ve tried to change. Really, I have.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Online Adolescence
16 Comments | posted May 30th, 2007 at 12:27 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

When you google my name–I’m the only “Joie Jager-Hyman” on record–the first thing that pops up is this trying-too-hard-to-sound-like-an-adult letter that I wrote to the editor of the Dartmouth Review when I was a sophomore in college.

My friend at the time had written an article about the death of antisemitism, which I found offensive. I told him so over lunch, and he actually got excited. He encouraged me to Write a letter! So I finished my dinning hall delicacy, cleared my big red plastic tray and stomped back to my dorm room to compose a “thoughtful” response on my Power Mac.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: School’s Out
28 Comments | posted May 23rd, 2007 at 12:38 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

No more pencils! No more books! No more teacher’s dirty looks!

Sometimes it seems that there’s only one thing about which the Mean Girls and Freaks and Geeks of the world can agree: SCHOOL SUCKS. But despite the preponderance of horrifying humiliations, anxious angst and stiff social hierarchies, very few kidz actually consider opting out. So, how much do you know about those who do?

What do you know about homeschoolers?

Before I started researching this column, I personally did not know too much about these kidz. I don’t think I have ever even met a real-life homeschooler–at least not that I can remember. So, I decided to educate myself and here’s some of what I found out:

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Are We Going to Prom or to Hell?
18 Comments | posted May 16th, 2007 at 09:35 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

The glorious High School Prom is an adolescent right of passage that is appropriately chronicled by a lengthy list of teen movies. Here are some prom archetypes from pop culture:

**The “We’re Not Allowed to Dance” prom held in the next town over a la Footloose.
**The “What About Prom, Blane?/Molly Ringwald Gets Dumped for Being Poor” Pretty in Pink pity prom.
**The “I’m Going to Turn an Already Beautiful Girl Into My Hot Date By Taking Off Her Glasses” Freddy Prince fiesta in She’s All That.
**And as a tribute to the older and wiser among us, let’s not forget the “10-Year Flashback” prom, also known as the “We Dressed Up Like Various Incarnations of Madonna” romp, in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.

(For some extra fun, you can also take YM’s prom-related quizzes to find out Are you a Prom Rebel? or What’s Your Prom Personality?)

So, with prom on the brain last week, I asked Marlene (one of the five amazing students who have been kind enough to let me follow them around for my book) about her plans for prom. She wrote:

As for prom, yes it is coming up … but I’m not going : (
The prom ticket is like 120, then the limo would’ve been around 175, then there’s the dress, hair nails, after prom etc. So yeah, unnecessary hassle.
I figured that it’s too much money, and it basically came down to either prom or getting a laptop for college, the laptop for me has priority. Both of my sisters got to go to theirs, but I guess all three of us had different circumtances.
So that’s my rant.

I’m sorry, what? $120 for prom tickets?

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Cash U.
6 Comments | posted May 09th, 2007 at 10:01 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

On Monday, New York University announced the largest royalty sale by an academic institution in history. Having already made $360 million off Remicade, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and several other autoimmune diseases, the university will receive another $650 million in exchange for a portion of the drug’s future royalties. As tax-payers who subsidize these nonprofit educational organizations, we have to ask how corporate partnerships influence the research agenda at our nation’s colleges.

Are top scientists selling out?

For decades, academic research was funded primarily by the government in the form of competitive grants. Because research conducted with public funds, especially in areas of basic science, did not have ownership rights, scientists were encouraged to collaborate for the advancement of knowledge. However, in 1980, Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which gave small businesses, universities and nonprofit organizations the right to patent their research. Ever since, many scholars have turned their attention to designing lucrative corporate innovations from which universities stand to reap tremendous financial rewards. Competition for patents also limits the exchange of ideas, a fundamental tenant of scientific inquiry.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Yesterday
12 Comments | posted May 02nd, 2007 at 12:34 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman


The second season of Beverly Hills 90210 came out a few days ago. If I weren’t up in the country working on my book (see Kate’s Post), I would have already bought it by now. And no, I’m not a run-out-and-buy-every-new-DVD-released type of gal. My rare inspiration to jet to the store is motivated by the insane revelation that I actually think 90210 is a masterpiece worth owning.

Of course, so much of my intense 90210 affection stems from the fact that the show debuted exactly when I was in the seventh grade. I was their prime target. However, if you look at 90210 as a sort of cultural commentary, the show does have something to teach us about Kidz Yesterday v. Kidz Today. How are those of us who grew up in the 90s different?

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: My Humps
4 Comments | posted April 25th, 2007 at 10:19 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

What you gonna do with all that junk, all that junk inside that trunk?
I’m gonna get you drunk off my hump.
What you gonna do with all that ass, all that ass inside them jeans?
I’m gonna make you scream, make you scream.

When Alanis Morrissette heard these lyrics from the Black Eyed Peas’ song My Humps, she must have thought “there are words that really make a statement.” So she got all hooched-out Fergie-style and sang the song in a wildly popular You Tube video.


Alanis’s interpretation has been seen by an estimated 5.5 million viewers, and it is currently the most popular video on the web. Now everyone wants to know WHY? What’s so good about it?

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Joie Jager-Hyman
I Sell Tallises
6 Comments | posted April 22nd, 2007 at 12:19 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman


This weekend marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release of the best romantic comedy ever, Annie Hall. Even after all this time, the movie still seems cutting edge. By defying the rules of the genre, the film ultimately pushes the discourse on love and relationships to a new level. Plus, it’s wicked funny.

I always wondered how a man who famously left his long-time partner for her FRIGGIN DAUGHTER could somehow write such rich female characters. Annie Hall is one of the most lovable and enduring characters ever created for the big screen. She’s talented and vulnerable, graceful and wonderfully awkward, innocent and strong with a killer sense of fashion. I love how she uses the word “neat.”

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Kill
9 Comments | posted April 18th, 2007 at 11:10 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

How did it happen? How could it happen? Could it happen again?

It seems like Monday, April 16, 2007 was a day destined to inspire these existential questions.

The devastating massacre at Virginia Tech.

We will never know why Cho Seung-Hui ended the lives of so many promising young students and their teachers. He is permanently silenced. Any explanation we conceive regarding his motive or circumstance is pure speculation. Yet, we keep searching. Twenty-four-hour cable news is on it’s 48th hour of coverage. Somehow, not being able to understand or make sense of this tragedy is almost more horrific and unsettling than the actual event.

How did it happen? How could it happen? Could it happen again?

Monday, April 16,2007 was also Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom HaShoah in Hebrew. It is a day of mourning for the worst crime of the 20th century.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
2 Comments | posted April 13th, 2007 at 07:28 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman


Over a year and a half after the levees were breeched in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this is what you see when driving through much of New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish (I took these pictures myself). Once vibrant neighborhoods now look like eerie ghost towns with an occasional construction site sprouting up from the wreckage as a reminder that there are families who still yearn, in spite of everything, to return home.

Government has failed these people at all levels. Amazingly, local citizens and charity organizations have risen up to help put communities, schools and homes back together.

What can you do? Here are some organizations that are doing really good work (some of which are public/private partnerships):
Greater New Orleans Foundation
New Schools for New Orleans
Unified New Orleans Plan
Foundations for New Orleans

For the time being, at least, the responsibility for rebuilding the Gulf Region lies in all of us.
If you have additional recommendations for how we can contribute to this cause, please share them.

Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: When the Child Becomes the Parent
5 Comments | posted April 11th, 2007 at 11:05 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

I’m getting married at the end of July, which means that I am participating in a cultural tradition known as “the wedding.” Like most cultural traditions, “the wedding” can feel a big alienating at times. Sure, you identify with it, insofar as you’ve been to other weddings and you recognize the symbolism (white dress, fancy ring, lots of flowers etc.), but when it happens to you, the whole thing can feel a little strange. Perhaps the strangest thing of all is how wonderful it can be. I would never have predicted that I would find such a lasting love, someone that I want to make part of my family.

Speaking of family, that’s another thing about getting married: you get another family. Soon, I will have four parents. More parents eventually means more people to care for. Caring for others can be quite rewarding, and there is a wide range of potential experiences in this regard. However, our parents will get older. We will have to mitigate new relationships with them as they age. This is just part of the life cycle, for better or worse (richer or poorer, you know the drill).

Of course, they could have done a little more to help us out. Unless something changes–and Baby Boomers start planning for retirement and aging–our generation is pretty much screwed.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Your “H” Questions Answered
5 Comments | posted April 05th, 2007 at 01:02 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my interactions with “H”, a former Harvard Hopeful who revealed a major lie and was subsequently cast out of Fat Envelope Frenzy fame (see my first post for the whole story). Since then, I’ve received numerous emails and telephone calls with similar themes. In general, people start by offering their sympathy (with the exception of my good friend Ben Wakelin, who scolded me on the blogosphere by–correctly–pointing out that I had a hand in getting myself into this situation). Then, they usually move on to the following comments:

What was “H” thinking? How did he plan to get away with this?


You should totally use this material in your book. It shows the lengths that kids will go to in this achievement-at-all-costs culture.

People seem to understand my response to the first comment more than my reaction to the second.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
They Don’t Call Them “Pampered” for Nothing
3 Comments | posted March 29th, 2007 at 11:48 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

I live on an island that is being invaded by a strange and powerful force: rich toddlers. Don’t get me wrong, I like toddlers and everything. But do they have to be growing at such a fast rate? And do they all have to be richer than me?

A few days ago, the New York Times ran the following article noting a major change in Manhattan demographics: click here for the article

Shockingly, in a city that once spat families with kids over its bridges and through its tunnels, the number of families with kids under the age of five in Manhattan has increased by 32 percent since 2000. And these aren’t just any toddlers. White families are having babies at a higher rate than any other group (according to the article, this is the first time since the 1960s that there are more white toddlers in Manhattan than black or Hispanic children of the same age). The median household income for a white non-Hispanic toddler is now $284,000. These are literally the richest and most powerful kids in America.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Our Failing Colleges
2 Comments | posted March 28th, 2007 at 11:30 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

Recently, there has been much discussion on the need to increase educational attainment to insure American preeminence in a competitive global marketplace. However, little attention has been paid to whether or not students who enter college actually graduate with the skills they need to be competitive in the workplace.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy indicates that between 1993 and 2003, average prose literacy (the ability of students to read basic texts, such as newspapers and magazines) has declined for all students, including those with at least some college education or a bachelors degree. Only 66 percent of full-time four-year college students graduate within six years, which is approximately the same amount of time it now takes the average student to complete a bachelor’s degree. These statistics are unacceptable. Without oversight or accountability, the continued ability of American postsecondary institutions to produce a competent 21st century workforce will remain in question.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Today are Screwed
3 Comments | posted March 21st, 2007 at 12:35 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

Imagine this:

You are in your own house. It is the place where you wake up each morning and lay your head each night. It is your refuge from the world’s turmoil. It is the structure that contains your life’s possessions.

All of the sudden, there is water everywhere. And it is rising fast, seeping in through the walls, gushing in from the windows. Outside, you can see floating red balls. They are massive nests of fire ants with a queen that is surely in panic. They take loft to escape the water moccasins, poisonous water snakes that threaten humans and ants alike.

The water continues to rise. Cockroaches and rats come up from the sewers and canals seeking dry land all around you. You pile up your furniture to get to higher ground. The water keeps rising.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Today are Liars
10 Comments | posted March 14th, 2007 at 04:27 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

Kidz today are liars.

This was not how I expected to start my first column, but please let me explain.

Last Monday, March 12th, I came down to New Orleans to interview one of the five students who I have been following for my book. Since August, I have spent countless hours getting to know each of them—visiting their schools across the country, talking to them about their lives, and interviewing their teachers, friends and family members.

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