This weekend the Southern Festival of Books took over the Nashville Public Library and War Memorial. I attended a few author panels and meandered through the book vendors.
The Years that Matter Most How College Makes or Break Us
This was the first author panel I attended. I think the topic of school and college is interesting. Especially in this time of cultural change. Even though I came in late to this panel, I learned a lot of interesting facts from author, Paul Tough.
Are entrance exams the best indicator of student success in college?
The point I caught him talking about from his book was if entrance exams are really a good indication if a student will succeed in college. I perked up at this because I was never a good standardized test taker even though I loved school and did well in it.
Tough said some schools say it’s a disservice to the students to applying to ignore their test scores. That it would be unfair for a prestigious university like Harvard, to accept anyone because they might not be able to cut it.
Tough said some colleges offer test optional entrance exams. That means the college looks at everything about the student like their GPA, extracurricular activities, and types of classes they took in high school. They don’t see the student’s SAT or ACT score if the student did poorly and doesn’t want to be judged by it.
Tough talked about a Latina student at the University of Texas who followed this approach. She was the first one of her family to go to college and felt like she didn’t belong. That people like her weren’t supposed to go to or even succeed in college. Tough said, “we don’t like not knowing who we are. We constantly look for signs if we belong, if we can succeed.”
This particular student was suffering from Impostor Syndrome. On the one hand, she had her sister telling her that it was OK if she failed a math test. On the other hand, her math professor told her she was good at math and would be a math major.
It was her math teacher’s assistant who sat down with her and said, “what’s happening to you isn’t who you are.” You are whatever you want to be, you just have to find out the way to do it that works best for you.
The student switched into a study group at her level. She started teaching others in her group. She eventually did declare math as her major and became a teacher’s assistant for the class she almost dropped.
What does the GI Bill have to do with college entrance exams?
Next, Tough told the story of a 93 year old man. When he was in high school, he lived in a town where no one went to college after they graduated. No one from his family ever went to college. They didn’t have the money to send him anyways.
The attack on Pearl Harbor happened and this man signed up for service. He fought at the Battle of the Buldge and was shot in the hand by a sniper. After a few weeks to recover, he was sent back out to the front.
At the time, only about 10% of the U.S. population went to college. These were typically upper class, coastal elites.
When the war ended and the man was finally able to come home, the GI Bill was passed. This meant, every soldier who served could now go to college for free! Congress passed the bill thinking that no one would actually take them up on the offer.
Even come colleges at the time wrote open letters against the GI Bill. Harvard and the University of Chicago were such schools. They wrote that their campuses would turn into “educational hobo jungles” if they had to accept soldiers, many from working class families who would be first generation college students, into their schools. Harvard and the University of Chicago both proposed a test to at least weed out some of the applicants.
Thankfully, both the government and universities against the GI Bill were wrong. Soldiers took up the offer for the GI Bill and flooded campuses. These working class students succeeded at high levels.
The man in the story went on to get a Masters degree in Chemistry. He married his high school sweet heart and had six children. Each of his children earned college degrees and each of their children graduated college. For this man, the GI Bill offered a chance an upward mobility. His decision to go to college lifted his family economically.
We live in a time where the data points to a need in highly educated people. We need to encourage people to go to college, stick it out, and earn their degrees. I learned that a staggering 40% of college students drop out. They are not reached out too, they are written off. We need to encourage people who dropped out to go back and finish their degrees. We can do this by making the college experience one for all types of people, and not just 18 – 22 year olds.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
In this panel, author Ottessa Moshfegh, was interviewed by a book store owner. The interviewer asked Moshfegh about the effort that goes into writing a book. Moshfegh said she liked the word ‘effort’ better than ‘work’.
She said writing is like having thoughts “waiting in your mind, waiting for the moment for you to put it down.”
Moshfegh said, instead of feeling doubt about her work, she understands that she may not have “nailed it” but she understands it better for herself.
That reminded me of my writing for my blog. Sometimes I’ll writer a draft and think it’s perfect. I’ll go back later only to discover that it probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. But at least I can flush it out because I understand what I was trying to say.
“I have doubt but I’m not ashamed of it.”Ottessa Moshfegh
Moshfegh said of her work, “I have doubt but I’m not ashamed of it. It’s not fear, it’s how does this work?” I wonder, how many of us could benefit from this mindset?
Whiskey and Moonshine in the South
I attended this duo author panel on a whim. A few years ago I toured the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. I thought it would be fun to learn a bit more about whiskey and prohibition.
Fun Facts about Prohibition
- Making moonshine provided a social safety net for single women. They were often let go when caught because there were no women jail cells at the time.
- There was state wide Prohibition before it was enacted as a Federal Law. Prohibition in Tennessee was from 1909 – 1939. Federal Prohibition was only from 1920 – 1933.
- Anyone could be make moonshine, not just toothless old men out in the woods. Distilleries were found in the walls of buildings in the cities.
- It was a lost cause because many police were part of the bootlegging processes. Some would divert patrols for a payment. High up authorities would be replaced but lower level departments would not.
- Tennessee finally ended Prohibition in 1939 because they needed revenue for Social Security.
The Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN
Make Me a Mocha
On my way home I stopped at D’Andrews Bakery & Cafe for a mocha. There were food trucks at the festival but I wasn’t in the mood for a lobster mac & cheese (although the cobbler truck did catch my attention).
This place was adorable and the mocha was delicious. I mean, look at all those fresh made pastries!
Have you ever been to a book festival? What do you think of the books I picked? Let me know in the comments below!