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robertogreco : losgatos   6

The dark side of Silicon Valley, according to a teen who grew up there - Business Insider
"Home of the brightest engineers, the coolest new technology, and the highest salaries in the world, Silicon Valley is also home of the most cutthroat competitive high schools.

Let's take a look at the schools with the highest SAT scores in the nation. Unsurprisingly, 6 of the top 20 are located in Silicon Valley: Monta Vista (#15), Mission San Jose (#18), Lynbrook (#7), Gunn (#12), Leland (#20), and Harker (#2).

In many of these schools, getting a 3.5 GPA could put you in the bottom half of the class (especially at academic powerhouses Gunn, Monta Vista, and Harker).

In other schools, athletics play a bigger role in the culture, but success is still expected nonetheless (Bellarmine, Los Gatos, Mitty). Also, it's a given that the student body is not only talented, but also well accomplished in many different areas.

It's unbelievable when you see the sheer numbers these schools put out. Harker has had 173 people admitted to Berkeley in the past 3 years. In just 2015, Harker had a 43% acceptance rate to Berkeley (69 admitted out of 162 who applied).

For the No. 1 public university in the world, those are some crazy numbers. Not to be out-matched, Mission San Jose High boasted a 29% acceptance rate to Berkeley in 2015, with 93 admitted. I understand admission to Berkeley isn't the best metric to judge competitiveness/success, but it shows a small part of the bigger picture.

Evergreen Valley, my home school, is considered one of the middle-tier competitive schools, but it's slowly becoming a microcosm of the Palo Alto/Cupertino areas. It's reflected in our college admissions.

This year alone, we have 32 students going to Berkeley and 4 going to Stanford. Now, it's great and all that we're succeeding in the college admissions game, but at what cost?

The bottom line is that behind these stellar numbers and phenomenal extracurricular activities lies a culture of overwork and incessant competition. There no longer exists a free summer for high school kids.

Everyone is competing — who can get the best internship? Who can pack their schedule the most? Who can get admitted to the best, most prestigious summer programs? Even in school, everyone is competing — who can work the hardest? Who can sleep the least and still get straight A's? Who can do it all? Who can be a part of the most clubs?

Going through it, it always seemed like a giant race to nowhere. There are a few features that distinguish Silicon Valley high schools:

1. Fear of failure

This sounds counterintuitive. I mean, we live in the freaking Silicon Valley, right? Home of entrepreneurship, risks, and solving the world's problems, right?

No, not really — high school isn't like that. We stick to what we know best. You play the piano really well? Keep doing that. You dance well? Stick to it.

Don't try other things — didn't you know you have to commit to an activity in order to put it on your college app? Why try new things and fail when you can stick to what you've been doing, work hard, and accomplish great things? Because, after all, isn't the point of life to get into college?

2. Stifling competition

We're ambitious and we're talented and we're hardworking — no doubt about it. We start companies and publish books and become nationally ranked in every extracurricular activity possible while juggling a 4.0 GPA. But with all of it comes a price.

By most of society here, you are judged by your numbers. I've lost track of the number of times I've heard parents ask about my SAT score and where I'm going to college, and then change their perception of me because of it. I want to tell them that these superficial things don't define me — that I'm more than these arbitrary numbers and test scores.

3. Ridiculous over-scheduling

You'll see kids with schedules more packed than an exec in the corporate world. After school, go to sports practice for 2-3 hours. After sports practice, practice your instrument for 1-2 hours. Now, it's time for dinner.

Eat for an hour, do homework for an hour, and then sleep at 9 p.m.? Not really. Not when you have five AP courses that each assign Herculean loads of homework. Not when you're managing several clubs and organizations. Not when you're also involved in student government.

Where's the time to relax? Where's the time to enjoy? We're bogged down in this mindset that happiness is to be postponed.

It's this mentality that says "I'll work hard now, so that I can enjoy my life later. It's OK if I don't enjoy now because it'll get better." But when does it end? Caught in this vicious cycle, it's hard to see what makes life worth it.

The only thing I want to say to the Silicon Valley teens out there is to enjoy your time. Be ambitious, be hardworking, be everything you've wanted to be and more — but don't forget to stop and smell the flowers. After all, what's life without enjoyment?"
siliconvalley  schools  competition  education  harker  children  parenting  kalvinlam  overscheduling  failure  colleges  universities  admissions  via:jolinaclément  sanjose  losgatos  paloalto 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Dinner, Disrupted - The New York Times
"The tech-boom economy also infects everyone inside and outside of it with both dreams of striking it rich and fears of getting priced out of town. That’s why chefs don’t just open that one restaurant they’ve always dreamed about. They invent catchy new restaurant “concepts” and borrow mountains of money to create dining rooms that end up with no human touch and food that looks remarkably similar to Instagram photographs of dishes created by trendsetters like Mr. Kinch and Mr. Patterson.

“The concern,” Ms. Borden told me, “is that when the economy slows, who is going to survive? We’re already seeing quicker openings and closings because restaurants open with so much debt” — hundreds of thousands to a million dollars or more, from construction and months of astronomical rent before anyone sells a single $17 grilled-octopus appetizer — “that if you’re not full from Day 1, it’s really hard to stay open.”

The net effect is an ever-more frantic pursuit of eye-catching innovation and, as everyone trades in whispers about a cooling venture-capital market, a mounting fear that a restaurant apocalypse is nigh. As Mr. Patterson explained, “The food has never been better and the business climate has never been worse and so we are speeding toward a cliff.”

One delicious irony, for Californians of a certain age, is the inversion of an old joke about Northern Californians hating the superficial glitz of Los Angeles and Los Angelenos never thinking much about Northern California. This made sense for the mid-to-late 20th century, when the entertainment and defense industries secured Southern California’s place at the center of West Coast economic power. Now Los Angeles is where San Franciscans move when they can’t afford Oakland. Every young artist and musician I meet in San Francisco tells me that he or she wants to move south for cheap rent and a better creative scene.

And while San Francisco restaurant culture is driven by Michelin stars, Los Angeles isn’t even included in the Michelin guide. Sure, Los Angeles has expensive restaurants, but its biggest food celebrities are Jonathan Gold, a critic famous for supporting affordable eateries, and Roy Choi, king of the food trucks.

Sang Yoon, the chef and owner of Lukshon in Culver City, sees it as a difference between hyper-glorification of the chef and the farm in Northern California and, in Los Angeles, celebration of middle-class immigrant culture. “Half the restaurants I go to, I don’t know who the chef is! It’s not so personality-driven,” he said. “In L.A., we can celebrate a cuisine and not rouge it up.”

Mr. Choi explained it to me like this: “All these mom-and-pop restaurants that really are California cuisine and that have been here for 30 years cooking for their own community are now filled with patrons they’ve never seen before because of social media and instead of becoming angry or skeptical, they’ve embraced it — that’s the soul of a cook, you never discriminate against the people eating your food nor do you judge them, you are so happy they have arrived. And their food is getting even better.”

In yet another sweet twist, the pop-cultural reach of Mr. Choi and Mr. Gold has Los Angelenos teaching San Franciscans left out of the gold rush how to find fellow travelers. Last week, my friend Wen Shen recommended an affordable Vietnamese place called Yummy Yummy in the unpretentious Inner Sunset neighborhood. A wall-mounted video monitor played scenes of daily life in Vietnam, where I have never been. I felt as if I had come home, mostly because, race and ethnicity aside, Yummy Yummy’s clientele appeared to be blessedly middle class. I also liked it when our waiter saw me fumbling with a rice-paper wrap for the lemongrass shrimp and said, in the most common of California languages, that I should roll it up “just like a burrito.”"
food  california  losangeles  sanfrancisco  2016  money  economics  losgatos  sangyoon  chefs  jonathangold  oakland  socal  norcal  power  labor  inequality  roychoi 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Transcript | This American Life: 406: True Urban Legends
"Act One. What's That Smell?

Ira Glass
What's that smell? The way Steve Poizner sees it, he did something admirable, something daring, something unusual. And when I read his account of what he did, he seemed sincere about it too. He's a bit of a corny writer. Though even that, you can kind of forgive him. He's not a professional author.

At the age of 45, after starting one Silicon Valley company that he sold for $30 million and a second one that sold for $1 billion, Poizner didn't need to work anymore. He says, he wanted to do some good for people. And so he called a dozen public high schools and volunteered to be a guest teacher of some sort. One called him back, a high school called Mount Pleasant. And Poizner got into his car, drove the 15 miles from his neighborhood in Los Gatos in Silicon Valley to East San Jose."



"I heard about Steve Poizner and the controversy over whether his book got things wrong when a publicist for the book contacted our radio program. She wrote an email describing the incident at the bookstore this way, "Liberal activist took offense at how he describes the school, accurately, as plagued by gangs, teen pregnancy, and disrepair. They are trying to shut him up and discredit his argument about charter schools." Poizner makes a case for charter schools late in the book. "This is a classic case of liberals refusing to listen to simple facts and rational solutions."

So I read the excerpt of his book online. There's a full chapter, and Poizner links to it from his campaign website. You can read it yourself. And it raised more questions than it answered. It's a very odd chapter, all about Poizner's first days teaching a class at Mount Pleasant. There's scene after scene where he's floundering, standing in front of the class asking big, abstract questions. "Would you want to live in a country where the leader didn't want to lead, if the money issued by the government wasn't any good, or people were treated unfairly?" None of the students respond.

He's a rookie teacher. He doesn't know how to engage them yet. Nothing unusual there. But here's the strange thing. The conclusion Poizner comes to, again and again, during these scenes isn't that he's doing anything wrong, or he has anything to learn as a teacher. Instead, he blames the kids. They're tough. They're unmotivated. They lack ambition. They're wired differently.

The students, meanwhile, in every scene in the book-- I've read the whole book-- seem utterly lovely. Polite, they don't interrupt, they don't talk back. They just seem a little bored. His very worst student is a graduating senior, who's hoping to go into the Marines. Checking school records, I learn that Poizner's unmotivated, unambitious class included one of the school valedictorians, Charles Rudy, who graduated and went to college.

Could he be getting this so completely wrong, I wondered? Could he have written an entire book misperceiving so thoroughly what was happening in front of his own eyes and was now trying to use that book to run for governor? It seemed too incredible. And that's what brought me to San Jose last week to visit the school and its neighborhood."

[PLUS]

"Foreigners arrive in the United States believing all kinds of misinformation about us...misinformation that turns out to be true. Mary Wiltenburg tells the story."

[audio here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/406/true-urban-legends

"Act Two. Fleeing is Believing.

A retired millionaire tries to understand the reality of a tough, seedy, inner city neighborhood. But what if the neighborhood is none of those things? Ira Glass evaluates the claims of this millionaire, Steve Poizner, who is also running for governor of California."]
stevepoizner  2010  sanjose  losgatos  california  education  schools  perception  class  poltics  urbanlegends  via:robertsears  data  statistics  mountpleasanthighschool  eastsanjose  condescencion  refugees  immigration  culture  society  thisamericanlife 
february 2016 by robertogreco

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