The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, August 25, 2004  

Items in the News, or Not
August 25, 2004

Housing: In New York and Beyond
As one who lived in Manhattan for several years I can so with no reservation whatsoever that housing – condos, co-ops, homes, rentals -- is the favorite topic of conversation of most residents. Anya Kamenetz, writing in the Village Voice (“Bright Lights, Big Rent Check”), underscores an issue that has received far less attention than it should: affordable housing.

Kamenetz’s article provides the customary anecdotes of young people trying to find a place to live in New York, not entirely happy reminders of my stay in Manhattan: my last apartment, a one-bedroom in a doorman building in Chelsea, cost me $2,900 a month, which gives you an idea of how drastically one’s life can change.

But she takes it farther along, noting, “The same real estate bubble that has been such a boon to retiring baby boomers is bad news for younger workers. They are starting their working lives with fewer assets and more liabilities, in the form of student loan debts, than previous generations, and they are facing higher housing costs than ever.”

I guess it would be too much to ask mainstream newspapers, so heavily reliant upon advertising from builders and developers, or lawmakers, so heavily reliant upon contributions from builders and developers, to take a different look at the so-called housing boom.

I still have one question for which I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer: If we recall that the “baby boom” was followed by the “baby bust,” to whom exactly do these people think they’re going to sell their overpriced homes?

[Thanks to a reader whose name I’ve forgotten despite our long correspondence.]

Cracking Down on the Year Abroaders
It looks like American colleges and universities are finally taking concerted steps to rein in the unruly mobs they send overseas by the tens of thousands each year. (“Colleges Tell Students the Overseas Party’s Over,” by Greg Winter, the New York Times, August 23.)

Winter writes:

[W]ith at least 160,000 students overseas each year -- more than twice as many as a decade ago -- many college officials argue that they are exporting drunkenness, misconduct and other trouble to an unprecedented degree, prompting an industrywide overhaul of policies and practices.

In June, for example, the Forum on Education Abroad, an association of more than 200 colleges and universities, urged institutions to adopt behavior standards that would stop some troublemakers from going abroad -- and bring others home. […]

Most incidents, college administrators say, stem from drinking, as they might on a college campus in the United States. Mishaps can happen anywhere, but administrators say they are particularly wary of destinations in English-speaking countries like Australia and England because they are more likely to attract students who have no language expertise or interest in foreign culture.

Unfortunately, Winter only pays passing notice to the real crisis in the tradition we once called “a year abroad”: the quality of extent of education students receive beyond their home campuses. He notes:

Whereas the typical student once immersed himself or herself in a foreign culture, often studying the language and society for years before going, today’s excursions are often quick group tours that require little knowledge or appreciation of the countries on the itinerary.

That observation reminds me of a young woman I used to know who spent a year in Urbino, Italy, focused on studying the language after two years of college-level course work, and returned still unable to carry on a rudimentary conversation in Italian.

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda. Such items, when posted, are designated by an asterisk.]

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