Secondary education and hyper-competitiveness: Succeed or “No Harvard for you!”



A great and provocative quote about education by Daniel Coffeen (via quotecatalog), and brought to my attention by @marcyljordan:

High school, it seems, has changed. It has become competitive. Young men and women — 13 to 18 years old — must work more or less tirelessly to ensure their spot at a college deemed worthy to them and their families. So rather than living their adolescent lives — lives brimming with desires and vitality, with vim, vigor, and brewing lust — these kids are working at old age homes, cramming for tests, popping Adderall just to make the literal and proverbial grade.

And for what? So they can go to a school that puts them in debt for the rest of their lives. School has become a great vehicle of capitalism: it quashes the revolution implicit in adolescence while simultaneously fomenting perpetual indebtedness.

My response: I don’t remember me or my contemporaries stressing about grades in high school like kids do today. I cannot remember this topic ever coming up in high school, and I went to one of the best public high schools in the state. I received an excellent education, taking honors and AP classes.

And to be honest, even today, not all high-school students are competitive over grades: just ask any high-school teacher. But I think there are lots of good reasons why kids at the higher levels–such as honors programs and AP classes–are significantly more stressed-out today than they were in the 1970s and 1980s:

  1. The economy and job market sucks, making it all the more important for students to create an impressive resume. That means a good college, which requires good high-school grades. 
  2. Standardized testing has created a sickening outcomes-oriented culture, where the only thing that matters is the score. Education as a value-in-itself is a laughable concept to most of today’s students. I see this every day in law-school students and it breaks my heart.
  3. High school grades appear to be inflated today due to high-school administrators who want to get kids through, parents who push for higher grades when undeserved, and students who feel entitled to get all As “because they need them to get into a good school.” And of course, also to blame are some teachers who are slowly captured by the pressures from administrators, parents, and students to grant undeservedly high grades. Because grades are inflated near the top, a good grade has less meaning. Thus, any grade lower than an A can have an absurdly disproportionate impact on a student’s college application.

As the photo suggests, “No Harvard for you!”

Cross-posted to Infoglut Tumblr.

Keurig loses patent case over filter cartridges

From the CBS affiliate in Sacramento, a news story about a patent lawsuit by Keurig against a maker of coffee cups. The court granted summary judgment to the defendant against Keurig’s claims arising from its design and utility patents. Additional information on the suit can be found at Sarah Burnstein’s blog at

As a daily drinker of Keurig-brewed coffee, I rejoice for anything that might lower the cost of the useful but rather pricey Keurig-compatible cups. We’ll see what happens on the (most likely inevitable) appeal.

Cross-posted to Infoglut Tumblr.


Does “cyberspace” still exist?

A food-for-thought/thinking-in-progress post: does “cyberspace” still exist?

I’ve been thinking about this issue recently in connection with several law review articles I’m writing. My feeling at this point is that our earlier conception of networked communications at the dawn of “cyberspace” in 1996 (see Barlow’s Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace) is quite different from the conception we have today. In an era of social networks, smartphones, apps, and customized services, it may no longer make sense to think of cyberspace as a shared place we visit.

One way of showing this is by examining how Google treats searches for formatives of the word “cyberspace.”


1. Search for “cy”: None of the suggestions include “cyberspace.” Considering the advertising orientation of Google, I’m not surprised that “cyber monday” shows up. But “cyanide and happiness?” Disturbing, much, until I realized that it is a webcomic.



2. Search for “cyb”: Even more “cyber monday” stuff, with “cyberpower” at the end. Cyberpower makes UPS power strips.



3. Search for “cyber”: If anything should show “cyberspace,” this should. But I got the same results as for “cyb.” Maybe people just don’t think about “cyberspace” as a place anymore. I’m not sure that I should, either. (“Professor, you’re sooo 20th century….”)


cybers4. Search for “cybers”: You’d think “cyberspace” would have shown up by now. But it still doesn’t; instead, we see “cybersource” (I had to look it up, it’s a credit card processing company), “cybersquatting” (which I’ve written about), “cyberscholar” (a/k/a, hopefully me), and “cyber security” (a hot topic). But no “cyberspace.” Interesting.



5. Search for “cybersp”: Finally, “cyberspace” is the first hit. The first hit is Wikipedia, and claims that the term is “ubiquitous.” But based on Google’s suggested searches, I’m not so sure.


Beyond the observations above, I’ll not speculate unduly as my thoughts are still forming. But as Dan Hunter wrote in 2003, “Thinking of cyberspace as a place has led judges, legislators, and legal scholars to apply physical assumptions about property in this new, abstract space.” That’s very true: the assumptions we make about things affects how we choose to regulate them.

But I suspect that we’re now moving into a post-cyberspace era, one of networked communications devoid of “place.” Indeed, I don’t think of either Facebook or Twitter–which I call “Super-Intermediaries” in one of my forthcoming pieces–as a place at all, but rather a connectivity tool. Super-Intermediaries are not thought of as metaphorical “places,” but as things that provide ever-shifting and oftentimes highly complex networks that can vary significantly between individuals (Twitter and Facebook) and sometimes between geographical regions (YouTube).

I suspect that this arguable shift away from place-ness may have a significant effect on how we conceive of the internet, how we describe it, how lawmakers try to regulate it, and how human rights are affected. I’ll demur from saying more as my thoughts are still forming, but I plan to discuss some of these themes next month at the upcoming Internet Law Work-in-Progress Conference at Santa Clara Law School.

Cross-posted to Infoglut Tumblr.