Thursday, March 15, 2012

In Which there aren't enough synonyms for bullshit.

Bullshit issue I

Tuesday night I got the following email from FAFSA, the federal agency in charge of doling out financial aid:

Recently your information was provided in the parental section of your student's 2012-2013 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The information you provided indicated that you were going to file your taxes and were providing estimated 2011 tax information.  Now that the federal tax filing deadline has passed and you have probably filed your 2011 tax returns, it is time for you to update your student's FAFSA.

I can be pretty dim, but I I do know that the deadline for filing federal taxes is April 15th, indeed I recalled hearing that the deadline had been extended this year.  At first I thought I just wouldn't worry about it because clearly they were WRONG, but then I thought, "Hey wait a minute.  This is FAFSA, a legitimate, serious, federal agency and surely the federal government can be trusted to know the date of the federal tax deadline.  So I worried:  maybe there was a special secret deadline for the parents of college students?  I did what any sensible person would do who was facing a potential multi-thousand dollar error:  I asked my facebook friends what they thought, but they were silent on the subject.

Last night I got another email from FAFSA:

We recently sent an e-mail advising you to update your tax data on the FAFSA once you have filed your tax return.  Please note that the e-mail stated in error that the federal tax filing deadline has passed.  You should disregard that sentence.  The federal tax deadline this year is April 17.  We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. 

Excellent.  I'm glad that's cleared up, but oh, how I wish I was a witness to the scene in the FAFSA office when they realized their mistake, because this email went out to thousands of people.  I am also wondering why it took them a full twenty-four hours to fix their mistake.

Bullshit issue II

Wednesday evening I got this email from a counselor at Grace's school and just about went into orbit.

Dear Ms. Bartel, 
Your daughter has still not returned the permission form for the trip.  Were you aware that the only classes she would be "missing" are English 10 (which the teacher is one of the escorts for the trip so that class is not being held), Media Asst. and PE (again, that teacher is an escort so that class will not be held)?
Unless she has a medical excuse to arrive late, she will be considered un-excused for not attending the 10th grade career day.  Just so that you know, she had expressed an interest in hearing about the following careers at the event - Police/Crime Investigation and Nursing (unfortunately her 2nd choice, child care, is held at the same time as her first choice session).

First of all, my name is misspelled.  Next, she launches straight into the topic, without preamble, as if I can read her mind--a pet peeve of mine about emails.  I especially enjoy the vaguely accusatory "were you aware," the superfluous quotation marks around "missing," implying that I am too stupid to understand that time in an alternate activity might be a worthy reason to miss class, and the frankly threatening statement about the medical excuse. Best of all is the general tone, communicating that I, a mere parent, am not qualified to make informed decisions about my child's future.

I had gotten a few emails prior to this about career day and the need to send in the permission slip, but Grace told me she didn't want to go, and I didn't see why she should have to, so I didn't fill in the permission slip, assuming she could stay at school and attend her regular classes. Note:  it is not unprecedented for students to choose to stay at school for field trips.  Indeed, they are often required to get the written permission of the teachers whose classes they will be missing, so I honestly did not think it was a big deal to allow Grace to skip career day. My older children have been to career day and they tell me it is straight up bullshit.  Brigid, who is now working on a BA in fine arts,  took a quiz prior to her career day that was supposed to predict what career she was suited for, and was placed in the construction workers group.  I am not kidding.  

Grace's professed interest in "Police/Crime Investigation" and "child care" are based on a quiz (the same one Brigid took, I assume) which she tells me she answered facetiously.   Anyway, CHILD CARE?   The city schools think my daughter's morning is best spent out of English class and instead sitting through a session on child care as a career?

I took my umbrage straight to facebook, this time eliciting many responses.  One friend suggested I couch my reply in terms that the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey would use.  I imagined myself sitting up stiffly and demanding, "What is a career?" Instead I sent a restrained response stating that I did not give my consent and that I was confident that Grace would grow up to have a rewarding career without the benefit of career day.

I know what you are thinking:  is career day really worth this explosion of emotion? If you are imagining career day to be a fair, of sorts, in which the kids have access to information about a wide range of careers, you would be wrong.  Career Day isn't a fair.  The kids take this bullshit quiz and are then assigned to two hour-long sessions, each about a single career. So much for choice.  So much for allowing kids the freedom to consider a wide range of options for their futures.  No, let's narrow our children's options as much a possible!  At home, we encourage Grace to think about her future, in terms of what her interests are and what she thinks she would like to do someday.  Other kids might not have parents who do this for them, so boxing them into two choices could be seen as downright harmful.  CHS is supposed to be preparing my daughter for COLLEGE, not a future as a day care worker.  I am not on board with their bullshit trade-school mentality.

Edited to add that I mean no disrespect to construction workers.  However, anyone at that school, with even a superficial acquaintence with Brigid would know that her passion was art and would immediately realize that she was not going to end up as a construction worker.  But no, they must follow what the quiz says, even if it's patently inappropriate. 


  1. I had to finish my taxes in February for private school financial aid. Oy. This also involved endless nagging of the ex to finish his taxes, too. Because being divorced doesn't mean you get out of haranguing.

    I assumed if kids didn't want to go to career day that they would stay home.

  2. Wait -- if missing career day is an unexcused absence, then attendance is mandatory, so why would the kids need permission slips? I feel like I'm teetering on the precipice of a public school bureaucracy abyss...

  3. My daughter didn't mention anything about the bullshit FAFSA letter. It's possible she was too busy with classes, part-time job and student-teaching to read her e-mail.
    We're one of those families that does our taxes on April 14. We prefer to hang on to our money as long as possible.
    She had to take one of those bullshit career quizzes. The guidance counselor decided Alli should be a dental asst., not the teacher she had planned on being since age 5!

  4. This post really made me laugh! I HATE stuff like that "career day", and I would have had a lot of trouble being as nice as you were in your reply.

  5. Gotta love how schools encourage each child to play to their strengths and discover their own path. HAHAHA
    I hope you channeled Dowager Duchess in your reply because that would rule.

  6. Think how much time all the recipients wasted trying to decipher that FAFSA letter.

    And how many of us blogged about it!

  7. I think you're quite right to say NO.

    There are far too many silly excursions, with no real academic purpose every term. I wished more parens would say no.

    Just tell her "DON'T BE A TEACHER"
    It's not worth it.