|Book Review: Crazy U by Andrew Ferguson|
I read Andrew Ferguson's new book Crazy U - One Dad's Crash Course in Getting his Kid into College after seeing him discuss it on C-Span a few weeks ago. The topic interested me for obvious reasons, but I actually bought the book because of Ferguson's warm and humorous approach to what seems (at least while it is happening) to be one of the most momentous issues in a parent's life.
I recommend the book to anyone preparing to send their kid to college, whether they have a disability or not. The book says not one word about students with disabilities, but it shows us in many ways how similar our experiences are to those of kids without disabilities; it offers considerable "inside information" that's very useful as you begin to immerse yourself in college guides, "viewbooks" etc.; and most important, it left me feeling good that we had had a very "nontraditional" college experience.
Crazy U isn't a college guide or even a guide to the parental experience of letting go. It's a memoir of coming to terms with growing up, seeing your child as he is and seeing college admissions as the sometimes-crass business it has become. All of us who have children in college or searching for one can relate to Ferguson's anxiety to help and advise his son, while his son basically wants none of it; his struggle to file his first FAFSA on an old computer whose browser is too outdated to fill out the form; and the touching last scenes when the father realizes, for example, that his son can recite his new college's football statistics but has no idea what the course requirements are for his major.
Ferguson, with a strong resume as a reporter/editor, is at his best investigatiing the ins and outs of the admissions process. I had no idea that many people with the spare cash to do so ("high-net-worth individuals) hire $40,000 college coaches to get their kids into the most "selective" colleges. Or that the cost of attending a typical private college went from $3,663. in 1975 to $34,132. in 2009. Why do colleges charge so much, Ferguson asks. An expert answers him: "because they can." He is actually quite favorable toward college entrace exams, something with which many students with disabilities might disagree.
In the end, though, I was grateful that I had been spared much of the talk of his well-heeled upper-middle-class parents in the D.C.suburbs over wine and cheese in the kitchen. I live in a similar Atlanta suburb but we've been on a different route through the educational system from the get-go and long since realized that our competition wasn't the kid down the street going to Princeton or the one with football scholarship to UGA. Wherever he ended up, it was Tommy becoming his best Tommy. He competed with himself at his own rate unlike those in the cut-throat chase for a "selective" college without even knowing why. And he was the one who decided he wanted to go away to college -- and later come back home. In the process, I think, he has become a better student and found at least a little more value for his own life in a college education. Ideas I think Ferguson might endorse.