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Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College
Simon & Schuster, 2011
240 pp., $25.00
Naomi Schaefer Riley
It is always unfair for a reviewer to fault an author for not writing the book the reviewer had really wanted. And I can hardly fault Andrew Ferguson for his biting, substantive, and funny critique of the college admissions process. But Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College is not the book I was hoping to read. What I really wanted was for someone to write a book explaining the insanity of higher education and then say that he decided to do something different—that he decided to opt out, or chose for his children some radically different, less expensive, more interesting alternative. As a colleague of mine recently pointed out, the 21st-century equivalent of the year-long "Grand Tour" of European sites taken by upper-class American young men and women in the 18th and 19th century would be considerably more affordable than college today. Maybe it's my own self-interest as the mother of two kids who are still more than a decade from thinking about college. But I can't help but wonder: Where is the homeschooling movement for higher education?
Briefly, Ferguson considers an alternative to the current system. In a conversation with a friend, he says, "So here's the sensible thing to do …. We should drop out of the bubble. Get our kids into a discount college. Maybe suggest they take a year off. Get them to focus on what they want to do with their lives. Stop wasting time." His friend asks, "So that's what you're going to do?"
"And make them hate us for the rest of their lives? … I don't think so."
After reading Ferguson's book, this alternative is something that many readers will be more likely to consider. He begins his college admissions journey—oops, his son's college admissions journey—with a trip to a high-end college counselor, who enumerates all of the (often contradictory) grounds on which students get rejected from élite (or not so élite) colleges: Their grades are high but they didn't take enough ...