Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Higher Education

My son Matt graduates from Marshalltown High School Sunday and my mother-in-law is coming from northern Iowa to see and my father-in-law is coming from South Carolina to see and my sister-in-law is coming from Missouri to see. For the most part, I enjoy my in-laws, but the prospect of having everyone come over has put Kathy into high gear doing yard work and housework and everything else that goes into having a lot of visitors. I’m doing my part by staying out of the way. My father-in-law, sister-in-law, and their families have not met Daisy and Baxter and I’m looking forward to showing them off. The in-laws always got along great with Queenie and Tuffy and should enjoy having some young, energetic pups around.

My brother Eddie (the only living relative from my side of the family – except for me, that is) is not coming from New Jersey to see the graduation. I don’t think he saw mine and I don’t think I saw his or my sister’s. My parents came to my high school graduation, but they were already gone by the time the ceremony was over and I never saw them there. I didn’t give it a second thought and visited a friend who didn’t graduate and instead of crying in our beer, we got wasted drinking it. I expected to graduate high school, although I made it a lot more interesting than it needed to be. In my senior year, I went to school the first day, got in a fight and got suspended for 3 days. I came back a month later, took all my tests, got in another fight and got suspended again. I showed up a month later on the last day of the marking period, took all my tests and passed everything, including a couple of honors classes. The problem was I had to make up all the gym classes I missed and had to show up at 7 in the morning 3 times a week for the rest of the school year to make them up. New Jersey education at its finest. The classes were so challenging that a hung over kid can show up twice in first 3 months, sleep through the classes the rest of the year, and not only pass all the classes but make the National Honor Society, but DON’T miss the obligatory 45 minutes of running once around a track or basketball court and spending the rest of the period pretending to lift weights or pretending to do anything or you can’t graduate. I made up the gym classes, got through the graduation, and spent a year flipping burgers, washing dishes, and doing factory and guard work until I felt like going to school again. I never got a yearbook, went to a reunion, or even thought fondly for a second about high school. I don’t even think that I wasted my time going there and not trying my hardest. I was just part of the crowd. I think everything happens for a reason and since I have a great wife and kids (and beagles) and enjoy life, who’s to say that I’d be any happier if I’d went all out in the name of academic achievement.

Graduation or not, I’m proud of Matt and always have been. He is as smart as anyone who ever went through the Marshalltown school system, but unlike the fellow in the prior paragraph, he has pushed himself to excel instead of taking shortcuts. He wrote a game that was voted the best in the state at the IT Olympics, led the school math club to a top 5 state finish to compete in the regionals in Missouri, won 4 high school state chess championships and came within a whisker of winning the chess championship of the entire state this year. And aside from all that, he has his own mind and makes good decisions. He’s avoided all the mistakes I made and if his brother doesn’t beat him to it will be the first Anzis to graduate from a 4-year school.

As one of 8,000 National Merit Scholarship Finalists, Matt was pursued by a lot of colleges. He is going to Iowa State on what is going to work out to be no tuition but having to pay for room and board. A lot of other schools offered staggering sums of money in scholarships, but since these schools have staggering squared tuition rates, he would have to pay much more to attend these schools than Iowa State. No one ever tells you how much everything costs; they just talk about how much they can save you if you choose their school. I think a lot of these college recruiters just got off the used car lot, but in my opinion Matt used good judgment by going to a top shelf school where he should be able to get a 4-year degree debt-free. Daisy and Baxter will be delighted when he comes to visit and we will all feel better knowing he is just a car ride away in case of a problem.

When I was in junior college, I ran for student government president as a project for my government class and somehow won. Shortly afterwards, I received a letter in the mail that informed me I had been selected to be in the prestigious book “Who’s Who in American Junior Colleges”. I was told the book would be in all the Junior College libraries and I could have my own copy for $99.95. This is 1982 dollars I’m talking about. I didn’t buy the book and never even looked in the library to see my name in print. Matt also received a similar letter for ‘Who’s Who in High School” or a similar title. I forget how much money they wanted for the book, but was glad to see no one wanted it.

Matt received an invitation to a dinner held by the Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce a couple of months ago. The dinner was to honor the top 5% of the students in each of the area high schools. It sounds great and the student’s dinner is free, but if a parent wants to attend, the price was $25. Kathy went and I passed to stay home with the beagles. They told me the principal of the high school came up and mumbled something about each student’s college plans instead of talking about their high school accomplishments. Matt told me later a friend asked him where I was and he said I was saving 25 dollars.

If experience is the best teacher, I’m a poor student since I’ve sent in yet another nomination to the Chess Journalists of America awards. I wrote last year how I finished with the lowest score of all nominees for my blog post on the 2010 Okoboji Open. This year I submitted my blog posts on my visit to Zanzibar Coffee Adventures and the 2011 Okoboji Open for the best feature award used those 2 for a nomination for the best chess blog along with my posts on my free chess tournament on National Chess Day, the Iowa State Fair speed chess tournament, and my first West Des Moines youth chess tournament of 2011. The entries cost me $31 for which I’ll receive in return a magazine next year letting me know that nominations for the 2012 awards are now open. So I saved $25, but spent $31 and didn’t even get a meal out of it. I can’t explain why I paid to submit these entries. Even though I feel I’m a much better writer this year than last, there is virtually no chance someone not in the ‘Chess Life’ elite can win an award. Maybe I’ll get some publicity for my blog, but I’m thinking I’ve shortchanged the colleges, Who’s Who book publishers, and Chamber of Commerce dinner organizers. These are people who know there’s a lot of ‘stupid’ money out there and they are just trying to get in ahead of the Chess Journalists of America!