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Rebirth of Reason

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Post 40

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 3:47amSanction this postReply
College, Because They Said So

Speaking of college, "a third-grader instilled with the value of a college education becomes a graduate who is unemployed, underemployed, or unrelatedly-employed with a mountain of debt and a vague sense of being cheated."

NC Science and Math students busted with pot

"The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics busted eight students for using marijuana on its Durham campus last week, but the students will not face criminal charges, according to a school official."

The 10 Most Worthless College Majors

"College is a great place to learn and have fun. But let's not kid ourselves, some degrees are as useless as the plot in a Michael Bay film. Here's a list of 10 degrees that may be interesting, but do jack shit for you in the real world." Notice American Studies on the list. I suspect that NCSSM mandates a course in this subject for all juniors as a jobs program for teachers possessing a degree in the subject.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 7/27, 1:39pm)

Post 41

Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 8:05amSanction this postReply
Readers who want to see the best parts of NCSSM can now do so via the NCSSM Student Events Livestream channel.

Post 42

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 7:10amSanction this postReply
The YouTube channel insideNCSSM is worth watching.

Post 43

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 9:51amSanction this postReply
The SL 101 Junior Student Life class now uses The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens as a textbook for anyone who wants an early start.

Post 44

Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 2:27amSanction this postReply
We had a very interesting discussion on the Facebook NCSSM Alumni Association group about poverty at NCSSM. Specifically, one member asked, "How many NCSSM students' families were living in poverty at the time the student went to NCSSM?" Comments varied, but many agreed that the inability to "stand out from the crowd" at NCSSM inhibited merit-based college scholarship opportunities upon graduation from NCSSM and so further exacerbated whatever "material poverty" they may already have experienced.

Just as important, though, was the "intellectual poverty" of which we all became acutely aware upon entry to NCSSM. No matter how smart any of us were in any way, there was always someone better than us in that way there. It was a very humbling and unforgettable experience for all. So while the "material poverty" may have been not really helped at NCSSM, the "intellectual poverty" was partly overcome by the intellectual riches at NCSSM. Applicants must examine their personal situations to decide how badly they need to "stand out from the crowd" for merit-based scholarship purposes even if it means remaining at a mediocre high school to do so.

Post 45

Friday, January 27, 2012 - 12:06pmSanction this postReply

You think scholarship committees won't be able to distinguish a "stand-out" from a mediocre high school and an "average" student from NCSSM? Well, think again.

It is somewhat amusing to me that you talk about "intellectual riches at NCSSM". I am sure there are plenty of smart teenagers there. But try any first rate US universities, where you have the likes of Mark Zukerberg in your class. Or try the best graduate schools where a Ph.D. candidate may have two Nobel Prize winners sitting on his or her thesis committee.

How far are you willing and able to go?

Post 46

Friday, January 27, 2012 - 2:34pmSanction this postReply
Hong, I do not know if you actually read the link or not. If you have not, you should. It was a real eye-opener for me and others.

I should also have said "comparably mediocre" rather than just "mediocre" since even a "comparably mediocre" high school can be "good enough" for smart kids who know what they need to do there to get where they want to go. One main advantage of such a high school over NCSSM involves time flexibility. By that, I mean that while NCSSM basically strives to monopolize students' time in creative ways, a typical high school student has hours at home each evening and weekend to arrange his own study time his own way. Anyone considering NCSSM needs to ask himself if he wants a controlling bureaucrat dictating to him to spend 8:00-8:30 PM each weeknight cleaning his dormitory, 8:30-10:00 PM locked in a "Supervised Study" room, etc.

My point is that each of us should only go as far as needed to achieve our goals happily -- no more and no less. To do more academically could be to do less happily. The experiences the NCSSM alumni posted repeatedly included the abysmal lack of help gotten from the guidance office there for college applications. It was almost as if the parties there "assumed" we knew what we needed to do. They had sessions to offer advice, but more hand-holding would have been nice for those of us who would become first-generation college graduates.

A fellow NCSSM graduate one year behind me attended Harvard. She wished she had not. She said Harvard simply proved a poor fit for her personally. She recommended the site Colleges That Change Lives as a place to go to learn more about finding colleges that fit one's personality. Another student said MIT was basically "NCSSM times ten" which implies that only those who find the NCSSM curriculum underwhelming should even consider MIT. Yet another NCSSM classmate attended Duke on scholarship only to find himself so discomforted by his comparably wealthy classmates there that he began doing poorly in his classes, lost his scholarship, and had to transfer to NCSU to complete his degree.

So, again, I do not think a person should necessarily "stretch" himself beyond that limit needed to actualize potential profitably. I am sure these prestigious universities are the right fit for the right people. But I will not break myself in purse or in person for a Lamborghini when a Honda will get me where I want to go.

I want to add this list called "Ten Things Every Parent Should Know about College" from an article of the same name by Michelle Crouch in the September 2011 issue of Reader's Digest:

  • Beginning adulthood without debt is worth far more than a designer diploma.
  • Research universities are no place for undergraduates.
  • Colleges are overrun by administrators.
  • The star professors touted in college brochures probably won't be teaching your kid.
  • The college's best professors may not even be on campus.
  • Don't be seduced by the luxuries they show you on the tour.
  • Your tuition may be subsidizing a college president's $1 million-plus salary.
  • High-powered athletic programs drain money from academics.
  • Going to an elite university does not guarantee success.
  • Honors colleges at public universities can offer as fine an education as the Ivy League.

    I shared this with some fellow NCSSM alumni some time ago in the aforementioned Facebook group and they largely agreed with it.

    (Edited by Luke Setzer on 1/27, 3:21pm)

  • Post 47

    Sunday, January 29, 2012 - 3:13amSanction this postReply
    Without addressing each point, I agree, Luke, that the supervision and monitoring are degrading.  Picking your electives and deciding on after school and extra curricular activities is part of learning to manage your own life.  I have a friend who is a commercial artist and he used to rail at having this 90 minutes or that be chosen for him to be creative; and allocating other time when he could not be.  And that was both at a public and also a private school.  It is not just NCSSM, though there is that, but the basic assumption on controlling people for their own good.

    I agree, also, with each your bullet points and can give specific examples from my own recent experience.  I point also to Grad Skool Rulz by Fabio Rojas from the Org Theory blog.

    Post 48

    Sunday, June 10, 2012 - 5:21amSanction this postReply

    Lyrics from "NCSSM: The Musical"

    It's my first day at a new school
    And the campus looks totally cool
    I wonder what's in store
    I'll ask that kid to find out more

    I'm an RLA at Smath
    Where you always take showers and you never take a bath
    Where your relaxation and stress-free life is gone

    It's a magical place full of magical things
    Get excited to make new friends
    But most of them are nerds
    So don't get too excited

    And this is your roommate Wes
    He'll live with you for a year
    You'll be best friends forever
    Or he'll kill you in your sleep

    I'm a lot smarter than you.
    But I don't do any work
    You'll be angry to watch me make straight A's
    As you get three hours of sleep

    I've already got the top bunk
    So don't try to even complain
    Because if you do
    I'll kill you in your sleep

    And I am your teacher
    Get ready to learn!
    Five page paper due tomorrow
    With a -50 curve

    Welcome to Smath (repeat) (whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa)

    Second Trimester:

    What have I done...
    This place is hell....
    Isn't it...Swelllll....

    It's second trimester, the sun has set
    Never to come up again
    Took Chem and Physics at the same time
    My soul is under such impossible strain

    I haven't seen my pillow in 40 days
    The circles under my eyes are as black as the night
    The Pfm has turned my stomach into a gelatinous mass
    Just about ready to give up this fight

    Wait, just was handed back my Miller test
    Do my bloodshot eyes deceive me?
    If I am correct that is a 76
    Don't judge, that number makes me so happy

    Getting the hang of this, I can function now
    With a course load more suited for Einstein
    Suddenly thrilled about a solid B average
    I've become the master manager of time

    "Done your Phys lab?"
    Even the unit checks!

    "Completed your reading journals?
    Every one! Now what's next?

    "Pass your calc test!
    Yo, I got this!

    Oh, yeah, right, that....knew I forgot something....

    Third Trimester:

    I made it through the thick of it
    And now I'm coming out strong
    I was getting pretty sick of it
    And now I gotta move along

    Gotta say goodbye to seniors
    Gotta get my college recs
    Gotta get my senior English
    Just please God don't take WECS!

    Gotta get leadership positions
    Wanna be an RLA
    And I'll do anything to get it
    Juniors, get outta my way!

    Here's the fight scene

    And we're fighting in the fight scene
    This is us fighting in the fight scene
    And I'm gonna win
    Because I have a sword

    Now it's graduation
    A tearful last goodbye
    I'm halfway through my journey
    Are you crying? I got something in my eye

    Well, cheer up man. 'cause

    It's summer, it's summer, it's summer
    It's summer, it's summer, it's summer
    And now it's over

    Trimester Four

    I'm starting my new year
    Where will I go from here?
    To Harvard, or Yale
    MIT or another school that ends in --ale (Like OXFARD)


    Fifth Trimester:

    Fifth trimester! Wait, no one cares about this trimester.


    I went off to Greece
    And I flew to France
    I took a trip to Belize
    And saw indigenous plants

    At Smath, miniterm is so great
    You simply can't imagine
    All the things that you will do




    Back away slowly....

    Sixth Trimester:

    I'm an adult. I turned eighteen.
    I'm sick of ramen and caffeine
    The food here is crap! I want a nap!
    Wanna give Dr. Kolena a slap

    But you have to sign check
    You can't stay out past eight
    Do your housekeeping
    Before it gets too late

    -big unison sigh-

    Fuck it, let's fuck this shit
    We have no more fucks to give
    Guys... Seriously? You haven't enjoyed any of your time here?

    I loved every minute
    I loved half of every minute.
    That's still too generous.

    The truth of the matter is
    I'm really gonna miss it all
    Gonna miss my classes and teachers
    Gonna miss my friends on hall

    I loved every student activity
    Even if it was a bit campy
    Can't think of a line here
    Just wanted to mention Sampi

    Clap for Sampi now!

    And we're clapping for Sampi
    This is us clapping for Sampi
    He has a baby whose taking him away from us

    (Death Stare)

    I'm getting a little bit nervous
    'cause when I walk through that door
    I won't be coming back
    I won't see you anymore

    Oh come on man, be real here
    It's not like we never will
    Besides every single one of us
    Is going to Chapel Hill

    Well now it's time to graduate
    What is my future path?
    No matter what I do in life
    I'll always remember SMath.

    Post 49

    Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 6:24amSanction this postReply

    I'm going to college, y'all! The one thing I'm anticipating the most about college is meeting new people. I can't wait to hear their stories, and to tell mine. Without a doubt, the best story I have is about my two years here at NCSSM. In thinking about that, I've started to wonder how I'm going to tell it. What is NCSSM? How do you sum up two years of existence in any reasonable amount of time? I've put a lot of thought into it, and I think I've got it. It goes something like this:

    It's a living, breathing entity. NCSSM is a being of laughter, of sleepless nights and long conversations. It's move-in day, where you go to your room with one box, only to find that all your stuff has already been moved in by seniors. It's standing up in the Security lecture, and asking whether it's safer to run away from a shooter in zig-zags or a straight line, and knowing for sure that the order of things to throw out the window in the event of a fire is mattress, mattress, roommate, you. It's going to Bali Hai with your hall and acting like you know what you're doing. It's 4th West mixer...nuff said. It's an awkward junior sibling pairing that you try to make work because you told yourself you were going to be SUCH a better senior sibling than yours was. It's an intramural sport that you've never tried, but go to anyways, just to see what it's like. It's knowing all the TLA's, even that one. It's the first day of class junior year, where you nervously glance about the classroom, drop you books on your desk, and hope you made the right decision. It's taking a class purely out of interest, even though you won't get AP credit. It's failing your first test. It's that first extended weekend, where your parents throttle you awake, telling you, "You've been asleep for 18 hours! We thought you were DEAD!" It's going to the soccer game, and throwing up a Uni-FLEX, just because you can. It's going to an IVIZ in search of snacks, and leaving having found some new friends. It's that Saturday morning grogginess that we share as we stumble into the PFM, hoping they've got enough ketchup. It's your lab partner, you know the one. The one who should have gone to bed three hours ago, but stays awake, in hopes the hours of sleep he or she loses will be recompensed by a lab notebook full of green check marks. It's the group of hall mates in the room next door, risking the in-room charge just to have a few more minutes with their buddies. It's waking up at 3am, and sighing as you notice the HUGE drool spot you left on your Heath (pages 1019 to 1023). It's knowing for certain what your favorite restaurant on 9th street is. It's living two doors down from a Siemens Finalist. It's Facebook. It's 4:30PM during second trimester, and the sun has already set. It's looking at convocation pictures and repeatedly exclaiming, "Man, I can't believe how TAN we all were!" It's a sports huddle, where the captain is giving his or her final advice before the game, and you can't help but wonder if that WebAssign was due at 8PM or 8AM. It's seeing a SMather outside of the bubble, and exchanging a look that says it all. It's dressing up on a Friday, because if you're going to be seen off campus, you better make an impression. It's keeping your door propped open because your hall is just that friendly. It's being unable to decide whether you want to travel the world over Miniterm, or opt to watch documentaries about World War II instead. It's a midnight conversation with your parents, who have just seen your progress report, and manage to reduce you to tears before you can convince them you're going to get through this. It's not knowing whether to be proud or upset that, next year, Juniors will have to adhere to a new rule that was forged out of your stupidity. It's prom night, where the whole community collectively looks itself in the mirror and says, "I wish I had TIME to look this good!" It's telling yourself that you can't wait to get out of the bubble, then staying in the Triangle for college. It's knowing that you're ready to leave, but realizing that, deep down, you don't want to leave. It's staying up the whole night before graduation, because who needs sleep when you have family? It's the silent best friend, whose embrace speaks louder than words ever could.

    George Eliot put it best when he said, "It's never too late to be who you might have been." So, as we seniors move in to a brand new community next year, and as our beloved baby juniors move up to rule the school, there's no room to brood about regrets you may have. Instead, push ahead. Be your own change, and live out your life the way you want to live it. And always remember that through the laughter and the tears, the friendships and the drama, the broad generalizations and the specific memories, NCSSM is home. Thank you.

    Post 50

    Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 7:25amSanction this postReply
    Such a shame that he ended what was an otherwise good speech by revealing that he knows so little about the person he quoted. 

    Post 51

    Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 9:38amSanction this postReply
    Wasn't George Eliot the husband of Joyce Kilmer?
    (Edited by Peter Reidy on 6/28, 9:39am)

    Post 52

    Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 10:14amSanction this postReply
    I had to research both authors on the Web to understand the "gender bender" remarks made in the previous two posts. The actual George Eliot quote says, "It's never too late to be who you might have been." So the quote is accurate. When an author uses a pen name of an opposite gender, does one refer to that author's actual gender or the pen gender?

    Post 53

    Friday, June 29, 2012 - 6:42amSanction this postReply
    When an author uses a pen name of an opposite gender, does one refer to that author's actual gender or the pen gender?

    One should refer to any person as the gender with which that person has chosen to identify.  Mary Anne Evans published, and is still published today, as a man, but she lived her life as a woman.  In life, she did not identify as male. 

    It's kind of a pet peeve of mine when someone quotes another person they know nothing about.  It's usually revealed when the quote is out of context, misquoted, or used in support of something the quoted person would never have supported.  It was unfortunate for this graduate that his only reveal was that one slip. 

    Post 54

    Friday, June 29, 2012 - 7:12amSanction this postReply
    Deanna, please elucidate. Are you saying the graduate should have referred to George Eliot as "her" or by "her" real name or what? I could do the same with Carolyn Keene, the fictional "Nancy Drew" author whose work was actually farmed to a wide variety of ghost writers of both genders over many decades. Also, since I know nothing of George Eliot's works, I have no idea of the context of the quote, either, so please elaborate how the speaker abused context. If a writer creates a fictional front and thus starts a "fantasy role-playing" game with readers, it falls within the bounds of reason to respect the writer's wish by playing the game with that writer.

    Your "pet peeve" sounds like something personal, not widely accepted, and not widely used as a standard for grading papers or judging speeches. If you have a commonly used reference, please state it. My Google search found none nor do I recall seeing it in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association in graduate school. Otherwise, the speaker has no good cause to change his speech to suit standards unique to you but not to his audience. Nor does he have motive to research the author beyond locating a common quote that serves his purpose, namely entertaining and inspiring his audience.


    Lessard, Brady (1995). Your Guide to Slide: The Slacker's Guide to College. Fine Print Publishing.

    (Edited by Luke Setzer on 6/29, 7:49am)

    Post 55

    Friday, June 29, 2012 - 9:04amSanction this postReply
    The graduate should have referred to George Eliot as "she."  Because she was a woman and because she identified as a woman.  That is not a standard unique to me.  That is a standard that millions of people employ every day of their lives.

    My pet peeve is when people quote other people without knowing anything about the person they are quoting.  That may very well be unique to me.  I said that removing context is a typical way that many people reveal when they are quoting someone they know nothing about.  I did not say that this graduate quoted George Eliot out of context.  I said that he revealed that he knew very little about George Eliot when he referred to her as "he." 

    Interesting question about how you should properly quote a Nancy Drew author.  I do not know, but I anxiously await your speech in which that quote is placed.  I imagine it will be a fun one.

    In any case, you appear to have stronger feelings about this topic than I do, so please do carry on referring to George Eliot as "he" with my best wishes.

    Post 56

    Friday, June 29, 2012 - 9:28amSanction this postReply
    A Google search on "quoting pseudonym" shows this link which states, "Citing pseudonyms can seem tricky at first, but it becomes much simpler when you take into account one of APA Style's key mottos: Cite what you see. When it comes to citing an author, cite whatever name is used by the source, whether it be a real name or a pseudonym." This supports using gender pronouns appropriate to the author cited.

    Post 57

    Sunday, August 5, 2012 - 2:24amSanction this postReply


    The Paradox of the Academic Boarding School


    The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) opened in 1980 as a first of its kind "elite" state boarding school for high school students in grades 11 and 12, contending that greater contact with instructors in a supportive environment that avoids commuting hassles would enhance student performance for the state's best and brightest.  I transitioned from the small, rural Bunker Hill High School (BHHS) to NCSSM in 1982 and graduated in 1984.  The transition from the comforts of home to the rigors of boarding school can overwhelm the unprepared student with stressors such as unfamiliar surroundings, unusually challenging classes, and hundreds of diverse new relationships formed around the clock.  These conditions coupled with the wild hormonal surges of adolescence can shake even the most "gifted" student to the core.  This article will contrast typical BHHS and NCSSM schedules to analyze the claims of boarding school benefits against their realities.


    This analysis will assume a curriculum of full-year courses.  It will also assume typical and identically consuming time blocks for basic needs such as self-maintenance (orange), mandatory school work (maroon), and mandatory operations (blue).  It will also assume comparable course loads amounting to a total of seven classes, either as a mix of live and online classes at BHHS or all live classes at NCSSM.  To show fairness between the two demands a rigorous standard.  The book How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport, normally aimed at college students, applies equally well to boarding school students and, by extension, to students in normal schools considering a transition to boarding school.  Newport interviewed large numbers of high-performing students and learned that they normally used a tactic called "erase your question marks," meaning that they would survey the materials, write whatever questions they could not answer themselves, then visit tutors to get those questions answered.  Applying this principle to both schools yields the following strategy:

    1. Begin the day's assignments to generate a set of questions to ask the tutors.
    2. "Erase your question marks" with tutors in the relevant disciplines.

    The remainder of this article will build around this core principle to compare the merits of each school.  Figures 1 and 2 show respective BHHS and NCSSM schedules with this principle in mind.  Notice that the BHHS schedule emulates the NCSSM schedule wherever possible to keep the two on an "apples to apples" basis.  This includes the amount of study time recommended in the NCSSM Student Handbook, which in this case amounts to 34 study hours for 28 class hours.


    Figure 1 Sample BHHS Second Semester Schedule for Junior


    Lectures and Labs: 28 hours (15 hours live plus 13 hours online)
    Study Time Blocked: 15 hours (teacher) + 15 hours (self) = 30 hours
    Remaining Study Time Needed: 34 - 30 + 13 = 17 hours
    Total Live Instructor Contact Time: 15 + 15 = 30 hours
    Time-Robbing Operations: 5 + 2 = 7 hours



    Figure 2 Sample NCSSM Second Trimester Schedule for Junior


    Lectures and Labs: 28 hours (all live)
    Study Time Blocked: 8 hours (teacher) + 7 hours (self) = 15 hours
    Remaining Study Time Needed: 34 - 15 = 19 hours
    Total Live Instructor Contact Time: 28 + 8 = 36 hours
    Time-Robbing Operations: 3 + 2 = 5 hours



    Before jumping into the academic contrasts of each schedule, peripheral issues warrant a brief discussion.


    Note that NCSSM students chose to attend NCSSM after considerable competition for admission.  By contrast, state law compels BHHS students to attend by default, with consequent lack of motivation and an "anti-intellectual" atmosphere all too obvious.  This condition strengthens the argument favoring a state boarding school because of "a supportive cultural atmosphere conducive to learning."


    Note that the typical NCSSM student develops intense relationships because of the small, close, residential setting, with cultures from around the globe represented.  These new social challenges to the adolescent's coping abilities can have mixed results when compared to the familiarities of BHHS.  This condition both strengthens and weakens the argument favoring a state boarding school because clearly different individuals have different emotional needs that may favor either "day" school or "boarding" school as a living condition most suitable for their unique personalities.


    Note that BHHS burns time on the operations of commuting and household chores.  By contrast, NCSSM burns almost the same amount of time on work service and hall meeting and housekeeping chores, with neither school's "operations" impacting student knowledge in a productive fashion.  This condition weakens the argument favoring a state boarding school because of "less time squandered on operations."


    With the peripherals of each school examined, the academic time consumption of each now warrants attention with a special focus on the Newport strategy.


    A typical high school like BHHS on a semester schedule offers four classes per day, five days per week with each class running 90 minutes in length.  For each class block, the teacher lectures for the first half and then grants the students "Tutored Study" during the second half to commence the day's homework assignment.  This gives the students time to commence struggling with the assignment and so question the teacher about key concepts before class ends. By contrast, the "staggered" schedule of NCSSM removes "Tutored Study" time from class blocks altogether in favor of strictly lecture time, shortening class times and allowing more time for a full complement of "live" classes throughout the week during normal working hours.


    Note that NCSSM teachers normally offer tutorials 4:30-8:00 PM Mondays through Thursdays, with e-mail available around the clock for those who cannot make those hours.  After accounting for the time required for the student to start assignments, generate questions, and eat dinner, the "effective" tutorial time becomes cut to 6:00-8:00 PM.  In a boarding school environment, though, students and teachers can work together to create additional hours of interaction beyond these. I concede that the dedicated NCSSM student who understands the importance of that "interaction" time will manage to make all this happen. In fairness to my main point, though, the BHHS schedule has 15 hours of "Tutored Study" time built into normal class hours with no additional student or teacher effort required for mutual accessibility.  Moreover, the NCSSM student has to make an "extra effort" at NCSSM for "Tutored Study" that the BHHS student does not have to make.   Conversely, I will concede that generally (but not universally) NCSSM teachers will know the subject matter more deeply and lucidly than BHHS teachers and so be able to convey it more effectively in a given block of time.  This condition both strengthens and weakens the argument favoring a state boarding school because clearly different individuals have different intellectual needs that may favor either "day" school or "boarding" school as an academic time consumption most suitable for their unique personalities.


    Under the given schedule constraints, each school's after-class activities come as follows:

    • 4:30-5:30 PM Begin the day's assignments to generate a set of questions to ask the tutors.
    • 5:30-6:00 PM Chew your dinner and "chew" your ideas generated over the last hour of study.
    • 6:00-8:00 PM "Erase your question marks" with tutors (self or others) in the relevant disciplines.
    • 8:00-8:30 PM Perform household chores (BHHS) or hall meeting and housekeeping chores (NCSSM).
    • 8:30-10:00 PM Perform "Supervised Study" by parents (BHHS) or "in loco parentis" adults (NCSSM).

    Integrating these observations together represents the paradox of the academic boarding school.  Its justification for existence can become obliterated in the face of the actual loads and stresses placed upon its students as well as the opportunities now available at normal "day" school.  The touted benefits of a state academic boarding school can come at a cost of total student enslavement to a schedule not of the student's own choice.  Whether your future actually needs the "excellent" or will do quite nicely with the "adequate" remains ultimately your own difficult call.  Whichever path you choose, listen intensely to your own soul and follow your own heart within the bounds of reason.




    We had a long discussion on the Facebook NCSSM Alumni Association page about my original draft of this article. The bottom line is that many people attend NCSSM to test the limits of their own abilities, much as people climb Mount Everest to test the limits of their own abilities. Unlike Mount Everest, NCSSM does not kill people, but to quote my dad about Mount Everest, "Now that they have proven it can be done, what exactly have they proven?" The parties in question who conquered either NCSSM or Mount Everest would say, "I have proven that I could do it and that has permanently elevated my self-concept in a positive way." For many NCSSM graduates, they value this "intangible" benefit far more highly than any "tangible" college credit they might earn at NCSSM.


    I am not one of those people.


    Tangibles have always motivated me. Tangibles will always motivate me. I always look for "biggest tangible payoff per unit of effort." When I can start paying bills with intangibles, I will re-think my position.


    With that disclaimer made, you will have to decide for yourself what motivates you to attend NCSSM. Obviously different applicants have different standards of value, and that is fine. It reinforces my point. Applicants need to think about their standards of value and what they consider "success" to be. A time management book says: "Success is the progressive, timely achievement of a worthy ideal." But what constitutes a "worthy ideal"? By what standard would you measure its worth? Only the applicant can determine his or her own "worthy ideal" self to become. Having seen a broad range of such proposed "ideals" over my lifetime, I can only suggest that one should think for oneself and not be swayed by hype or pressure. As long as applicants have full awareness of this nature of NCSSM and embrace it, fine. If not, their NCSSM motto will become "BOHICA Bend Over, Here It Comes Again."

    (Edited by Luke Setzer on 8/05, 6:22am)

    Post 58

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 4:01amSanction this postReply
    Now for a positive message:

    NCSSM and how it saved my life

    Coming to NCSSM I found a community of people like me -- a school full of outcasts, geeks, free spirits, lost souls. Not everyone was socially maladjusted, of course, but there were plenty of people there all pushing the boundaries of their humble (often rural and low-middle income) backgrounds. The faculty at NCSSM were (and still are) stellar. I could take Russian, quantum physics, photography, t'ai chi. It was like opening a vista on vast opportunities that I had scant awareness of when I was in Wilson, and I mean it seriously when I say that NCSSM saved my life: there's no way I'd be where I am today without that experience.

    Post 59

    Monday, October 22, 2012 - 7:49amSanction this postReply

    Leaving College Confidential Final Thoughts

    I intend this to be my final post to College Confidential (CC). Due to the excessively restrictive posting policies here, I cannot communicate in a way that does not become excessively laborious for me. Fortunately, my posting history combined with good search engines outside CC should tell what I want aspiring engineering and NCSSM students to know provided they bother themselves with the search. My user name is my real name and I use it wherever I go. If you need to contact me, you can find me easily enough.

    Before I post my final thoughts about NCSSM, I want to share an extensive analysis of the CC forum itself. It holds the promise of a clearinghouse of useful information for students seeking the best possible educational fit for themselves. However, it also aims to make a profit through advertising. Other social media sites earn advertising revenues through creative methods that still allow posters much leeway in how they communicate. By that, I mean that posters can share links, recommend useful books, products, and other services, and generally speak their minds freely. The best ones exercise very light moderation to remove obvious off-topic spammers and other trolls. Unfortunately, CC long ago embraced a completely different business model and has essentially become enslaved to that model for better or for worse. I learned this the hard way when my sharing of such information netted me a slap in the face with a one-month "timeout" inflicted by an aggressive moderator who sniped privately, "CC does not offer free advertising."

    As you can imagine, I felt quite miffed at this insult, so I attempted to contact the site owners directly. After completing the CC Web site feedback form and receiving no response, I resorted to calling directly the site owners at Hobsons, Inc., based in Cincinnati, Ohio, only to find myself on perpetual hold or cut entirely before even able to leave a voice mail. I next visited the Better Business Bureau (BBB) site and noted that the company had recently become a member of the BBB. To get their attention, I filed a complaint.

    To its credit, Hobsons actually made good on its BBB membership promise and responded very politely to my complaint. The company product manager was very courteous. We arranged a teleconference lasting 30 minutes with one of the co-founders of CC who has since sold CC to Hobsons. He carefully explained the business model to me in a way understandable to the lay person. At the end of the call, the product manager lifted my posting ban nearly a week early.

    Users of the CC forum need to understand one aspect of CC they may find too onerous to warrant continued participation. The forum format does not allow the use of graphics or videos, thus forcing participants to say in a thousand words what they could say in a single picture. It does not allow linking to "non-authoritative" sources even though such sources frequently offer insight that "authoritative" sources do not. It forbids not only the linking to books, products, or services, but even their mention by name since such mentioning qualifies as "promoting" and "free advertising" of such materials. In short, CC wants users to expend precious time and energy creating content original to CC so that CC can make advertising dollars through the unpaid efforts of its users. Not only does CC want this, but it wants to do all it can to encourage traffic to its site while discouraging traffic from its site. While it has no qualms whatsoever with others linking to CC, it objects in harsh ways to the converse.

    Did everyone get that? The company wants to make money by creating a set of rules that force anyone participating to work essentially for free creating content for the CC forum site. Hobsons wants CC to become a "one stop shopping experience" by creating posting rules so onerous that any poster desiring to participate must expend a large margin of additional effort to say in many cumbersome words what the poster could say with a simple reference to a "non-authoritative" source or a "promotion" of a book or video.

    What effects will these rules actually have on the CC forum experience? For starters, posters will find themselves caught off-guard by moderators who evidently get a rush from the sense of power and control they enjoy as moderators. Moreover, posters who have a life outside CC will not bother to share useful information inside CC since the posting rules demand, in the name of "creating profitable original content," the writing of many more words than needed to convey answers to questions. Ironically, those who do post useful information compliant with CC rules most likely will qualify as "non-authoritative" sources themselves. This means:

    That which CC despises, CC becomes.

    The bottom line is that students seeking answers need to look far beyond CC using standard search engine practices to locate answers to their questions. Although CC can make a good start, current conditions guarantee that it has no hope of becoming the "one stop shopping" clearinghouse of information it envisions for itself. Users will necessarily receive highly truncated and severely incomplete answers to their questions, mostly from non-authoritative sources, because of restrictive CC policies. This motivates me to discontinue my support of CC. While I understand that CC needs to make money in some fashion just to operate the site, I consider its heavy-handed moderation approach personally unacceptable and unworthy of further participation, especially when other social media sites have shown it unnecessary. If CC wants "original content" for advertising dollars so badly, they should forego forums altogether in favor of traditional "articles with comments" instead. Since self-actualization represents the only "payment" forum users get, and since the policies restrict even that payment beyond the bounds of reason, I see no point in exerting the effort.


    Students seeking attendance at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) have numerous motives to apply. Many of these stem from the terrible conditions at their current high schools filled with dysfunctional students and even from homes filled with dysfunctional families, not to mention small towns filled with small minds. Indeed, as poster "Shanidar" has noted elsewhere on the CC forum, NCSSM has some "hurting" students seeking escape from psychologically toxic environments. Applicants should search the CC forum for posts by "Shanidar" for worst case scenarios at NCSSM.

    As for my own experiences, readers can also search through my posts to get my two cents' worth. The bottom line is that NCSSM taught me the hard way that it is better to work smarter than to work harder. By working smarter, I mean weighing the total benefits and detriments of all alternatives to get the best mix of them. I find it difficult to convey just how hard the NCSSM residential program can be. The main benefit is the other students, not the academics, though both raise the bar orders of magnitude above any "normal" high school. Many alumni will cheerfully tell you that NCSSM was the hardest yet most rewarding two years of their lives. They will further share that they did not experience that level of challenge either academically or socially until graduate school. I have heard some say they found Ivy League colleges easier than NCSSM.

    In any case, I have yet to see a convincing argument that an NCSSM high school diploma has any more market value than a community college associate diploma of comparable core classes. Applicants to NCSSM need to understand they are embarking to climb the Mount Everest of North Carolina high schools. Like Mount Everest, NCSSM leaves a trail of bodies to the peak and back of participants who hoped to conquer the peak only to have the peak conquer them. I will even go so far as to argue that the chances of getting a "full ride" scholarship to a university are greater in a "normal" high school than at NCSSM, though I would have a hard time proving that statement conclusively. I can definitely say that earning college credit through other "normal" programs like Advanced Placement or North Carolina Career and College Promise is far easier than at NCSSM.

    Download and study the NCSSM Student Handbook carefully and decide if your parents are really the controlling louts you think they are compared to the impersonal "in loco parentis" administration at a state boarding school. Decide if you want personal degradation from those who have power and enjoy inflicting it on others. Decide if you want to spend evenings slaving to complete heavy workloads that earn you less college credit than you could earn where you are now.

    I could point to an article that shows graphically a schedule comparison between a "normal" high school and an NCSSM schedule. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

    I could share the name of the novel set at NCSSM and encourage applicants to purchase and read it. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

    I could share the name of a sure-fire study guide that has helped many students to achieve success in a challenging academic environment like NCSSM. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

    I could share the name of a book that helps students new to boarding school to deal with difficult roommates. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

    I could share the name of a video that shows how to measure total benefits and detriments of NCSSM versus its alternatives, or a sequel video that shows how to slash tens of thousands of dollars from college using NCSSM resources, or yet another video to show how to make the most of engineering school. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

    Do not blame me for these omissions. Blame CC. Their policies enforce these "crimes of omission" and the consequent sufferings through ignorance that result.

    Whether this post will remain untouched or find itself censored remains to see. I will replicate it elsewhere to one or more sites more under my control to assure that search engines locate my comments for evaluation. Regardless, the Cincinnati BBB complaint remains a matter of public record. Anyone who wishes to locate and contact them to read the complaint and its resolution may do so.

    Whatever happens, know that my motives were always to help people in ways that I wished others had helped me. Any "self-promotion" that happened occurred purely as a byproduct. But I will not play Atlas carrying a burden that grows heavier and still heavier for no good cause. The time has come to shrug.

    To those I left behind, good luck in your endeavors.

    (NOTE: As expected, moderators immediately deleted this post from CC, banned me for life, blocked my IP address, and deleted 90% of my entire CC posting history!)

    (Edited by Luke Setzer on 10/23, 1:17am)

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