Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Crushing View of Reality

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what money can buy -- $3,500 more specifically. In our project testing the effects of need-based financial aid on college students, that's how much the students attending 4-year colleges are being randomly assigned to receive. So I often ponder whether that amount is meaningful, in what ways, and why more might be needed.

This afternoon I was dealt a harsh dose of reality, bringing me down from "college-going land" to the real world. No sooner had my two-year old gone down for his nap and I'd picked up the New York Times to enjoy over a lovely and very necessary cappuccino, did my eyes fall on this front page story: "Chinese Hunger for Sons Fuel Boys' Abductions".

Know what $3,500 can buy in China? A five-year-old boy. That's right.

In a story full of weeping parents who've lost their kids--those who've had babies stolen from them, and those who unknowingly adopted stolen children--reality hits hard. It's not often that the Education Optimists write about anything outside the U.S. (and admittedly, shame on us for that). Thanks to this story, my mind is far, far from higher education on this very gray afternoon.

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