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10 of the Best New Young Adult Books In September 2017

From a novel about human/animal DNA splicing to a Shakespearian retelling set in the Prohibition era, the best Young Adult books of September are certainly unique. And while you may be mourning the oncoming loss of summer, you should be celebrating this new season of publishing.

September boasts books from some of our favorite YA writers of all time, like Patrick Ness and Adam Silvera (their books The Rest of Us Just Live Here and More Happy Than Not were two of our picks for the Best YA Books of All Time). And the month also heralds exciting YA debuts from authors you should be watching, like Katherine Locke and Akemi Bowman.

So relax. Take a breath. Summer is over, but an autumn of amazing reads is just beginning.

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1. The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Release Date: September 1st from Albert Whitman Company

Why You’ll Love It: Time travel! Magic balloons! Alternate history! There’s so much happening in Katherine Locke’s Young Adult debut, and it blends together in a way that feels effortless. Combine that with a story that shifts point of view and a world that’s spectacularly researched, and you’ve got one of the most memorable reads of 2017.

For Fans of: YA novels that blend history and magic, like The Diviners by Libba Bray, or alternate history YA that talks about identity, like Anne Blankman’s beautiful novels.

Description: When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via a magical red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

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2. Feral Youth edited by Shaun David Hutchinson

Release Date: September 5th from Simon Pulse

Why You’ll Love It: Like Hutchinson’s first YA anthology, Violent Ends, this is another must-read. From the rock star lineup of contributors like Brandy Colbert, Justina Ireland, and Stephanie Kuehn to the amazing premise (inspired by The Canterbury Tales), Feral Youth is a powerhouse title.

For Fans of: This is a unique book, but if you like the books by authors in the collection, you’ll like this one.

Description: At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, 10 teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come from all walks of life, and they were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive.

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3. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Release Date: September 5th from HarperTeen

Why You’ll Love It: When Silvera’s More Happy Than Not came out in 2015, Paste named it the best Young Adult novel of the year. And now, not only did we get his second novel, History is All You Left Me, just a few months ago… we get his THIRD book this month. Once again, Silvera blends a bit of sci-fi into this heartbreaking-yet-hopeful YA contemporary novel, creating a stirring story of love and sadness that’s impossible to put down.

For Fans of: Novels by Robin Talley (What We Left Behind) and Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), mashed up with Denton Little’s Death Date by Lance Rubin.

Description: When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalized father, his best friend, and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.

Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.

Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that their final day on earth would involve falling in love…

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4. Warcross by Marie Lu

Release Date: September 12th from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Why You’ll Love It: Because it’s a new Marie Lu book. Okay, okay, it’s a book that delivers some serious Ready Player One vibes, mashed up with YA reads in virtual worlds, like Epic by Conor Kostick. It’s a sci-fi thriller that you won’t be able to put down.

For Fans of:
The Leveler series by Julia Durango or The Eye of Minds by James Dashner.

Description: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started 10 years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

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5. One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

Release Date: September 19th from HarperTeen

Why You’ll Love It: The second book in Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series is here! It’s set in a fantasy realm where triplets are born every generation. Each sister has a magical gift… and the last one to survive gets to be the queen. It’s a dark, violent world that proves to be a treat for fans of intrigue.

For Fans of: Epic YA fantasy, books by authors like Susan Dennard, Laini Taylor, and Victoria Schwab.

Description (spoilers ahead for Book One): With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off.
Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

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Beatrice Adult and Teen Challenge center holds open house

“All we have to do is pick up the Beatrice Daily Sun, almost every day, there’s an article about a drug arrest or a DUI or a robbery or any number of other crimes that are directly related to addiction,” she said. “Most of us, if not all of us, in some way, have been touched by addiction.”

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Why American teenagers are not interested in adult activities like sex, drinking — or working

Kids today are in no hurry to grow up.

Teenagers are increasingly less likely to engage in adult activities like drinking alcohol, working jobs, driving or having sex according to research from San Diego State University and Bryn Mawr College published in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development Tuesday.

With smaller families, longer life expectancy and after-school educational activities, today’s 18-year-olds are looking like 15-year-olds once did, according to Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the lead author on the study. She calls it a “slow-life strategy” where parents have fewer children, “but nurture them more carefully.”

The number of teenagers who tried alcohol between 2010 and 2016 dropped to 67% from 93% between 1976 and 1979. And the number that had earned money from working dropped from 76% to 55% over the same period. Teens who had engaged in sexual activity by the end of high school dropped 12% between 1994 and 2016. The declines in adult activities were consistent across demographic groups, including gender, race, socioeconomic status, region, and in both urban and rural areas, suggesting a major shift is taking place.

The researchers examined how often teenagers engaged in activities that adults do and that children don’t, including dating, going out without parents and driving. They analyzed seven large surveys of 8.3 million 13- to 19-year-olds between 1976 and 2016. The surveys were nationally representative, reflecting the population of U.S. teens in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and geographic region.

While smaller family sizes and changing economic factors such as unemployment rate and median household income are among the causes, Twenge also points to the rise of technology. In her article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” Twenge explores these questions further, pointing out that millennials are on the brink of a mental health crisis brought on by an explosive increase in time spent online.

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“The smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever,” she wrote. “There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives — and making them seriously unhappy.”

However, others say not all of these effects can be traced to the sudden ubiquity of smart devices. More research needs to be done on social media use to determine whether its impact is positive or negative, said Sarah Rose Cavanagh, associate professor of psychology at Assumption College. “You cannot simply observe two large cultural shifts and then decide that since they happened at roughly the same time, that one is causing the other,” she said.

The upside to teens growing up more slowly: The rate of teen pregnancy has fallen dramatically in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Birth rates fell 9% for girls aged 15 to 17 year-on-year in 2015 and 7% for women aged 18–19 years during the same period. “Still, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is substantially higher than in other western industrialized nations, and racial/ethnic and geographic disparities in teen birth rates persist,” the CDC said.

Many high-school students are turning to summer classes and community service to pad college applications instead of taking on summer jobs, MarketWatch reported earlier this year. And it’s not always for lack of trying: Some employers want more highly skilled workers given the rise in the minimum wage in many states.

The most recent study does not pass judgment on whether this delayed adulthood is good or bad. “Adulting is now a verb!” Twenge said. “Teens are safer and don’t grow up before they’re ready, but the downside is they may go to college or their first job without as much experience with independence. Economically that means they are dependent on their parents for longer.”

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Opinion: 4 questions we should ask every California candidate

Today, State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate John Chiang is speaking at UC Berkeley about the power of public investment. As any long-time Berkeley resident knows, California has cut back sharply on its public investment in higher education – ending the system of tuition-free public colleges and universities that enabled generations of Californians to pursue their dreams.

That is why this month, I joined more than 2,500 students in launching Rise California, a new student-led campaign fighting for free college tuition and working to get out the student vote in 2018.

So far, higher education has hardly received a mention from the candidates, despite the concerns of Berkeley students, parents, and educators who face skyrocketing tuition and overwhelming student debt. Here are four questions that every California candidate – whether they’re running for governor or in our local state assembly race – should answer before they earn our vote.

Will you fight for free college tuition?

Today, about half of California students attend public colleges tuition-free, but the “high-tuition/high-aid” model is preventing talented and hardworking students from pursuing college. According to researchers, a $1,000 increase in tuition is associated with a drop in campus diversity of nearly 6%. Unless we expand access to public higher education, California will face a shortage of 1 million college graduates required for jobs by 2025. As the UC and CSU systems move forward with plans to raise tuition yet again, we need more students speaking out about how tuition hikes are affecting them.

Will you protect students from student loan debt?

In the United States, there are 44 million borrowers with over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. At the same time, 10% of CSU students, 14% of community college students, and thousands of UC students are homeless. On average, California students finish undergrad with more than $22,000 in student loan debt, and students nationwide take 21 years to pay off the average debt from a four-year degree. No student should have to go into crushing student debt just to keep a roof over their head while in college. We need new strategies to keep students safe from crushing student debt, and healthy and housed while they earn their degree.

Will you help public colleges and universities innovate to better support students?

California is preparing more students for college than ever before, but decades of higher education funding cuts and poor alignment among our three higher education systems often hinders their ability to provide a high-quality education. Some of our institutions of higher education are also struggling to help students graduate, and we have persistent equity gaps in graduation rates and post-graduate outcomes. We need to empower our colleges and universities to make the changes needed to close those gaps. That means not only more funding, but also support for innovative approaches to will help more students succeed.

Will you sustain higher education funding?

Any time there’s economic uncertainty or a state budget crunch, higher education is typically the first item cut. It is time for us to elect a new governor and legislature who will commit to sustainably funding higher education instead of passing the buck to students by raising tuition and fees. California’s students deserve stable, consistent funding for affordable, accessible, and high quality public higher education  – irrespective of the economic or political climate.

Answering these questions is the least candidates can do to show their support or students and families in our state. As they vie for our vote, we deserve to hear their plans for restoring funding for higher education—one of the most powerful public investments we can make.

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State education funding to be a battleground in budget dispute file photo

Lawn art outside the State Capitol

Huge questions over how state aid for schools and state colleges ultimately will fare will be a critical focus of Democratic and Republican leaders as they grapple with reconciling their vastly different state budgets.

While Democrats have a narrow majority in the state House, and the lieutenant governor’s tie-breaking vote in the evenly-divided Senate, Republicans sent shockwaves across Connecticut last Friday when they were able to pick up enough Democratic votes to send a GOP budget to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has promised to veto that budget, but Democratic legislative leaders and the governor now acknowledge they must negotiate a bipartisan one.

“There are things that I think are must-have items for all sides that will have to be compromised to some extent to get a deal,” Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said Monday.

Here are the critical differences in funding for schools and colleges that Democrats and Republicans must resolve.

How should state school aid be allotted?

Republicans and Democrats agree the state’s 30 lowest-performing districts need more funding.

But their plans differ on how to achieve that goal.

The Democratic budget would cut the state’s primary education grant by 6 percent this fiscal year. The $124 million in cuts would fall entirely on affluent and middle-income communities. Nearly $11 million would be redirected to many of the 30 lowest-achieving districts, and the remainder would go toward closing the state’s budget deficit.

Currently, two-thirds of the state’s primary education grants, known as Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grants, go to the bottom 30 districts. And while the Republican plan would increase education aid by $68 million this fiscal year, struggling districts would not have a higher priority than they do currently. The 30 lowest-achieving districts would get a $46 million increase, and the better off communities would receive $22 million more. No towns would lose aid.

Both plans include a formula for deciding how much aid each town would receive, but the Republican budget would spare towns any cuts even if their formula called for them.

Malloy this year has regularly said shielding towns from cuts may be the easy approach to avoid backlash, but he has insisted that the state stick to a formula that accounts for changes in enrollment and a town’s wealth when shelling out state education aid – even if that means individual towns lose funding.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven called for time to phase in cuts that sticking to a formula would entail. His budget would phase in cuts to school districts over 10 years, starting with the fiscal year that begins in July 2019.

“They are going to just have to live within the money that they are given,” Fasano said Monday. “Some people felt that just to do it to the municipalities now might be too harsh.”

The way the state distributes education aid has drawn a lot of attention since it was ruled irrational and unconstitutional last September by a Superior Court judge. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in an appeal of that case next week.

After the Superior Court decision, Malloy in February proposed funneling an additional $300 million toward the lowest-achieving 30 districts by slashing aid to better-off towns. However, to help end a budget stalemate, he offered a compromise that would redistribute just the $11 million to the lowest-performing districts.

Speaking to reporters Monday, the governor had a harsh assessment of the Republican plan for education aid.

“It offers no progress on fixing the legal defects regarding the current status of the ECS grant. In fact, distribution in all municipal aid will raise additional questions about fairness before any court that hears that issue,” Malloy said.

Aside from the changes proposed to the state’s ECS formula, both the Republican and Democrat plans make cuts to several smaller grants that help pay for things like reading tutors and summer and after-school programs in struggling districts.

The Republican budget has more room for school aid than the Democrats’ because the GOP plan would reduce payments to the state’s chronically underfunded pension system, make huge cuts to the state’s flagship university and call for large unspecified cuts.

While the labor concessions deal ratified earlier this summer locks the state employees’ benefits package into place through 2027, Republicans said Connecticut can save more money now by limiting pension benefits offered after that date. Those new limits would reduce required pension payments by $280 million this fiscal year, they said. Malloy, many Democratic legislators and union leaders have questioned whether the state can make these changes unilaterally or whether that would violate collective bargaining rules.

Republicans also impose more aggressive, though unspecified, savings targets that would have to be achieved after the budget is in force. These undefined savings targets are $96 million greater than those proposed in the Democrats’ budget.

Another task force to study education aid?

Both budgets acknowledge that their plans for divvying up education aid might need further adjusting – and they call for task forces to study the issue and make recommendations.

The Republican plan sets up an “education cost sharing grant formula review team” that would recommend by March 1 if changes are necessary.

The Democratic plan establishes a “Connecticut Achievement and Resource Equity in Schools Commission” with a more prescribed mission: Devise an education funding formula that bases funding levels on “an appropriate foundation level” that addresses students’ educational needs, “addresses the issue of unequal local tax burdens,” and reduces segregation.

The commission also would be asked to identify a stable funding source. It has until Jan. 1 to make recommendations.

Malloy said he is not interest in studying education funding again.

“Well that’s what they’ve always historically done,” he said Monday, pointing to his previous statements that the state has waited long enough for a working system to fund struggling schools.

(Read the most recent reports on the state’s education funding system here, here, here, herehere and here.)

But the coalition of parents, teachers, and municipal leaders who filed the lawsuit prompting the ruling that found the present system unconstitutional, have for years been pushing the state to study what it actually costs to provide children with the opportunity to succeed in school. The group – the Coalition for Justice in Education Funding – argues that the state is falling well short of providing high-need students with the resources they require.

The Malloy administration eventually compromised with the budget it negotiated with the Democratic leaders, and such a study was included.

Looney, the Senate Democratic leader, said a study is appropriate.

“I know that was one of the things that had been asked for by the plaintiffs in the case,” he said. “Everybody knows that at some point we need to have a new comprehensive formula.”

But he pointed out that getting legislators to stick to a formula – and not withhold their votes in exchange for protecting their towns from cuts – is tricky.

“Being able to apply a pure formula has always proven to be politically difficult,” he said.

Teachers retirement costs: Who pays the bill?

Democrats and Republicans agree that the state’s share of teacher pension costs is too large – but huge differences remain on who will be stuck with the bill.

Teacher pension costs are easily the fastest growing cost in state government – and they are expected to escalate even more in coming years.

Recognizing this, the governor convinced Democratic legislative leaders to include in their budget a requirement that municipalities begin picking up the public share of pension costs for current school staff. A massive and rapidly growing unfunded pension liability — compensating for decades’ worth of contributions that past governors and legislators failed to make — would remain the state’s responsibility.

That plan would require municipalities to pay $92 million toward the teachers’ pension fund in this fiscal year. Municipal leaders have pushed back on this proposal, saying their ability to control the cost of teacher pensions is limited because state law dictates the benefits and binding arbitration laws somewhat limit their ability to rein in teacher pay.

Republicans rejected having municipalities picking up pension costs, and instead would have current teachers pay more toward their future pensions. Currently teachers pay 6 percent of their salaries. Under the GOP plan, teachers would begin paying 7 percent Jan. 1, which would raise $19 million through the end of the fiscal year. Next year, teachers would pay 8 percent, which would bring in $76 million.

While differences remain on who will be stuck with the bill, both parties agree that a task force must be set up to study the problem and search for solutions.

How deeply to cut UConn?

Both budgets reduce the state’s share of funding for the state’s flagship university over the next two years – but there are huge differences in the size of the cuts.

University of Connecticut officials say the cuts in the Republican budget total $308 million – a 20 percent reduction – through the biennium. Republican leaders say their cuts total $186.8 million.

The legislature’s non-partisan fiscal office estimates the reductions are between $244.3 and $308 million, depending on how they are calculated.

Any of the estimates, however, are far above the $108 million the Democratic plan proposed cutting.

UConn President Susan Herbst used a Dickensian metaphor to describe what the Republican budget would do to the public university and its Health Center in Farmington.

“I am afraid that it will become a tale of two cities,” she said, explaining that the university would have to cut financial aid and provide a lower-quality education for those who could afford it, while the affluent flocked to private universities. “I would hate to see that bi-furcation of higher education,” she said. “… It’s an ugly list of the things we would have to cut.”

State funding for UConn has doubled over the last 20 years – rising from $183 million in 1996 to $385 million in 2016, in part to help accommodate increased student enrollment. The state has made cuts to the university while facing deficits, but decreases were quickly restored over the next couple of years.

Democrats were quick to blast the deep cuts Republicans made to UConn. Republicans are attempting to make the case that the cuts are reasonable – pointing to policy changes that should be implemented.

“The taxpayers of this state can no longer afford tuition waivers for employees at UConn,” Rep. Melissa Ziobron, ranking Republican of the legislature’s budget-writing committee. That change would save the state $7 million over two years.

But with more than 95 percent of UConn’s employees being part of a union, implementing such a change may prove difficult.

Michael Bailey, the leader of the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the university would be in violation of its negotiated contract if it stopped waiving tuition for employees and their families.

“They couldn’t stop it. It’s in the agreement. As far as I am concerned, they couldn’t take that away,” he said during an interview. “It’s a form of compensation so it is negotiable.”

Fasano, the Senate Republican leader, disagrees and says it is within the authority of the system’s Board of Trustees to make such a change.

Other changes the Republicans propose include no longer picking up the cost of health and retirement benefits for staff earning more than $100,000, and requiring faculty to teach one more course each semester. Retirement benefits are very costly because the state is now making up for a decades-long failure to properly fund its pension system.

During the House budget debate, Ziobron said Republicans believed taxpayers “deserve a little more from our well-educated professors at UConn. So we’ve added the requirement that they have to teach one more class – just one,” Ziobron said. “We have a lot of very talented staff at UConn, but they have very high salaries. And I am sure they are very well-deserved. But if UConn is going to choose to pay $100,000 or more in salaries, we put a trigger in that we say they must also pay for their fringe benefits – that’s how you get people to start making hard choices.”

But Bailey said asking professors to teach more is a recipe for disaster if UConn wants to attract top talent who expect to have the time to do research as well as teach. Currently, professors teach an average of two courses a semester, Bailey said, with some teaching more and others less when their research load is heavy.

“I don’t think they understand how that would impact their research,” he said. “You will lose faculty. They will go somewhere else, and the university would have difficulty finding people.”

President Herbst made the same point during a news conference on Tuesday.

“I would not want to hire an obstetrician-gynecologist for $100,000 or less because then I wouldn’t have to pay the fringe,” said Herbst. “We pay for people to come here based on what the labor market is… I can’t make their salary lower than the labor market.”

Scott Jordan, the university’s budget chief, said during an interview that the size of the cuts go far beyond the policy changes the Republicans have proposed.

“This goes beyond what we can manage with larger class sizes, using our fund balance, or doing away with tuition waivers,” he said. “Many of the things they are proposing require collective bargaining. A lot of these things are really hard to just do.”

Connecticut Mirror Budget Reporter Keith Phaneuf contributed to this article.

file photo

The University of Connecticut’s main campus is Storrs

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Ralph Martire: Illinois needs to make higher education a priority – The State Journal

Much consternation has recently been expressed over declining student enrollment in Illinois’ public universities, and for good reason. According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, total enrollment dropped by more than 4,400 students from the 2016 to 2017 spring terms. This net loss is particularly troubling, since the state’s flagship institution — the University of Illinois in Champaign — saw its student body grow over this sequence.

That means other mainstays of higher learning in the state — like Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Western Illinois University in Macomb, and Chicago State and Governors State Universities in the Chicago metro region — have been particularly hard hit, realizing year-to-year enrollment declines ranging from 9 to 11.5 percent.

Much of the blame for this slide in enrollment has been placed squarely on Illinois’ failure to pass a state budget for either of the last two fiscal years. Which is accurate as far as it goes. After all, state funding of higher education in each of fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017 was at least 64 percent, or $1.2 billion, lower than 2015. But hey, this summer a bipartisan group of legislators worked together and did the right thing: They overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto and passed a full budget into law for fiscal year 2018. Better yet, that final budget increased higher education funding by some $1.1 billion over 2017, so problem solved, right?

Well, no actually. Although 2018 funding of higher education is a significant improvement over the past couple of years, it really represents more of a “stop-the-bleeding” moment, than a “woo-hoo, problem solved” moment. The reason for this is simple: Fiscal year 2018 funding levels don’t constitute a material departure from Illinois’ long-term disinvestment in higher education. Here’s why.

The IBHE is legally required to submit an annual budget recommendation for higher education to decision makers. For fiscal year 2018, that recommendation totaled $2.125 billion, or some $287 million more than the final budgeted amount. Which is nothing new: Over the last decade, actual state funding for higher education was fully $3.9 billion less, in the aggregate, than what IBHE recommended.

For a real eye-opener look back to fiscal year 2000, when the appropriation for higher education was $2.15 billion — or about $314 million more, in nominal, non-inflation adjusted dollars, than fiscal year 2018. Of course, inflation matters: Over time it drives up the cost of everything, from running a business to educating college kids. After adjusting for inflation, state funding for higher education in 2018 is fully 51.6 percent less than in fiscal year 2000.

This consistent disinvestment has had consequences, none of them good. For instance, many Illinois public universities — like Western, for instance — have had to cut core academic offerings like philosophy, due to underfunding. Meanwhile, crucial student financial supports like the Monetary Assistance Program — which provides low-income kids financial aid in the form of grants they don’t have to repay — aren’t funded anywhere near what’s necessary to meet demographically driven need. In response, potential college students have been voting with their feet: During the last 10 years, enrollment declined at Illinois’ public universities by more than 14,000 students.

Meanwhile, all the evidence indicates Illinois should reverse course, and invest in building a world-class higher education system. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school grads is more than twice as high as it is for college grads. Moreover, the wage gap between high school and college grads has doubled since 1979, growing from 23.5 to 47 percent. Want more evidence? From 1979-2012, states with the greatest increases in productivity and highest per capita incomes also had the largest share of adults with a college degree. Not to mention that higher education plays a crucial role in facilitating upward economic mobility for individuals who come from low-income backgrounds.

Despite all that, Illinois continues to lag the nation in making higher education investment a priority — and kids heading off to college have noticed.

— Ralph Martire is executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bipartisan fiscal policy think tank. Contact him at

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2VCs on…how is Brexit impacting universities?

Brexit is a huge issue for British universities. Nearly 34,000 academics working in the UK have come from elsewhere in Europe, and vice-chancellors say being able to net the very best staff from abroad is crucial to their ongoing success.

Last month the Russell Group of elite research universities demanded urgent clarity for both their European staff and students. But what exactly does it feel like on the ground? Strikingly many vice chancellors (vcs) have chosen not to speak out individually about Brexit, preferring to leave campaigning to their national mission groups.

In the latest of our new discussion series, 2VCs, Anna Fazackerley talks to Prof Tim O’Shea, vc of Edinburgh University, and Prof Alistair Fitt, vc of Oxford Brookes University, about what Brexit means for their universities.

Edinburgh University, which is a member of the Russell Group, prides itself on being a European university and even has a research centre, the Europa Institute, focusing on European integration. Fourteen per cent of the university’s students are from from Europe, and one quarter of its academics come from other EU countries. Plus 10% of its total research income comes from the EU, and the university says 30% of its academic papers have been co-authored by European academics in the last 10 years.

Oxford Brookes is a leading modern university. Twenty-one per cent of its students are international, drawn from 151 countries worldwide, and this includes 8% from from other countries in Europe. The university has nearly 250 non-UK EU national staff, out of a total of just under 2,000. Although the university’s research income is considerably lower than Edinburgh’s, it nonetheless depends on European sources for a good chunk of its research, with just over a fifth of its total grants and contracts from EU sources in 2015-16.

How have European academics reacted to Brexit?

Alistair Fitt begins by remembering the shock on his campus a year ago, when the news that we were leaving Europe first hit home. “The biggest feeling from our EU staff was one of hurt. A lot of our staff were very upset.” A year on, he says, some still feel the same level of emotion. Others have moved to a feeling of acceptance. But everyone would like more certainty about what their future in Britain will hold.

Oxford Brookes has brought in external experts to talk to staff, run lots of advice sessions, and Prof Fitt has been working overtime on the reassurance. “I’ve tried as often as I can to reiterate the importance of EU and international staff,” he says. “But of course there are still a lot of unknowns.” He feels that it is positive that the rights of EU nationals seem to be one of the key early strands of negotiation, “but the sooner we can have a resolution to communicate to staff to ease concerns among them and their families the better”.

I am expecting to hear Brexit doom from Tim O’Shea, who told MPs on the Scottish affairs committee last October that leaving Europe would be somewhere from “bad to awful to catastrophic” for universities. Yet today he says he is much more hopeful. EU student numbers at Edinburgh are up 4% this year, and Edinburgh has recruited 235 new staff from Europe since the vote to leave last June.

I ask Prof O’Shea whether he has had to do some furious paddling under the water to persuade these people to come in the current climate. “Obviously,” he replies. “We’ve had to provide extra facilities in terms of advice and support, such as free one-to-one advice sessions with immigration lawyers. But clearly there is a network there that is saying Edinburgh will look after you.”

Should there be special pleading for university staff?

The government has talked about the possibility of negotiating a special relationship for workers in key international jobs, such as the city and the car industry.

Prof O’Shea is unequivocal on this. “Higher education more than any other sector requires international mobility of students and staff. It is vital for the future of UK HE that it has special terms.” To prove the point he cites Edinburgh particle physicist Prof Peter Higgs, who won the Nobel Prize in 2013 – shared with Belgian Francois Englert – for devising a mechanism to explain why the most basic building blocks in the universe have mass. “We are world leaders in particle physics and that means working with CERN in Switzerland, and the big labs in Chicago, Stanford and Tokyo,” he says. “Pretty much every country in the world participates in CERN.”

Could today’s academics could be doing more of this global collaboration on skype?

“The world wide web was invented by Tim Berners Lee so that particle physicists could access the data sets at CERN in Switzerland whilst staying in California,” Prof O’Shea admits. “Often it is highly rational to do it remotely.” But he adds that sometimes there is no substitute for actually being there and meeting collaborators and sharing big or expensive facilities.

Prof Fitt agrees: “10 or 15 years ago people were predicting the decline and fall of the academic conference, saying there is no need for people to all be in the same place. We haven’t seen that at all – they still really matter for sharing ideas.”

Are you happy with the idea of Europeans applying for “settled status”?

Both vice-chancellors say they are broadly content with the government’s new plan for all EU citizens living in Britain to apply for a place on a “settled status” register in order to stay after Brexit. One issue they are both anxious about is that European academics should be able to leave and work elsewhere for a couple of years without losing their right to that status.

“If you look at the CVs of the folk who are appointed here it would be very unusual for them to have worked only in the UK,” Prof O’Shea says. In fact he says his university actively prefers people to have had experience at good universities abroad – which has Prof Fitt nodding in agreement.

Are you fearful of losing European staff because of Brexit?

University College London revealed last month that 95% of its senior EU staff have been offered jobs by competitor institutions in Europe. I ask if this is something that is happening across the UK?

Prof Fitt says that their EU staff numbers are slightly up on last year. But he is pragmatic about staff wanting a safety net. “Look, if I was an EU member of staff I would probably consider checking out my options as a sensible thing to do,” he says.

Prof O’Shea refuses to see poaching as a Brexit issue. “We recruit some of the
best people in the world. Naturally their home countries are interested in them, but they were interested in getting them back before Brexit. This hasn’t changed.”

I push them both on whether any potential new European recruits have backed out of appointments following Brexit. Prof O’Shea is adamant that this hasn’t happened. Prof Fitt is a little more open: “I had expected that by now this would be a problem,” he admits. “And I have talked to people in universities who have said what a huge problem it is and what terrible experiences they have had. But I haven’t found a single case of a recruitment issue that didn’t happen because of Brexit. That’s not to say it won’t happen in the future.”

What about research funding?

Earlier this month the government published its Brexit science position paper, outlining its desire to build a “deep and special” partnership with the EU on science. The two vcs are both delighted with the suggestion that Britain will continue to pay into joint European research programmes, including the flagship 80bn euros Horizon 2020 fund. “I think it’s great news, really great,” Prof O’Shea

Prof Fitt says that his key concern is that Britain should have “meaningful access” to the next European research framework. “It’s not just the money, it’s about access to facilities and access to people. And the sticking point will be whether we have any say in what happens to the money.”

Prof Fitt explains that prior to Horizon 2020 there was a big political battle over whether funding should be awarded to projects based primarily on excellence or on the desire to build capacity in certain areas. “The result for Horizon 2020 was awards should be made with excellence as the first criteria. But I dare say if that decision hadn’t been taken the UK wouldn’t still be the only bit of Europe that gets more money out of this pot than we put in.”

He adds: “If FP9 was to become completely focused on capacity building rather than research excellence I think it would be very hard for the UK to do well out of that.”

How has student recruitment been affected by Brexit?

“We won’t know exact EU student numbers for this year until enrolment has finished. But what we are similar to the rest of the sector in that our number of European applications has gone down, but not by a vast amount,” Prof Fitt says.

Prof O’Shea counters proudly that his university is in a very different position, with numbers up. Though with the Scottish government committing to giving them free tuition for their entire course (and that now holds for those starting next year too) this is perhaps to be expected.

I ask whether the two universities are both uncomfortably exposed given their reliance on European students who may decide not to come if they are charged the same high fees as international students post Brexit.

“At Edinburgh we don’t feel at all exposed because our overall demand from around the world is so high,” Prof O’Shea says. “But we would very much prefer to maintain the current mix.”

“We’ve got years of experience recruiting international students, it’s something we know how to do,” Prof Fitt agrees.

Are vice-chancellors in a weak position to make Brexit demands?

It has been a summer of bad headlines for universities, with a public furore over tuition fees, and former education secretary Lord Adonis leading an assault on vcs for paying themselves too much. I ask the VCs whether they worry that this is a bad time to be demanding special favours after Brexit.

Both noticeably dodge any discussion of their own salaries. But Prof Fitt says: “I think people are generally smart. I think they know that what we’ve heard from Lord Adonis is a bit of a red herring.”

Prof O’Shea agrees. “I’m not worried at all. All the positive stories about our research completely swamp all that sort of stuff.” He adds: “I think the new chief executive of Universities UK is doing an exemplary job. But it is a pity that he has to spend time dealing with nonsense.”

Tim O’Shea

Tim O’Shea. Photograph: Edinburgh University

What was your first degree and where did you study?
Mathematics and experimental psychology, Sussex University

What is your secret vice?
Chinese dumplings

What is your signature dish?
Scallops with lardons, onions, garlic, chilli and ginger

Name three things you love about your university city.
Architecture, August Festivals, Arthur’s Seat

Have you ever lived abroad?
Yes, in Schwabia, Texas, California, Kilkenny, Mumbai, Duesseldorf and Ruesselsheim.

What book is on your bedside table?
Days without End – Sebastian Barry

What did you want to be when you were 18?
A chef

Alistair Fitt

Alistair Fitt. Photograph: Oxford Brookes University

What was your first degree and where did you study?
Mathematics, Lincoln College, Oxford University

What is your secret vice?
Nerdy golf technology

What is your signature dish?
Home-made curry

Name three things you love about your university city.
It’s a true city of learning, the city is full of very smart people, and our surroundings are really beautiful

Have you ever lived overseas?

What book is on your bedside table?
1947 Wisden Cricketers Almanac

What did you want to be when you were 18?
A mathematician

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New Dickinson president brings global experience, wants to make local difference

Margee Ensign knows these are changing times, and that the Carlisle college she now leads could be preparing its students for jobs that – due to technology and other changes – have yet to be created.

“I think we have entered a phase where people think it’s just the technical, narrow skills that a person needs to survive in this rapidly changing environment,” the new president of Dickinson College noted.

“I think it’s the contrary – we need those skills, but we need those people who can think broadly, who are open-minded, who have studied across disciplines. Those are the ones who I think will be our leaders and our problem-solvers,” she said.

Giving her students that multifaceted education while being true to the heritage of Dickinson, and increasing the college’s outreach into the Carlisle-area community, are some top goals for Ensign, who began as the college’s 29th president July 1.

She knows that Dickinson was founded 234 years ago this month “to offer students a useful and progressive education in the arts and sciences … grounded in a strong sense of civic duty to become citizen-leaders,” as a college history noted.

Ensign, who will be 63 early next month, is well-known in higher education as the former president of the American University of Nigeria. Her university faced enormous security challenges from the Boko Haram uprising, and Ensign’s work was featured in a Smithsonian Magazine story, “Escape From Boko Haram,” which lauded Ensign as a “fearless American educator.”

In an area where 85 percent of the population was illiterate, Ensign as the AUN president joined leaders in her region – AUN is in Yola, Nigeria – in launching “A Year of Literacy.”

She noted in a recent interview with the Business Journal that “sometimes where you focus on one or two seams (issues), you have more impact. I’m not saying we’re going to do that (at Dickinson), but we’re going to meet with community leaders here to make sure we’re in sync with how they perceive the challenges, whether they’re in health care, education or other areas.”

Ensign, who will be formally installed as the new college president on Oct. 7, plans to soon address what she sees as the top 10 challenges in her college’s community.

“We want to make sure we’re targeting the issues and the challenges that the community leaders see as the key ones, and to maximize everyone’s resources to solve these problems,” said Ensign, who combines a desire to help locally with a global world view and experience.

Ensign earned a bachelor’s degree from New College in Florida and a doctorate in international political economy from the University of Maryland.

Once she was named president of Dickinson earlier this year, “it became quite clear that we’re at such a different time in America and the world, both in terms of economic development and political development,” she said. “It’s a wonderful and challenging time to be home. We may be at a similar point in history as we were in 1783,” when Dickinson was founded, the first school to get a charter in the new United States.

Ensign feels she will be able to use her position to promote Dickinson’s traditional emphasis on civic engagement: “As I learned profoundly in Nigeria, when young people are confronted by the real problems in society, by working on them and by trying to solve them, it really changes the way they think, and it changes the discussions in the classroom” and extends into their lives, she said.

Ensign, who is launching efforts to boost student and staff awareness of various cultures and backgrounds, also is proud of Dickinson’s role in joining, just before she started, the American Talent Initiative effort to boost the college’s number of high-achieving, lower-income students: “That’s where my heart lies, in making sure that we can extend a world-class education to as many young people who have the hunger for this terrific education as possible.”

At the same time, Dickinson’s current enrollment of lower – and moderate-income students is “quite extraordinary – something I’m extremely proud of,” Ensign said.

Ensign lost a valued professional mentor when former Tulane University President Eamon Kelly, who Ensign had worked for, died this past summer.

“That was a hard one, because he was the one I would always go to when I was starting something new, and he knew me almost better than anybody professionally. Those relationships shape you,” she said.

“I’ve really had terrific mentors, both female and male, in my career, so my advice would be to make sure you develop those relationships. If you’re a student, make sure you know your faculty members, because they can give you not only educational advice but also career and personal advice.”

Similarly, Ensign said mentoring younger people and women is a role she embraces: “I would say to young people, it’s about knowledge, skills and having people who can give you honest advice, and it’s important to build those relationships and those networks.

“It’s pretty clear that we need to educate young people to be prepared for the unknown, to ask the big questions and learn how to solve problems,” she added. “I feel very strongly that’s what a liberal-arts and science education does – by forcing students to work across disciplines.”

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‘It’s crucial that deaf learners get the careers advice they need’

Sixty-one per cent of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) go into further education, compared with 34 per cent of the wider population, studies show. For these young people, it’s vital they receive support from FE colleges to get into employment when they leave.

The UK has major skills shortages in many sectors, and Brexit may mean we are less likely to be able to rely on EU immigration to help plug the skills gap. The education secretary, Justine Greening, recently made a speech in which she talked about creating “an army of skilled young people for British business”, and with the introduction of new T-level qualifications, FE colleges will be at the forefront of helping to prepare young people for the world of work

At the National Deaf Children’s Society, we recently commissioned research into the transitions that deaf young people make from FE into employment, and we found some worrying trends.

The research found that nearly 70 per cent of deaf young people go into FE. Based on the feedback we get from so many young people and their parents, we suspected that the support available to help them find work might be poor and patchy. Sadly our research confirmed this.

Some 59 per cent of parents of deaf young people said their child’s college did not help them find any work experience or placement opportunities, while 39 per cent of parents stated their child had not received any careers support or guidance at college.

On top of this, the research showed that when young people do receive work experience and careers support from their FE college, they are more likely to go into employment or further study as a direct result. Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of deaf young people who received career advice ended up in full-time higher education or employment, compared with 60 per cent of those who did not. Some 86 per cent of deaf young people who got work experience went in to full-time employment or higher education, compared with 64 per cent of those who did not.

‘It’s imperative that careers advice is improved’

It’s deeply concerning that the vast majority of deaf young people are being let down by FE colleges, and are failing to be prepared for a future that will already present many barriers for them. The research provides a strong case for deaf young people having access to tailored careers advice at school and college. It is not just about having the same access to careers advice that their hearing course-mates receive.

Do deaf young people know that they can benefit from Access to Work funding from the government? Do they understand their rights under the Equality Act? Are they aware of the organisations that might be able to provide further support when they leave education? Schools and colleges have a key role in making sure deaf young people receive this type of information.

It’s expected that work experience will be a compulsory part of the new T levels, so we need to make sure deaf young people are getting the support they need on these placements as well.

FE and skills reform has cross-party support and I believe that better investment in FE will benefit many deaf young people. However, before they embark on any technical routes, we need to fight for deaf young people to have better access to decent careers advice so that they can make properly informed decisions about the career opportunities available to them and understand what support is available in the workplace.

I’m deaf myself and I remember that leaving education to find work was very daunting. I am sure it is the same for many deaf young people finishing education today. With such a high proportion of people with SEND going into FE, and such high levels of unemployment for people with SEND when they leave school, it’s absolutely imperative that careers advice in the FE sector is dramatically improved.

Martin McLean is education and training policy adviser at the National Deaf Children’s Society

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Not drinking or driving, teens increasingly put off traditional markers of adulthood

When 17-year-old Quattro Musser hangs out with friends, they don’t drink beer or cruise around in cars with their dates. Rather, they stick to G-rated activities such as rock-climbing or talking about books.

They are in good company, according to a new study showing that teenagers are increasingly delaying activities that had long been seen as rites of passage into adulthood. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver’s license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade.

The declines appeared across race, geographic, and socioeconomic lines, and in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

To be sure, more than half of teens still engage in these activities, but the majorities have slimmed considerably. Between 1976 and 1979, 86 percent of high school seniors had gone on a date; between 2010 and 2015 only 63 percent had, the study found. During the same period, the portion who had ever earned money from working plunged from 76 to 55 percent. And the portion who had tried alcohol plummeted from 93 percent between 1976 and 1979 to 67 percent between 2010 and 2016.

Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.

“People say, ‘Oh, it’s because teenagers are more responsible, or more lazy, or more boring,’ but they’re missing the larger trend,” said Jean Twenge, lead author of the study, which drew on seven large time-lag surveys of Americans. Rather, she said, kids may be less interested in activities such as dating, driving or getting jobs because in today’s society, they no longer need to.

According to an evolutionary psychology theory that a person’s “life strategy” slows down or speeds up depending on his or her surroundings, exposure to a “harsh and unpredictable” environment leads to faster development, while a more resource-rich and secure environment has the opposite effect, the study said.

In the first scenario, “You’d have a lot of kids and be in survival mode, start having kids young, expect your kids will have kids young, and expect that there will be more diseases and fewer resources,” said Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is the author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

A century ago, when life expectancy was lower and college education less prevalent, “the goal back then was survival, not violin lessons by 5,” Twenge said.

In that model a teenage boy might be thinking more seriously about marriage, and driving a car and working for pay would be important for “establishing mate value based on procurement of resources,” the study said.

But America is shifting more toward the slower model, and the change is apparent across the socioeconomic spectrum, Twenge said. “Even in families whose parents didn’t have a college education…families are smaller, and the idea that children need to be carefully nurtured has really sunk in.”

The postponement of “adult activities” could not be attributed to more homework or extracurricular activities, the study said, noting that teens today spend fewer hours on homework and the same amount of time on extracurriculars as they did in the 1990s (with the exception of community service, which has risen slightly). Nor could the use of smartphones and the Internet be entirely the cause, the report said, since the decline began before they were widely available.

Musser, who lives in Portland, Ore., has had summer jobs but he has never drunk alcohol and says he is not curious to try. To him, the idea that earlier generations of teens centered evening activities around procuring and drinking alcohol sounded mystifying.

“I haven’t heard of anyone who goes out and specifically drinks with their friends,” he said. “It’s not something you set out to do, like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to go out and get drunk.’”

In a city where it is easy to bike, take buses, or rideshare, he doesn’t see much need to drive. And as for dating, “It seems sort of ridiculous to be seriously dating someone in high school. I mean, what’s the plan there? Continuing to date through college and then eventually get married? That seems sort of unrealistic.”

Although the study did not look at people under 13, Twenge said she suspects the postponement of adult behavior begins in early childhood, starting with the decrease in children walking to school alone or playing unsupervised. In recent decades parents have become more restrictive about independent activities, and laws in some states have codified this, banning children from going out in public or staying home without adult accompaniment.

(Legislation has also delayed another adult activity: In the 1970s the legal drinking age was as young as 18 in some states; it is now 21 almost universally.)

To Daniel Siegel, an adolescent psychiatrist and author of “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,” it makes sense that adolescents would “remodel” their brains to adapt to a society that has changed since the 19th century.

“In a culture that says, ‘Okay, you’re going to go to high school, go to college, go to graduate school, and then get an internship, and you’re not going to really be responsible till your late 20s,’ well then the brain will respond accordingly,” he said.

Whether the changes are positive or negative depends on the reasons for delaying adult activities, Siegel said.

If the delay is to make room for creative exploration and forming better social and emotional connections, it is a good thing, he said. But “if it’s fear-based, obviously that’s a concern.”

Among teenagers now, “there is a feeling you’re getting of, ‘Wow, the world is pretty serious, so why would I rush to immerse myself…Why don’t I stay with my friends and away from anything that has heavy consequences, like pregnancy or sexually-transmitted diseases?’”

Teenagers are also more conscious now about the possible repercussions of their actions, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families.

“They’re starting to realize, wow, they really do have to worry about their resumes,” she said. “They come in without the kind of reckless disregard of consequence that a more confident generation of kids had, who said, ‘I’ll drop out of school and join the peace movement, what the hell.’”

With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, she said, young people can no longer afford that kind of non-chalance.

“They’re absorbing the same kind of anxiety about the future that their parents have for them.”

Chiara Power, 15, of San Juan Island, WA, has no interest in dating, driving, working for pay or drinking alcohol – and the rising costs of college keep her up at night.

“I’m already panicking and having nightmares about the student loans that I’ll never escape, and I’m worried that I’m going to end up homeless,” she said.

Her parents try to assuage her fears. “They’re just like, ‘Dude, that’s not happening for the next three years, so chill. I can’t chill, I have no chill…There’s just so many people saying, ‘Oh, it’s going to be hard when you get out there.’”

Her mother, Penelope Haskew, 45, feels mixed about her daughter’s preference for spending free time at home with her family.

“On the one hand, I know she’s safe, she’s not out getting pregnant or smoking pot or drinking or doing all kinds of risky stuff that I can imagine would be age appropriate,”she said. But Haskew wonders whether her daughter is missing out on life lessons those behaviors can teach. “Is that stuff necessary for human development, do you have to be risk-taking as a teenager in order to succeed as an adult?”

Still, she agreed with her daughter that the world seems more treacherous now than when she was a teen. “Climate change is super real and it’s obviously happening as we speak,” she said. “Maybe the scary things about being an adult are so much more concrete right now that it’s just safer to not become an adult.”

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