… Vacation Homes!  That’s what I’ve decided after reading this article in the NY Times.  Here’s what disturbed me:

This year, many of these colleges say they are more inclined to accept students who do not apply for aid, or whom they judge to be less needy based on other factors, like ZIP code or parents’ background.

Zip Code is a meaningful indicator of socio-economic status?  Here again, our effort to enumerate space will produce disastrous results.  Zip codes, like congressional districts and area codes, aren’t designed to represent the existence of a community or a homogeneous social group.  They delineate a useful area for delivering the mail.  But colleges will use them as a measure for ability to pay tuition?

My concerns are many.  First, zip codes will cut across populations, across complex social hierarchies without actually containing them.  Poor and rich may well be contained therein–unless social forces have pushed out the poor, especially minorities (or conversely, concentrated them).  So either it won’t represent what the college admissions committees are looking for, or it will double the deprivation of opportunity that comes from processes like gentrification.

Second, areas with high incomes are notoriously expensive to live in, and high income may go into paying high mortgages, high tuition, high taxes, etc.  A families financial reality might not be reflected by the income statistics of the area, and they may be less capable of paying tuition expenses out of pocket.  Conversely, success in a less affluent area may be ignored.  Such a family might be more resourceful when it comes to affording education.

Finally, there will be those areas in which the effects of poverty will be magnified.  Growing up in a poor household, going to a poor public school, now branded by applying from a poor zip.

Why vacation homes?  Because it will be the only true marker of disposable income that colleges can measure.  It has the advantages of geographic discrimination, but it would also measure families’ financial resources and resourcefulness.

(I wonder if people will fight to be included in particular zip codes–appealing to the Postal Service–as a way of increasing their social mobility.)

Alas! I’m spending too much time away from this blog. Baby, applications, and the albatross (Diss) take up too much of my time. Needless to say, this state of affairs won’t last forever.

Yet I need help. I’ve been trying to design a course, either advanced undergraduate or graduate, that integrates various aspects of, what I would call, spatial history: urban history, social history, rural history, environmental history, etc. This project, while it has got me thinking about how these topics work together, it has made me aware of deficiencies in my reading.

Anyway, this is how the units are set up so far:

Part I: Milieu The City from Tradition to Modernity
Primary reading: Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts
Secondary reading: Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace, GothamFate of the Village
Primary reading: John Merriman, Stones of Balazuc?
Secondary reading: Marc Bloch, French Rural History?

Taking Control of Nature
Primary Reading: Charles Mann,
Secondary Reading: David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature

Part II: Theories
Theories of Space
Primary Reading: Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space
Secondary Reading: Paul Virilio, Negative Horizon

Primary Reading: Ann Whitson Spirn, The Language of Landscape
Secondary Reading: Renzo Dubbini, Geography of the Gaze

Primary Reading: ?
Secondary Readin: Jan De Vries, European Urbanization

Primary Reading: J.R. McNeill, Something New under the Sun
Secondary Reading: Jeffry Diefendorf and Kurk Dorsey, eds., City, Country, Empire?

Part III: Themes
Geography of the Imagination
Primary Reading: Aaron Sachs, The Humboldt Current
Secondary Reading: Martin Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time

Industry and Environment
Primary Reading: Marc Cioc, The Rhine: An Eco-Biography, 1815-2000
Secondary Reading: ?

Preservation and Conservation
Primary Reading: Maiken Umbach and Bernd Huppauf, Vernacular Modernism
Secondary Reading: Rudy Koshar, Germany’s Transient Pasts ?

Memory and Place
Primary Reading: Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul
Secondary Reading: Michael J. Lewis, The Politics of the German Gothic Revival

Green Politics
Secondary Reading: Gregg Mitman, The State of Nature
Secondary Reading: ?

Space and the European Union
Primary Reading: Andreas Faludi, Making the European Spatial Development Perspective
Secondary Reading: None

German, all too German! I’m disappointed that these readings seem to apply mostly to Germany, France to a lesser extent. Moreover, there are several holes that I cannot fill in the way I like. Anyway, I’d appreciate any feedback anyone might have with regard to the readings or the structure. Thanks!