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April 3 (Diminishing Returns)

The Philadelphia Inquirer posted a long one on college's high costs and "diminishing returns." Here's an excerpt on what some recent grads are doing:

Benjamin Landau-Beispiel, 23, and Eric Augenbraun, 24, both graduated from Masterman High School in 2006, where they became friends and fostered a love of history.

Landau-Beispiel, from East Falls, went on to Harvard University, where he graduated with a 3.5 grade-point average; Augenbraun, from Roxborough, went to Penn and graduated with a 3.7.

Between them, their educations cost nearly $400,000. But now, Landau-Beispiel is a janitor in a synagogue in Roxborough, while Augenbraun is a chess tutor for elementary-school kids and does research for a national political journalist.

The compelling article, which, of course in fine blogger fashion I did not read in its entirety, goes on to note, "On a quiet Sunday, Landau-Beispiel scrubs toilets, then turns on a giant Titan vacuum cleaner in the Mishkan Shalom community room. Thin and bearded, the young man affixes headphones to his ears and listens to a lecture on Karl Marx by historian Moishe Postone."

I feel like I was in a similar place after college. I wasn't scrubbing toilets, but I was bussing dishes and working other mediocre jobs. Landau-Beispiel is from an affluent background, so I'm not sure he'll get as desperate as I did and wind up selling Toyotas for almost two years although, frankly, I don't blame him if he does.

For now, though, his Good Will Hunting routine will have to suffice and listening to lectures on Marx while working doesn't seem like the most alienating labor to me.

And we can't measure a life until it's over, and even then multiple perspectives offer various conclusions at what the heck was lived, what it meant, why, etc.

Good luck, Benjamin Landau-Beispiel and Eric Augenbraun. Your future awaits, and I bet there will be many more twists and turns in your journey.

PS--It occurs to me that I'm interested in these two chess-playing Masterman grads because I was on the first Masterman chess team. If we were to play today, I'm certain both would destroy me.

PPS--I'm almost positive these two could get some lucrative math tutoring or something similar.


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