Johns Hopkins Magazine -- February 1999
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On lowering the tuition tab
The scoop on sauerkraut
Hamburger origins
Exxon's women engineers
Bothered by "blather"
Literal concerns

On lowering the tuition tab

Articles on the cost of higher education, including "Scrambling for Dollars" [September], ignore one way students can lower the total tab for college--graduate early. Many of my classmates had college credits from high school Advanced Placement classes. Others took more than 18 credit hours per semester or did summer school classes. (Independent summer research classes, for three credits, were free when I graduated in 1993.) Of the seven people who lived in my house in college, three graduated a semester early. Taking off the fall semester of my senior year to work and subletting my room saved my parents over $7,000. Granted, taking extra courses can be tough, but it can be worth a lot--and not just in financial terms. I worked that semester for The Walt Disney Company. Another housemate finished early to focus on internships and job preparation. I think Hopkins has more students who graduate early than most universities, because so many students are very goal-oriented.
Bethanne Jones Kim '93
Toluca Lake, CA

The scoop on sauerkraut

After reading "Matters of Taste" [November], I got to wondering: Is eating sauerkraut with turkey dinners a purely Baltimore custom? When and where did the custom begin? One of the rude awakenings of my life was to discover, at age 14 when I moved from Baltimore, that not only did people in the rest of the country not eat sauerkraut with turkey--they had never heard of the idea.
John Bordley (PhD '72)

Professor Sidney Mintz responds:

I didn't know that sauerkraut was a common side dish with turkey in Baltimore, but it is not surprising. The migrant population of German and neighboring origins to this part of the U.S. would help to explain it. Faced with the American conception of a proper Thanksgiving dinner, immigrants from many places no doubt added some of their own favorites--not so much displacing the traditional as supplementing it with the familiar and loved. I suspect that is what happened in this case.

Hamburger origins

In your November article " Matters of Taste," you quote from I Hear America Cooking by Betty Fussell: "An authentic American hamburger is named for a German city, splashed with British ketchup, and served with fries called French." I would like to point out that the hamburger is authentic American. It was introduced at the Erie County Fair in the 1880s in Hamburg, New York. Thus, the hamburger is named after a suburb of Buffalo, not a German city!
James R. Dire (MS'90, PhD'97)

Exxon's women engineers

In the September interview with Engineering Dean Ilene Busch-Vishniac, she suggests that [female] field engineers at major oil companies like Exxon may encounter "difficulty."

Please reassure Dean Busch-Vishniac and Johns Hopkins engineering students that Exxon employs a large number of successful women engineers. Through an active recruiting program, we attract top-notch graduates of universities throughout the country, who join our workforce to enjoy a variety of assignments in petroleum development and production, refining, chemical manufacture, marketing, information systems, and other areas of operations. The most accurate description of assignments for our new hires is "rewarding."
W. S. King, Manager
Recruiting and Employment
Exxon Company, USA

Bothered by "blather"

I am appalled and disgusted by the publication of statements attributed to "Constitutional scholar" Joel Grossman, under the imprimatur of the November Johns Hopkins Magazine. Such statements should not go unanswered.

It is irrational [for] Grossman [to] argue that Clinton has found himself "in a bind that a private citizen would not have to endure" because "a citizen before a grand jury can invoke Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination." The answer is that Clinton in his appearance before the federal grand jury could have invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, but he deliberately chose not to exercise his privilege.

The nonsense continues and escalates when Grossman asserts "a president does need to be above the law." This is exceedingly dangerous nonsense. Under our Constitution, no person (including the president) is above the law. This fundamental rule rests on justice, reason, and human history, and is the ultimate guardian and guarantor of our liberty and Constitution. Those who would assert the president is above the law no doubt would [have been] exceedingly happy living in Germany or Italy when that doctrine was widely popular and happily followed with disastrous effects; effects resulting in millions of Americans spending hard years of our lives in military service overseas in World War II.

Who is paying for Mr. Grossman's blather and its dissemination? Hopkins donors or federal taxpayers? Federal grants to "Constitutional scholars"? Or is Hopkins seeking to ensure its receipt of future federal funds? Publication of blather provokes such questions.
Charles H. Weiland (AB'42)
Aurora, IL

Literal concerns

"Guido Veloce's" recent analysis of literalists vs. figuratives [Essay, November] struck a chord more than somewhat above Middle C. It set me to remembering the time when children were still in our home. An incident occurred that fit the pattern described.

My three-year-old daughter was happily crayoning in her coloring book, using the kitchen table for support. I was a young assistant professor then, and we could afford only a single table in the house, and it was time for me to prepare a lecture. Our house is arranged with a pair of wooden steps down to the kitchen--which make a nice perch on which to work, if you are small. So I asked my daughter if she would mind coloring on the steps. Being a dutiful and agreeable child, she readily agreed.

I began the preparation of my lecture, and looked over to see how she was doing. I was astonished to see her coloring the steps! Without realizing what had passed between us, I shouted at her, "Stop coloring on the steps!"

Between frightened sobs, she managed to say, "Daddy (sob), you said to color (sob) on the steps (sob)." I then realized that she was doing just what I had asked her to do. I hugged her and apologized many times, but 25 years later I still feel bad. And now I wonder: What damage did I do to her psyche? Maybe she needed help to correct her impairment that I didn't provide. "Is she still suffering from it?" I ask myself. Should I offer to pay for help? I am sure her HMO does not recognize LIS (Literalist Impairment Syndrome); it is too new. Would such therapy just reopen old wounds?
A Hopkins professor

Guido responds: What a wonderful child! I would adopt her in a minute. The professor's letter reminded me of an issue I should have raised in the column. For some sufferers, Literalist Impairment Syndrome goes into partial remission between ages 12 and 18, when phrases like "I cleaned my room" and "just a minute" become metaphorical.

Since this particular daughter, however, sounds quite normal to me, my guess is that if she has any affliction, it is the milder Academic Child Syndrome (ACS). This occurs when one or both parents are academics. It often manifests in young adulthood in a bemused attitude toward professors, high levels of achievement (albeit often intermittent and selective), and an inability to commit to occupations with high salaries. It is fostered by prohibitions against TV and junk food, substantial tuition and orthodontist bills, and, in extreme cases, purchase of a Volvo station wagon. The only thing academic parents can do, other than pretend to be normal, is keep in mind two fundamental principles: a) the kid is all right; and, b) the kid is never going to earn enough to support us in our old age.

Tell the daughter that she would always be welcome at our house. I give very specific directions.