And Cindy Makes 5

One family’s pandemic response. 

By Sarah Rossbach 

My kids, a boy and a girl, are grown and  I thought I was way beyond having another child.  Yet in the midst of the  first outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, on March 15th, we welcomed another daughter to our family. It was not an ominous, painful Caesarian delivery to beware of on the Ides of March, but the fortuitous and joyful arrival of our third child, Cindy. Really, I’m so over diapers and bottles, and, happily, so is Cindy—after all, she was delivered to our home at a full-grown mature-ish 26 years old.   

Cindy’s arrival was unexpected. As the pandemic raged in New York City, our daughter Charlotte had debated for over a week whether to leave her apartment in Astoria, Queens. On a whim, she sent out a blanket invitation to her New York-based friends asking if anyone wanted to shelter in place at our house in  New Jersey. Cindy, a former college classmate living  in Brooklyn, with 24 hours’ notice, filled a book bag  with clothes, grabbed her laptop and joined Charlotte on a turbulent ferry ride from Pier 17 to New Jersey and settled in our once empty nest. 

My husband and I didn’t properly welcome them, because we were “vacationing” for two weeks in Florida when the virus hit. Restful and relaxing, it was not. As Vero Beach restaurants closed like dominos, our stress level rose. We cancelled our plane reservations, packed up our shorts, swimsuits and sandals and headed north in our rental car five days earlier than expected. We spent two nights with relatives near Charleston and then stayed another night in Richmond at the huge, cavernous Jefferson Hotel, where we well may have been the only paying guests and certainly were outnumbered by the staff. For two weeks after we finally arrived home, our kids and Cindy social distanced from us—nothing new about that, only now they had a good excuse. 

I was curious how we, as a family that once lived separately, would acclimatize to being two generations of adults, no less with an additional Millennial in the mix. 

Cindy was ensconced in the guest bedroom and it was a huge relief that we could tell from the beginning that she easily was more like a family member than a guest. We carted up a small wooden table that served as her telecommuting desk and made sure she knew she was welcome to stay through the months ahead. Our main concern was for everyone to be healthy and safe.   

An extra person in one’s home could spell disharmony, stress and strife. To her credit, Cindy fit in seamlessly: a friend, confidant and walking partner to our daughter; the only one who could discuss Dungeons & Dragons and video games knowledgeably with our son; and a little buddy to me as we shared similar sensibilities and sense of humor.   

Cindy was socially astute as she quickly read my husband’s amusing, if naughty, trickery, cleverly dodging questions that really were ways to ensnare the unwary.  When his eyes narrowed in mock earnestness and he queried, “Who’s the most chill person in the family?” or “Who is or was the most badass person at the table?” or “Who is the shining star of the family?”, she would foil his ploy and answer with: “It’s a trap, right?” It’s not easy to fit into quirky humor, but Cindy did and even added her own brand to the mix. 

So that’s how we became a family of five, all with our own careers, habits and social groups. Every day, we met for early breakfast, and then we disappeared into our separate Zoom realms within our own bedroom cyber-offices where we dealt with educational funding, Garden Club challenges, asset management and cultural exchanges. (As well as the occasional dog-walking gig thrown into the mix.)  

My husband and I are not newcomers to taking in friends in need. In fact, after Super Storm Sandy, we invited a family of five—three boys aged one to six and their parents—whose home had been flooded and was uninhabitable for two months.  We and they had a blast together living like a cross-generational dorm. 

Our new family of five established a routine as the coronavirus lockdown wore on. Wednesday, for example, was family game night, where Cindy taught us—sort of—the finer points of poker and video dancing and our son set up amusing online group games. Our leisure pastimes became a cross-section of cyber activities  and capers. Saturday was Zoom craft night for the girls and Zoom cocktails for us. And every non-working moment, our son was gaming virtually with former college friends.  Saturday morning, Sunday and Tuesday nights, Cindy was telelearning French, Chinese and Japanese, respectively.   

Most importantly, Sunday was clean-your-bathroom day.  

Efforts to create positive experiences spilled over to internet activities. Charlotte’s co-workers hosted an international Zoom Karaoke night that engaged Cindy and me—although I am challenged tonally and ignorant of the hits of the last 20 years. And then there were countless girls’ movie nights watching a cache of chick-flicks through the ages from The Women to the latest release of Little Women and My Man Godfrey. Who could tire of a diet of binge-watching comforting Jane Austin films and their offshoots like Clueless for Emma and Bridget Jones’ Diary for Pride and Prejudice?  Thank goodness for WIFI and our unlimited usage plan

I recognize that it’s not easy to move into a family with a quarter-century of established traditions, habits and idiosyncrasies. Yet Cindy adapted to all, incorporating routines and rites, adopting family traditions and adeptly demonstrating that she too shared in (or at least accepted) many of our quirks. She further endeared herself by embracing our interests

My home activities tend to revolve around writing, cooking and gardening, as well as Garden Club. Our garden, the culmination of 26 years of planting, dividing, pruning and propagating, was particularly well-tended during Cindy’s months here thanks to our son being furloughed for a couple of months, and our hiring him to weed, mulch and plant. It became a subject of fascination for Cindy. While the pandemic has been frightful and constricting, the delayed Spring brought unexpected joys in the garden. It made me happy that Cindy seemed impressed and charmed as the seasons changed and blossomed in our garden; the years of planting perennials had created a magical botanical experience for her. The evolution from camellias and daffodils to tree peonies and lilacs to herbaceous peonies and hybrid tea roses to summer’s hydrangeas, daisies and phlox were highlighted by the delight  and wonder Cindy found in our garden. The sudden enlargement of our family, as well as concern for  food safety during the pandemic, inspired me to propagate edibles in window boxes, normally reserved for wildly colored ornamental flowers. Cindy watched as I harvested lettuce, radishes, chervil and micro-basil—all grown from seed among pansies and nasturtiums, also edible flowers. You may wonder why I didn’t plant a full-blown “victory garden”…the answer is a four-letter word: DEER.  

Wildlife presented diverting attraction, particularly hummingbirds—the kids found a nest the size of a demitasse cup. Also aggressive groundhogs, perhaps emblematic of the monotony of our COVID existence, ventured uncomfortably near our home. Cindy, in her fearless fascination and enthusiasm of the new, chased them away in energetic pursuit

When it rained, we occupied ourselves with 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles, family Scrabble, and backgammon. Much of our insular pandemic life revolved around food. While none of us gained the legendary COVID-19 pounds, I cooked up a storm. Our kids, string beans all, ate like sumo wrestlers. A huge vat of Bolognese sauce disappeared in two sittings.  An iced chocolate zucchini cake for 16 vanished in two days with us ploughing through even the portion reserved for a godparent. And no one was more appreciative than Cindy. Every morning, be it waffles or oatmeal or smoothies, I’d hear her appreciative Oooooh. And Cindy always arrived first for lunch—often grilled cheese and homemade soup—and was my best customer for dinner. It’s easier to cook when everything you concoct is greedily inhaled. Nothing like a thankful public to spur on the home chef. 

I cooked during the week and my husband and kids cooked during the weekend and were specifically not allowed to ask me about recipes. Food, the source of survival, variety and taste thrill, was a gathering point as we all emerged from our bedroom offices to eat and savor, share work complaints and challenges and give positive support during the trials of the pandemic. 

During this anxious, dismal time of sickness, contagion and death, many have felt isolated, frustrated, and at loose ends. So much has been lost, even if temporarily. Gone are exotic travel to distant lands or even to  two states over. Visits to museums, the cinema and friends’ homes are temporarily obsolete. And our naturally social beings are being constricted. Our world has gotten smaller and we are living, communicating, working and amusing ourselves through home electronics. The days are monotonous, one running  into the next, with little change. Yet we hold on to a deep gratitude that we are alive and well.   

After four months, Cindy had become part of our  family fabric. She was a bright spot, always upbeat,  with a ready and, dare I say, infectious smile. We all  felt blessed to have her in our lives and I dreaded the day she would leave.  I saw Cindy as a buffer—a friendly shock absorber between potential sibling conflict  and a humorous shield between the generations, safeguarding family harmony in close quarters. 

Did I neglect to mention that Cindy’s mother owns a hair salon in Wisconsin and her mother trained and entrusted her to color her own gray locks? Due to social distancing and state-mandated closure of hair salons, many friends have had to embrace the truth of the  aging process. While I’m pretty low maintenance—no Botox, fillers, nip or tuck—thanks to Cindy, I can continue the pretense of forever-young hair. So as I started to observe during Zoom meetings and parties that friends and colleagues’ coifs were evolving into various iterations of the skunk family, my own tresses remained deceptively brown. I love my local salon stylist and wonderful colorist Coleen, but for endless months, that was not an option. Cindy and a regular shipment on “auto-order” of Madison Reed’s Veneto Light  Brown hair dye kept me looking like my old self—but not that old. 

Cindy and I also are crossword enthusiasts, and she would email me her Sunday New York Times—which she received, for an extra fee, that I have been unwilling to pay for but happy to print out hers. Cindy is a joy. She is fun, smart and engageable.  

It was a super sad day in mid-July when, after dinner, Cindy gulped and announced that she would be leaving our house to pack up her room in Brooklyn and drive with a roommate back to Wisconsin. While we knew the day would come, we choked out a Say it ain’t so.  I fretted with Cindy’s impending departure: How to  plan for meals for four rather than five? What or who would serve as glue for our vastly different offspring? How would our kids view us without the humor that Cindy brought to our family? (Don’t tell me, we’re still annoying.) The morning arrived with Charlotte loading her car to move out of Astoria and then drop off Cindy. I handed Cindy a bag filled with an assortment of her favorite foods—Heritage Flakes, smoked oysters in oil, chipotle aioli—and hugged her goodbye.  

Cindy had been an important part of our family’s emotional survival during the first four months of COVID-19. She was a sweet, friendly, sunny cure for the isolation and strangeness of the pandemic and we dreaded her inevitable exit. We anxiously speculated how were we going to endure what might be another year or so without someone who had become such an integral and positive member or our family. But it’s a funny thing, that life goes on. We are a family that has enough love to open our house and hearts to Cindy and we are happy she is back with her mother and on to a new adventure.  

We definitely miss Cindy and I think we are a better foursome thanks to her. But my heart doesn’t ache the way I worried it would. We stay in touch; she will always be a part of us. In case I forget, every Sunday—or sometimes Monday—an email arrives from Cindy to challenge and engage me with The New York Times Sunday crossword. 

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Charlotte became my expert new colorist. Before departing to the wilds of Wisconsin, Cindy taught her how.

Me, Myself & I

The more summer camps change, the more one critical thing stays the same.

By Rachel Rutledge

No industry is recession-proof. However, through good times and bad, summer camps have proved to be one of the country’s most enduring businesses. More than 10 million children in the United States will attend some kind of camp this summer, a number that includes both day-campers and sleep-away campers. The majority of camps are actually run by non-profit organizations. Roughly one-fifth of the nation’s 12,000 camps are for-profit businesses. More than half of U.S. camps are overnight camps. When every last penny is counted, the summer camp industry is estimated to generate more than $15 billion a year. Someone’s doing something right.

That “something” hasn’t changed in a long, long time. For the vast majority of kids, summer camp represents the first real step toward self-reliance and independence. One could argue that this step is more important than ever, given that we now find ourselves in an age of unprecedented over-parenting. 

The job of a summer camp is to provide a safe and stimulating environment for children. In the old days, that often meant a squeaky bed, a leaky cabin, pimple-faced counselors, hiking, paddling, toasting marshmallows and providing a meal for mosquitos. In other words, the greatest time ever. Today, the goal is the same but the offerings are a bit more sophisticated. 

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

If you are the parent of a “veteran” summer camper, then you already know what’s out there in terms of choices. If you have yet to go the summer camp route, prepare yourself to be overwhelmed. While there are many hundreds of long-established, traditional sleep-away camps (both for-profit and by non-profit religious and youth organizations), the most dynamic sector of this market is represented by camps that cater to a child’s talents and interests. Name a focus or specialty, and it’s a stone-cold guarantee that a Google search will turn up pages of possibilities. Is your child a lacrosse prodigy? A budding zoologist? The next Steve Jobs? The next J.J. Abrams?The next Gordon Gecko? Matching a young person with his or her passion has never been easier.

To the old leaky-cabin camper, this might seem like overkill. And perhaps it is. But that’s missing the point of the summer camp experience, which is putting your children in a place where they can be themselves for the first time. 

Read that again and understand it because, whether it’s for a day, a week, a month or more, it is the #1 reason why you send your child to camp. And it always has been. When children are free of parental oversight, the prism through which they experience new things and interact with new people is different and genuine. They become socialized by their peers, not by mom and dad. 

Many camps tout character-development as one of their main selling points. Looking past the marketing pitch, there is a lot of truth to this assertion. Character isn’t based on what you do when your parents are watching; it’s what you do when they’re not watching. Also, part of building character involves teamwork and leadership, which are baked into just about every camp experience.  

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PICKING A CAMP

With so many types, styles, locations and durations to choose from, the best way to find a good fit for your children is to identify camps that offer lots of activities based on their skills and interests. That means their interests, not yours. If you went to a traditional summer camp as a child, be aware that there is a natural tendency to be seduced by camps that you wish had existed 25 years ago. Your child isn’t you. You may be a 007 fanatic, but if your child is a soccer player, two weeks at Secret Agent Camp is probably a horrible idea (and vice versa). 

A couple more rookie mistakes to avoid are sending your child to the exact same camp you attended 30 years ago, and also sending your child to the same camp as an older sibling. Yes, we all know that girls-only poetry camp you went to back in the ’80s changed your life. However, your daughter may want to learn to build virtual reality programs this July. Iambic pentameter may not be her thing. And just because your older son improved his vertical leap by 6 inches at basketball camp, it doesn’t mean his younger brother needs to become Scottie Pippen to his Michael Jordan. 

Whatever experience you choose for your child, make sure to involve them as much as possible in the decision. Day camps can be time-consuming for a family and sleep-away camps financially challenging. Both can be emotionally stressful if you end up second-guessing your decision. But if everyone is on the same page, your first choice is likely to be the correct one.

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SEPARATION ANXIETY

For families that have yet to embrace the sleep-away experience, long-term separation and the anxiety or homesickness that can result should be part of planning an extended summer camp stay. Even if your child loves blowing you off at every opportunity, that may not be the case on drop-off day with the prospect of limited contact for the next 2 or 4 or 6 weeks. Expect some tears; if not theirs, then yours (see KIDSICK? on page 71). Interestingly, separation anxiety actually refers to a disorder where individuals suffer excessive fear or distress when they are removed from people (and sometimes places) with whom they have a strong emotional attachment. Mostly it applies to children under the age of 4, and is part of the development process. But it can occur in older kids, as well as adults.

In camp-age children, some degree of separation anxiety is normal during the first day or two away. Clinically speaking, it must persist for at least 4 weeks before it is considered an actual disorder. Unfortunately, that’s the duration of many camp sessions!  For the small percentage of campers who do have this problem, it’s no fun. They can experience intense anxiety and suffer panic attacks. They might also complain of medical issues, such as persistent stomach pain or headaches. Rarely, however, does true separation anxiety suddenly emerge at camp. Typically, parents of children with separation anxiety are aware of the condition long before summer camps are even discussed, which means sleep-away camps are not a viable option.

Needless to say, all types of camps—from sports camps to military camps to science camps to language camps—are not only good at dealing with mild bouts of separation anxiety, but tend to be experts with the specific type of kids and families that sign up. Truth be told, in the vast majority of cases, the recipe for success is identical: 20 minutes after mixing with the other campers, kids start looking forward, not back, and aside from an occasional pang of homesickness they are good to go for the day, the week, the month or more.

Should you suspect that you are the parent of an anxious camper, the one thing to avoid in the months prior to drop-off day is discussing how worried you are that the child will be lonely or homesick. Sharing your concerns is not making things better, and will almost certainly make things worse. Also, remember that kids aren’t stupid. If you constantly tell them how much fun they are going to have, and how they won’t miss home for a minute, they’ll know something is up. The same goes for constantly saying how much you’ll miss them for the time they are away. 

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TIMING IS EVERYTHING

We’ve all heard the stories about Type-A parents signing their kids up for private Pre-K when they’re still in the womb. Well, securing a spot for your child in your first-choice camp isn’t quite that bad, but if you are reading this story and the first day of spring is approaching, then the clock is ticking. In particular, traditional sleep-away camps tend to fill up quickly, as many families renew year after year. The more specialized sleep-away camps don’t get the same volume of repeat business, but open slots at the ones that market aggressively and are well-reviewed tend to disappear around this time of year.

A significant number of “resident” camps—sleep-away camps that like to make use of boarding school or college dorms—are built around one-week programs in sports, technology or creative and language arts. It is possible to program an entire summer of these short-duration camp stays for your child, usually with alternating weeks home and away. It’s a bit of a Rubik’s Cube to schedule (and not inexpensive) but from an enrichment standpoint it might be just what the doctor ordered, especially if you can’t find a 4- or 6-week camp that works for you.

Finally, don’t ignore day-camp opportunities that may exist close to home. Many of New Jersey’s private schools open their classrooms, gyms and playing fields to specialty camps during the summer as a way of generating extra income. Often, their best teachers (or coaches) either run or teach specific programs, so for the modest price of a day camp your child is exposed to high-powered educators doing what they love. 

KIDSICK?

Kidsickness may not be a real word, but it’s a real thing. Many are the moms who tumble into rudderless melancholy triggered by the temporary absence of their children. Grown men have been known to burst into tears the first time they wave goodbye to their young campers. That’s perfectly fine. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Just keep it to yourself. A hug, a kiss and a quick exit at drop-off make for an ideal send- off. Don’t freak out your kid. 

That being said, a certain percentage of parents really do find themselves suddenly and quite unexpectedly depressed and panicked—while their children are off having the time of their lives. According to the American Psychological Association, if you find yourself worried to the point of distraction while your child is off having fun in the woods somewhere, a session or two with a psychologist is a perfectly appropriate way to navigate your way through this new challenge.  If parental anxiety is a simple matter of not knowing what a child is doing, or fretting obsessively about their safety, or that they’re not having enough fun, then parents should do themselves a favor and pick a camp that posts photos every day.   

Editor’s Note: Each year in its first issue, EDGE writes about a different aspect of the summer camp experience. Log onto edgemagonline.com, click on the FAMILY tab and scroll backwards to find stories such as “Great…Outdoors” and “Extreme Summer.” 

 

Thought Provoking

How will Smart Technology change our lives?

By William Mehlman

Edgar Degas was dining at a friend’s home when the telephone—at that time a decided curiosity—rang. As his host finished his conversation and returned to the table, he asked Degas what he thought of the new device “So, that is the miraculous new thing?” the famous painter sneered. “The machine rings, and you run to talk to it?” 

Today’s “smart” technology gets a much warmer reception, although these products are frequently incomprehensible to many of us over the age of 50. My five-year-old solar-powered G-Shock watch, for example, has yet to be maximally programmed, because: (A) all I want to know is the correct Eastern Standard Time, (B) I can’t understand the manual, and (C) those buttons are so small.

amazon.com

Smart technology had its beginnings in products that, by today’s standards, are commonplace, if not actually antiquated. Mechanical adding machines gave way to electric calculators, which yielded to lightning-fast pocket calculators that provided, at their initial appearance, an astonishing array of functions. Today, every smart phone or smart watch can perform all of the standard math operations (ask Siri the square root of 200 or the cosine of 30 and you get your answer without even touching a button), —along with dozens of other functions. Familiar appliances are now performing unfamiliar tasks. For example, electronic ovens—which turned themselves off by means of a timer—are now being replaced by models that will shut themselves down when a probe reaches a predetermined internal temperature. 

Yet the truly remarkable inventions are not merely upgrades of existing technologies so much as purveyors of unimagined services. Laptops, tablets, cell phones?  Old hat. The smart technology that will soon be “everyday” includes quadcopters that are being built to allow same-hour deliveries from online retailers, and drones equipped with Go-Pro cameras, enabling humans to experience the thrill of flight without leaving the ground. Remember how Siri seemed unbelievable when it debuted in 2011? Now many consider Amazon’s Echo to be more versatile and accurate. Well, the next challenger may take us into the realm of social robotics. JIBO, an appealing little critter developed by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal of MIT, is billed as the “world’s first family robot.” JIBO is a member of the family, not just a search engine/database. It will answer questions, independently take photographs, provide audible versions of incoming texts, and act as a good-natured tutor. What it will not do (despite being called a robot) is heavy lifting. Or for that matter, any lifting—JIBO was not designed to do physical work of any kind. The projected sale price is in the $600 neighborhood, the cost of a high-end smartphone, or pair of designer shoes. 

Tesla Motors

SMARTER CARS

If you’ve gone car-shopping recently, you know that automobile manufacturers have been incorporating smart tech features with every new model. Many of these features already come as standard equipment on top-of-the-line models, including the dozens of microprocessors that control individual components and operate unseen by the driver. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class now incorporates Active Blind Spot Assist, which serves to alert the driver to unseen dangers, and will “intervene actively” to prevent an accident. MagneRide is a suspension system controlled by magneto-rheological dampers that adjust stiffness by sending an electric current through iron filings suspended in fluid shocks, and can react to road conditions in a few milliseconds. It is available in vehicles manufactured by Audi, Ferrari and General Motors.

And then, of course, there is the Tesla, an all-electric sedan that has a singular array of smart features, including door handles that open out as the driver approaches, a wildly modifiable seventeen-inch touch-screen video display, gull-wing doors and medical-grade HEPA air filters. These gizmos do not make the Tesla a nerdy, unattractive clunker; the design features are stunning, and the Model S can go from 0-60mph in 3 seconds—more than a second faster than a Porsche 911 Targa 4S.The big automotive project on the horizon is the driverless car, although there are still major bugs to be dealt with. Google’s self-driving vehicle was recently stopped by a California motorcycle officer who wanted to cite the driver for driving too slowly, but couldn’t find anyone to cite for the offense.

BUILDINGS & FOOD

The largest smart technology projects comprise entire buildings. These towers employ systems to reuse “graywater,” which includes all water other than sanitary waste, for use in flushing toilets, irrigation systems, heating and cooling operations and fire protection. These buildings may also have sophisticated security monitors, climate control, renewable energy from solar panels and windmills, and “green” roofs, which capture rainwater for reuse and, due to their heavily planted surfaces, help control the internal climate of the building.

On a smaller scale, many of the advances in smart technology have taken place in the kitchen. Borrowing from methodology employed in profes-sional kitchens, high-tech refrigerators can be programmed with recipes and lists of ingredients. As food is prepared, the software tracks expiration dates, computes the quantity of each ingredient used, and updates shopping lists and analyzes nutritional and caloric values. Further down the road, the smart features on their way to America’s kitchens are truly awe-inspiring. That explains why a past feature in this magazine entitled Kitchen 2020 (available in the HOME section at EdgeMagOnline.com) is one of the most-visited articles we’ve run. 

Advances in technology have made research and development cheaper, faster, and more precise. The result is smart technology popping up in some surprising places. For instance, garage workshop tinkerers can obtain hardware like Raspberry Pi and Arduino—small computers that can be used as plug-in components in new creations. Meanwhile, 3D printers, computer-controlled routers and multiple-axis waterjets (which can cut almost any non-ceramic material) will likely soon be available at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot.

WHIPPER SNAPPERS

The toy industry, for countless decades, has marketed two types of products: cool toys (kids want these) and educational toys (parents want their kids to have these). There have been a handful of crossover hits in recent years, but nothing like what’s in the pipeline. Artificial intelligence, voice recognition and adaptive learning technologies will be coming together soon to fuel a mind-blowing array of cool “smart toys.” CogniToys made a splash this year with its Smart Dinosaur, which is cool (Google the video) to watch. When some Apple-inspired engineer starts paying attention to this market, smart toys will also be cool to own, too. Another area of promise of smart toys is for children with special needs. 

Smart toys may not penetrate the market as quickly as parents want or expect. There will almost certainly be red flags thrown up by education and child-development experts. If a smart toy is doing the teaching, what does that make teachers? If a smart toy is storing all the facts, how are kids supposed to retain and synthesize information?

And if a smart toy becomes a child’s best friend, how will that boy or girl absorb crucial lessons in social interaction and be able to function as adults? 

So what’s the next big thing in smart technology? At this point, the Internet of Things (IOT) looks to be the new territory to be conquered. The IOT is a network connecting machinery, computers, tools, sensors, cloud-based information, rich analytics—in other words, pretty much anything and everything connected to the Internet. Google it. 

Global connectivity is the target for the engineers and scientists working on the Internet of Things. As artificial intelligence (AI) is woven into the mesh of the IOT, the resulting construct hopefully will be a rational solution to many of the world’s problems. Then again, technology sometimes turns out to be a double-edge sword. The combination of IOT and AI could be the beginning of smart technology’s absolute control over the human race, a la The Terminator or, worse, The Matrix.

Degas may have been onto something. 

Forget It

Inevitably, smart technology has a negative side effect, known as digital amnesia or digital obsolescence. This syndrome results from man’s ever-increasing reliance on digital equipment to store information that had always been held in the human memory. In effect, the “muscles” of the brain appear to atrophy as the cranial “hard drive” is employed with less frequency. Remember when you used to know all of the phone numbers of your close friends and family? If you’ve owned a smart phone for more than a year or two, you probably can’t recite half those numbers. Along similar lines, smart contraptions that perform functions traditionally performed by human hands are divorcing man from tactile knowledge and satisfaction. 

Mystery of the Pledge

You heard it here first.

By Mark Stewart

New Jersey is a land of famous firsts. According to the state.nj.us web site, we have played host to the first light bulb, first steam locomotive, first phonograph, first submarine, first drive-in movie, first electric guitar, and first football game. There are many more, of course. And yet, in this litany of #1’s, there is one fantastic first that is nowhere to be found in school textbooks or anywhere in our popular culture. On April 25th, 1893, during a ceremony atop the Navesink Highlands overlooking Sandy Hook, the Pledge of Allegiance was given as the national oath of loyalty for the first time. 

How this day came together is a tale of passion, politics and power. How it ended up in the dustbin of history is a reminder of how fragile our cultural heritage can be. 

The Pledge of Allegiance looked a little different back then. It read: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Subsequent wording referencing the “United States of America” and “Under God” was added in the 1920s and 1950s, respectively. The original version was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy (right) and published in The Youth’s Companion as part of a school program to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas

All images courtesy of Upper Case Editorial Services

The Columbus Day ceremony was held on October 21. A mere seven months later—blinding speed by 1890s standards—Bellamy himself led a group of young men in reciting the Pledge during an event in New Jersey that might draw millions were it recreated today. It involved an unprecedented international naval review (above), followed by parades and parties in New York City that went on for days. The next time anything like it was even attempted was during the Bicentennial, in 1976, when the tall ships arrived

JERSEY BOY

The key player of this story was not Bellamy, but William McDowell (right), a Newark-based financier whose business occasionally took him across the Atlantic. Upon each return to the U.S., McDowell marveled at the excitement that spread throughout the passengers as the first piece of American soil appeared. For the immigrants who filled steerage class, this moment was particularly meaningful. It marked the start of a new life. Roughly a third of Americans can trace some ancestry back to one of the people on these vessels. On a clear day, that first glimpse of America was the majestic Navesink Light Station, now known as the Twin Lights. Wouldn’t it be something, McDowell thought, if—before the two brownstone towers came into view—a gigantic American flag rose dramatically above the horizon? McDowell may not have been the first person to think of such a thing. However, he knew how to make things happen. His “Liberty Pole” plan first needed to gain the approval of the U.S. Lighthouse Board in Washington. The board was not known for its rapid decision-making. Fortunately, McDowell had friends in high places. 

An ardent patriot, he was among a group of patriotic Americans who hoped to rekindle America’s national spirit, which had been profoundly fractured since the Civil War. In 1889, McDowell founded the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, or SAR for short. Its aim was to recognize and celebrate American ideals and culture. The group enjoyed rapid acceptance and growth, counting among its early membership several wealthy and influential business and political leaders. In the summer of 1890, SAR officers decided to take the “Sons” part of the organization’s name literally and denied membership to women. McDowell was appalled. His great-grandmother, Hannah Arnett, was a popular heroine of the American Revolution. In 1776, a group of men meeting in her Elizabeth home were preparing to take the oath of loyalty to Great Britain in order to protect their lives and property. Arnett overheard them and called them traitors to their faces. Mr. Arnett’s attempt to remove his wife backfired; she threatened to divorce him on the spot. Eventually she convinced the group to reject the oath. An editorial by Mary Smith Lockwood published in The

Washington Post asked, “Where will the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution place Hannah Arnett?” McDowell offered a response in the same newspaper, offering to help start the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

A few days later, with McDowell among the attendees, the DAR had its first meeting. Its President General was First Lady Caroline Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison. With his new allies, the Harrisons (left), endorsing his plan to erect his Liberty Pole, McDowell had no problem getting a thumbs-up from the lighthouse board members—and little trouble raising the money to realize his dream.  The Liberty Pole would be 135 feet tall—think of a car dealership flag on steroids—standing twice the height of the Twin Lights’ massive brownstone towers. The pole was constructed from two separate poles, hinged in the middle. The base was larger than most people could wrap their arms completely around.   

HELLO, COLUMBUS

McDowell actually hoped to place Liberty Poles at the high point of every harbor where immigrants were flooding into America. This ambition (which ultimately went unrealized) paled in comparison to a proposal made by a group of Chicago millionaires that included familiar names like Swift, Armour, McCormick and Marshall Field. They convinced Congress to approve the creation of a Columbian Exposition, a World’s Fair to end all World’s Fairs. They managed to outbid New York for this honor—no small feat, considering the backers of the New York bid included J.P. Morgan, William Waldorf Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

New York’s “consolation prize” would be the aforementioned week of patriotic celebrations, all kicked off by a flotilla of international warships. The vessels would gather at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and then steam north to anchor in Sandy Hook Bay the day before the naval review in New York Harbor. Once these plans were set and a date (April 26, 1893) picked out, McDowell scheduled his Liberty Pole dedication ceremony for the morning of April 25. The program would include the raising of the John Paul Jones flag timed to coincide with the passing of the warships. 

The John Paul Jones flag (below) was the flag in America in

 the 1890s. Its history stretched back to the 1779 seas battle where Jones refused to surrender his battered ship to the British, exclaiming, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Because the flag made famous by the Star-Spangled Banner was still  in private hands, the John Paul Jones flag was considered one of the nation’s most treasured artifacts. It was transported from event to event by  a Mrs. H.R.P. Stafford (right), and always drew a large and enthusiastic crowd. Special trains and steamers were scheduled to carry the many hundreds of people who wanted to travel from New York City and Northern New Jersey to attend the Liberty Pole dedication. At this point, McDowell had every reason to believe the Harrisons would attend. However, things didn’t quite work out as planned.

SELLING THE FLAG 

Unbeknownst to McDowell, he had an important partner in Boston. The publisher of The Youth’s Companion, Daniel Ford (right), shared his belief that America needed to rekindle its patriotic pride. As the owner of the largest-circulating weekly publication in the country, Ford had the ability to promote this idea to his 500,000-plus readers. Of course, Ford was also a businessman. His nephew, James Upham, was in charge of the magazine’s premium department. Upham launched a plan in the late 1880s to sell flags by convincing the Companion’s legion of young readers that no schoolroom should be without one. The plan met with moderate success, but had yet to realize its potential. Then Francis Bellamy joined the staff.

Bellamy was an unlikely candidate for everlasting fame. He was a Baptist minister in Boston who had recently been relieved of his duties for pushing the Christian Socialist message too hard in his Sunday sermons. Fortunately for Francis, one of his congregants was Daniel Ford. Ford wasn’t a fan of the minister’s politics, but he admired the 36-year-old’s way with words and offered him a job at the Companion.Like McDowell, Ford had some influence in the White House. He encouraged President Harrison to okay a plan to make Columbus Day in 1892 a national school celebration…and to anoint The Youth’s Companion as the creator and distributor of the official program. Once Ford received the go-ahead, he assigned Bellamy to work with William Torrey Harris, head of the National Education Association. Harris was an admirer of the Prussian education system and believed the primary role of schools was to turn children into obedient citizens. Together, they hammered out a carefully orchestrated one-hour ceremony. At the urging of Upham, the program included the raising of a flag. Upham hoped that any school that did not yet have one would order a flag from his department. Taking this idea a step further, Ford and Upham also instructed Bellamy to pen a 15-second oath of loyalty for the children to recite. The program—including Bellamy’s Pledge of Allegiance—was published in the September 8,1892 edition of the magazine. On October 21, 1892, thousands of schools celebrated Columbus Day. 

Since every school now had a flag, most continued to have their students recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day. It became so popular that a movement started to make it a national oath for all Americans, not just kids. This concept attracted broad support, and not just because it might awaken the nation’s patriotic spirit. Ellis Island had opened a year earlier to accommodate the ever-growing influx of immigrants. Unlike, earlier waves, this one included a high percentage of people from Southern and Eastern Europe, many of them Jews or Catholics—religions that were misunderstood in the 1890s. Some questioned whether these new Americans would be loyal to the United States. An oath of allegiance thus held great appeal. President Harrison, who was preparing to run for reelection, thought a national oath was a superb idea. 

The push for a national loyalty oath was not without its potential obstacles. Caroline Harrison, McDowell’s great friend, succumbed to tuberculosis that fall. Benjamin Harrison then failed in his bid to retain the presidency, losing to the man he had beaten four years earlier, Grover Cleveland. Fortunately, while Cleveland steered away from many of Harrison’s policies, he continued to support the idea of elevating the Pledge of Allegiance to national-oath status. The new president also gave his blessing to the great naval celebration in New York. Better still, Letitia Stephenson, the wife of the new vice-president (and grandmother of Adlai, the future UN ambassador) became the President General of the DAR.

With everything still on track for April, Ford, Upham and Bellamy—along with John Winfield Scott, who ran the Companion’s New York offices—began working with William McDowell to co-opt the Liberty Pole dedication on the 25th, including the reading of the Pledge of Allegiance during the flag raising ceremony. 

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY

On the morning of the 25th, a cold and drizzly Tuesday, hundreds of dignitaries disembarked from railroad cars and excursion steamers and made their way to the top of the Navesink Highlands for the Liberty Pole dedication. Thirty-five naval vessels cruised past the lighthouse, with the lead ship firing a salute. An artillery crew from the New Jersey National Guard returned an ear-splitting volley. Mrs. Stafford displayed her famous flag and Bellamy led members of the Lyceum League in their historic recitation of the Pledge. The crowd performed the “Bellamy salute” as first described in his Columbus Day program. (During World War II, the salute was deemed too close to the Nazi salute and was changed to the current hand-over-heart version). An enormous “peace flag” covered the front of the lighthouse. The day concluded with speechmaking and poetry readings. The event was covered on the front page of all the New York papers the next day, and in various magazines for weeks afterwards. By any measure, it was an unforgettable occasion. 

Except that, almost immediately, it was forgotten. 

So what happened? The weather was lousy, making photography a challenge. There are a handful of images from the day, but few convey the importance or scope of the occasion. Near the end of the program, a steady rain began, scattering the crowd. Letitia Stephenson, who suffered from crippling rheumatism, did not show. Then came the much sexier news stories. The following day, the same warships assembled in New York for a review by President Cleveland. Days of parties and parades pushed the Pledge event off the front page. Harper’s Weekly created a spectacular six-sheet foldout feature that showed all of the ships in the harbor. A few days later, the Chicago World’s Fair opened, seizing the national consciousness. 

More distractions followed, including a financial panic that spring. It was the worst in American history to that point, putting one in four Americans out of work. McDowell abandoned his Liberty Pole scheme and got back to business. Francis Bellamy continued to work at the Companion. And even though the Pledge of Allegiance would soon come to be regarded as America’s national oath of loyalty, no one could quite recall when and where its first recitation took place. As for the John Paul Jones flag, it was donated to the Smithsonian after the death of Mrs. Stafford. Curators there felt they did not have the necessary documentation to establish its authenticity. It was boxed up and never displayed in public. A few years later, the enormous Ft. McHenry flag made famous by the Star-Spangled Banner was donated to the Smithsonian, and the John Paul Jones flag was soon forgotten.

There is a small but dedicated cadre of history bugs who have managed to piece together the origins and early days of the Pledge of Allegiance. They were deeply disappointed in 2014 when New Jersey celebrated its 350th anniversary. Not a word about the Pledge or the Liberty Pole or the great naval procession could be found anywhere in the official literature or on the state web site. And if all those amazing things aren’t part of the state’s official history, well, who’s to say they even happened at all?

Winston Churchill famously observed that, “History is written by the victors.” There is a lot of truth to this thought. Unfortunately, it fails to answer a critical question about the history that isn’t written…namely, who decides what is worth throwing away? 

Editor’s Note: It turns out this is one piece of New Jersey worth saving. At the Garden State Film Festival in Atlantic City this spring, one of the nominees for Best Documentary is a 40-minute film narrated by Ed Asner entitled You Heard It Here First: The Pledge of Allegiance at the Twin Lights. 

 

Close Encounters of the Medieval Kind

Researching your ancestors?  Be careful…you just might find what you’re looking for.

By Mark Stewart

My college-age daughter’s curiosity got the better of her one day. She spit into a plastic tube and sent it off to Ancestry.com for genetic analysis. The results were almost exactly what we expected. No exotic forebears. No mystery genes. No colors of Benetton. For better or worse, she is pretty much what you would have called “American” more than a century ago.  

Perhaps hoping to find something more scandalous, my daughter invited my wife and I to take the spit test, too. Back in junior high, I daydreamed through Biology, but I paid enough attention in Math class to know that our genetic results would not be any more revealing than hers.

But we did the spit test, anyway. While waiting for the results, I took a closer look at the Ancestry.com web site. I was impressed by the number of family-research documents available, as well as the program’s ease of use, and the constantly churning algorithms that relentlessly pump out little green leaves, which hold potential clues to the next generation and the next and the next and the next. We decided to take the plunge and attempt to separate family fact from family fiction.

Upper Case Editorial

In both of our cases, a certain amount of family lore has been passed down to us through a combination of old-school genealogical record-keeping and oral tradition. For instance, we knew that a branch of my wife’s family came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600s. One unlucky member of that clan failed to convince a jury that he was not a witch. (His genetic line ended on another kind of branch, at the end of a rope.) As a boy, I was informed that one of my 17th century Massachusetts relatives was accused of being a witch, too. He must have had the same lawyer, because he was squashed under a large rock. Did one of my un-squashed ancestors know one of my wife’s un-hung ones? They seemed to be moving in the same circles, and almost certainly interacted at some point, perhaps even at one of these executions. As they used to say in Old Salem, nothing beats a good tree-hangin’ like a good rock-squashin’.

My parents gave me two interesting lines to follow. My mother was Jewish and my father was Unitarian. Unitarians are like honorary Jews in that they are constantly debating the fine points of their religion and are (at least in my experience) prone to unfathomable interior decorating choices. The Jewish half of my family came to America from Russia and Germany in the 1870s and 1880s. They got into finance, journalism and shirt-making. For the better part of a century, each branch aggressively pitched their profession to the young up-and-comers in the family—sort of like a reverse Shark Tank—hoping you would choose a fulfilling career at the bank, at the newspaper or in the sweatshop. I actually picked the bank first. The fact that I edit this magazine tells you what kind of a banker they thought I would make. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I guess I was foreclosed on. I was able to trace my mother’s people four generations to eastern Russia, where any further evidence of their lineage abruptly ended.

One of my father’s ancestors, however, left us a genealogical treasure trove. Starting sometime back in the 1800s, a maiden aunt began her own primitive version of Ancestry.com, writing to various family members and church parishes to compile information on her particular branch of the family. When she passed away in the 1930s, she dumped a trunk full of these documents on a bachelor uncle, who proceeded to write a family history, which he printed up and distributed to his siblings, cousins and nephews. Uncle Alex’s work focused on his own specific branch of the family, which was fortunate because, as we would discover, this was by far the coolest group. He also constructed a tree that traced several family lines back to England and Scotland, by way of Massachusetts. 

CONVERGENCE

Given that England-to-Massachusetts also was the historical migration route of my wife’s family, we embarked on our genealogical journey suspecting—no, hoping really—that our family lines would cross in some long-ago time and place. The farther back in time the better, of course. I mean, we’re not hillbillies, right? Anyway, as we each worked backwards into the 1500s and 1400s and 1300s, it felt a lot like one of those old SAT word problems where two cars are driving towards each other and you have to figure where they meet. 

One of the first to-do items on my wife’s bucket list was to nail down the particulars on four famous relatives: Morgan the Pirate, George Washington and Ralph Waldo Emerson. My daughter’s middle name is Morgan, in honor of Henry Morgan, a ruthless 16th century English privateer whose image now graces millions of bottles of mid-price spiced rum. Do we pull down any royalties from this family association? No. Which is probably why we are Scotch drinkers. The GW connection is through the Martha Custis family. George was Martha’s second husband, so the line theoretically branches off at that point. Our first president was sterile, having survived small pox as a young man, so he and the first First Lady never produced any offspring. Interestingly, my in-laws actually own a letter penned by Washington along with a lock of his hair. Receiving a lock of hair was like getting a signed, game-used baseball uniform back in the old days, so it’s pretty special.  I recently met an antique collector who owns a beautifully preserved lock of Martha Washington’s hair. This sent me straight to the Internet to see where we are on this whole cloning thing. Apparently we’re not there yet, but check in with me 20 years down the road if you want a kid who’s handy with an axe, mostly tells the truth, and who can use a dollar bill as ID at the airport.

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Unfortunately, our initial foray into the Ancestry.com process didn’t shed light either way on these two connections. As for the Waldos, however, my wife hit the jackpot. The poet Emerson (right), it turns out, was indeed a cousin. His line branched off several generations ago, but the Waldo men who preceded him—Jonathan, Zacheriah, Daniel, Cornelius, Thomas, and Pieter—stretched all the way back to the 1500s. Jonathan had the good sense to marry a woman named Abigail Whittemore in 1757. Her mother, also Abigail, had a great-great-great grandmother named Jane Payne, who was born in Kent, England more than 200 years earlier. In terms of record-keeping, the Payne family was what every genealogist hopes to find. The underlying truth of genealogy is that, if one goes back far enough, one is almost guaranteed to find a prominent ancestor— someone clever, rich and fertile enough to dodge the kind of awful Upper Case Editorial fate that extinguishes a family line. The very fact that you exist and are reading this article means that none of your ancestors died a childless, anonymous death. You are almost certainly descended from a person of means and influence…a duke, a lord, a princess, a baroness, or even a king and queen; the trick is finding the paper trail to prove it. In our case, it was the Paynes. The royal Paynes. 

We picked through the birth and death information of the Payne family until we arrived at Sir Thomas IV. He lived and died between 1245 and 1288 in Bosworth, an important medieval market town in Leicestershire, a county in the Midlands region of England. Thomas’s wife was Mary Avis, three years his junior. They were my wife’s 21st great-grandfather and –grandmother. By 13th century standards, they were unquestionably people of considerable wealth and power, as were their progeny across many centuries. As we were marveling at the persistence of the Payne line, I recalled stumbling across a Phoebe Payne in my own family tree. Phoebe, my ninth great-grandmother, was born in Suffolk England in 1594, married a man named John Page when she was 27, and set sail to America a few years later. She lived to the age of 83, spending her final days in Watertown, Massachusetts. Could this be the same Payne family?

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Lo and behold, I worked it out that Phoebe’s third great-grandfather, Thomas Paine, was a knight who lived in Market Bosworth in the 1400s. Going back a bit further, the family was apparently using the y form of Payne and Bingo! I landed on the aforementioned Thomas and Mary Payne. It took more than 20 generations, but the family that Tom and Mary launched into the world unwittingly curved back on itself when my wife and I tied the knot in 1987. Note to self: see if anyone owns the url www.lncestry.com.

Now joined in our ancestor search, my wife and I pushed back in time to see where the Payne family line led us. The root of the very English-sounding Paine and Payne, we learned, was actually French: Payns, the name of a small town about 100 miles southeast of Paris, which was called Payen in the Middle Ages. To an old European History major, that town rang a bell. Sure enough, our superstar common ancestor was Hughes de Payen (left), the co-founder and first Grand Master of the Knights Templar. 

GAME OF THRONES

Well, you can’t do much better than Hughes de Payen, but we tried. Another branch of my family led to the Frankish king Hugh Capet, who was descended from Charlemagne. That sounds impressive until you do the math and realize that there are probably millions of people walking the planet who are descended from Charlemagne. Including every French person I have ever met. Yet another led to Berengar II, King of Italy from 950 to 961. His reign got off to a decent start but quickly went downhill after he got the bright idea to attack the Papal States. This did not sit well with Otto of Germany, the Holy Roman Emperor, who scooped up Berengar and his wife and threw them in jail, where they died four years later. I dropped the “Italian King” thing on the owner of our local pizza joint. I figured it might be good for a free topping or soda refill. No such luck

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My family’s French connection had a better payoff. They apparently did quite well during what we call the Dark Ages, occupying important regional positions and holding enough land and money to finance small personal armies (a key to survival during those violent times). How this happened became clear when I began encountering titles like Senator and Prefect in front of their names. They were descended from politicians who held power in the province of Gaul during the death throes of the Roman Empire. Tracing the family back further, I discovered three actual emperors in my line- Activus, Gordian III and Gordian I—none of whom was particularly memorable. “GIII” as we now call Gordian III (above), was notable for his age. He was just 13 when he assumed full legal control of the empire in 239 AD. Since most 13-year-olds think they’re smarter than everyone else, I’m sure he did a fine job. GIII was married at 16 and at age 18 led his army to victory over the Persians in Mesopotamia at the Battle of Resaena. Alas, like most teenagers, he became convinced of his own invincibility and was defeated a year later when he pushed his luck by trying to grab more territory. The Romans lost the Battle of Misiche and young Gordian was either killed in the fight or murdered by his own officers

My wife had some interesting characters populating the non-French branches of her tree. Harald Bluetooth, King of Denmark and (briefly) Norway, was supposedly the first Scandinavian ruler to convert to Christianity. An earlier Norse ancestor, the famed Ragnar Lodbrok, is the inspiration for the popular cable series Vikings. We actually stumbled upon this genetic link shortly after watching the latest episode of the series, which stars Travis Fimmel, the Australian fashion model turned actor. According to legend, Ragnar was the warrior who led the Vikings into England and Europe, and possibly into the Mediterranean. Spoiler alert for series fans: The real Ragnar died in a pit of serpents. Yikes!

UHTRED VS. MALCOLM

In all of our genealogical research, the moment that generated by far the most excitement was the discovery that our families had first intersected 1,010 years ago. One of my more intriguing ancestors—and certainly the one with the best name—was Malcolm the Destroyer, King of Scotland. After assuming the throne in 1006, he launched a crech rig (translation: royal prey) on his Northumbrian neighbors. It was Scottish tradition at the time for newly crowned monarchs to attack their nearest weak neighbor. Malcolm picked on the newly founded city of Durham, which appeared to be defenseless. King Ethelred’s English army was occupied to the south fending off Danish raids. In his absence, my wife’s ancestor, a Northumbrian teenager named Uhtred, raised a ragtag force of fighting men from his neighbors in Bernicia and York and stunned the Scots on the battlefield—driving Malcolm back home with heavy losses. From that day forward, he was known as Uhtred the Bold. Uhtred’s reward for service to the king was the hand in marriage of his daughter, the radiant Princess Aelgifu. 

The echoes of Uhtred’s achievement still resonate in the Stewart home. And by “echoes” I mean that my wife and daughters now remind me of this battlefield humiliation at the slightest of transgressions. Did you feed the cats, Malcolm? Did you pay the cable bill, Malcolm? Are those your socks on the floor, Malcolm? Who left the seat up, Malcolm? 

After a thousand-plus years, you’d think maybe they could let it go. But if I’ve learned anything during this journey it is that, deep down, each of us is a product of our ancestors—good, bad and otherwise. 

Somewhere up there, Uhtred the Bold is smiling. And Aelgifu is asking who left the seat up. 

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KNIGHT MOVES

Thanks primarily to the History Channel, the Knights Templar have become a hot topic in recent years. They were a sophisticated and wealthy religious military order that flourished during the Crusades. They built forts across Europe and the Holy Land, earning a reputation as a formidable fighting force and also establishing one of Europe’s earliest banking systems. After Jerusalem was lost, the Templars fell out of favor with the Catholic Church. Philip IV King of France, deeply in debt to the Templars, used this as an excuse to erase his debt by hunting the knights down and executing them as heretics. Through torture, he hoped to discover where their fortune was housed, but none of the Templars talked. Treasure hunters are still trying to find it today. Some believe it includes the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper, i.e. the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend. By the way, Philip launched his attack on the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307—which some believe is the reason Friday the 13th is considered “unlucky.”

Editor’s Note: One of our more entertaining Ancestry.com finds was that my wife is descended from Penelope Stout, who was famously tomahawked by natives and left for dead after her ship ran aground at Sandy Hook in 1643. She survived the ordeal, had 10 children, and one of her descendants, Betsy Stout, married the author of the golf story on page 59. Betsy’s mother sold us our house. Small world. 

 

State of Play

John Nash, Ralph Kramden and Game Theory in New Jersey

By Luke Sacher

Sorry, Harvard and Yale. When it comes to Game Theory, you’re just safety schools. The Einsteins at Princeton basically wrote the book used by everyone from economists and multinational corporations to defense strategists and Survivor contestants. Which, for all practical purposes, makes New Jersey the birthplace of Game Theory. Most of us were introduced to the idea of Game Theory in the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe as Princeton professor John Nash. Some may remember the Matthew Broderick vehicle, War Games (“Shall we play a game?”), which introduced the concept to moviegoers as far back as 1983.   

Courtesy of the World Economic Forum

Whether you realize it or not, if you happen to be the parent of a college-bound teenager, Game Theory is coming into play again, this time in a much more personal way. Both the application process and admissions process involve the fundamentals of high-stakes probability that were originally hammered out by three Princetonians: John Von Neumann, Oskar Morganstern and Nash (above)—right here in the Garden State. More on these three on page 78. 

In a twist that this trio would no doubt appreciate, many colleges now invite young applicants to expound on Game Theory in their essay options. So let’s just say that it’s good to know what you’re getting into. 

Game Theory is the application of mathematical probability and symbolic logic to the understanding of rational human behavior in interactive situations between two or more “players.” It takes how we expect individuals to behave, or to make decisions, and then adds the element of interaction with others who are also seeking to maximize their benefits by acting rationally. In other words, Game Theory is no game at all. Rather, it is a tool for analyzing situations where each player is exercising “strategic interdependence”—calculating actions and outcomes based on the decisions of others in the game.

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THE ADVERTISER’S DILEMMA

In its most basic form, Game Theory helps to understand situations that are familiar to all of us. Take the “Advertiser’s Dilemma.” Two companies producing a similar product (let’s say Hershey and Nestlé and chocolate bars) are in competition with each other for customers. The maximum payoff for both companies happens if both do not advertise, since they are saving the expense of advertising. The minimum payoff for each company happens if it chooses not to advertise and the rival company does—thus cratering its market share. So both companies decide to advertise, dividing market share more or less evenly while squeezing out a small profit. 

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Even if Hershey and Nestlé were to hammer out a gentleman’s agreement not to advertise, the two companies would likely operate in a state of sustained paranoia that the other might betray them and advertise (which is no way to run a business). The lesson Game Theory teaches us in this case is that expending resources and not getting much in return is preferable to not expending resources and risking getting even less. It’s akin to the spiraling logic employed by Ralph Kramden when he launches into one of his “You know that I know that you know that I know…” soliloquies in a Honeymooners rerun. 

The difference between Ralph Kramden and John Nash (who, ironically, were contemporaries) is that Nash was able to express this idea mathematically and arrive at an elegant, logical conclusion—for which he eventually won a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, in 1994. The Nash Equilibrium, his solution concept for non-cooperative competition, is now employed in one way or another in almost every aspect of global business. 

GAMING THE SYSTEM

Although all roads leading to college run through Princeton (where SATs, ACTs, Achievement and Advanced Placement exams are scored by the College Entrance Examinations Board), only 6 percent of the 30,000 or so kids applying to New Jersey’s top school will get in. That leaves a lot of smart kids looking elsewhere, and this is where a firm grasp of Game Theory can be helpful. 

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If your kids can write with imagination and authority on the topic of Game Theory in a college essay, more power to them. Not only have they managed to stand out in a crowded field, they have made the job of the admissions officers reading that essay easier. Which increases their chances of landing on the acceptance pile. If that sounds

like an example of Game Theory within Game Theory, then you’re getting it! The fact is that—because of the sheer volume of applications they now receive—college admissions departments are applying Game Theory to their acceptance strategies. 

Let’s say that a school has 10,000 qualified applicants for 1,000 openings in the incoming freshman class. How many should it accept, given that an unknown percentage will inevitably decide to attend another college to which they have also been accepted? If the college accepts 3,000 and half show up for orientation, the extra 500 kids will overwhelm the school. But what if, of those 3,000, only 10 percent decide to attend? With 300 incoming freshmen instead of 1,000, a financial crisis would almost certainly ensue. 

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In this game, one of the players is the college and the other is the student. Both are attempting to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty and incomplete or “hidden” information. It’s been described as a chess match, but it’s not. Poker is the game here. And in poker, you don’t always need the better hand to win—you can also win by maneuvering your opponent into a bad decision. 

The college is trying to reduce uncertainty and achieve its goals by convincing the most qualified applicants to show up on their campus instead of someone else’s, even if that other school might represent a better choice. The win here for the school is filling the 1,000 spots with the most talented group of freshmen possible. The student, of course, is trying to wangle as many acceptance letters as he or she can, in order to go to the best possible college. The win for the teenager is gaining acceptance to that coveted “reach” school, ideally under the best financial circumstances. Keep in mind, for every kid that gets into a reach school, there is probably a more qualified student who is rejected, often because the admissions department “knows” the better student is headed elsewhere anyway. Which is why no reach school is ever a slam-dunk rejection. 

One aspect of Game Theory that has come into play in a big way on the admissions side is the extensive wait listing of qualified applicants. This strategy gives schools more time to understand and evaluate the pool of prospective freshmen, and to create more certainty in achieving bottom-line goals. Of course, our kids are bright enough to know the correct response: Apply to 30 schools!

It’s a solution both Kramden and Nash, in their own utterly unique and ingenious ways, would probably appreciate. 

OUTSTANDING

Who has the power in the college entrance process? The more skilled player. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal offered some thoughts on gaming the admissions system:

  • Play the Oboe or the Harp, and play it well. The old ideal of the All-American athlete/Latin scholar/musical-comedy star is long gone. Schools today want to see a lot of talent in a specific field, though exactly what they’re looking for varies. Colleges are looking more for a well-rounded class than well-rounded freshmen.
  • Spend a summer at the school of your choice. A growing number of schools, like Brandeis and Harvard, are trying to get to know potential applicants by offering summer programs. Some let high school kids take college courses and earn college credit.
  • Move to Idaho. Seriously. Colleges and universities want geographic diversity.
  • Get a life. A survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that extra-curriculars now rank ninth in importance. Grades in college prep courses were #1. Colleges like to see students who take time to develop into more complete human beings, including those who take a gap year after high school to explore the world.

 

GAME ON

There are four core elements of all games:

1) Players (sometimes called agents)

2) Information available to each player, whether complete or incomplete, symmetric (common to all players) or asymmetric (unique to individual players)

3) Actions available to each player at each “move,” whether simultaneous or sequential, made by the players based on their information

4) Payoffs (positive or negative) available to each player for each outcome of their actions

A game theorist typically uses these elements, along with a solution concept of their choosing (such as the Nash Equilibrium), to deduce a set of equilibrium strategies for each player. These equilibrium strategies help determine a stable state in which either one outcome occurs or a set of outcomes occur with known probability. If these strategies have been correctly calculated, no player can profit by unilaterally deviating from his or her strategy. However, where Game Theory falls apart is when one or more players acts irrationally. In poker, it’s not the end of the world. 

In thermonuclear warfare, it is.

NEW JERSEY’S “BIG THREE”

Courtesy of the Mises Institute

Oskar Morgenstern

(1902-1977)

Morgenstern grew up in Vienna, Austria and graduated from the University of Vienna in 1925. After earning his doctorate in political science, he succeeded Nobel laureate economist Friedrich Von Hayek as director Courtesy of the Mises Instituteof the Vienna Institute for Business Cycle Research, and held the position until the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938. Fortunately, he was visiting Princeton University at that precise moment, where he met and befriended John Von Neumann. The two began a six-year collaboration at Princeton that would result in the publication of The Theory of Games and Economic Behaviorin 1944, which is universally recognized as the first book on Game Theory.

John Von Neumann 

(1903-1957)

Von Neumann (below left, with physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer) was born on December 28, 1903, in Budapest, Hungary. By the age of 8, he was familiar with differential and integral calculus, and published his first paper at the age of 18. He earned his first degree at the University of Budapest in 1925, in Chemical Engineering, 

books while operating his vehicle, occasioning numerous arrests, as well as accidents. Von Neumann was not only one of the fathers of Game Theory, he also worked on the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics, made invaluable contributions to the Manhattan Project, and was involved in the development of the first programmable digital computers.

John Forbes Nash, Jr. 

(1928-2015)

Nash was born June 13, 1928 in Bluefield, West Virginia, where he demonstrated his exceptional talent for mathematics as early as age 10. He was accepted to Carnegie Tech on a full Westinghouse scholarship and graduated at age 19 with a Master’s Degree in Mathematics. Nash then won a graduate studies scholarship from Princeton University in 1948. From the early 1950s to the mid-1980s, Nash suffered tortuously from extreme bouts of psychosis, and was often hospitalized and institutionalized. Forty-four years after completing his revolutionary 27-page doctoral dissertation at Princeton, he shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with game theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi. His theories and algorithms continue to be used today in the fields of economics, computing, politics, accounting, military strategy, and even evolutionary biology. On May 23, 2015, Nash and his wife Alicia were killed in an accident while riding in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike.

 

Editor’s Note: Luke Sacher has written for EDGE on the greatest disaster films and Baby Boomers’ beloved dangerous toys. He spent countless hours researching this story, watching online lectures by distinguished professors and reading several graduate theses.

Luke believes that Nash’s contributions to Game Theory offer keen insights on human behavior, however he says that basing the world economy on the ideas of a paranoid schizophrenic worries him sometimes.  

 

No Longer a Game

Will your kid’s summer on the sofa translate into a six-figure salary…or college scholarship?

By Mark Stewart

That’s it…no more video games! What parent of slothful teenagers hasn’t issued this threat? And yet, here we are, at the dawn of a new era, when low-energy “gamers” are increasingly on the radar of higher education. More and more colleges are assembling “eSports” teams to carry their school colors into virtual battle, in hopes of securing much-coveted championship banners—which they aim to fly side-by-side with those won by traditional sports teams. A handful of schools are even offering scholarships. 

Has the world gone completely mad? Have you just discovered a way to cover college tuition?

Maybe. And, again, maybe.

www.istockphoto.com

It doesn’t take much of a business mind to grasp what a huge industry video gaming has become. Rare is the young man who hasn’t gone down the rabbit hole playing some online battle game only to emerge, unshowered, hours or days later with a temporary case  of PTSD. Multiply that by, oh, half a billion connected adolescents and 20-somethings worldwide, and you get a sense of how big the market and its potential is. The actual numbers are a bit foggy, but most experts agree that somewhere between 600 and 700 million people participate in online games, which equates roughly to 40 percent of the planet’s digitally connected population. More than 200 million people actually sit in front of their computers and watch others play these battle games, like an NFL fan watches the Jets or Giants. One wonders how anything in the non-online world gets done, or how dating is even possible. 

On college campuses across North America, eSports teams have been representing their schools unofficially for years. There are several leagues that hold competitions and tournaments for players from more than 350 colleges and universities. Most are the digital equivalent of “club” teams—sanctioned and supported, but not part of an official athletic program. Young men and women (but mostly men) who were slumped in dorm rooms gaming with their buddies, got good enough to compete online against their peers at other schools, and the video game industry was all too happy to create an infrastructure for them to do so.

The school that changed the game was Robert Morris University, in Chicago. In 2014, RMU officially added eSports to its athletic program. It began recruiting the country’s best League of Legends players with the lure of partial scholarships. The move paid immediate dividends: Robert Morris was featured on a 60 Minutes segment, bringing the university unprecedented recognition. Several small schools followed suit and, in 2016, UC Irvine became the first large Division I school to offer eSports scholarships. Irvine, a PAC-12 university, has gone all-in, doling out enough scholarships to build two 5-player League of Legends teams. And this fall, top gamers (both scholarship and non-scholarship) will be able to compete in a new 3,500 sq. ft. facility with 80 computer terminals.  

Tom Parham, Irvine’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, says that the school’s eSports program will be built on competition, academics, entertainment and community. “We hope to attract the best gamers from around the world,” he says, adding that, “our academic programs in computer-gaming science, digital arts, computer science, engineering, anthropology, law, medicine, neuroscience and behavior create a strong foundation for research and inquiry related to gaming.”

If history tells us anything, it’s that where one PAC-12 Conference school goes for glory, the others soon follow. By the end of 2017, the conference almost certainly will have absorbed eSports teams and tournaments into its existing athletic structure, meaning that scholarships from other PAC-12 schools won’t be far behind. Those schools, by the way, include Stanford, USC, UCLA and UC Berkeley. That means you may soon be screaming at your kid to stay on the couch and keep playing—otherwise he or she won’t get into Stanford. So yes, the world has gone a little mad.

Then again, don’t get your hopes up. Your child may be a video game prodigy, but the moment top colleges begin offering full scholarships, the competition is going to get nasty. Right now, the world’s best gamers don’t even bother going to college. They are plucked out of their parents’ basements by heavily sponsored eSports teams to compete in international tournaments as professional gamers. They earn salaries and endorsement dollars that can easily get into six figures. Their team owner houses, clothes and feeds them and hires coaches and trainers to keep on top of them, and to keep them on top of their games. Typically, team members live together under one roof and practice as a team 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week. This is called the “gaming house” model. On some teams, players live separately but meet in a common location for practice. This is called the “office” model. 

Either way, when they enter a tournament, they function like a well-oiled machine. By the time every dollar is accounted for, a sponsor’s investment (sponsors include major brands such as Monster, Hyundai and Geico, as well as various computer companies and even some venture capital groups) can top a million dollars annually. 

Morgan Spurlock, who nearly killed himself eating three meals a day at McDonald’s for the film Super Size Me, immersed himself in the eSports world for a recent episode of Inside Man on CNN. He spent time with LA-based Counter Logic Gaming (aka CLG), the 2015 North American champions, playing and training with the likes of Yiliang Peter Peng (right), a 23-year-old born-and-bred Californian who goes by the handle “Doublelift” in the eSports world; CLG’s general manager, Matthew “MaTTcom” Marikian describes him as the LeBron of gaming. Spurlock wasn’t shocked by the level of skill demonstrated by the CLG players. However, he was surprised by the contributions of the grown-ups in the room.

Courtesy of Counter Logic Gaming

“It’s incredible to see the amount of coaching Courtesy of Counter Logic Gaming that goes into being an eSports athlete,” he said during his report. “It’s just like being any other type of athlete.”

Tadayoshi “Hermit” Littleton confirms the huge role management plays in the formation of a world-class team. An avid player in college during the pre-scholarship days, he became the coach for NRG eSports in 2016 after guiding Spanish-based Origen to an impressive string of first- and second-place finishes in European League of Legends competition. NRG is the third pro team Littleton has assembled.

Courtesy of Origen

“There are two types of players we look for,” Littleton (left) explains. “One can do everything at the highest level. Their talent is really obvious. We also look for players who are very team-oriented. They can be harder to identify from their solo scores, but with my experience I am able to spot them.”

Littleton says communication is the most critical component in building a team, and considers this his specialty as a coach. Getting the players to mesh as he likes can take about a month, but sometimes the best individual players find it difficult to play a true team game, which can slow down the process.

“It depends on how much of a knowledge sponge they are,” he says.

Before college scholarships changed the game, so to speak, many eSports player turned pro, pocketed enough cash to pay for college and then went back to school—much to the relief of their parents. Top-tier gamers tend to be pretty intelligent, so for most of their lives, higher education was a foregone conclusion. Imagine the parent whose son or daughter announces that college is off the board, and that they plan to become professional game-players. Doublelift’s parents didn’t speak to him for three years, even though he may have made close to a million dollars during that time.

So what does this all mean? Probably that your parenting skills need to keep up with your child’s eSports skills. The better they are at playing their games, the more prepared you may need to be to help them make the right decision—now and come college time.  

LoL

League of Legends—LoL or just plain League, for short—is the multiplayer online battle game favored by a high percentage of eSports teams. Each player controls a character called a champion, who has unique abilities that hopefully mesh with those of other champions on the same team. The goal is to destroy an opponent’s fiercely defended Nexus (think Capture the Flag), with each champion gaining strength he-she-it fights his-her-its way through the game. A five-player LoL team can be five friends or classmates in the same room, or complete strangers at consoles thousands of miles apart. About 30 million people play League of Legends. A day.

 

Strength In Number

We’re number one! We’re number one!

By Diane Alter

I grew up in New Jersey, mere steps from the Jersey Shore. My birth certificate (wherever it is, it was a long time ago) is proof. An avid runner, cyclist, and lover of all things outdoors, I have explored much of the Garden State on foot, or on family road trips that were more exhausting that any trek I ever tackled. Needless to say, I’ve learned a couple of things during that time. 

First, New Jersey is more than the sum of its beautiful beaches, sylvan suburbs, picturesque farms, busy roads, fantastic foods, powerful politics, and original culture. 

Second, to truly appreciate the collective character of the state, you have to understand the curious pride we New

Jerseyans take in our accomplishments. Read on and I think you’ll see what I mean. The force of one is definitely strong with us.

New Jersey has more engineers and scientists per square mile than anywhere else in the world. 

The state’s biopharmaceutical industry is its largest. The sector encompasses pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical device manufacturing. Also, if you consider pharmaceuticals to be chemicals, that makes us the largest chemical-producing state in the nation. 

Upper Case Editorial Services

New Jersey has more diners than any state in the country. 

The Garden State boasts more than 500. The oldest still in operation is the Summit Diner. If you haven’t wolfed down Taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a hard roll, some would say you haven’t really lived. If you consume these sandwiches regularly, some would say you don’t have long to live.  

Courtesy of akaBuddy

New Jersey is home to the most haunted house in America.

The Seabrook-Wilson House (left) in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown has earned that distinction, according to Weird NJ, thanks to the ghostly apparitions that are frequently reported in and around the house. Built around 1650 and referred to locally as the Spy House, it was originally a tavern where British troops got liquored up enough to spill military secrets. 

The world’s largest indoor farm is located in New Jersey. 

And you’ll never guess where: Newark. AeroFarms took over an old industrial site and transformed it into a 69,000-square foot vertical farm. By employing LED lighting and nutrient-rich “aeroponic” mist, it is capable of producing 2 million pounds of herbs and vegetables. 

New Jersey is the fluorescent mineral capital of the world. 

More specifically, the neighboring towns of Franklin and Ogdenburg in the northwest corner of the state. At least 56 minerals found in the mines glow brightly under a blacklight, many of which exist nowhere else on the planet. 

The world’s champion gum-chewer calls New Jersey home.

In 2014, Michael Amato blew 15 bubbles in 60 seconds to set a Guinness-certified world record. Another recent Guinness record-setter was Manny Yarborough of Rahway, an American sumo wrestler. At 6’8” and 704 pounds, he was the world’s largest athlete. Manny passed away last December of a heart attack.

Upper Case Editorial Services

The world’s longest boardwalk is in New Jersey. 

That would be Atlantic City, of course, at 4.5 miles. It’s also the oldest, having opened in 1870. In 2013, Seaside Heights set a record for the longest ribbon-cutting in history when it finished rebuilding after SuperStorm Sandy. The ribbon measured 5.1 miles. 

The first professional basketball game was played in New Jersey. 

In 1896, Trenton’s Masonic Temple hosted a meeting between teams from the Trenton YMCA and Brooklyn YMCA. The players all got a cut of the gate. New Jersey also hosted the first official football game, between Rutgers and Princeton, in 1869. The first “official” baseball game was supposedly played in Hoboken in 1846, but newspaper accounts of games dating back to the 1830s have since come to light.

Scott Kelly

Mark Kelly

New Jersey has put the most identical twins in space.

One set is enough for the record here. Mark and Scott Kelly grew up in West Orange. Mark, who is married to Gabby Giffords, is six minutes older. New Jersey also put a man on the moon (Buzz Aldrin, Oradell) and produced the first American woman to walk in space (Kathyrn Sullivan, Paterson).

Courtesy of Dusso Janladde

New Jersey has the world’s tallest roller coaster. 

Great Adventure’s Kingda Ka stands 456 feet tall. The ride is basically a dead drop, and is less than 30 seconds long. At a top speed of 128 mph, it’s the second-fastest on the planet. New Jersey can also claim the most insane amusement park ever: Action Park. That was actually the name of a 2013 documentary, which featured the unforgettable Cannonball Loop. If you rode it, you know what I’m talking about. 

Just A Moment…

New Jersey may be greater  than the sum of its parts,  but some of its parts are pretty darn good.

By Mark Stewart

Life, Hindu spiritual master Amit Ray once observed, is a collection of moments. I maintain that the same could be said for our state. In fact, I can’t think of a more effective way to capture its complex personality than through the unique touchstone moments, both big and small, that collectively define who and what we are as New Jerseyans. We’re not talking about best or worst moments, or even greatest hits; those are way too hard to define. Rather, think of these moments as daubs of pigment on the palette of a painter in the midst of a great (yet unfinished) work of art…   

Library of Congress

A EUREKA MOMENT

1877 • Mary Had a Little Lamb

When Thomas Edison uttered the words Mary had a little lamb… into his “talking machine” in 1877, it marked the first time sound produced by humans was recorded and played back. No one in his West Orange lab—Edison included— held much hope that their first prototype would work. When it reproduced his words perfectly, Edison later recalled, “I was never so taken aback in my life. Everybody was astonished. I was always afraid of things that worked the first time. Long experience proved that there were great drawbacks found generally before they could be got commercial…but here was something there was no doubt of.”

A(NOTHER) EUREKA MOMENT

The light bulb. Edison did not invent it, but his team made it cheaper and more reliable. Over a dozen versions of the bulb were in production when Edison threw his hat into the ring. The combination of a vacuum tube and the right filament produced the first commercially viable bulb.

Upper Case Editorial Services

A SWEET MOMENT

1883 • Taste of the Town

A summer storm in 1883 overwhelmed the resort town of Atlantic City, adulterating the water supply with ocean water. AC and its famous boardwalk drew more than a half-million tourists a year at the time, many of whom treated themselves to taffy. That summer, however, there was something wonderfully different about it: the unmistakable taste of salt. New Jersey’s iconic candy was born. In 1923, a storeowner trademarked the name “salt water taffy” and promptly sued the boardwalk’s other sellers. He lost the case in 1925, with the court deciding that the name had already been in common use for four decades. The taffy sold today contains salt and water, but no seawater. 

NJSports.com

A WINTER MOMENT

1889 • Flexible Flyer

Sledding for most of the 19th century was fun but dangerous. State-of-the-art was the toboggan, which could not maneuver around trees, people or any other kind of obstacle. Samuel Leeds Allen, a manufacturer of farm equipment, came up with a less concussive option: a steerable sled that went on the market in 1889 and was an instant hit. He knew for a fact his product was safe—he had used the men, women and children of his native Cinnaminson as crash-test dummies in order to perfect it. 

Library of Congress

A FEMINIST MOMENT

1919 • Alice Paul 

Protests, civil disobedience, hunger strikes—Mount Laurel native Alice Paul used every trick in the suffragette playbook to force President Woodrow Wilson into supporting the 19th Amendment. She was a thorn in Wilson’s side from Day One, organizing an 8,000-woman suffrage parade in Washington the day before his inauguration, which devolved into a near-riot. With America’s entry into World War I, Paul knew she had the president where she wanted him: How could Wilson ask Americans to lay down their lives to “free” countries where women had the vote…and not give the vote to their mothers, sisters and daughters?

NJSports.com

AN AQUATIC MOMENT

1925 • Strokes of Genius

The 1920s are considered the Golden Age of Sports thanks to iconic athletes like Babe Ruth, Red Grange and Jack Dempsey. Every sport, it seemed, had its superstar and swimming was no exception. In 1925, 19-year-old Gertrude Ederle was among the dozens of men and women who took off from the tip of Manhattan on a 21-mile swim to Sandy Hook. She completed the journey in the astonishing time of 7 hours, 11 minutes—a record time that would stand for more than 80 summers. So powerful were Ederle’s strokes that she decided her next swim would be across the English Channel. The following year she became the first woman to make the rossing, once again in record time. “Gertie” had developed her remarkable strokes anstamina as a girl in her summer home of Highlands. Her parents tied a rope around her and set her loose in the powerful tidal currents of the Navesink River. 

Triangle Publications

A COMEDY MOMENT

1946 • Martin & Lewis

In the summer of 1946, a run-of-the-mill crooner and manic lip-sync comic took the stage at Atlantic City’s 500 Club as the unlikeliest of pairings: Martin & Lewis. For the next decade, no show business act surpassed their fame, popularity or earning power. Their madcap, improvisational performances transformed live comedy. The original act featured the 29-year-old 

Martin attempting to sing while the 20-year-old Lewis—dressed as a busboy—dropped dishes and created general chaos and mayhem. Audiences literally laughed until they cried. Hollywood soon came calling and the duo made 17 pictures between 1949 and 1956, when they parted ways.

National Archives of Quebec

A SPORTS MOMENT

1946 • Jackie Breaks the Color Line

Even the most ardent New Jersey sports fans are unaware that Jackie Robinson’s official debut in organized baseball came not in Brooklyn with the Dodgers in 1947, but in Jersey City as a member of the Montreal Royals one year earlier. The Royals were the Dodgers’ top farm team and they played the Jersey City Giants at Roosevelt Stadium on April 18 to open the 1946 season.  Robinson (whose middle name, coincidentally, was Roosevelt) gave a crystal-clear glimpse of the great things to come when he collected four hits and scored four runs in five trips to the plate, including a three-run home run. 

Courtesy of NASA

A SCIENCE MOMENT

1964 • Not Bird Poop

In 1964, a pair of Bell Labs radio astronomers in Holmdel—Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson—inadvertently discovered a “snapshot” of the early universe when they found cosmic microwave background radiation wherever they pointed their receiver. Initially, they believed this anomaly was caused by something “terrestrial,” perhaps pigeon or bat droppings on the huge antenna. When the results were the same after a big clean-out, they realized they were on to something: evidence that the “Big Bang” theory of the universe’s origin was correct.

TIME, Inc.

A DIPLOMATIC MOMENT

1967 • Glasnost at Glassboro

The Cold War took an important turn for the better on the campus of Glassboro State College—now Rowan University— when President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin met for three days at Hollybush, the historic home of the college president. Aides to both world leaders expressed grave doubts about the outcome of the summit, which was held in southern New Jersey as a compromise between New York and Washington (where the threat of protesters was problematic). The two sides had not held formal talks since 1963. In the interim, Vietnam, the space race, the build-up of nuclear arsenals and the development of anti-ballistic missile systems had ratcheted up tension to its most dangerous level since the Cuban naval blockade. The substantive portions of the summit involved Johnson and Kosygin alone in a room with only their interpreters present. Although no formal agreements were reached, both men gave ground and developed a respect and friendship that was called the “Spirit of Glassboro.” We may all still be here because of it. 

YouTube

A MUSICAL MOMENT

1978 • Springsteen at the Capitol Theater

Every New Jersey Bruce Springsteen concert has a can-you-top-this quality, including the recent four-plus-hour show at MetLife Stadium. But to the 1,800-or-so fans who saw him play the Capitol Theater in Passaic in 1978, the Boss could never, ever be better. The proof is on tape. The concert, which was a stop on Springsteen’s Darkness

On the Edge of Town tour, was broadcast over WNEW radio and recordings have been circulating ever since. The E Street Band’s renditions of “Prove It All Night” and “Thunder Road” are unimprovable. YouTube

A POLITICAL MOMENT

1982 • Must Have Musto 

To qualify as a truly great political moment, you need a unique partnership between the people and the politicians. William Musto was a career politician, serving in the State Senate and General Assembly in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s—and occupying the Union City mayor’s office twice. In 1981, during his second term as the town’s mayor, Musto was indicted for racketeering, extortion and fraud. In 1982, with key testimony from a 28-year-old former aide named Bob Menendez, Musto was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison on May 10. On May 11, the people of Union City re-elected him mayor. The man he defeated was Menendez.

A SPIRITUAL MOMENT

1995 • Pope John Paul II 

During his 1995 tour of the United States, Pope John Paul II celebrated evening prayers at the Sacred Heart cathedral—the fifth-largest in North America—elevating it to basilica status. The French Gothic style cathedral was first conceived in 1859, and built between 1899 and 1954. “This magnificent building stands in the heart of Newark as a powerful reminder of God’s steadfast love for his people,” said the Holy Father, “and as a sign of faith in Christ, our hope of glory.”

Grounds for Sculpture

AN ARTISTIC MOMENT

1992 • Grounds for Sculpture 

In 1984, philanthropist J. Seward Johnson launched a plan to make contemporary sculpture accessible to the public in a comfortable and informal setting. Eight years later, the Grounds for Sculpture opened in Hamilton with an exhibit featuring the work of 13 prominent artists. An indoor museum opened in 1993. Johnson, the grandson of Johnson & Johnson founder Robert Wood Johnson, is an artist in his own right, known for his trompe l’oeil painted bronze sculptures. The 42-acre site is home to nearly 300 works of art.

A SOPRANOS MOMENT

1999 • College

In the Season 1 episode entitled “College,” Tony Soprano encounters a relocated mob informant while taking Meadow on a college visit. The following day he slips away to strangle the “rat.” It marked the first of many instances where Tony’s family life would collide with his professional life with brutal, deadly consequences—and demonstrated that the show’s writers were unafraid to plumb the depths of this dark dichotomy as the series unfolded.

U.S. Senate Democrats

A CRIMEFIGHTING MOMENT

2011 • Foot-Swept

Jon Jones, a mixed martial artist preparing for a Saturday night Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavy-weight title bout in March 2011, decided to walk to nearby Paterson Falls to clear his mind before the fight. On his way he spotted a man breaking into a car. Jones shouted at the thief, who took off. Jones pursued him and took him down with perfect foot-sweep. He then double-legged the criminal and subdued him with an arm bar. Seven hours later, Jones stepped into the Octagon at the Prudential Center and employed the same moves to defeat Mauricio Rua in the main event of UFC 128.

U.S. Senate Democrat

A HEROIC MOMENT

2012 • Well Done

Newark mayors have experienced their fair share of heated moments over the years. In Corey Booker’s case, he had to rush into a burning building and break free of a police U.S. Senate Democrats detective’s grasp to save his neighbor’s daughter, who was trapped on the second floor. He fought back flames in the kitchen to reach the stairway, dodge an explosion on the second-floor landing, threw the woman over his shoulder and carried her to safety. Booker suffered second-degree burns on his hands and was treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital. On the way, he tweeted that he was okay. The hashtag #CoryBookerStories immediately started trending on Twitter. 

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

A MOVIE MOMENT

2013 • Thank God for Me

The “science oven” scene in American Hustle is Jennifer Lawrence at her absolute best. After nearly setting their home on fire by putting metal in the just-installed microwave, Lawrence’s Rosalyn turns the table on her husband Irving (Christian Bale) with an Oscar-worthy, expletive-laced Jersey tomato diatribe that makes all of their money and marital problems his fault—including the newly blackened cabinetry. She finishes with the classic line “Thank God for me.” Thank God, indeed. 

NJ: A NETWORK NO-NO

When the producers of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire decided to base their shows in the Garden State, it is quite likely that a staff member with knowledge of network television history pointed out that few if any scripted series set in New Jersey had ever succeeded. Charles in Charge (126 episodes) and House (177) were the most successful. According to TV Guide, one of the worst sitcoms of all time revolved around Sheffield College, a fictional school located somewhere in our state. One of the Boys ran for 13 weeks in 1982 before being cancelled by NBC—though not for lack of talent. It starred Dana Carvey, Nathan Lane, Meg Ryan, Mickey Rooney, Scatman Crothers and Cleavon Little. 

Was there a defining moment in any Jersey-centric network series? Unfortunately, the moment that defined the series didn’t say much about New Jersey. But here it is, anyway:  

Courtesy of NBC Universal Television

2006 • It’s Never Lupus

Fans of the medical drama House, which is set in a New Jersey hospital, lived for the show’s running jokes—above all the suggestion in virtually every episode that the mystery disease flummoxing the Courtesy of NBC Universal Television Princeton-Plainsboro team might be lupus. House’s response, invariably, was “It’s never lupus.” So when the painkiller-addicted doctor revealed where he’d been hiding his meds, an incredulous Dr. Foreman says, “You stash your drugs in a lupus textbook?!” 

Editor’s Note: Do you have a quintessential Jersey moment? Share it with EDGE readers on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

 

Project 125

The ups, downs, ins and outs of raising a child who is probably smarter than you are.

By Jim Sawyer

Over the past few decades, the validity of IQ scores has taken a beating. For all that number does say, there is an awful lot it doesn’t. For better or worse, however, we are a score-keeping society, thus we continue to honor high IQs. For the record, a young person with an IQ of 125 or above is considered to be “gifted.” This is no guarantee of success in life, but it is strongly indicative of a complex, fertile intellect.

If you happen to be the mother or father of such a child—or suspect that your child is gifted—you know that parenting is anything but easy. Nor, in many cases, is recognizing your child’s “giftedness” in the first place.

Indeed, high-intellect kids don’t all act or think or look the same. They do not always stand out from their peers in obvious ways; often when they do, it is for behavior that is negative rather than positive. The National Association for Gifted Children—a Washington DC-based organization dedicated to supporting families and teachers of gifted and talented kids—points out that 60 percent of gifted five-year-olds already know nearly all of the material taught in kindergarten the day they walk into the classroom. A bored five-year-old can easily become disruptive.

What qualifies a child as gifted? He or she is able to reason and learn at a high level from an early age, demonstrating proficiency in math or music or language. You’ve probably encountered a three-year-old with a broad vocabulary who speaks in long, complete sentences (with grammar that’s as good or better than yours). This is a major tip-off. Sometimes, however, giftedness in a young child is more noticeable in the physical realm, such as artistic talent or athletics. Either way, gifted children almost always learn faster than their peers and perform better in testing and on exams. Because they deal with a larger and ever-changing “sample size” of students, educators—particularly classroom teachers—are often the first to notice a gifted child. It’s not always news to the parents, however it is gratifying to have their suspicions confirmed.

What happens from that point—how development is encouraged and accelerated through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, and how certain obstacles are eliminated along the way—will determine how a kid’s gifts manifest themselves in later life. So, hey. No pressure, right?

School is tremendously important. Or, perhaps more to the point, education is tremendously important. Finding a school with a “gifted” program is a start. But not all programs are created equal. Ideally, gifted children will be exposed to a wide range of educational experiences (both in and out of school) at a young age and, then, as they grow older, more of a focus on the areas in which they show the most promise. A good gifted program will be nimble enough to keep adjusting to a child’s capabilities, while also pointing parents to outside resources and programs that will keep nourishing his or her intellect. Parents need to stay on top of their gifted child’s progress, taking advantage of whatever assessments are offered and being open to suggestions and even criticism. Indeed, parent education is a huge part of the process.

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What if your son or daughter has not been identified as gifted, but you are convinced he or she is? Actually, this is not all that unusual. Not every elementary school (and not every elementary school teacher) is equipped to spot giftedness. In many cases, this type of evaluation won’t even be made until your child is six or seven, particularly in a public school environment. If you suspect your three-year-old is miles ahead of the competition, go get him or her independently tested. The sooner you can evaluate needs and opportunities, the better off your child will be.

That is doubly true for children who exhibit early social or behavioral problems, or who are hyper-focused on a single area of interest (e.g. being able to name 100 dinosaurs). While these can be signs of giftedness, they may also be early indications of ADHD or Asperger’s. IQ testing is one way to avoid a misdiagnosis. A gifted child who underperforms in the classroom may not be connecting with the teacher, or be bored or disorganized. But he or she may have an attention deficit issue, too. Both can be true. Testing will usually solve the mystery, but it is up to the parents to push for that; the school may see a lackluster student and never think to do any screening.

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What Now?

Once your gifted child has been identified and you’ve found programs and resources that will feed his or her intellect, the rest is easy, Mom and Dad. No…just kidding. Your work as a parent actually has just begun!

Consider, for instance, the fact that gifted children sometimes act their age. Their minds may be careening into adulthood, but their bodies and emotions are always playing catch-up. It is not unusual for incredibly able and mature kids to melt into disabling temper tantrums over the tiniest things. They are under constant pressure of one kind or another, and often suffer from severe anxiety—without being able to articulate their frustration. This is only exacerbated by bouts of disorganization and by a feeling of isolation from their peers. A high-functioning mind is rarely a peaceful one. Constant love, support, understanding and recognition are a must. A little courage doesn’t hurt, either.

Ironically, the best bits of advice for parents of gifted children may be the most counter-intuitive. Parents who push or overschedule their gifted child, or who defer to them on big decisions, are likely to do more harm than good. On three specific points—all don’ts—there is strong consensus among educational and developmental health experts:

  • Don’t push for perfection. Good grades and scores are not a measure of success for a gifted child. Encourage your gifted child to develop and pursue multiple interests at whatever pace makes sense to them. Voracious learners will learn voraciously without parent reminders.
  • Don’t confuse challenging your gifted child’s mind with keeping the child constantly busy. Maintain a reasonable schedule with lots of downtime. When a gifted child is “doing nothing,” the kid’s brain is still percolating.
  • Don’t let your gifted child call the shots. You are the grown-up. You make the important decisions.

Go ahead and add to “that Don’t make your gifted child an example for your other kids.” Rather than elevating the performance of siblings, this is more likely to lower the performance of the gifted child, who might choose to “dumb down” in order to fit in with brothers and sisters.

Friendly Advice

Finally, parents of high-intellect kids should understand that their child may need help or encouragement forming social connections. This is really important. Popular culture tells us gifted kids are nerds or geeks who naturally isolate themselves from others. This is untrue. Gifted children play sports and perform on stage and get into all kinds of mischief. They want to fit in with schoolmates as much or more as they do with their siblings.

Ask a gifted child what he or she wants most in the world and the answer is likely to be “a friend.”

Often, a gifted child will seek friendship from an older child who is at a similar stage of emotional maturity. Interestingly, this is often misinterpreted as a lack of maturity, which is 180º wrong. A study by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development concluded that intellectually gifted children start looking for friendships based on closeness and trust at an age when their classmates are still looking for play partners. Naturally, they gravitate toward older kids. This gap narrows by the end of elementary school, but the intervening years can be isolating. The study’s author, Miraca Gross, suggests that parents actually discuss the hierarchy of friendship conceptions with their gifted children:

“Because gifted children begin to make social comparisons earlier than their age-peers, they can become acutely aware that they seem to be looking for different things in friendship than are their age-peers. A frank but sensitive discussion of this can help ameliorate the feelings of ‘strangeness’.”

Gross adds that high-intellect children tend to prefer one or two close friends to being part of a larger friend group:

“It’s okay if your gifted child prefers to link with one ‘special’ friend rather than ‘play the field.’ Parents sometimes worry that the child seems to be putting all his or her friendship eggs in the one basket—but we must remember that because the quality of gifted children’s friendships is different, they have an earlier need for the exchange of confidences and the discovery of mutual bonds. This is more easily achieved in pairs than in larger groups.”

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If you are the parent of a gifted child, good research and advice is available on a wide range of topics, both online and on bookstore shelves. Several organizations have dedicated themselves to maximizing the brainpower and mental health of high-intellect kids, and most elementary schools do employ someone who can spot a superior student who has somehow slipped under the radar through nursery school and kindergarten. If you suspect your child is gifted, these same resources can point you toward the kind of testing and expertise that will let you know for sure.

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Summer Solutions

According to the National Association for Gifted Children, even the brightest kids can backslide academically during an unstructured summer. The solution for many is an overnight camp experience. Parents of gifted children face some challenges finding the right fit, however. The boxes you’ll want to check (and, frankly, this goes for parents of every child) include:

  • Good balance between academic, physical and social activities
  • Active, hands-on learning vs. passive learning
  • Exploring areas beyond what a child is learning in school
  • Progress assessments at the end of a session
  • Staff trained to address intellectual and emotional needs

According to Dr. Denise Drain, who consults on gifted programming strategies, professional development and program review, a good summer program should build on children’s interests and expertise.

“They may give children and adolescents an opportunity to develop expertise in areas such as sports, visual and performing arts, music, and academics,” she maintains, adding that being engaged in their own learning “increases motivation and helps children to develop goals and positive attitudes toward their abilities.”

There are a number of exceptional residential summer camps within a day’s drive of New Jersey, which make use of high-end college facilities. If you are in the market, these might be good starting points:

Summer Institute for the Gifted • Bryn Mawr, PA

Residential students live in dorm groups of a dozen or so, with four-period academic days and special trips and programs on the weekends. Classes are comprised of students in the same age- and talent-range.

The Center for Talented Youth • Baltimore, MD

This organization has a summer camp program for gifted children at Johns Hopkins. The three-week sleep-away programs begin in 5th grade and offer courses in the humanities, sciences, math, writing, and computer science.

Duke University Summer Camp • Durham, NC

Duke’s youth summer programs encompass math, science and engineering, but also offers creative writing and performing arts for gifted campers. The programs run for about two weeks, again starting at 5th grade.

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Clearing the Bar

Which public figures just cleared the 125 IQ gifted threshold? Vladimir Putin tested at 127, while President Lyndon Johnson was a tick lower at 126. Also at 126 are NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady (right) and Steve Young. Right at 125 are guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, along with actors Chris Pratt, Tom Cruise and Mira Sorvino. Who fell just short of gifted status? Among public figures who tested at 124 were President George W. Bush, X-Men actress Famke Janssen and serial killer Ted Bundy.

Jobs 2050

What will today’s toddlers be doing three decades from now?

by Luke Sacher

If you’ve recently been blessed with a child, grandchild or great-grandchild, I’m guessing the furthest thing from your mind is the kind of work they’ll be doing when it comes time to raise a family of their own. Granted, it’s a long way off. And the world will certainly look much different than it does today. However, one thing that is unlikely to change is that what we do will still determine, to a large degree, who we are. Which makes what we do important. What will the employment landscape of 2050 actually look like? That great Bronx philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said It’s tough to make predictions—especially about the future. Don’t expect any here from me. I’m just a 58-year old idiot who writes magazine stories. But I do know what the “experts” are saying and, although their predictions vary dramatically in regard to specifics, in two general areas they seem to agree.

1) About 60 percent of currently existing jobs will remain,  particularly those involving technical and mental skills that automation simply cannot replace. The human factor will still be at a premium. By contrast, according to a 2013 Oxford University study, the least safe jobs (those currently performed by humans that are most likely to be fully automated over the next 20 years) are, in percentage of probability: Telemarketer 99%, Loan Officer 98%, Cashier 97%, Paralegal and Legal Assistant 94%, Taxi Driver 89% and Fast Food Cook 81%. The same study identified the “safest” jobs as Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker 0.3%, Occupational Therapist 0.35%, Dietitian and Nutritionist 0.39%, Physician and Surgeon 0.42%, Clergy 0.81%. Wow. Clergy? That means Woody Allen was wrong. In his classic film Sleeper, he makes his confession to a robot priest that is one of the funniest scenes in movie history. Not going to happen, says Oxford University. Futurist.com, a website run by trend expert Glen Hiemstra, lists the Top 10 currently existing occupations for 2050 as Dental Hygienist, Human Resources Specialist,  Pharmacist, Biotechnology Sales Rep, Biomedical Engineer, Programmer/Software Developer, Network and Computer Systems Administrator, Nuclear and Solar Power Engineer, and yeah, you guessed it, Attorney. Hold it, that’s only nine. I’ve saved the best for last: Entrepreneur. Don’t you think that’s a bit misleading? Yes, technically, that kid who needs a diaper change could conceivably join the entrepreneurial ranks of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Joy Mangano, Sarah Breedlove, Mark Cuban, JK Rowling, Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Jack Dorsey, Sarah Blakely, Mark Zuckerberg, Weili Dai, Peter Thiel, Ariana Huffington or Elon Musk. All they’ll have to do is create an entirely new product or service that billions of people need or want, and for which they will line up around the block to hand over hard cash. Nice work if you can get it. Personally, I would also add these three to the list: Politician, Soldier, and Master Artisan. For complicated ethical and psychological reasons, people will continue to prefer being lied to and killed by other people rather than by androids. And there will always be a high demand for unique, hand-crafted beautiful things with charming imperfections, such as Michelin 3-star dinners, Patek Philippe watches, Tiffany engagement rings and Lamborghini sports cars. Oh, and also Bartender. Would you really want to go to 21 in New York or Harry’s in Paris and be served a dry and dirty vodka martini or Pimm’s Cup—just the way you like it—by a mechanical arm or silicone-skinned cyborg? Could you imagine Frank Sinatra singing Make it one for my baby and one more for the road to something that looks and walks and talks like a refugee from an auto assembly plant?

 

2) Outside of the truly high-end professional careers— including medicine, surgery, law, clinical psychotherapy, and rocket science—most of the professions we think of as being mainstream will come to an end, fully superseded by that of the “gig” (aka freelance) economy. In other words, we will be witnessing the last vestiges of the “cap-and-gown to gold watch + pension” economy in the decades to come. The vast majority of today’s newly born will most likely have to live by the old Marine Corps motto: Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. Or if you prefer: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The take-away? Be flexible. Never stop learning. Take earned personal pride in adding more and more tools to your toolbox, and in expanding your potential. Knowledge is power, as Francis Bacon said. Now for the most interesting part. What about the jobs of 2050 that don’t yet exist, or are presently in the prototype or metamorphic stages? Good news! While so many old jobs will disappear, lots of new ones will be created. According to the Institute for the Future (IFTF), 85 percent of them haven’t even yet been invented…which means that tomorrow’s workforce will likely be unrecognizable to us old geezers who hang on for another 30 years. So when your child or grandchild or great-grandchild proudly announces that he or she plans to be something you’ve never heard of, it’s okay to say What? What the heck is that? But be proud, too.

 

Virtual Store Manager

More and more consumers are shopping online, but still seek personal advice and assurance from vendors. In a recent Google survey, 61% of online shoppers reported that they call a business before making online purchases. Producers and retailers will be incentivized to expand and maintain their staff of real salespeople with real sales expertise in their online spaces. 

Human-Robot Counselor/AI Therapist

As robots become ever more sophisticated,  reliable and cost-effective, they will creatively destroy many muscle-driven jobs in heavy industries, such as mining, auto, and aviation manufacturing, shipbuilding and construction. At the same time, they will also create new jobs for humans as their task- and maintenance-supervisors. As working relationships between robots and humans become the norm, personal conflicts are sure to manifest themselves. Who will address them? Robot-Human Resources Counselors. and AI (Artificial Intelligence) Therapists, of course. Thus will be born an entirely new mental health field, geared to help people adjust to and cooperate with their cybernetic colleagues. Think of Fry and Bender on Futurama.

Algorithm Programmer/Robot Trainer

Software and firmware algorithms enable computers to perform sophisticated interactive tasks (i.e. Alexa or Siri). Today, only a small number of elite programmers are capable of writing those algorithms. But over the next decade or two, it’s a good bet that their now-rare skills will become standardized and commoditized—and assumed by mid-level or entry-level employees. Remember, not so long ago, when a working knowledge of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint was a cutting-edge advantage in the job market?

Drone Air Traffic Controller

In 2016, almost 700,000 aerial drones were registered with the federal government. Amazon and Google are actively beta testing delivery of goods by aerial drones, and future drone pilots are already attending specialty technical schools. Three decades from now, millions of drones will fill the skies and will need to be monitored by an air traffic control network similar to that for passenger airplanes. If you’re a glutton for punishment and high stress, this just might be your dream job. I can’t help picturing Lloyd Bridges in Airplane.

Micro Gig Agent

More and more agents, reps and consultants will be needed as independent contractors as tomorrow’s freelance economy grows. Just like today’s talent and professional services agents, “Micro Gig Agents” will work on commission or retainer, finding and matching goods and/or services offered by their clients to the everchanging demands of potential customers and/or employers.

Robotic Surgeons & Surgical Technicians

Precision surgeries are now being performed using multi-armed robots, such as the da Vinci system at Trinitas. Articulated arms are fitted with instruments, providing virtually unlimited degrees of motion and precision, while another holds a high-definition 3D camera to assist the surgical team and minimize error. As more and more medicine is practiced remotely—and as more sophisticated surgeries are executed robotically—robotic surgeons and their supporting technicians will need to possess both the knowledge of traditional physicians and surgeons and technical proficiency with their new high-technology equipment.

 

Organ Transplant Engineer

In the United States, dozens of people die every day waiting for transplants that can’t take place, primarily due to the shortage of compatible donated organs. Last February, scientists at the University of California, Davis successfully cultured sheep embryos containing human cells—a major step forward to the goal of growing complete human organs inside animal hosts. Xenotransplantation will eventually be the primary source of transplant materials, designed and engineered to ensure 100% effectiveness and 0% probability of autoimmune rejection. Engineers of xenotransplant organs will occupy a critical role in future medicine.

Cyber Security Specialist

Given the relentlessly increasing number of security breaches of both government and private corporate networks, more and more cybersecurity experts will be sought to counter future threats to the online universe that we love and depend on. Calling all keyboard warriors! How cool would it be to work for the CIA (or PayPal), catching truly bad guys?

Security/Police Officer

Security and police officers have existed pretty much since ancient Babylon. In the near future, they’ll no longer need to pull long hours at the station house or cruising streets in a squad car, as they’ll be able to respond even faster and more effectively with robot “muscle” backup— advanced audiovisual surveillance capabilities, and airborne vehicles.

Space Tourism Guide

We’ve been waiting for it since 2001: A Space Odyssey, but at last, space travel and tourism for the common man are drawing closer and closer to realization. By 2050, a trip to a space station or even the moon will most likely be as common as a business junket to Cincinnati or a family holiday to Orlando. Those working to make their passengers comfortable with these probabilities will require strong people skills, similar to those of current air flight attendants, such as knowledge of safety procedures and resistance to motion sickness and vertigo.

 Augmented/Virtual Reality Designer/Engineer/Architect

Marketing and retail companies are already actively seeking augmented/virtual reality designers, engineers and architects to create interactive, immersive experiences for their consumers. Those with expertise in AVR technology—combining computer-generated images with physical environments— will be hot prospects in the job market,  conceiving and creating for everything from job training to outdoor advertising to (one day) Star Trek “holodeck” experiences.

Automated Construction Specialist/Architectural Engineer

Using innovations like 3D modeling/ printing and advanced robotics, architectural engineering and construction in the future will be nothing short of revolutionary. Specialists in these fields will be equipped to build human habitats straight out of science fiction. Imagine apartment buildings perched thousands of feet in the sky like the Jetsons’, mobile floating “sea stead” towns in the oceans or subterranean Logan’s Run-esque cities.

Data Analyst/Future Forecaster

For a hundred years or more, since the founding of IBM or maybe since the Age of Enlightenment, analysts of empirical data have been instrumental in advancing humanity’s understanding of itself. And they will continue to do so. They are the high priests of our culture, producing the charts and graphs that explain the present and predict the future. Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going? Will stock and bond prices soar or plummet? Will we run out of fresh produce, water, petroleum or gummi bears? Will there a war? Don’t ask me…call your analyst.

Genetic Counselor

The term “designer baby” isn’t anything new. Genetic and genomic scientists are already able to detect many inherited abnormalities that may jeopardize a child’s health or quality of life. Doctors and scientists generate the raw information, but genetic counselors will be needed to help parents make the best choices for themselves and their posterity. About 2,000 professionals are currently recognized by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Look for that number to skyrocket as we learn more about ourselves at the molecular level.

Transportation Engineer

Autonomous personal aircraft, pneumaticintercontinental trains, maglev monorails, moving sidewalks—science fiction novels, movies and television programs (as well as magazines like Popular Mechanics) have dangled images of such futuristic vehicles before our starry eyes for decades. We are still fascinated by their possible realization.  Transportation engineers will be the ones to make them happen. Most of us spend more waking hours working than with our families and friends. So, if I may argue, matching our personal strengths and aptitudes to our interests and passions, and choosing wisely what we work at (whether a profession, vocation, occupation or trade) is the most important existential decision any of us make in our lives. If what we do is indeed a big part of who we are, then the best advice we can offer to the young workers of 2050 is aspire to do what you love, and love what you do.  In closing, I also think it’s worth considering the words of Saint Jerome: fac et aliquid operis, ut semper te diabolus inveniat occupatum. “Engage in some occupation, so that the devil may always find you busy.” In other words, if you sit around doing nothing, you’ll be more tempted to do questionable things. For those who love to do and make things, the world of 2050 should be a moveable feast of possibilities. If so, sit down to the table and order up.

Positive Deflation: Can It Happen?

As productivity increases by way of automation, material scarcity decreases. That means less and less of us will be needed to work at producing the materials for basic human survival, such as food, clothing, housing, energy, and transportation. These commodities will become so abundant that their prices will plummet…which means that everyone will be able to consume them for less and less money. Working simply to earn enough money to purchase them might soon be practically unnecessary. Economists call this Positive Deflation. Difficult as it may be to imagine today, in 2050 the goal of “freedom from want” may be achievable—and a fact of life for many of us. People will be empowered to pursue their unique individual talents and creative passions in the Brave New Economy liberated for the first time in human history from the fear of privation.

Recommended Reading (and Viewing)

If you’re interested in wrapping your mind around the twists, turns and unintended consequences of the future, I highly recommend immersing yourself in the work of some highly imaginative people who have already done a deep dive…

Sleeper • Woody Allen

I, Robot • Isaac Asimov

I Sing the Body Electric • Ray Bradbury

Fantasia/The Sorcerer’s Apprentice • Walt Disney

Futurama • Matt Groenig

Brave New World • Aldous Huxley

The Stepford Wives • Ira Levin

Player Piano • Kurt Vonnegut

 

Food for Thought

For more and more summer camps, nutrition is now on the menu.

By Mark Stewart

Of my many vivid summer camp memories, I am struck by how often they revolve around some aspect of food. I was a reluctant eater back then (not anymore) so naturally, I have quite a few culinary-nightmare tales to tell. I was horrified when I discovered that the much-celebrated campfire burgers were cooked on a metal bed frame from the 1930s. The camp spaghetti sauce, which I refused to touch much less eat, looked like it came from Custer’s Last Stand. I also recall being deeply offended that the toast served at breakfast each morning was brown and rock-hard on one side and essentially uncooked on the other. I’m pretty sure it was broiled Wonder Bread.

And yet, lo these many decades later, I am still tempted to purchase a quarter-pound of the cheap bologna at our local grocery store, pair it with a slice of imitation cheese food, and then slather on so much yellow mustard and fake mayo that it oozes out the sides of the sandwich. Ah, memories.

The backstory is that a group of us older campers had set out deep into the Adirondacks on an overnight hike. A three-day storm surprised us and we had to ride it out in a lean-to, with little more than meticulously rationed Gorp to sustain us. I almost strangled a kid over an unclaimed M&M. Anyway, when we dragged our famished 13-year-old bodies back into camp, the cooks were nowhere to be found and all we could scrounge were the aforementioned mystery-meat sandwiches. On my initial bite, the MSG, sodium, and preservatives ignited in my mouth like Sweet Tart fireworks and literally made me shudder. I’m still not sure what cyclamates are, but I’ll bet there were tons of ’em between those flabby slices of white bread.

And curse it all…I don’t think anything has ever tasted that good since.

If I’ve ruined your appetite, I apologize. The good news is that it’s highly improbable that your kids will share anything like this experience when they go off to camp this June or July. Day camps, sleep-away camps, tech camps, sports camps, you name it, have really stepped up their game where nutrition and food quality are concerned. Okay, they still serve burgers and dogs and chicken nuggets. But the meat is no longer the mystery. It’s probably low-fat and preservative-free. In fact, any of those three camp classics may even be meatless. It’s all about providing healthier meal options—a goal that begins with a nutritional philosophy at the top of the camp food chain and trickles down to the cooks and counselors.

We as parents know that healthy food can be delicious. Fruit and yogurt are smarter breakfast choices than Lucky Charms; salads and whole-grain sandwiches beat Sloppy Joe’s for lunch; and lean grilled meats and vegetables are a vast improvement over high-fat, high-carb, high-sodium dinners like the one the cooks at my old camp titled “turqué alla king.” (I hope at least they used real king, since it was the only part of the dish that was not misspelled.) We can’t always convince our kids to eat right, but it’s encouraging to know that camps now have our backs when it comes to sending the right message.

As anyone in the camp business will tell you, doing so is in their best interest. It requires a lot of energy to plow through a typical day of activities, and healthy food and snacks are the fuel that makes campers go. You definitely don’t want kids to crash and burn in the middle of a robotics showdown or in the front of a canoe.

What should campers be consuming? The U.S. Department of Agriculture—the same folks that brought you the much-maligned food pyramid—actually has an answer. The USDA’s MyPlate initiative lays out an ideal, albeit aspirational, set of guidelines for kids to follow. It’s no longer a pyramid. It’s a pie chart and pie is nowhere to be found. It suggests a daily diet of 30 percent grains, 40 percent vegetables, 10 percent fruits, and 20 percent proteins. A smaller circle is dedicated to dairy products, including milk and yogurt. The MyPlate program also preaches portion control. Do summer camps adhere to these guidelines? Some do. The rest are getting there.

As a parent, it is probably unreasonable to expect a dietary expert to be looming over the shoulder of each and every camper. But you can ask good questions about a camp’s nutritional philosophy. For example:

  • How often does the camp provide sweet snacks and desserts, such as cookies and ice cream? Once a day is okay. More often might be reason for concern.
  • What kind of proteins are on the menu? Lean meats, chicken and fish are ideal; the healthier versions of burgers and dogs are fine.
  • Are sweet and sugary drinks always available? If so, you know your kid is going to go for those. Low-fat milk and water are preferable, along with some juice in the morning.
  • What percentage of bread, rice, cereal and other grains served at camp is whole grain? It’s not difficult or expensive to achieve a 50–50 split.
  • What percentage of the food consumed is fruits and/or vegetables? Again, a 50–50 split is an achievable goal.

In many cases, summer camps cover this territory well on their web sites. Food and nutritional information may be listed under a Medical or Wellness tab on the home page. The word you want to look for (or ask about, if it’s not there) is “dietician.” This is a food professional who oversees the content and quality of the camp’s menus and hopefully is involved on some level in educating campers about healthy eating.

A good example of this shift is Campus Kids, a weekday sleep-away camp in Blairstown. Eight years ago, the camp added a staff specialist who oversees the menus and helps manage food allergies, as well as the overall medical needs of campers. Owner/operator Tom Riddleberger acknowledges that more and more children have allergies and food preferences that must be accommodated and managed, but says it’s actually not a big deal.

“This is a trend we are seeing throughout society,” he says, “which in general has become much more open to recognizing individual needs. Food service personnel have moved with the times, and have that expertise. I think the key from a camp perspective is not to have an attitude about accommodating someone’s requests or needs. Homesickness is a need, and camps have always dealt with that. If a child is vegetarian or gluten-free or lactose intolerant, we deal with that smoothly, too, in a way that doesn’t make the child feel singled out.”

I think it’s safe to say that, back in the bologna-sandwich Stone Age days of summer camp, the concept of hiring a staff member with actual nutritional expertise never crossed anyone’s mind. Camp directors were more focused on swimming, boating, hiking, sports, outdoor skills, arts & crafts, and activities and challenges that nourish a young person’s spirit.

Which is where the emphasis still should be.

Indeed, the search for the right-fit summer camp is all about the quality of experience available to your child, about the confidence- and skill-building opportunities offered. Today’s camps are all about nourishing the body and mind, often in ways we could not have imagined a generation ago. Just don’t forget that they’re feeding your kid, too.

DEALING WITH ALLERGIES

According to the CDC, food allergies among children have increased by more than 50 percent in the last two decades. This has had a huge impact on summer camps, which need to understand who they can and cannot accommodate—and communicate this clearly to parents. In this case, communication is a two-way street. It is incumbent upon parents to be crystal clear with prospective camps about the nature and extent of a child’s allergies, both to food and also environmental allergies.

Another hurdle that summer camps may soon encounter is the possibility that childhood food allergies will fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Indeed, there are a great many camps right now that are ADA-compliant but might lose that designation if allergies are classified as a disability.

PEAK PERFORMANCE

With the steady rise in the number of sports camps in the country, diet and nutrition have become part of teaching athletes to hone their competitive edge. U.S. Soccer, which oversees the training of the sport’s elite competitors, has issued a set of guidelines for its players, including:

  • Choose the least processed foods possible
  • Consume lean protein and fruits/vegetables at each meal
  • Eat healthy fats (i.e. fish, nuts, avocados)
  • Have breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up for max energy
  • Make 4 to 6 small meals throughout the day
  • Have a high-carb, high-protein recovery meal or shake after workouts
  • Stay hydrated at all times

 

Mama Bears

So you think your mother-in-law is bad…

By Sarah Rossbach

My husband used to tease me that my mother paid him a huge fee to marry me. But that jest perhaps hides the real truth: On Christmas Eve, the year we were married, my mother-in-law, martini glass in hand, cornered me at a family gathering and tearfully thanked me for marrying her middle son. While no money was exchanged, I registered the gratitude that with her son in my hands, she had one less worry on her mind. I must admit I was lucky in the mother-in-law department.

Mother-in-law. An appellation so resonant that it is almost onomatopoetic in evoking a mixture of fear, humor invasiveness and sometimes loathing. My father used to say that he married a “Rose that grew from a dung heap.” And when my mother married my dad, her new sister-in-law took her to lunch to warn her about the well-manicured claws of her future mother-in-law. My mother actually got along swell with my grandmother, perhaps because she was a vast improvement to her own mother. Meanwhile, the sister-in law’s mother was referred to by her husband as “The Toad.” That being said, mothers-in-law can occasionally be outright fun. An older friend said his early-to-bed wife’s night owl mother used to commandeer him after the witching hour to squire her around to Palm Beach nightclubs. (And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson!)

The evil or comic mother-in-law has been a casting staple in Hollywood: From the movie Monster-in-Law to Samantha’s mother, humorously invasive and sardonically witchy Endora, on Bewitched to Game of Thrones’ murderous Olenna Tyrell, the theme of mothers-in-law is rich territory.

Mother-in-law stories start with the tying of the knot. There are endless stories of mothers of the groom wearing funereal black at the wedding, or trying to upstage the bride by wearing white. And then there are the mothers-in-law, with shriveled hearts, who forgo the wedding altogether. Probably good riddance. No one could be good enough for Sonny Boy or perfect Poopsie. The umbilical cord knows no ends. Oedipus, anyone? Speaking of Oedipus: imagine the nightmare of his mother, Jocasta, who by unwittingly marrying her son, incestuously became her own mother-in-law. 

Mothers-in-law may have the best intentions, such as Recounted that, on a first visit to her husband-to-be’s hometown, his mother drove her around on a tour of all her son’s ex-girlfriends’ houses. The not-very veiled message being: there were many before and, if she didn’t take good care of him, there could be many afterwards.

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My own area of study is Chinese culture, where there are hundreds of stories of young Chinese wives becoming slaves to their tyrannical mothers-in-law, thanks to Confucian expectations of filial piety, respect and obeisance: The custom was that, on marriage, the wife moved into her husband’s multi-generational home and was at her mother-in-law’s beck and call. The mother-in-law continued a cruel cycle of abuse, no doubt similar to how her own mother-in-law treated her. There are so many examples in Chinese history and fiction of wretched mothers-in-law that one doesn’t stand out as more horrible than the others.

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Which is better—the coldly snubbing or the insanely smothering mother-in-law? History has something to say about that. In the 19th Century, when John Ruskin, the Scottish art critic and champion of Pre-Raphaelite artists, married at his mother’s urging the high-spirited Effie Gray, he caught a chill on their honeymoon and had to be nursed back to health by his mother. However, his mother’s lack of boundaries in over-nurturing Ruskin can’t be the only cause of six years of an unconsummated marriage. With reason, Effie annulled their union and married Ruskin’s more handsome and appreciative protégé, the painter John Everett Millais.

The White House has housed four mothers-in-law and, not just one, but two of them were domineering and judgmental. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed to Eleanor, his meddling mother Sara took him abroad to discourage their union. When that didn’t work, she built double townhouses in New York as a wedding present, so she could be near her dear one. Wherever they lived, she always shared a roof. Her overbearingness did “save” the marriage, as she objected to the possibility of Franklin divorcing Eleanor when he strayed from the marriage, saying she would cut him off without a dime. FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, gained a disapproving mother in- law when he married Bess Wallace. Bess’s mother never considered Harry—a former dirt farmer and failed shopkeeper—good enough for her daughter, even when he became president (!) and she settled into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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History offers plenty of Game of Thrones-esque stories about overbearing and conniving (to the point of felonious and even homicidal) mothers-in-law. In the 16th century, Mary Stuart, aka Mary Queen of Scots, after her husband Francis II’s untimely death, was cast out by her mother-in-law, Catherine de’ Medici (right). Mary fled to Scotland, leaving the Crown Jewels behind at Catherine’s insistence. (But that was certainly better than the imprisonment and beheading that ultimately awaited her in Scotland.) Catherine also tangled in her daughter’s marriage and may have poisoned her son-in-law’s mother as well as caused religious riots. And although one marries for better or worse, it couldn’t get worse than the domineering Bona Sforza (1494- 1557), the poisonous and poisoning Italian-born Queen of Poland. Bona, by all accounts, was a horrible mother to her five children, but she was far worse to her daughters-in-law. After unsuccessfully attempting to prevent her son’s marriage to Elisabeth of Austria, she is said to have poisoned Elisabeth within two years. Her son remarried his mistress, who quickly and mysteriously died mere months after the wedding.

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We may feel safely centuries away from these murderous mothers-in-law, but the beat goes on. Closer to here and now, in 2013, a Florida newspaper reported that a 70-year-old grandmother allegedly offered a supposed hitman $5,000 to knock off her daughter-in-law. Fortunately for the intended victim, the hitman was an undercover cop. 

FUNNY YOU SHOULD MENTION

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Darrin Stephens’s mother-in-law, Endora (played to virtuoso perfection by Mercury Theater veteran Agnes Moorehead), earns high marks as one of TV land’s great sitcom mothers-in-law. Moorehead is hardly alone. Some of history’s finest character actors have made this role their own on the small screen.

  • In the 1960s, Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard took turns chewing the scenery in the sitcom The Mothers In Law. They played embattled neighbors whose children married, forcing their parents into uncomfortable closeness week after week.
  • On The Honeymooners, the mere mention of Alice Kramden’s mother (played by sneering Ethel Owen) sent Ralph into a quivering rage. She rarely missed an opportunity to mention the boys her daughter could have married…and once had Ralph arrested as a counterfeiter.
  • Sitcom mothers-in-law could be tough on daughters, too. Frances Sternhagen, who gained TV fame as Cliff Clavin’s mother on Cheers, was even better as Bunny MacDougal on Sex and the City. Bunny took meddling in the lives of Trey (her son) and Charlotte to a whole new level.
  • On Everybody Loves Raymond, Doris Roberts made Debra’s life a comic nightmare, while standing up for her son at almost every turn. Roberts was nominated for seven Emmys as Marie Barone. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ambitious mothers-in-laws always run the risk of a double-edged sword. Literally. When King Herod the Great discovered his mother-in-law and her daughter were conspiring to regain power for their dethroned family, he had both executed.

 

Terrific Teens

Yeah We grow ‘em strong in the Garden State.

By Christine Gibbs

Though it may not always look it, being a teenager these days is some hard work. True, the physical strain of socializing has been diminished by the advent of smartphones, and window-shopping can now be done online, but all that connectivity also means you are tethered to technology and accountable to your peers 24 hours a day. And while it’s never been easier to speak up and stand out, in some respects it’s never been more difficult. The virtual space is getting more and more crowded for young people who want to embrace activism or self-advocacy, and there is a seemingly limitless amount of video on the athletically and artistically talented. And yet, as we witnessed with March for Our Lives, the student-led demonstration in Washington this spring, the cream of the teenage crop always finds its way to the top.

New Jersey has a long history of “terrific teens”—in science, sports, the arts and, more and more, in politics and social movements. Here are 10 (well, technically, 11) we think are worth keeping an eye on…

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Ziad Ahmed

Ziad, an 18-year old Bangladeshi-American Muslim who is a self-described “activist, public speaker and college student,” hails from Princeton. In 2013, as a high-school freshman, he founded an anti-discrimination organization called Redefy, which defines its mission as “the belief that all hate stems from ignorance and that, through conversation and education, acceptance will prevail.” Ziad has attracted hundreds of students internationally to join the Redefy team. In 2017, he made headlines nationally when he was accepted at Stanford University by writing #BlackLivesMatter 100 times as his essay (although he ultimately chose to attend Yale, where he remains politically and culturally active). Ziad’s many credits include being named a 2017 Global Teen Leader and a High School Trailblazer by MTV, as well as being included among the Business Insider Top 15 Young Prodigies Changing the World. He is a Diana Award winner and a recipient of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, and has appeared on NBC, BBC and Bloomberg Businessweek. Ziad has been a guest at the White House three times and was personally commended by Barack Obama for his commitment to improving race relations. 

Courtesy of Autumn de Forest

Autumn de Forest 

Autumn’s roots go deep into her hometown of Stone Harbor, beginning with her first exhibit at Ocean Galleries at age 10. Having spent more than half her young life in pursuit of her art, she has been called “one of the most important artists of her generation” by the Walt Disney Company and “a creative genius” by the Discovery Channel. Her imaginative style has often resulted in her being labeled as an abstract artist—prompting comparison of her work at an early age to masters such as Warhol, Pollock, and Picasso. Autumn made history two years ago as the youngest artist to be exhibited at the prestigious Butler Institute of American Art. Yet her work, which often commands commissions in the six figures, has the unique added dimension of reflecting her dedication to helping others through art. She supports numerous charities, including the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and This Bar Saves Lives (a gluten-free snack bar whose proceeds go to help feed hungry children). Her talent, coupled with her humanitarianism, brought her to the attention of the Vatican in 2016, where she was granted a private audience with Pope Francis—at which time she had the opportunity to present him with a special gift of a painting entitled Resurrection.

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Ethan and Grayson Dolan 

Known by their enthusiastic fans as The Dolan Twins, Ethan and Grayson are a comedy duo from Washington Township in Morris County. They catapulted into social media stardom and, two years ago at age 16, they surpassed 2 million followers on their YouTube channel— by posting video skits of their larger-than-life lives as teenage twins. Since then, Ethan and Grayson have accumulated more than 5 million followers on YouTube and 6 million on Twitter, and launched a nationwide variety-show tour. You can also catch them as correspondents on MTV. If you want to know what cutting-edge “content creators” look like in this day and age, search for TheDolanTwins on YouTube. 

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Alex Jackman 

August 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day, sponsored by the United Nations. No one is more worthy of recognition as a long-time advocate on behalf of those afflicted with autism than Alexandra Jackman. In 2014, as a freshman at Westfield High School, she wrote and directed the award-winning video, A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism, which won awards at film festivals throughout the country. In 2016, as a junior, Alex was honored with a Choice Changemaker Award and also a Point of Light Award for her volunteerism in orchestrating special events for teens with special needs. She is an ardent advocate whose mantra is “People are worth the effort!” Alex’s activism does not stop with autism; she also is involved in many anti-bullying campaigns and worked with the Autism Center at Montclair State University to create a curriculum to accompany her film before it was distributed to students internationally. She has authored articles for the Huffington Post among others and managed to find the time to serve as student body president. Alex also founded the Hang Out Club, which promotes inclusivity and embraces special needs students.

The Food Network

Linsey Lam

This past March, 13-year-old Linsey took home the$25,000 prize as the winner of Food Network’s Kid’s Baking Championship. Her appearance competing against a dozen other young chefs was the culmination of years binging on the network’s baking shows in her Closter home. Linsey’s favorite part of baking cakes is creative frosting. The bigger the cake, the better to show off her talents. The show’s dessert challenges—from dessert pizzas to desserts fit for an astronaut—brought out the best in Linsey over a 10-episode arc and made her hands-down the most impressive and creative kid baker in the country.

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Wé McDonald 

The Paterson teen placed third on NBC’s The Voice last season, attracting as a mentor Alicia Keys. In Wé’s appearances on the program, she entranced millions of viewers each week, rocketing her to the top of the iTunes charts multiple times. Although the experience was intimidating at times, Wé managed to hold her own despite being the youngest performer among the Final Four—and the only female of color (as she is quick to point out). Her rendition of Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” has been viewed more than 3.5 million times on YouTube.

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Sydney McLaughlin 

Sydney McLaughlin was cited by Time as one of its 30 Most Influential Teens of 2017. A hurdler and sprinter from Dunellen—who now competes for the University of Kentucky—she holds several world titles for her age group and was named Gatorade National Girls Athlete of the Year for both 2015–16 and 2016–17. As if these accolades were are not enough, Sydney placed third in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2016 United States Olympic Trials, qualifying for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. There she became the youngest U.S. track and field Olympian since 1972 to reach the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles

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Brooke Rotondo 

Brooke is a dedicated performer who has earned high marks in the performing arts as a dancer, model and actress. Last year, at age 15, the Middletown North High School sophomore was selected as a back-up dancer for the Disney star Meredith O’Connor. As a member of the dance group, Brooke performed and modeled at New York Fashion Week, proudly wearing the “Warrior” collection designed by Janelle Funari. Brooke also was a special performing artist at the Carol Galvin Foundation Gala during Fashion Week. At 16, Brooke has been dancing for more than 12 years and excels at hip hop, tap, jazz, modern, and also performs in lyrical and musical theater. She is currently studying ballet with Not Your Ordinary Dancers in Middletown.

 

Michelle Sidor 

NorthJersey.com called Michelle “North Jersey’s most coveted athlete” as she started her junior year at Saddle River Day School last fall. A cat-quick sharpshooter who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the paint, she became the first Bergen County junior to reach the 2,000-point plateau. With her senior season still ahead, Michelle has already cracked the state’s all-time Top 10 scoring list. Look for her to make headlines in 2019–20 as the freshman star for a major college hoops program.

Rob Davidson

Matthew Whitaker 

Born blind, Matthew began playing piano at the age of three in 2004 on a small Yamaha keyboard in his Hackensack home. Six years later his status as a keyboard prodigy was confirmed when he won Amateur Night at the Apollo. At age 13, Matthew became the youngest talent to be endorsed by the Hammond Organ Company and, at 15, was honored by Yamaha as its youngest Yamaha Piano Artist. Matthew has already made concert appearances at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the John F. Kennedy Center and The Youth Assembly at the United Nations. His international concerts have taken him to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Last year, at age 16, he performed on the organ at the 35th Annual McDonald’s Gospelfest at the Prudential Center in Newark. Of course, Matthew can still be found behind the organ of the New Hope Baptist Church in his hometown. 

Editor’s Note: Teen power is hardly a modern phenomenon in New Jersey. Trenton’s Edith Mae Savage-Jennings, who passed away last year at the age of 93, met First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and became her pen pal at age 10. Two years later, Edith joined the NAACP as its youngest member. She helped to integrate the Capital Theater in Trenton by refusing to sit in the “blacks-only” balcony when she was 13 and went on to work alongside Dr. Martin Luther King.

 

Full Steam Ahead

The landscape of education in New Jersey is changing to keep pace with the future. 

By Porter Van Dien

Too much? Too soon? A generation ago, many parents voiced concern over the introduction of science and engineering concepts to early education curricula. Now, a generation later, they practically demand it. The acronym that has burrowed its way into the vernacular is STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. It’s not that there are schools out there not teaching these subjects; the STEAM concept refers to an interdisciplinary approach to their instruction.

If you are wondering what happened to STEM, that was STEAM before someone pointed out that folding in the arts might foster the kind of creativity that would make STEM kids more innovative and competitive. It’s kind of a left-brain, right-brain thing, which has generated a fair amount of debate. More on this later (see sidebar).

Wherever you stand on STEM vs. STEAM—as an educator, a parent or prospective employer—the goal is basically the same: The development of worker skills that better meet the demands of the 21st century. These skills go beyond a deeper knowledge of math and science. They include critical thinking, communication and problem-solving. All are essential to success, whether a job is science-related or not. From a top-down standpoint, the focus of STEAM education is to prepare young people to solve real-world problems and implement (or even create) new technologies.

The key part of that last sentence is real-world.

There is a growing acceptance of the fact that our children will be inheriting a planet that is suffering from overpopulation, dwindling resources, food stress, social inequality and poor environmental stewardship. Throw in climate change, if you like. You might quibble with one or two of those challenges (they are, arguably, somewhat endemic to humanity) but the fact is that the next couple of generations are going to face some really complex problems that, hopefully, our kids and grandkids will be able to understand and solve.

That begins with knowing how to ask the right questions, which is a big part of STEAM. One reason the A is in there is that the arts enhance a young person’s powers of observation and understanding of others; most problems are “people problems” on some level, after all. Whether you are just reading the room or attempting to absorb a new culture, you need to work your way through other humans to land at a quality solution. We all have had coworkers who lacked this ability—no matter how brilliant they were, their people skills usually undermined their brilliance. The S in STEAM is equally critical when it comes to formulating the right questions. a thinker who asks questions like a scientist will get to an answer that opens up a broad range of possible solutions. Throw in the T, E and M and that creative thinker will naturally employ what he or she has learned about technology, math and engineering to design, test and construct a great solution.

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Regardless of what you feel qualifies as a STEM- or STEAM-related career, the number of jobs in this category here in the U.S. is likely to rise by 20% or more when the current crop of elementary-school kids hits age 30. That number translates to tens of millions of new, challenging jobs and is second only to healthcare-related careers (which are not entirely unrelated). In fact, relatively few jobs in the 2030s will be unrelated to STEAM. Already, more than half the jobs occupied by “graduates” of STEAM programs are different than the ones they had originally envisioned. Indeed, not everyone can be a software developer, nor should they be. But a working knowledge of coding and web design can take young workers places they never thought of going. Someone who thinks like a scientist or engineer may find fulfillment in a job outside of science or engineering. In other words, STEAM is a mindset—or, if you prefer, a skillset—that encompasses the broadest possible range of job opportunities, as well as entrepreneurship and a spirit of enterprise.

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So where are we in New Jersey on STEM and STEAM? The New Jersey Education Association is behind these programs. All students benefit from them, it states, because they teach independent innovation and allow students to explore greater depth of all of the subjects by utilizing the skills learned. The NJEA has a Technology Committee, which studies the impact of technology on educational programs and reviews technology curricula proposals and initiatives for appropriateness. The committee also makes recommendations for funding related to equipment, personnel, programs and training. Its overarching goal is to ensure that every student in the state achieves a degree of technological literacy.

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The NJEA promotes a number of apps that support a STEAM approach to instruction, including Screencastify and Build with Chrome—both generated by Google—and EDPuzzle, which enables teachers to create lessons by importing videos from anywhere on the Internet and then inserting their own voices to ask students questions SketchUp helps students engage in 3D modeling for building projects, while Scratch functions as a coding tutorial that also encourages students to think creatively and work collaboratively. As for the addition of the arts to make STEM into STEAM, the NJEA created a Soaring with STEAM program, which emphasizes hands-on, cross-curricular learning that is focused on strengthening subjects in high demand for future careers. 

Niche.com, a web site that issues report cards on U.S. schools, recently ranked New Jersey’s top STEM schools. No fewer than 66 received an A+, with the top-ranked school High Tech High in Lincroft. The #7 ranked school is the Union County Magnet High School in Scotch Plains, which Niche.com also ranked the #3 public high school in the state.

Each school, of course, coordinates its STEM/STEAM program differently. The idea, however, is the same—to harness the strengths of the faculty and encourage students to develop critical thinking across the various disciplines. At the early grade-school level, it mostly involves building projects, some of which can be surprisingly complex. Ask a first- or second-grade teacher and they will tell you that their kids are up to whatever the challenge is. Research strongly suggests that kids this age will put a surprising amount of time, effort and thought into projects if they believe it will make them smarter. This is confirmed by children in lower school classrooms through the state on a daily basis.

A STEAM education program can start as soon as children enter a school. That’s the case at The Academy of Our Lady of Peace in New Providence, a PreK through 8 school where each year’s curriculum builds on the ones before it. Jaclyn Church, who teaches middle schoolers at The Academy, appreciates this philosophy, which relies on communication between the teachers.

“We discuss topics and how they can be brought into other subjects,” she explains. “When I have the 7th grade create a zoo to apply different information, the technology teacher has them create websites for their zoo. As I was teaching the 6th grade about space, the language arts teacher read a book on the subject matter and we both worked with the students when they created a space suit as a culmination of both subjects. With communication, a little planning and some flexibility, cross-curricular education can happen pretty easily and can greatly enrich the students’ education.”

“Having started this process at three years old,” Church adds, “we ensure our students are ready to grow these skills. They receive a solid foundation that allows them to succeed in high school and beyond.”

In terms of STEM/STEAM proficiency in high school, the rubber has already met the road by the time students enter 6th, 7th and 8th grades. A study done by Microsoft among college students in STEM-related majors revealed that 4 in 5 had been engaged in STEAM or STEAM programs by the time they reached high school.

One of the goals of STEAM programs is to attract more young women into careers in the tech and science sectors by engaging them early. The earlier the better, in fact. Michael Bernard, Ph.D. chairs the Science Department at Benedictine Academy, an all-girls high school in Elizabeth. He estimates that only around 10 to 15 percent of incoming freshmen are inclined toward the sciences, adding that they tend to stand out from the outset. Dr. Bernard works closely with the art teacher to create cross-curricular interest in anatomy.

“It is incredibly helpful for art students to understand and be familiar with anatomy and musculature to accurately depict subjects in their art pieces,” he says. “Anatomy is open to juniors so that a suitable portfolio might be created in time for college application. Additionally, each quarter of the year requires Biology and Anatomy students to produce a poster project outlining a science problem that needs solving. Two-thirds of the grade for these projects is based on artistry and creativity.”

One of the results of this fusion is that Benedictine is adding a class in Comparative Anatomy, which was initiated by a committee of students that petitioned the principal for more advanced classwork in Anatomy and Physiology. Any teacher will tell you that type of request is one of the big payoffs for an educator. The best, though, is when a science course changes a student’s trajectory.

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“What happened this past year is why I, as a teacher, truly love my job,” explains Dr. Bernard. “One student in Biology was not faring very well—passing, but not by much. Then we started the unit on Genetics and everything changed. For this young lady, homework was a breeze, class participation skyrocketed, and grades went from last place to first. She made a connection with the material, and that made all the difference. Now she wants to be a genetic counselor. Who knew?” Jaclyn Church also has had students explore the medical field because they enjoyed learning about the body systems at The Academy of Our Lady of Peace.

“I also have several who have gone into engineering programs because they liked designing, creating, and working to solve problems, as the students do in our Science and STEM fair.”

Although the goals of STEM/STEAM programs are similar, they are anything but cookie-cutter. How they are designed and what they are called can vary greatly from school to school, both public and private. At Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone, STEAM morphs into STREAMS from grades 4 through 6: sustainability, technology, research, engineering, agriculture, math, and service. “It extends traditional coursework in science with fieldwork that utilizes the natural resources of our campus, explains Irene Mortensen, Director of Studies. “The STREAMS curriculum is ideal for students in this age group, as it encourages them to apply science and engineering skills, as well as classroom learning, in a hands-on, dynamic outdoor environment. The program is designed to foster problem-solving and design thinking. As students move through the program, they apply the field scientist skills and integral research skills practiced in previous years of STREAMS, to complete more comprehensive, interdisciplinary capstone projects.”

Gill St. Bernard’s takes children from pre-k through high school graduation, enabling the faculty to build 14 years worth of science, math and technology skills in the students, immersing them in experiential, in-depth projects that incorporate STEM components, critical and design thinking, along with research. Experiences and coursework vary for students, adds Mortensen, which allows for a personalized profile to take shape for each student.

“Collaboration among teachers is key,” she says, echoing what educators from both private and public schools across the state maintain is the crucial building block to vibrant STEM/STEAM curricula.

Many schools in New Jersey, in an effort to supercharge curricula, have reached out to other schools for ideas on how to beef up their STEM/STEAM offerings. For the most part, schools are willing to compare notes and share ideas, even with “competitors,” notes Jayne Geiger, longtime Head of School at Far Hills Country Day and now at the Rumson Country Day School. She assembled a group of teachers, board trustees and administrators (herself included) to visit other schools in New Jersey with progressive STEM/STEAM programs.

“What we found was that the ‘materials’ for a STEM program at RCDS were actually right in line with these other schools—in some cases a bit ahead—and had been for some time,” she says. “The components of a great STEM/STEAM program already existed in ‘pockets’ that just needed to talk to one another a bit more to become fully integrated. We didn’t have a label for what we were doing. Now we do—and teachers are excited to make these cross-curricular connections”

RCDS had already constructed a state-of-the-art building on campus in 2010 to house science classrooms and labs, along with a fine arts studio, a new library and collaborative meeting spaces. In other words, the physical space already existed. More New Jersey schools have followed suit. Just last year, the Morristown–Beard School cut the ribbon on a 25,000 sq. ft. Math and Science Building, featuring interconnected, interdisciplinary teaching spaces.

“Being physically closer promotes discussion among the teachers and generates meaningful opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary risk-taking in a cutting-edge facility,” explains Headmaster Peter J. Caldwell.

The building, he adds, also has its own art gallery. And soon MBS will open a Center for Innovation & Design, where students can collaborate and engage with one another and with faculty to incubate and develop new ideas and products. Students will analyze challenges, deconstruct them, think creatively, tinker, forward new and unconventional ideas, and vet them with their peers.

“If we can do this well, our students’ experience in the Center for Innovation & Design will be organic and will be relevant to the world in which they live and work,” says Darren Burns, head of Morristown–Beard’s Upper School. “I envision their projects as being a way to set themselves apart and get a jump on life beyond MBS.”

Not every school can afford a STEAM building, of course. But one of the consequences (or upsides, if you will) of the increasing focus on these curricula is a new approach to classroom design. Schools dipping into their renovation budgets are now exploring how to create spaces that will encourage students to think and investigate, as well as work in teams. Obviously, certain subjects have specific requirements in terms of layout and equipment. There is a big difference between the must-haves in a chemistry classroom and a robotics lab. In general though, a STEAM-friendly classroom should be flexible and adaptable, where kids can work and plan in close quarters but also be loud and exuberant. In many cases, schools are exploring the three-room concept: a traditional lab space, a traditional classroom and a spacious commons area. These rooms are typically easily accessible to one another, and also offer access to the outdoors (which may come with potential security concerns).

That being said, no matter how cool it is to see a kid’s new tech-friendly classroom, not every parent is all-in with the commitment to a STEM education. There are some children who demonstrate, early on, interests and talents far afield from science, technology, engineering and math. So what if your young one falls into this category? Should he or she still be pushed through these curricula?

The benefits of this type of learning will absolutely pay dividends down the road, says Stephen DeAngelis of Enterra Solutions, a company specializing in innovative applications of artificial intelligence.

“Educating students in STEM subjects, if taught correctly, prepares students for life, regardless of the profession they choose to follow,” he told educators recently at the University of San Diego. “Those subjects teach students how to think critically and how to solve problems—skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times and take advantage of opportunities whenever they appear.”

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Is the A in STEAM really necessary?

A comfort level with technology is certainly an asset for someone who pursues a career in the arts. But is an artistic mind an asset to someone whose future lies in science and technology? Engineers who “wing it” are generally not considered to be assets, but creative thinkers are.

However, a creative mind can’t really be created through STEAM or any other process. You either have it, or you don’t—and if you do, it will find a way to come through. For this reason, there are arts-oriented people who actually oppose the addition of the A in STEAM. They believe that force-feeding an artistic child science, math and engineering may blunt his or her creativity.

Proponents of “the A” point out that, in the broadest terms, the arts develop parts of the brain and personality that give workers an edge in planning and innovation, design and ergonomics, and the ability to engage and communicate with co-workers. The best engineers, they point out, are inherently creative. So why not foster quality from the start?

PUTTING THE ‘S’ IN STEAM

In most educational settings, the S in STEAM/STEM— Science—takes something of a lead role in the implementation of cross-curricular programs. And for good reason: Science is as much a process of thinking as it is a subject. “It’s something that you can incorporate into a lot of different classes,” says Yveslaine Gadzi, who teaches science at the Chatham Day School. For instance, Chatham 6th graders made their own biodome last year, while the 8th graders created a forensic science project with its own crime scene. These involved myriad aspects of technology, math, design, and writing.

“We ensure that all of our students know how to incorporate different problem-solving skills into their work and think progressively,” she explains. “The departments work well together to make sure that kids are taking a ‘STEM approach’ into their classes. They are very well prepared for high school when they leave here.”

Gadzi has taught internationally and in New Jersey public high schools. Over the last decade she confirms that schools have continued to sharpen their focus on STEM/STEAM programs—“that’s true for both public and private…across the board.

Empty Nest

The not-so-funny side of Home Alone

By Sarah Rossbach

One September day, when my near-twin children were entering high school, I ran into a distressed, grief-stricken acquaintance at the local farm market. In tears, the normally perky, upbeat woman shared that her youngest had just left for college. She was an empty-nester and life as a mother was over. While her child was adjusting to the freedom and challenges of college life, she was mourning the end of family dinners, high-school tennis matches, and a house full of laughing teenagers. One look at the abandoned bedroom, the discarded racket and lunch box and it was too much to bear. Now retired from her role/job as an active parent, she had contracted a full-blown case of Empty Nest Syndrome: The helicopter parent had landed with a lonely thud and an empty tank. 

Fast-forward a few years. My husband and I dropped off our two at their respective New England colleges—as luck would have it—a day apart. In spite of loving our children dearly, I was determined to avoid my acquaintance’s pitfall. I reminded my spouse that we’d had a lot of fun before we had children and suggested viewing their absence as a sort of second honeymoon. He didn’t quite carry me over the threshold, but we found that being home alone together gave us more quality time for each other. While we weren’t exactly celebrating that we were “free at last,” we took solace that the kids were in college, a parenting job well-done.

Everyone has “helpful” suggestions on parenting, but how does one deal with un-parenting—losing one’s identity as a mom or dad, being on one’s own and becoming a temporarily child-free individual or couple? Wikipedia describes the Empty Nest Syndrome (ENS) as a “feeling of grief and loneliness parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university.” It is not a clinical condition, yet its symptoms can range from depression and loss of purpose to stress and anxiety about the child. Of course, for some, the departure of a “difficult” child may not come soon enough.

COPING

My father had a saying about his kids: “If you’re going to raise eagles, you have to let them fly.”  The message (I think) was his rationalization as he sadly watched us go in different directions, as well as being his way to encourage and inspire us: that separation from one’s parents was a key inaugural element to launch one’s life journey. 

I reached out to Dr. Rodger Goddard for some advice to parents whose eagles have flown the coop. Dr. Goddard is Chief Psychologist and Director of Wellness Management Services at Trinitas Regional Medical Center. (Wellness Management Services provides presentations, programs and consultation to help corporations and schools achieve their key goals.) Empty Nest Syndrome (ENS) is extremely common, he points out. In fact, as many as 30% of all Baby Boomers may experience this syndrome.  

“The range of experiences that a parent may have are extremely varied,” he explains. “A child may have moved only a block away or to the other side of the country. A child or parent may not blink an eye or one may experience very intense emotional swings during this transition. A significant number of parents struggle with ENS. The classic symptoms range from feelings of loss, depression and meaninglessness to high anxiety and intense worry.”

Dr. Goddard offers a number of strategies that can help alleviate this potentially painful and difficult time. There are two key areas that parents can work on to build skills to help get through this challenging life transition…

IMPROVE THE RELATIONSHIP

First, focus on finding ways to positively change your relationship with your child. Your child is likely to have very mixed feelings about the separation: torn between wanting to still feel protected, loved and secure, while rejecting being treated like a child. This may send a parent very mixed messages, resulting in a parent being torn between giving advice, criticism and help, and feeling mistreated and pushed away.  

Second, it is important to find a balance of contact during this time. While you want to avoid suffocating your child and giving him or her the message that they are incapable of being on their own, your child still needs your help. Figure out with your child the best form and frequency of contact; text, email, phone, visits. Avoid being too invasive at this time. This would send the message that your child cannot manage on his or her own. Yet too much distance would communicate to your child that you disapprove of their separation and independence, potentially implying you are withdrawing your love and support because they have a new place to live, a new job, a new partner, and so on. It is critical to show support and love during the transition into college, and beyond, as it can be extremely scary and anxiety-filled for a child dealing with separating from the family. In short, you may be most effective when you encourage independence, yet still show your intense love and support, and provide advice and direction when needed. Remember to not distance yourself too much no matter how much upset, anxiety, relief or sadness you are feeling in order to create a good balance. Your child needs you to be in the dual role of both a guiding, advice-giving parent and a supportive, affirming, accepting friend in the background. 

OPPORTUNITY FOR  SELF-CARE & GROWTH

You have devoted your whole life to nurturing this beautiful child and are likely to experience a loss of meaning and purpose when your child is separating. It is a wonderful time to devote yourself to something new. According to Dr. Goddard, a good antidote to the loss of meaning and purpose is to use this time to build your self-esteem and explore new meaning in your life. Supporting yourself begins with using techniques to control your anxious, worried thoughts. Learn to be calm, practice deep breathing exercises all day long.  Focus on rational thoughts and be more active. Use the time to do a life review to clarify the mission and purpose of your life and find new directions to focus what you have to give the world. 

HOME AGAIN

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention at this point that, having coped reasonably well with ENS, my husband and I are now faced with another challenge about which you’ve probably read or heard. As of this writing, my eagles have both come home to roost and are part of the Boomerang Generation. Parenting has become trickier, as you’re all cooped up again and you, as parent, are dealing with young adults who have tasted and enjoyed their own independence. This issue is complex. Life is much more challenging now, it is more difficult to find a job than in the past and renting or buying on one’s own is more expensive than ever. For example, my kids are working full-time, but can afford only to live at home for now. 

So Empty Nesters, you may want to hold off on converting those freed-up bedrooms into home offices or man caves. 

NOT-SO-EMPTY NEST

Somewhere around a one-third of 18-to-34-year-olds are living at home with their parents, due, in part, to financial challenges. Dr. Rodger Goddard offers these thoughts to Boomerang parents: 

  • Today, children are less mature, independent and self-reliant compared to earlier times. This may potentially be a result of Baby Boomers being overly supportive, indulging and spoiling their children, compared to past generations. As a result, many of those in their 20s are like teenagers and those in their 30s are like those in their 20s.
  • Children returning home and living with their parents can be very difficult for both parent and child. Parents are likely to want to parent the same way they did for the last 20-30 years. As the child has been away from home for the college years, anger and resentment can arise in the boomerang child who feels independent and resents being treated like a kid.  

It is best for everyone that the relationship evolves. For all to live happily under the same roof, it is critical that there is a working structure in place, that all understand their responsibilities: chores, rent, behavior and so on.  So all need to agree on a set of guiding rules: who does what, when and where. A written agreement concerning key issues—as well as a plan for the child transitioning to being on his or her own—is critical.

 

Homework

How much is enough? How much is too much? 

By Christine Gibbs

Don’t Bother, Homework Is Pointless. When this headline ran in The New York Times during the 2014–15 school year, you could practically hear the jubilant roar of elementary school students and their parents. Imagine a world without nightly assignments. No more badgering. No more meltdowns. Utopia. The writer cited research that almost universally drew the same conclusion: Homework in the K-thru-8 world is practically pointless.

Three years later, despite mounting evidence that a 20th Century approach to homework does not adequately address the needs and challenges of the 21st, the war between those in favor of homework and those against it rages on. The anti-homework faction has amassed a mountain of newspaper stories like the one in the Times and can also cite serious studies, with statistically significant results, published in countless treatises and on endless websites. For example, research performed at Stanford University found that among 4,300 students in high-achieving California communities, those who spent two hours on homework experienced more stress, physical health problems, lack of balance, and even alienation from society. 

A few daring school districts have been brave enough to implement a no-homework policy in the lower grades, which prompted a visceral reaction from many parents (and even some teachers) who feared it would affect everything from test scores to future college acceptances. 

In 2014, sociology professors Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris authored a book that has become required reading in certain circles entitled The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement with Children’s Education. They present extensive and credible evidence that homework doesn’t help much, if at all. Another conclusion of their research was that parental meddling in homework assignments can actually bring test scores down. This kind of interference, common among today’s helicopter parent population, “could leave children more anxious than enthusiastic about school.” The Race to Nowhere, a 2011 documentary produced by Vicki Abeles—a well-known filmmaker, speaker, and children’s advocate—featured interviews with burned-out students from our own Garden State schools who reveal how too much homework is often detrimental, especially in the early grades. The final conclusion of her film is that “the only homework that actually helps kids learn is reading… just reading.”

So does homework work? Yes, say its proponents. A robust homework regimen has lasting real-world benefits. In her 2011 article, entitled “Why Homework is Good for Kids,” education historian Diane Ravitch pointed out that a little- or no-homework policy is likely to result in students who do not read much, do not write well, or don’t complete assignments. She sums up her defense of homework as follows: “[It] doesn’t help students who don’t do it, but very likely does help students who actually complete their assignments. Duh.”

While researchers haggle over the merits of the day-to-day payoff of homework, longtime educators point out facts that are difficult to dispute. Taking homework seriously—i.e. doing it well and doing it neatly (not in the back of the car or wedged into a subway seat)—develops habits for life. One of the great complaints employers have is that a high percentage of their workers do not understand expectations or how to meet expectations, and that accountability seems like a foreign concept. This is true of fast-food workers, Ph.D.’s and everyone in between. Homework helps young people comprehend responsibility and the value of a job well done.

Who makes decisions about homework? Schools typically have a policy on time limits. For younger kids, it’s often a half-hour a night—increasing to 90 minutes or more by middle school, as they have more subjects and become more mature. In most cases, the type and quality of homework is discussed on the division level. The focus is on elevating the students’ cognitive skills. 

Our federal government has long been a proponent of the benefits of homework as part of any good curriculum. Through programs such as No Child Left Behind, countless millions of dollars were aimed at ways to improve education—almost all of which emphasized homework as a valuable teaching tool. Such programs unfortunately fell short of their goals through inefficiency at the state level. As these programs failed, so did the undisputed confidence in the rewards of a hefty homework regimen.

Many experts feel that homework strategies have failed to keep pace with the digital age. Finding answers is often a button-click away, while collecting information is like trying to drink out of a fire hose. The gates to knowledge have been flung wide open and, yet, when a child sits in front of a screen, there is no gatekeeper. Interestingly, upper grade homework has remained roughly the same since 1984—a bit under two hours—but what fills that time is, in many cases, dramatically different today than in the ‘80s. Some believe development of an Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) will “replace” homework. An ITS is a computer program that gives students customized instruction and feedback in real time, with oversight by a teacher. These programs are becoming more prevalent in professional settings and may eventually find their way down to the grade school level.      

Harris Cooper, a Duke psychology professor, points out that people have been arguing about homework for a century. “The complaints are cyclical,” he says, “and we’re in the part of the cycle now where the concern is about too much.” 

Cooper adds that, back in the 1970s, the focus in American schools was on too little homework because we were more worried about global competitiveness. Wherever we stand as a parent or educator, we should prepare for the homework pendulum to continue to swing. But for now, although homework doesn’t appear to be all it was once cracked up to be, Do your homework! still resounds in many a U.S. household. 

In the end, wherever you come down on the homework debate, and regardless of which mega-study you believe, there is one point all educators agree on—and cannot stress enough to parents—which echoes the conclusion of The Race to Nowhere: The single most important thing a child can do outside of school is read. Whether it is done for an assignment or as an escape, reading helps young people develop a sense of grammar and spelling, exposes them to new ideas, sparks the imagination and helps instill in them an intuitive understanding of communication. 

 

MAKING HOMEWORK WORK

As principal of the Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, Ashley Powell is all too familiar with the battle of contention that has been raging for the past 10 years or so about the pros and cons of homework. She takes a structured approach on the “pro” side. For Powell, there is no value in simply requesting a review of what went on that day in the classroom:

“No busywork for homework…instead, I favor extending exploratory learning of subject matter through project and research assignments, rather than rote memorization.” 

“There is just too much available online,” she adds, “so assigned topics can simply be Googled and regurgitated

 “The key to making homework work for teachers (and students) is to know why they are assigning each night’s homework and to make sure it serves a valuable purpose.”

 

THE SWEET SPOT 

Finding the right balance of homework is a constant challenge, says Jayne Geiger, Head of School at Far Hills Country Day for 22 years and now Interim Head at The Rumson Country Day School. “We want children to take homework seriously, to think and reflect and produce their best work,” she says. “Yet we don’t want to overburden or overpressure them, especially with all of the outside-of-school activities students have now. We’re always looking for that sweet spot.”

Homework is a valuable tool, Geiger adds.

“With younger children, it is used as an assessment tool. It helps us make sure that students understand the lesson. It reinforces what they’ve learned and gives them time outside the classroom to practice. For older kids, homework focuses more on context and application. Students might be asked to write an opinion on a topic discussed in class, work communally on a Google Doc, edit something they have already written, or do individual research and produce an original thought.”

For all ages, Geiger says, homework establishes good habits, including responsibility, organization and preparation. It also enables students to develop and practice their executive functioning skills.

But never forget, she adds, that reading “is still the best medicine!”

 

Star Children

Do adoptees have an edge in the celebrity department? 

By Mark Stewart

On January 1, 2017, a new law went into effect that has proved to be a game-changer for thousands of New Jerseyans. Anyone adopted in the state can have their records unsealed and view their original birth certificates. For the vast majority of children born prior to the 1990s—when the idea of “open adoptions” began to gain momentum—the answer to the question Who am I? has been Who knows? Since the new law went into effect, several thousand adoptees have petitioned to receive their un-redacted birth records. Birth parents can request their identifying information be redacted, but thus far, only a few hundred have done so.      

In many cases, the biological parents are as curious to see how their progeny turned out as their children are to learn more about their family origins. This really isn’t much of a surprise. Imagine having put a child up for adoption and wondering for years, or even decades, how that child made his or her way in the world. The hope for any biological parent is that the baby grew up happy, healthy and found success as an adult. 

Okay, now take it a step further—think about what it might be like to discover that your biological offspring became a star. There are no hard statistics on how often this comes to pass. But you’d be surprised how many universally known and admired public figures were raised by adoptive parents. 

Adoption comes in many shapes and sizes, of course. A considerable number of famous Americans, for instance, were adopted as children or teenagers by step-parents—including Bill Clinton and Truman Capote—while others were adopted by members of their own extended family. Clinton was originally William Jefferson Blythe III, while Capote was born Truman Parsons. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles was adopted by her grandparents after it became clear her mother, Shanon, could not kick her drug and alcohol problems. Eric Clapton, the child of an unwed teen mom, grew up believing that his grandmother was his mother and his mother was his older sister—although it does not appear he was ever formally adopted. Eric Dickerson, a Hall of Fame football star, was born under similar circumstances and adopted by his great aunt. He, too, grew up believing his mother was his older sister. Jesse Jackson was fathered by a neighbor, Noah Robinson, but adopted by Charles Jackson, the man his mother married the following year. He grew up having father-son relationships with both men.   

In all of the aforementioned examples most, if not all, of the puzzle pieces required to complete the adoption picture were on the table. But what of the adoptees whose biological parents willingly relinquished their rights at (or shortly after) birth? The list of celebrities who were given up as infants is equally impressive. The world of commerce and industry, for example, is peppered with examples of adoptees who became successful business leaders. In some cases, they took over family businesses and helped them expand and flourish. Steve Jobs and Dave Thomas are perhaps the two most famous businessmen who were given up for adoption as infants. 

Matt Buchanan

Jobs, the visionary industrial designer who co-founded Apple, was put up for adoption in San Francisco in 1955. His biological parents—the son of a wealthy Syrian family and the daughter of a Midwestern farm family—met as students at the University of Wisconsin. Jobs was conceived during a summer visit to Syria. Religious differences (he was Muslim, she Catholic) made marriage problematic. Initially, Jobs’s birth mother hoped to place him with a wealthy couple. However, at the last minute that couple decided they wanted a girl. Her baby boy was placed instead with Clara and Paul Jobs, a Bay Area working- class couple. She refused to sign the adoption papers until the Jobses agreed that he would go to college. Two years later, the family adopted a girl, Patricia. She and Steve grew up in Los Altos, a town with great schools and a high density of engineering families. Jobs tracked down his biological parents in his 30s, with the help of a letter from the doctor who had arranged the adoption, which was delivered after his death. Jobs ended up forging a relationship with his biological mother after his own mother passed away.

The Wendy’s Company

Thomas, the man behind the Wendy’s fast-food empire, is a Jersey boy. He was born in Atlantic City in 1932 to a single mother and adopted at six weeks. Sadly, his adoptive mother died when he was five years old. He moved frequently with his father and lived with his grandmother for a time. Thomas landed his first restaurant job at the age of 12, in Nashville, Tennessee. At 15, he was working at a Ft. Wayne, Indiana restaurant when his father decided to move again. Thomas decided to stay put. He dropped out of school to work full-time. Thanks to his food-service background, Thomas was assigned to a base in Germany during the Korean War, where he was responsible for feeding 2,000-plus GIs a day. He returned to Indiana, where he began working with Harland Sanders, devising ways to make his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises more profitable—and suggested Col. Sanders do his own commercials. Thomas founded Wendy’s in 1969 and ended up doing his own commercials, too—more than 800 in all. In 1992, Thomas started the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which is dedicated to placing children in the foster care system into adoptive homes. Thomas passed away in 2002. His daughter, Wendy, serves on the foundation’s board.

Two of history’s most accomplished filmmakers—Michael Bay and Carl Dreyer—were given up as infants, albeit it was 75 years apart. Dreyer was born in Copenhagen to a successful farmer and a young girl who worked for his family as a maid. Dreyer’s father, who happened to be married, forced her to send the baby to an orphanage. The boy was adopted at the age of two by Carl Dreyer, a typesetter, and his wife, Inge. He left home at 16 to pursue his education and went into the film industry in his 20s. Dreyer moved to France, which was the epicenter of artistic filmmaking in the 1920s. In 1928, he made The Passion of Joan of Arc, a silent masterpiece that blended aspects of expressionism and realism, and broke ground in a number of artistic and technical areas. Four years later, Dreyer made the surrealistic classic Vampyr. The Joan of Arc picture has been hailed as the greatest European film of the silent era. Dreyer continued to make movies until his death in 1968.

Bjoern Kommerell

Michael Bay, who began interning with George Lucas as a high school student, was born in 1965 in Los Angeles. He was adopted by a Jewish family. His father was an accountant and his mother was a child psychiatrist. A cousin, Susan, was married to Leonard Nimoy. As a boy, Bay was drawn to his mother’s 8 mm camera. At age 8, he attached firecrackers to a toy train and staged an explosive accident. The fire department was called to extinguish the flames. Fast-forward to the 1990s, when he delivered lots of bang for the buck in Bad Boys (his directorial debut, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence), The Rock (with Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery) and Armageddon, in which the earth is nearly obliterated. Between 2007 and 2017, Bay made five Transformers features. 

Two heralded writers were adopted shortly after birth, author

Robert Wilson

James Michener and playwright Edward Albee. Michener, whose books often focused on multi-generational family sagas, was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1907. He never learned anything about his biological parents. He was adopted by a Quaker woman named Mabel Michener and grew up in Doylestown. He taught during the Depression and then took a job with MacMillan Publishing editing Social Studies textbooks. Called to active duty during World War II, Michener traveled the South Pacific on a string of choice assignments as a naval historian because, legend had it, the Navy brass mistakenly assumed that he was the son of an admiral with a similar-sounding name. He drew on these experiences to write his first book, Tales of the South Pacific, in 1947. It provided the inspiration for the Broadway smash South Pacific, which opened two years after the book was published. During Michener’s career, 14 other books became movies or television miniseries. In 1977, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Univ Houston

Albee was born in Virginia in 1928 and brought to New York two weeks later, where he was adopted by a Westchester couple. His father, Reed Albee, owned several theaters and his grandfather, Edward II, was a wealthy vaudeville magnate. His mother, Frances, was an active socialite. Albee and his mother had a complicated relationship, which he later drew upon for his 1991 Pulitzer-winning play, Three Tall Women. He never felt close to his father either. He felt his parents never really understood much about parenting. Albee had a New Jersey connection; he attended the Lawrenceville School as a teenager, but was expelled long before he graduated. After college, he moved to Greenwich Village and began to write plays. He broke through in 1962 with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Four years later, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor starred in the film adaptation. Albee won a total of three Pulitzer prizes and was arguably the most important American playwright of his generation. He passed away in 2016.

Looking back at the grand achievements of these individuals, it is interesting to plot out what role adoption played in their intellectual and personal development. In the case of entertainers, it’s anyone’s guess. One thing is certain: a significant number of commercially successful actors and musicians are adoptees. Some of their stories are inspiring, while others serve as reminders that the circumstances of adoption are not always neat and clean. A case in point is comic actor Tommy Davidson, who first starred in the FOX series In Living Color. Born to a single mother in Mississippi in 1963, he was literally left for dead in the trash at 18 months. The woman who rescued him, and ultimately adopted him, was white, as was her husband. He grew up in the toney D.C. suburb of Silver Spring as the older brother to two siblings, Michael and Beryl. Funny, smart and energetic, Davidson was one of the hottest stand-ups in the business in the mid-1980s and is still making movies three decades later. 

Luigi Novi Wikimedia Commons

Hip-Hop pioneer Darryl McDaniels—the DMC of Run-D.M.C.—was born in New York City in 1964, surrendered as an infant to a Catholic orphanage, and adopted by his foster care family, the McDaniels, who chose not to reveal to their son that they were not his birth parents. Despite reaching the apex of his profession, the emptiness McDaniels felt drove him to the brink of suicide. As he tells it, he was “saved” after listening to Sarah McLachlan’s song “Angel” on the radio. Four years later, he learned the truth about his origins (“the missing piece to my existence“) and embraced his adoption as the first step to fulfilling his destiny. McDaniels was inspired to cut a remake of Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” and asked McLachlan to participate. She not only agreed, she provided the band and the recording studio. When they finished, she said, “Darryl…I gotta tell you something. I was adopted, too.” McLachlan was born in 1968 in Nova Scotia and, like McDaniels, was adopted by her foster family as an infant. They have since joined forces on a number of initiatives in support of adoptee rights. 

Three other high-profile sirens claim similar backgrounds: Faith Hill, Deborah Harry and Kristin Chenoweth. It might be worth noting that, from a stylistic standpoint, you probably couldn’t pick a more diverse trio. Hill, who’s got a closet full of Grammys and Country Music Awards, was born in Mississippi the same year as McLachlan and adopted by the Perry family, who named her Audrey Faith. In 1996, she fell in love with touring partner Tim McGraw and they were married that same year. Interestingly, McGraw, who was raised by a single mom, discovered at age 11 that he was the son of Mets pitcher Tug McGraw. After denying the relationship for several years, their increasing resemblance made Tug finally acknowledge his paternity. 

Chris Ptacek

Kristin Chenoweth, a darling of the Broadway stage, was born in 1968, too. She was adopted at five days old by an Oklahoma family and found her niche as an actress and singer by age 12. After earning a scholarship to the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts in 1993, she agreed to help a friend move from New Jersey to New York. On a lark, she auditioned for Animal Crackers at the Papermill Playhouse and won a featured role. She gave up her scholarship and later moved to New York to pursue her musical theater career, landing her first role on Broadway in 1997. 

Deborah Harry, the iconic frontwoman for the new wave group Blondie, is a full-fledged Jersey Girl. She was born in 1945 in Miami as Angela Tremble but given up for adoption at three months to Richard and Catherine Harry, who owned a gift shop in Hawthorne. Harry broke free of her suburban roots as soon as she could and worked as a go-go dancer and Playboy bunny before launching her musical career. She always knew she was adopted, but not until she was in her 40s did she try to track down her birth mother (who had no interest in forging a relationship with Harry). 

Finally, we have the realm of sports. No one has pushed the adoption conversation to the forefront in recent years more than the oversized star of baseball’s Yankees, Aaron Judge. He was born in 1992 in Linden, California, a one-stoplight town where he was adopted the next day by two local schoolteachers, Patty and Wayne Judge. They watched in astonishment as he grew to his current dimensions: 6’7”, 280 lbs., setting school records in baseball, football, and basketball. After a “cup of coffee” with the Yankees in 2016, he began terrorizing enemy pitchers in 2017 and won the Rookie of the Year award in a landslide. For now, he isn’t saying much about his biological parents, who one would guess from his appearance were some version of “mixed race.” Given his superstar status, and that it was a small town adoption, it’s unlikely the details will remain secret for long—even if he wants them to be.

If Judge continues to hit homers and makes it to the Hall of Fame, he will not be the first adoptee in Cooperstown. That honor belongs to Jim Palmer, a six-time All-Star who won 268 games for the Baltimore Orioles between 1965 and 1984. Palmer was born in New York City in 1945 and adopted as an infant by a garment industry executive, Moe Wiesen, and his wife Polly. The Wiesens lived in Westchester County until Jim was 10. His father died in 1955 and his mother moved Jim and his sister to California. There she met and married Max Palmer, an actor. Jim still went by Wiesen as he began to make a name for himself on the baseball diamond. At a Little League banquet where he was to receive three trophies, he asked the emcee to call him Jim Palmer. On Max Palmer’s 87th birthday, he told Jim that was the highlight of his life, and that he was proud to see his last name on each of the Cy Young Awards that Palmer won.

Two notable gold-medal Olympians were raised by adoptive parents, Dan O’Brien and Greg Louganis. O’Brien, the star of Nike’s “Dan and Dave” commercials in the early 1990s, won the decathlon in the 1996 Summer Games. His biological parents were Finnish and African-American. He was adopted by an Oregon couple and raised in Klamath Falls. Louganis, who won four gold (and one silver) diving medals between 1976 and 1988, was put up for adoption at eight months. His biological parents were Samoan and Swedish. He was raised in Southern California by Peter and Frances Louganis (Louganis is a Greek name) and had pushed his way into his older sister’s gymnastics and dance classes by the age of two. He began diving at the age of nine when his parents installed a backyard pool. 

The world of pro football offers three intriguing adoption stories: Daunte Culpepper, Colin Kaepernick and Tim Green. Culpepper was voted an All-Pro NFL quarterback in 2000 and again in 2004, and his football roots run deep. His birth mother, Barbara Henderson, was the sister of Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, a star linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s. She was serving time for armed robbery in a Florida prison when she gave birth to a baby boy. One day later, he was adopted by Emma Culpepper, who worked in the jail and raised a total of 15 children. At 17, her son stood 6’4” and was named Florida’s top high-school football player. He went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, and continues to use his fame to support the African American Adoption Agency. Kaepernick, whose refusal to stand for the National Anthem in 2016 triggered a social media firestorm, was the mixed-race child of a destitute teen mother in Milwaukee. Shortly after his birth, he was placed with Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, a couple who had lost two sons to heart defects. The family moved to California, where Colin blossomed into a top-rated baseball pitcher and straight-A student. He turned down diamond scholarships to pursue his dream of playing college football, eventually landing a full ride at the University of Nevada. After being drafted in 2011 by the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick led the team to the Super Bowl in 2012. 

Tim Green, a defensive star for the Atlanta Falcons from 1986 to 1994, became an author of both fiction and non-fiction books after his playing days. In 1997, he published A Man and His Mother: An Adopted Son’s Search. In the book, Green talks about how he believed his “rejection” at birth drove him to become a high achiever, but also to have poor relationships with women. After learning that a girlfriend’s mother had given up a child for adoption at about the same time he was born (1963), he launched a seven-year quest to locate his birth mother so he could let her know that she had made the right choice—that he was successful and happy. 

Which is everything a biological parent could possibly hope for, isn’t it?  

Paramount Pictures

THAT’S MY BOY!

The original “Star Child” adoptee came to us from the Old Testament, with an assist from Cecil B. DeMille. According to the story in Exodus, a Hebrew woman named Jochebed placed her newborn son in a waterproofed basket and floated him downriver after Pharaoh had ordered the male children of Israel killed. The infant was plucked from the bullrushes by an Egyptian princess and raised as Moses, a member of Pharaoh’s royal family. Although Moses achieved greatness as a member of Egypt’s ruling class, it was after he embraced his birth mother that he took it to the next level.
Given that Moses is one of the Bible’s most iconic figures, it stands to reason that it would take an actor with some gravitas to play (and also voice) him on-screen. Over the years, the part has gone to Christian Bale, Christian Slater, Peter Strauss, Val Kilmer, James Whitmore, and Burt Lancaster. The most amusing Moses was Mel Brooks in History of the World Part I. The most famous was Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.
Little known fact: Baby Moses (above) was played by Fraser Heston, Charlton’s son. Thirty-four years later, Fraser—who became a producer and director—cast his father as Long John Silver in the 1990 film Treasure Island.

 

MORE LIKELY? LESS LIKELY?

What are the odds that an adopted child will flourish and excel, compared to a child raised by biological parents? The answer depends on one’s definition of “success.” So much of what we achieve is linked to self-image. That can be complicated for adoptees. Baby Boomers, for example, grew up in an era where they had zero information on who had given them up, or why. On the one hand, these children grew up feeling good that they were “picked” by parents who desperately wanted them. On the other hand, there is a dark place every adoptee has gone when they wondered why they were “discarded.” 

A survey done a decade ago generated some interesting statistics. Three out of four adopted children are read to (or sung to) every day. This is true for only half of biological children. Also, ninety percent of adoptees had positive feelings about the process—including an appreciation for the selfless act of their birth mothers. 

WIN-WIN SCENARIO

Although some friends and family members may object to a young mother giving up a baby for adoption—or judge her harshly for the decision—statistics show that what is best for the baby usually has a positive outcome for the mother as well. Birth mothers are: 

  • No more likely to suffer from depression as single moms raising small children.
  • Less likely to have a second out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
  • More likely to delay marriage, but also more likely to eventually marry.
  • Less likely to divorce.
  • More likely to finish school.
  • More likely to be employed 12 months after the baby is born.
  • Less likely to live in poverty or receive public assistance.

 

Who Are We Where We Came From

America is often characterized as a nation of immigrants. That makes New Jersey America on steroids.  

By Mark Stewart

As much as any state in the nation over the past three-plus centuries, New Jersey has been defined culturally, socially, politically and economically by its newcomers. Decade after decade, our stunning diversity has supplied vital muscle and spirit to the state’s industrial, intellectual and artistic progress. Granted, things haven’t always gone smoothly—it is something of an American tradition to dump on the people who arrived in the U.S. right after you—but by and large, New Jersey has done a sensational job of absorbing its newcomers and leveraging their strengths.   

For all its faults and inefficiencies, the odd collection of 500-plus towns and cities that make up the Garden State has enabled every group of newcomers to gain an initial foothold and quickly begin to realize their potential. If anything, that is more true today than at any other time in our history—including the historic mass migration during the late-1800s and early-1900s.

Who are we? How did we get here? In order to know where we are going, it’s helpful to understand where we’ve been.

COLONIAL TIMES

New Jersey at the dawn of the Colonial Era was home to Dutch and Norwegian settlers. In 1638, Swedish and Finnish farmers began carving out space on both sides of the Delaware River, calling their settlement New Sweden. These were hardly gentleman farmers—many, in fact, had been banished from their homelands, with some presented with a choice between exile and the gallows. The Dutch focused their energies along the Hudson River, but their initial attempts at establishing settlements across the water from New Amsterdam (aka Manhattan), were thwarted by hostile natives. Not until 1660 did Dutch farmers gain a permanent foothold in New Jersey, on a rise between the Hudson and Hackensack Rivers in present-day Jersey City.

Upper Case Editorial

By then, the Dutch were no longer calling the shots. In 1644, a quartet of English warships sailed into New York harbor and wrested control from the Dutch. It was a bloodless takeover; the Dutch were traders not warriors and were content to continue plying their trade under a British flag. As every New Jersey school kid learns (but you probably forgot), the crown transferred ownership to George Carteret and John Berkeley (above). They in turn sold off chunks of land and issued the Concessions of Agreement, which included an elected assembly, unfettered trade and freedom of religion (as long as the religion was Protestant). 

Upper Case Editorial

The relative freedom afforded by the Concessions of Agreement produced the desired effect: Settlers began pouring into the provinces of East Jersey and West Jersey, as the colony was known. Interestingly, the vast majority of newcomers were not from across the Atlantic, but from New England and Long Island, where the rules regarding government and religion were more constrictive. In 1664, Long Islanders established Elizabethtown and in 1664 refugees from Connecticut founded Newark.  In the west, William Penn and the Quakers, who were persecuted in England, settled in Burlington. In New Jersey’s interior, Dutch settlers from the Hudson Valley built vast farms, worked by indentured servants and African slaves. For nearly a century, visitors to New Jersey were more likely to hear Dutch spoken than English.

In 1702, East and West Jersey became New Jersey. The population at that time was around 15,000, with 10,000 people living in the eastern portion of the colony. By the time of the American Revolution, New Jersey’s population exploded, increasing more than tenfold. The boom was a combination of factors. People continued to migrate south from New England and New York. The colony’s fertile soil and plentiful resources triggered a spike in the birth rate. And transatlantic immigration had begun in full force. Scots-Irish (Protestants from Ireland whose recent ancestors had moved from Scotland) and Germans were the two biggest groups. Most of the German settlers continued on to Pennsylvania, where they maintained their culture as the “Pennsylvania Dutch” (Deutsch is actually the word—they aren’t Dutch at all). 

EARLY STATEHOOD

At the conclusion of the 18th century, at the dawn of its statehood, roughly seven in 10 New Jerseyans traced their heritage back to the British Isles, with the rest split between Dutch and Germans. Those demographics would change over the next century, but not as rapidly as one might assume. Although America in the early 1800s was a magnet for immigration. New Jersey’s population growth between 1790 and 1840 actually lagged behind neighboring states. Indeed, thousands of newcomers bypassed New Jersey and struck out for more promising farmland along the expanding frontier; most of the prime farmland in New Jersey was already under cultivation. New York and Philadelphia also attracted immigrants who might have settled in New Jersey. In addition, countless New Jerseyans seeking entrepreneurial opportunities during this period moved from rural areas to these major cities. 

Even so, New Jersey’s population more than doubled between the Revolution and Civil War. A very high percentage of that increase was “natural” or “internal”—the result of established, growing families. This contributed to a curious dynamic: People in New Jersey began to think of themselves as “native” Americans instead of transplanted Europeans. Unfortunately, his would make life extremely difficult for the next group of immigrants from across the Atlantic. 

Economic and political shifts in Europe during the Industrial Revolution drove many people to the United States in the mid-1800s. Those coming from England and Germany tended to be skilled and, often, educated workers who found immediate employment in New Jersey’s growing cities. The outlook for Irish immigrants arriving in America was not as bright. They tended to be unskilled laborers or tenant farmers driven overseas by starvation after a potato blight wiped out their primary source of food in the 1840s. They arrived penniless and unwanted. 

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New Irish immigrants often lived in urban squalor, with nearly two-thirds qualifying by modern terminology as “working poor.” Irish men found work only as day laborers. Women between adolescence and marriage fared better as domestic help, and were often the primary breadwinners for their families. This was especially true in New Jersey, where the Irish made up fully half of the state’s new immigrants in the mid-1800s. The impact of the Irish and other new New Jerseyans was profound. They fueled the rapid growth of the state’s industrial centers and swelled the population, particularly in Hudson, Essex and Passaic Counties.  

The contributions of New Jersey’s 19th century immigrants went largely unrecognized at the time. America the Melting Pot may have been celebrated as a

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model to the world in the 20th century. In the 19th century, however, few saw the value of a diverse society. In New Jersey, those who viewed themselves as “native born” controlled politics and business, and they wielded this power mercilessly. They also looked down on the state’s new arrivals for the way they enjoyed the country’s promise of freedom of religion. American Protestants in the early 1800s were extremely conservative. In New Jersey, they frowned upon the newcomers’ Sunday activities. After a 60-hour workweek, Europeans were not inclined to devote their off-day to quiet, dignified reflection. They wanted to have fun, picnic, play sports. They overran parks and public spaces, drawing the ire of Protestant groups.

The Irish suffered doubly for their Catholicism. Their loyalty to the United States was constantly questioned because of their fealty to the Pope. Also, a general distrust of Catholicism as being anti-democratic was pervasive in America at this time. The curriculum of New Jersey’s public schools in the pre-Civil War era tilted heavily toward Protestant teaching, to the point where some educators hoped to convert Catholic children. Not surprisingly, it was around this time when Catholic schools began popping up all over the state. Catholic families pulled their kids out of the public schools and also demanded that the state fund these parochial institutions with their tax dollars. Friction between Protestants and Catholics occasionally erupted into violence in New Jersey’s cities. In Newark, a procession of Irish Protestant societies marched into an Irish Catholic neighborhood and a full-fledged riot ensued. 

One thing that Irish immigrants brought from their homeland that served them well was their ability to organize against an oppressor. In Ireland, they defied British rule. In American cities, as Irish populations swelled (and created huge voting blocks) their leaders found opportunities in controlling local politics and, by extension, exerting their influence on labor organizations and municipal jobs, including police forces. By the end of the 1800s, their children and children’s children would come to think of themselves as the native New Jerseyans, but in a different way. Although the Irish were no longer newcomers, they remained keenly aware of the distinct aspects of their culture, and proud of them. Each immigrant group that subsequently arrived in the Garden State followed their example, contributing to New Jersey’s diverse cultural tableau.

THE FLOODGATES OPEN

The final decades of the 19th century saw an astonishing uptick in immigration. Greater stability in Western Europe stemmed the tide from England, Ireland and Germany. Now the “new” immigrants came from Eastern and Southern Europe—primarily Italy, Poland, Russia and Hungary. They were characterized as the dregs of Europe: unsophisticated, uneducated and incapable of contributing to a society where they didn’t even speak the language. The reality, of course, was far different. The so-called “great unwashed” and “huddled masses” actually tended to be young, healthy and ambitious. Many young men came to America alone, hoping to secure jobs that would enable them to bring their families over, or at least return home with money in their pockets. These immigrants ended up propelling the Industrial Revolution in the U.S.  to new heights with their minds and bodies, contributing to a wide array of industries and making game-changing contributions to science and the arts. 

Between 1880 and 1930, thanks largely to the inflow of European immigrants, New Jersey’s population nearly quadrupled, from just over one million to four million. Jersey City, Camden, Trenton and Newark became thriving urban centers during this time, while cities such as Paterson, Passaic and Elizabeth reached the height of their commercial power. The consumer culture that blossomed in America in the early 1900s was no more evident than in Newark, where retail space on Market and Broad Streets fetched higher rents than on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Tunnels, bridges and modern ports, built by recent immigrants—along with the children and grandchildren of immigrants—provided vital links to the rest of the country.  

The experience of New Jersey’s first Italian immigrants differed somewhat from that of the Irish. It’s worth noting because today the number of New Jerseyans who claim Italian or Irish heritage is roughly equal.  (The exact figures depend on who’s doing the counting, and what criteria they employ, but from a purely empirical standpoint it seems about right.) Thousands of Italian immigrants found employment in New Jersey’s agricultural sector. In South Jersey, near the Pinelands, where the land can be extremely uncooperative, Italian farmers—renowned for their ability to coax produce from sketchy soil—were actively recruited from remote villages. Agents sent to Southern Italy and Sicily by New Jersey land investors posted bills that promised free passage and 20 acres of land for strong men willing to farm their plots. Grapes grew particularly well in the area, which was eventually renamed Vineland. 

Most Italian immigrants to New Jersey settled in its urban areas, arriving in especially large numbers in the first two decades of the 20th century. In many cases, they “replaced” the Irish as the go-to day laborers, particularly in railroad and housing construction. Italian women, as a rule, did not work outside the home as domestics. They were more likely to contribute financially by doing piecework out of their homes. Few Italians spoke English when they arrived. They dealt with this disadvantage by establishing self-sufficient neighborhoods in cities like Newark, where Italian was the common tongue in the First Ward for decades. Within these neighborhoods were clusters of Italian families from specific villages, with their own patron saints and annual festivals. 

Immigrants from Eastern Europe often gravitated to the cities of Passaic and Paterson. At the turn of the 20th century they were home to dozens of enormous textile operations. Laborers from Russia, Poland and Hungary found steady employment in these businesses. They were paid poorly by mill owners and lived in crowded, dirty conditions. In 1920, Passaic might have been the nation’s most “foreign” city—85 percent of its population was either born outside the U.S. or were children of immigrants. In the crowded First Ward, only 1 in 100 residents could claim to be a “native” New Jerseyan.

A SENSE OF IDENTITY

Today. we often use terms like Italian-American, Irish-American and German-American out of cultural recognition or sensitivity. A century ago, these terms would actually have been more appropriate. Immigrants arriving in New Jersey did not come to “be Americans.” They came to be Italians in America or Irish in America or German in America. A national identity (in the modern sense) would not be truly galvanized until World War II. Indeed, when World War I began in 1914, New Jersey’s multi-ethnic makeup created some tricky issues. Irish-Americans, for instance, were critical of the U.S. government’s support of England. German-Americans and immigrants from Austria-Hungary tended to root for their countries of origin in the early days of the war. They were not anti-American per se, but their loyalties were certainly divided—particularly in 1914, when it was assumed that the fighting would end soon. 

Not surprisingly, once the U.S. was drawn into the war against Germany in 1917, German-Americans in New Jersey found themselves the target of hatred and suspicion. Hundreds were rounded up, often on the slimmest of pretenses, suspected of being saboteurs or enemy agents. 

Starting in the 1920s, the federal government put the clamps on mass immigration. What had been a flood became little more than a trickle. Restrictions and quotas during this time tended to favor Northern Europeans. With the exception of refugees following World War II, it was unusual to come across a “recent immigrant” in New Jersey. As a result, what had been distinct cultures slowly became Americanized, with traditions (and family names) handed down to children and grandchildren. By the 1960s, the only people with deep “accents” were probably 50 yeas old or older. 

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THE IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT OF 1965

In the last 50 years, the majority of new New Jerseyans have come from Spanish-speaking countries and from Asia. In 1965, Congress passed sweeping immigration reforms that struck down the restrictive quota system that had been in place since the 1920s. The new rules gave preference to people who already had family members residing in the U.S., and to skilled laborers. In the ensuing decades, political upheaval in Latin America and a lack of economic opportunities in Asia sparked an explosion of “kin-based migration chains” from these regions of the world. At the same time, Europe had completed its recovery from World War II, so there was little incentive for Europeans to seek American citizenship. These two demographic trends combined to change the face of America—and particularly New Jersey. 

Because of its long history of cultural diversity, its economic opportunities and its proximity to major cities, New Jersey proved to be a particularly popular landing spot for immigrants from Asia and Latin America. The state’s current population of roughly 9 million represents 2.8% of the U.S. population, yet upwards of 6% of the country’s new immigrants settle here. That percentage may be even higher when undocumented individuals are taken into account. 

New Jersey’s Asian population grew steadily in the 1970s and 1980s to more than 250,000. From 1990 to 2000 it jumped dramatically, by nearly 100 percent. The largest groups were made up of immigrants from India, followed by China and the Philippines. Today, there are significant Indian populations in the towns of Edison and Iselin, as well as in Jersey City, which has the largest Indian population in the state, estimated at over 25,000. At 10.9% of the city’s total population, it is the most ethnically Indian of any major city in the country. “Little India” along Newark Avenue is home to Hindu temples, Indian restaurants and grocery stores, and the site of numerous celebrations, including the Navratri festival each autumn.

New Jersey’s Korean population is centered around Palisades Park in Bergen County, including the neighboring towns of Fort Lee, Leonia and Tenafly. In the 1970s and 1980s, the first wave of immigrants included a high percentage of  famously hardworking but unskilled laborers. Over the last quarter-century, the socioeconomic and educational profile of Korean immigrants to New Jersey has risen dramatically. 

There are some really interesting demographics out there on other Asian-American groups in New Jersey, particularly those claiming Chinese and Filipino heritage. However, taking a deep dive into those numbers can be tricky. The last U.S. census was in 2010, so the most accurate statistics on who New Jerseyans are and where they live are a mish-mash of seven-year-old census records and data collected by various studies—some by academics and others by state agencies like the New Jersey Department of Labor. Which is to say they are inherently inaccurate. It will be fascinating to see how rapidly the state’s demographics have shifted when the 2020 census results come out. Much of the data collection will be done via the Internet, which adds an additional wrinkle to the process. What can be said with some certainty at this point about

Photo by LuigiNovi Nightscream

New Jersey’s Asian population is that—

as a percentage of the overall population—it ranks third in the nation behind Hawaii and California. 

Americans of Asian descent number roughly 20 million, making up around 6% of the U.S. population. In New Jersey, the percentage is around 10%. 

LATINO NEW JERSEY

Historically, the state’s Latino Hispanic communities tend to form in its urban centers. They make up the majority of residents in seven cities of 25,000 or more: Fairview, Paterson, Elizabeth, North Bergen, Dover, Passaic, Perth Amboy, West New York and Union City. In Perth Amboy, West New York and Union City, more than three in four residents is Latino. Although one tends to think of Spanish-speaking communities as heavily immigrant, the fact is that roughly three in five Latinos living in the state were born in the United States.  

Starting in the 1950s, New Jersey’s Cuban population—many from Fomento and Villa Clara in central Cuba—coalesced around Union City. The Cuban population spread north and south in the ensuing decades and, today, some call this stretch of waterfront “Havana on the Hudson.” Another New Jersey city that became a landing place for immigrants from a specific country is Paterson, which has seen its Peruvian population grow dramatically. The city’s downtown area has been called “Little Lima” or “Little Peru.” Old-timers recall that this neighborhood had once been nicknamed “Dublin” for its heavy Irish population and the line of mills along the Passaic River—and then “Little Italy,” after another wave of European immigrants arrived. Paterson’s Main Street still boasts a Little Italy section, as well as distinct Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Mexican neighborhoods.

New Jersey’s Mexican population has experienced stunning growth. In little more than a generation (since 1990) it has increased more than 800 percent, from around 30,000 to more than a quarter-million. Overall, the Hispanic population in New Jersey grew by two-and-half times during the same period. Mexicans now represent the second-largest Hispanic population in the state, behind Puerto Ricans and just ahead of Dominicans, who make up the largest group from a Caribbean nation. That being said, New Jersey is home to more than 450,000 people who trace their heritage to Puerto Rico. Only New York and Florida have larger Puerto Rican populations. For most of the 20th century, Puerto Rican communities were concentrated in the urban centers of Hudson and Essex Counties, including Newark, Elizabeth and Jersey City. Large Puerto Communities are now located in Paterson, Camden, Trenton, Vineland and Perth Amboy. Puerto Rican migration to the U.S. began in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that New Jersey became a popular destination.  

Which part of the world will send New Jersey its next “wave” of newcomers? With the world’s climate changing, food stress may serve as the trigger. History teaches us that people are often willing to live in fear of war or violence, but nothing moves populations like the fear of starvation. That makes parts of Africa and the Middle East prime candidates. Alas, once thing is certain: Whoever has the fortitude, ambition and luck to make it to America, they can count on finding a Welcome mat in the Garden State.  

JEWS IN NEW JERSEY

Like most newcomers to the state, Jewish immigrants created insulated communities within New Jersey’s cities, specifically Newark, Paterson and Camden. The Weequahic section of Newark—a city that at one time claimed more than 75,000 Jewish residents—was perhaps the state’s most famous. The initial wave of Jewish immigrants were German Jews during the mid-1800s. They were extremely influential in the state’s economic growth. At the turn of the century, Jewish immigrants were more likely to come from Russia, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe, where they were victims of persecution. In the years after World War II, Jewish families that could afford to move to the Garden State’s rapidly expanding suburbs did so.Today, New Jersey’s Jewish populations are predominantly located in suburbs, as opposed to urban centers or “exurbs.” Today there are approximately 550,000 Jews living in New Jersey. The Ocean County town of Lakewood is home to one of the nation’s largest Orthodox communities, which makes up more than half of Lakewood’s population. Beth Medrash Govoha, one of the world’s most heralded rabbinical colleges, is located in the town.

THE BLACK EXPERIENCE

African-Americans were among the earliest settlers in New Jersey, although often they had no say in the matter. They were imported as slave labor from Africa or the West Indies by the Dutch and the English. Perth Amboy and Camden were major ports of entry for the trade. While New Jersey had a significant population of “free blacks” in the 1700s, at the time of the American Revolution there were more than 10,000 slaves in the state. The vast majority labored on farms or in ports, which were New Jersey’s two major industries. That explains why it took the state legislature until 1804 to outlaw slavery—and then only gradually. For decades after, many children born to New Jersey slaves were classified as “apprentices” to the owners of their parents into their 20s and beyond. Not until the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865 were the final 16 African-Americans still serving “apprenticeships” legally free.  

New Jersey’s African-American population did not undergo significant growth until World War I, when demand for industrial laborers in the urbanized North and Midwest triggered the “Great Migration” of more than 1.5 million blacks from the rural South between 1916 and 1930. A second wave estimated at nearly 5 million left the South for the North, West and Midwest in the quarter-century after World War II. 

Today, African-Americans make up the majority of residents in six cities of 25,000 or more: Newark, Camden, East Orange, Irvington, Willingboro and Orange. There are also large numbers of African-American families in Jersey City, Trenton, Paterson, Plainfield, Passaic and Lakewood. About 1.2 million people in New Jersey identify themselves as “black” or African-American.

 

Too Little Too Late

Is it time for a retirement reboot? 

By Christine Gibbs

The dictionary is very precise in defining retirement: Withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working. For a growing number of people in New Jersey and around the country, that definition barely hints at the reality of retirement. A generation ago, half of all Americans said they expected to retire comfortably by age 65. By contrast, according to a recent survey, about 25% of Americans now anticipate that retirement won’t begin until age 70 or later. According to AARP, 40% of Baby Boomers nearing retirement expect to “work until they drop.” So much for Webster’s.   

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The math is far from encouraging. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13%  of the current U.S. population is over 65, with projections escalating to 18% in 2030 and doubling in 2050 to almost 90 million. This puts stress not only on retirees, but also on their entitlements. Given that the average length of retirement is 18 years, right now four out of five Americans aged 30 to 54 say they are convinced they will not have sufficient funds to comfortably retire, and expect little help from diminished Social Security benefits when the time comes. They may be right. The Boston College Center for Retirement Research estimates that, as a nation, we are a mind-boggling $6.6 trillion short of what Americans will need to retire comfortably. 

If you’ve fully funded your retirement and feel confident that you can maintain a high standard of living and achieve all of your post-career dreams, you can stop reading here. If not, let’s do a reality check. 

WHAT RETIREMENT LOOKS LIKE

The first meaningful step toward retirement is visualizing what life will look like for you. It won’t be the same as it is today, especially if you are behind in building your nest egg. You will almost certainly downsize in terms of your living situation. If you own a home, try to put a conservative number on what kind of cash a sale will generate when you move to something smaller or less expensive. And then think about what it will cost to live in your next home—taxes, utility bills, maintenance. Maybe you’ll be renting. Or sharing a home with your children. 

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How do you envision your lifestyle? Will you be taking around-the-world cruises or more modest travel adventures? Will you be joining country clubs or giving up your existing memberships? Will you be a buyer or a seller when it comes to the finer things in life, such as art, antiques or collectibles? Will you be eating out a lot or eating in?

Remember, everything comes with a price tag including, unfortunately, your health. Health issues increase with age, which often involve unexpected escalating medical obligations. Psychological and emotional distress often increases as we grow older. In fact for many, chronic anxiety and depression begin pre-retirement as we face the realities of aging. Although Medicare and private insurance plans can cover most of these costs, any decline in health—even a temporary one—is likely to erode your finances. Plan realistically for this eventuality. You don’t want to be 80 and snapping pills in half so you can afford to keep the lights on.    

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TIME AND MONEY

So where to start? A good place to begin your retirement reboot is by determining how much you will really need to save in order to make your late-in-life fantasy come true. Any good game plan must start with an honest personal assessment. The two critical factors to consider are when and how do you hope to retire. There are a plethora of online calculators that let you plug in financial and other data to calculate how much cash to stash to achieve defined goals. There are an equally vast number of retirement experts and advisers out there offering professional assistance.   

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Financial planners like to recommend saving 10 to 15 percent of your annual income starting as early as your 20s. A recent USA Today article suggests saving $300 per month starting at age 25 and investing aggressively (not to mention successfully) will accumulate more than $932,000 by age 65. Delaying saving by a decade would reduce the total nest egg to $408,000, while increasing the monthly savings by $100 would increase it to about $1.2 million. Which makes me wonder: Do any 25-year-olds read USA Today? Are you 25? The answer to both questions is probably not.

If you are in your 40’s or 50’s and have yet to pull your head out of the sand when it comes to saving for retirement, fear not. All is not lost. In fact, there is a consensus among the “big boys” in the financial arena on how to get back on track even when the retirement clock is ticking. A good place to start is to estimate how much cash you will need in your retirement kitty based on your projected monthly expenses.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The ancient Greeks would stockpile valuable olive oil as a way to survive during difficult times, including old age.
  • Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine proposed a controversial public pension system in a pamphlet published in 1795.

Monthly Income Need       Savings Needed for 20       Years Savings Needed for 30 Years

$1,000                                    $166,696                                $212,150

$2,000                                    $333,392                               $424,300

$3,000                                    $500,087                               $636,450

$4,000                                    $666,783                               $848,601

$5,000                                    $833,479                               $1,060,751

$6,000                                    $1,000,175                            $1,272,901

$7,000                                    $1,166,871                             $1,485,051

$8,000                                   $1,333,567                             $1,697,201

$9,000                                   $1,500,262                            $1,909,351

$10,000                                 $1,666,958                             $2,121,501

The above sums assume your portfolio will earn a 6 percent annualized return during the course of your retirement and endure 2 percent annual inflation erosion.

Obviously, the first step is to start growing your savings faster than you’re growing gray hairs. Clark Howard, a successful consumer expert, in one of his books entitled Living Large for the Long Haul, extends his own personal lifeline to those who have passed the 40-year mark with no savings for retirement.

  1. Crunch Retirement Numbers Realistically
  • Income (salary, portfolio, social security, pension)?
  • Unsettled debt?
  • Expenses?
  1. Get Aggressive
  • Stop stalling and start saving—as much as you can, as soon as you can!
  • Play catch-up: If you are 50 or older, the IRS lets you make extra contributions to supplement your retirement savings accounts.
  1. Rethink Your Retirement Timetable
  • Keep working beyond the standard retirement age.
  • Supplement with part-time work.
  1. Scale back
  • Get real about expenses and luxuries.

DID YOU KNOW?

Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. It established eligibility at age 65. 

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THE FINAL FRONTIER

What will the world look like for retirees now in their 40’s or 50’s?  They will be part of what one strategic forecasting agency recently referred to as “a tsunami of senior citizens.” It may change the very nature and culture of the United States, and will certainly have a major impact on the economy. By their sheer numbers, seniors will represent a juggernaut voting block, and millions of new jobs and perhaps even new industries will be devoted to their needs. And remember, this is based on current life-expectancy rates. With advances in medicine, a lot of today’s 50 year-olds will reach triple-digits. They are only halfway home! 

DID YOU KNOW?

88% of Americans today are worried about retirement as compared to 73% in 2010.   

DID YOU KNOW?

The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that average savings for a 50 year-old today is $42,797.  

What do those next 50 years have in store for us? A Place for Mom, a very successful for-profit senior living referral service, recently put forth the following predictions:

  • A drastic decline in traditional nursing homes in favor of continuing care communities and aging-in-place with at-home care.
  • Improved technology to include a wide array of accurate health-monitoring wearables, smart homes powered by cloud-based artificial intelligence, and even exo-suits worn under or over clothing to enhance mobility.
  • Neighborhood-friendly civic planning to accommodate common senior limitations.
  • Going green among the graying population through eco-friendly domestic design to save energy and money while making seniors safer.
  • A booming healthcare industry based on the Bureau of Labor forecasting job growth at 70% for home health and personal care aides.

In the end (no pun intended) a happy, healthful, meaningful retirement comes down to quality of life. And in that regard, everyone is different. For some, it’s a matter of money—of never having to say no to something because you can’t afford it. For others, it’s about staying engaged and maintaining a positive outlook—of never being afraid to say yes. Just as everyone is different, every retirement is different, too. The more you can picture your own bright future, the more realistic your chances are of making it happen. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Age 66 is the full eligibility age for Social Security for anyone born in 1954 or earlier, with partial benefits available starting at age 62. For those born after 1954, the eligibility age increases by two months per birth year until it reaches 67.