Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2004 / 5 Tishrei, 5765

Joanne Jacobs

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Consumer Reports

The hero teacher of Beslan; ‘A’ in parenting for GenX; Ivy Schmivy | When terrorists seized a school in Russia, a 74-year-old teacher stayed with his students, demanded water for them and died to save their lives, says this story translated from Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli newspaper, by Allison Kaplan Sommer.

Children who escaped from the school told of how they owed their lives to elderly Yanis (Ivan) Kanidis, age 74, a man of Greek origin who worked as a gym teacher at the school. He was among the hundreds of teachers, students and parents taken hostage last week when Chechen rebels invaded the large school.

On Thursday, in what was an unusual humanitarian move in the midst of the horror, the terrorists agreed to allow a group of women and babies to leave the building. The commander of the terrorist squad, saw Kanidis — a sickly elderly man — and offered to allow him to walk free as well.

But Kanidis refused. "I will stay with my students till the end," the teacher insisted.

"Whatever you say," said the terrorist, dismissing him with a wave of the hand.

...On Friday, when the children began to lose consciousness from the stuffy air and their thirst, Yanis went to the terrorists. "You have to give them something to drink, at least to the smallest children," he insisted angrily. One of the terrorists hit him with the butt of his rifle, but the teacher continued to yell: "How dare you!? You claim you are people of the Kafkaz region, but here in the Kafkaz even a dog wouldn't turn down the request of an old man!"

His efforts bore fruit. The terrorist allowed the teacher to wet one of the bibs of the children and pass it around to dampen the mouths of the little ones who were choking from thirst.

The hostages who escaped told how the teacher repeatedly risked his own life in order to save the children. He moved explosive devices that the terrorists had placed near the young students, and tried to prevent them from detonating others.

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According to the Israeli story, the teacher jumped on a grenade the terrorists had thrown at fleeing children, giving his life to save theirs. A story in the English-language Greek press says Kanidis was shot when he tried to dismantle a ceiling fan that had been wired to an explosive device.

The detail I’ll remember is the wet bib passed from one little kid to another.

‘A’ In Parenting For GenX

Generation X parents are involved in their children's lives, reports the Oregonian. (Xers are now 25 to 39 years old.)

Generation X includes more stay-at-home dads, fathers working from home and dads cutting back long hours than previous generations, analysts say.

...Although they're more college-educated than any previous generation, more Generation X moms than boomers are staying home or working part time.

Xers' focus on home life shows up in several more parenting trends: They make financial sacrifices in exchange for family time; they're increasingly discipline-oriented; and they let their kids just have fun.

...Xers were the first generation with large numbers raised in broken homes. Almost one-third had divorced parents, compared with 13 percent of boomers, according to the Yankelovich research analysis firm. Nearly half of all Xers had working moms.

Compared to permissive baby boomers, Gen Xers are more likely to set boundaries for their children, and less addicted to signing up the kids for endless enrichment activities, researchers say. That sounds like good news.

My kid brother and his wife are GenXers, and they certainly are dedicated parents. My niece, Virginia, just started kindergarten.

Helicopter Parents

Of course, it’s possible to be too involved with one’s children. Universities are beefing up parent orientation sessions to deal with "helicopter parents" who hover over their offspring, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Samuel Freedman also has a New York Times column on parents who have trouble letting go.

In my day, parents put us on the brontosaurus and sent us off to college, without feeling the need to come along for hand-holding and hovering.

Ivy Schmivy

Gregg Easterbrook, ever a heretic, thinks going to a super-selective college is not the essential ticket to human happiness, wealth or power. In Who Needs Harvard? in The Atlantic and a follow-up interview, Easterbrook argues that students will do just as well at second-tier schools such as Michigan, Virginia, Grinnell, Claremont McKenna, Vanderbilt, Emory, etc.

The 25 Gotta-Get-Ins of the moment, according to admissions officers, are the Ivies (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale), plus Amherst, Berkeley, Caltech, Chicago, Duke, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, Pomona, Smith, Stanford, Swarthmore, Vassar, Washington University in St. Louis, Wellesley, and Williams... (A)lthough the total number of college applicants keeps increasing, the number of freshman slots at the elite colleges has changed little. Thus competition for elite-college admission has grown ever more cutthroat.

Easterbrook's sources estimate the top 100 colleges, or even the top 200, provide a good education and access to opportunities.

Here are the 500 best universities in the world, according to Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The list starts: Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Berkeley, MIT, Cal Tech, Princeton, Oxford, Columbia, Chicago.

NormBlog and Nelson Ascher point out the regional breakdown. Of the top 20, 17 are U.S., two British and one Japanese, Ascher writes:

Only 35 countries have at least one university among the 500 (more exactly 502) best.

While Israel (population around 6 millions or 0.1 percent of mankind) has seven of these, all the Islamic countries together (maybe 1/5 of mankind) have not a single one.

The rankings methodology favors universities with prize-winning scientists.

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JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.


© 2004, Joanne Jacobs