Barbara Kantrowitz

Stories by Barbara Kantrowitz

  • ONE, TWO, THREE OR MORE?

    Kevin and Katie Amos waited two years to start a family so they could save for their three-bedroom colonial in Willowick, Ohio, and they deliberately put only two years between Nicholas, 3, and Ryan, 1. "I think that as they grow," says Katie, 33, "they'll have a lot in common." For most families, the picture would be complete--the average American mother has two kids--but the Amoses recently decided to try again before Katie turns 35. It's not because they want a daughter, although Katie's aching to buy "those cute little girl things." They just want one more bundle of joy. That moment in the delivery room, says Kevin, "really is Christmas morning."The Amoses sum up the way most Americans make decisions about how many kids to have: some planning, a lot of longing and a little luck. Wanting a child of a certain gender is just one of many factors that influence couples. More important these days, experts say, is having money in the bank. According to the Agriculture Department, it...
  • Education: The Gettin' In Game

    For high-school seniors, 2003 was to be the year that restored sanity to college admissions. Three elites--Stanford, Harvard and Yale--reformed their early-application rules in response to growing criticism over binding Early Decision (ED), which lets students learn their fate in December, not April. The problem is, students must attend if accepted. But critics say ED puts too much pressure on students to make an early choice; it also hurts poorer kids, who need to compare aid offers.Yale president Richard Levin announced a year ago that Yale would switch to a nonbinding Early Action (EA) plan this past fall. Under EA, students hear in December, but they can still apply to other schools and decide where to go in the spring. Stanford followed. (Both schools require applicants to apply early to only one school.) In the spring, Harvard put a similar restriction on its longstanding EA plan. The end result was a decline in early applications to Harvard, and an increase at Stanford and...
  • The Bible's Lost Stories

    Fueling Faith And Igniting Debate, A New Generation Of Scholars Is Altering Our Beliefs About The Role Of Women In The Scriptures
  • College, Free Of Charge

    Jennifer Elmore's hometown--Tornado, W.Va.--is so small that it doesn't even have a stoplight. In high school, she boarded a bus at 6:30 for the ride through the mountains to St. Albans. But today, she's on her way to becoming the first college grad in her family because of Kentucky's Berea College. The 148-year-old Christian liberal-arts school has made a mission of educating students from Appalachia who are often overlooked by big-name schools. Elmore, a 19-year-old pre-med major, chose Berea because no one would make fun of her background. "One of the great equalizers here," she says, "is that everybody's on a full-tuition scholarship."That's right--full tuition, thanks to Berea's $715 million endowment. That's a powerful lure for the 1,500 students, who come from families with an average income of $30,000. They do have to pay for room and board (scholarships are available). Berea also requires students to spend 140 hours a semester doing everything from cleaning to running the...
  • We're Here! We Cheer! Get Used To It!

    At first, the cheerleaders getting ready for practice in a Los Angeles park seem like average teens as they sip Coke and pepper their sentences with "like." But then 17-year-old Larry Wood peels off his sweat pants to reveal a short black and red pleated skirt. A startled onlooker yells out, "Faggot!" Wood, who has a girlfriend, shrugs and tries an arabesque. "I just don't pay attention to it," he says. "It shows how much they know. It doesn't matter if you're gay or bi. We should all be treated equally." Moments later, Wood and the 11 other members of Radical Teen Cheer, who come from two inner-city high schools and several colleges, launch into their first routine: "We're teens, we're cute, we're radical to boot! We're angry, we're tough and we have had enough!"Radical Cheerleaders might seem like an oxymoron, but in the last few years, teenage and twentysomething activists around the world have turned an American tradition into potent political theater. There are Radical...
  • Learning The Hard Way

    Rome's La Sapienza university has endured seven centuries of war and political upheaval. But as school begins this fall, students at Europe's largest university face a hardship of a different kind: nowhere to sit. Many of La Sapienza's 180,000 students will attend classes under circus tents hastily erected to accommodate massive overcrowding. Others will study in movie theaters, some of which double as porn houses at night--and are only a slight improvement over--the unfortunate sociology class that met last year in a parking garage. At least they have a roof over their heads; at La Sapienza's law school, with an enrollment of more than 40,000, students must call ahead to reserve a seat in the lecture halls. Those who don't get in often stand outside and peer through the windows, even in the rain, hoping to overhear at least some of the lecture.That's just in Rome. Elsewhere in Italy, educators must contend with a soaring dropout rate; at some universities, two out of three entering...
  • WHO SAYS THERE'S NO SECOND ACT?

    For years a family story haunted Jhumpa Lahiri. A cousin of her father's was in a train wreck in India, and was given up for dead until a rescuer happened to spot something. Perhaps it was sunlight glinting off his watch--the details varied depending on who was telling the tale. But the essence of the story captured Lahiri's imagination: what happens to a person whose very life depends on a random act?That question provoked her much-anticipated new novel, "The Namesake," in which an Indian father decides to move to Boston after a similarly improbable rescue. But Lahiri, 36, has another reason to be obsessed with near miracles and sudden reversals of fortune. When her debut short-story collection, "Interpreter of Maladies," was published in 1999, she morphed almost overnight from unknown grad student to best-selling writer. "Interpreter" got rave reviews and prestigious awards, topped off with the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The young, gifted and photogenic Lahiri became a literary...
  • A Writer Who Beat The Odds

    Laura Hillenbrand greets you at the door of her yellow brick house in northwest Washington. This would hardly be worth noting, except that Hillenbrand, 36, has spent the past 16 years so debilitated by chronic fatigue syndrome that at times she can move only her eyelids. In September 2000, after she turned in the manuscript of "Seabiscuit," she got so sick that it was many months before she could write again. The term chronic fatigue, she says, "is a terrible understatement. Fatigue is to this illness what a match is to a nuclear bomb."But on this steamy afternoon, Hillenbrand's ready to talk: "I've spent today, to save up for this, basically lying down. I'm something like a cat." It also helps to live with a boyfriend like Borden Flanagan, 38, who bounds into the room to show off his Seabiscuit sweat shirt and T shirt. He monitors everything from the temperature inside, since she often runs a fever, to how far she might have to walk on a rare venture outside.They were already a...
  • A 'Disaster' At Berkeley

    For many high-school seniors, the University of California, Berkeley, is the holy grail, a chance to study with the best minds from around the world. But as prospective students and their parents toured the campus last week, the school had to work hard to put on a good face for them. Under the shadow of Sather Gate, the marching band honked out the fight song, with cymbals clanging and tuba players high-stepping around the quad. "Taps" might have been more apt. The budget crunch has put extra pressure on nearly everyone at this storied campus--besieged administrators struggling to lure minority applicants, students frantically seeking money to cover fee hikes, department heads trying to staunch a faculty brain drain and office staffers worried that a stalemate in Sacramento means no money for the mortgage at home.At a campus long considered among the finest in the world, it's stunning--and closely watched by state-university officials around the country. Berkeley is the crown jewel...
  • Hoping For The Best, Ready For The Worst

    A few years ago, when the University of Connecticut women's basketball team first captured the NCAA title, a popular bumper sticker declared the Storrs campus a place where the men are men and the women are champions. And with the Lady Huskies still stars, UConn students aren't afraid to break stereotypes. So last week senior Christopher Kyne, 22, was confident about heading to South Carolina after graduation because his girlfriend has a good job at the Medical University of South Carolina. "We're going on her money," he says. He hopes to enter grad school and become a teacher, partly because it's a family-friendly career. In the future, he says, "I'd be 100 percent satisfied if my wife made enough money so I could be a stay-at-home dad."Openness to flexible roles in marriage and family distinguishes this generation of college students from their parents, say researchers who've studied their progress. The battle over whether mothers should work is moot now; families need the money....
  • Juggling Kids, Career And History

    Her father was the leader of the free world; her mother, the style icon of the century, and her brother, the sexiest man alive. But Caroline Kennedy seems genuinely uncomfortable when she's asked to come up with a description of her own defining role. How about lawyer/best-selling author/fund-raiser? Kennedy acknowledges that she is indeed all of the above, but quickly dismisses any suggestion that she's carrying impressive public obligations for a resolutely hands-on mother of three (Rose, 14, Tatiana, 13, and John, 10). As for that living-legend stuff--Kennedy recalls a recent visit to a New York City school in her newest role as chief school fund-raiser. Sure, all the grown-ups recognized her, but then a kindergarten teacher introduced the "special visitor" to her class.Blank stares."Do you have any idea who this is?"More stares. Finally, a girl raised her hand. "Britney Spears?"Kennedy, 45, laughs as she tells this story, and you can see the laugh lines crinkling around her eyes...
  • College: Seniors Get Revenge

    Dan Lundquist, the dean of admissions at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., calls the next few weeks "seniors' revenge." After agonizing over getting in, the class of 2003 now gets to sort through acceptances and decide whom they will reject. With the fierce competition to increase rankings by boosting yield--the percentage of accepted students who enroll--colleges this year are wooing seniors with lavish parties, slick mailings and Web sites where admitted students can dish. Minnesota's Macalester College attempts to create a virtual community by letting seniors chat online on topics ranging from the student paper to how New Yorkers adjust to St. Paul.But last week Franklin & Marshall College, a respected liberal-arts school in Pennsylvania, took the courting a step further with a $75,000 newspaper ad campaign that featured a congratulatory message and names of accepted students. The first ad ran in The New York Times on April 2. John Braunstein, F&M's interim dean of...
  • The Ghost Of Diana

    Amid the tsunami unleashed by Fleet Street last week, one tidbit is worth pondering: apparently, there is someone whose job includes squeezing Prince Charles's toothpaste onto the royal toothbrush. That someone is Michael Fawcett, the prince's personal valet. Since Fawcett is, according to various news reports, the only person Charles trusts with this awesome responsibility, one must presume that the heir to the throne's dental hygiene declines precipitously whenever the valet goes on vacation.Fawcett's duties came to light in a series of lurid tabloid stories about some of the other tasks he is said to undertake for his boss. These reportedly include selling unwanted royal gifts for cash to the tune of about $150,000 a year, with Fawcett getting a commission and Charles getting the rest. That was actually among the tamer allegations flung at the royals. The most serious charge was made by one of Charles's footmen, who claimed he was raped by a senior aide. There were also reports...
  • The Early Decision Rebellion

    Rance Barber, a 17-year-old senior at New Trier High School on Chicago's North Shore, seems like a perfect candidate to apply to Stanford University through its Early Decision program. Both parents are enthusiastic alumni (which makes him a "legacy," often an advantage for early applicants). And Stanford is a good fit academically since Barber wants to study engineering, one of Stanford's many strengths. But Barber's application was not one of about 2,400 that poured into Stanford's admissions office in the past few weeks. Despite pressure from school counselors to take advantage of his legacy status, Barber isn't ready to make the commitment to attend Stanford if he's accepted--a requirement under the school's binding Early Decision policy. Instead, he's working on regular-decision applications to Stanford, Cornell, Harvey Mudd, Northwestern and maybe Harvard. "I wanted to see other campuses, see what my options were," he says. An avid golfer and cocaptain of New Trier's team, he's...
  • Philly's Tough Lessons

    Roy McKinney, principal of Philadelphia's Barratt Middle School, pushes his teachers to look past their crumbling inner-city building, ripped textbooks and nearly empty art rooms. He tells them to work whatever magic they can--class by class, student by student. But this spring, when Edison Schools signed on to run Barratt and 19 other low-performing schools, McKinney thought he might finally have resources to make a difference in the lives of his 800 students. Over the summer, Edison, the nation's largest for-profit school manager, filled Barratt with hope in the form of new books, computers, tennis racquets, lab goggles, art supplies and even tambourines and drums to replace the single broken keyboard in the music room.And then, suddenly, it all fell apart. Edison's stock plummeted as Boston and Dallas schools ended their contracts with the financially troubled company. A few days --before school opened in September, while Edison and school officials fought over how much money per...
  • Advice: 'It's Hard For Parents To Understand'

    As the founder and director of the New York University Child Study Center, Dr. Harold Koplewicz has seen firsthand the pain that depression brings to families. His new book, "More Than Moody: Recognizing and Treating Adolescent Depression," describes current therapeutic approaches and new research, which he discusses with NEWSWEEK's Barbara Kantrowitz.How does depression manifest itself differently in teens and adults?Depressed teenagers are more reactive to the environment than depressed adults. In addition, they act irritable. In classical depression, you are depressed all--or almost all--of the time. Depressed teens' moods are much more changeable. If an adult male gets depressed and you take him to a party, he is still depressed. In fact, he may depress others at the party. A teenage boy who is depressed and gets taken to a party might brighten, might actually want to have sex. If pursued, he might enjoy himself. But if he goes home alone, he is likely to become very depressed...
  • The Gatekeepers' Secrets

    In the fall of 1999, New York Times education reporter Jacques Steinberg attempted to demystify the admissions process at the nation's most selective colleges by chronicling a year at Wesleyan University. The resulting series of articles is now the basis for his compelling new book, "The Gatekeepers," which should be required reading for any student or parent who seeks insight into what Steinberg correctly describes as a process hidden "behind a cordon of security befitting the selection of a pope."Steinberg's timing was critical. The class of 2000 formed the leading edge of a baby boomlet now producing record numbers of applicants to leading universities (along with a legion of increasingly anxious parents). As the numbers of applicants have grown, so have the how-to guides. But the genre is gradually expanding to include a more journalistic look at admissions. Steinberg's biggest revelation is that there is no revelation, no secret to getting in. Perfect test scores and grades are...
  • In Search Of Sleep

    Millions Of Americans Are Plagued By Insomnia. It's A Serious Public-Health Risk That Too Many Doctors Ignore. But New Brain Science Offers Hope That We May Someday Stop All That Tossing And Turning.
  • The Latest On Being Early

    Here's a tip for high-school kids who want to avoid the college-admissions frenzy: add the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to your list. UNC is the first major university to drop "early decision" admissions. Early decision, which requires students to attend in return for getting a fat envelope months before the regular deadline, has become increasingly important--and controversial--at elite schools. More and more colleges are accepting larger numbers of students early, raising their yield (the percentage of accepted students who attend) and fueling a panic among students who believe they have to "go early" or they won't get in anywhere.UNC's move came just a few months after Yale president Richard Levin urged a halt. Levin and others contend that early decision favors richer kids who have access to better college counseling. But Yale says it won't change until its competitors do the same, and so far, only a couple of schools have heeded the call. In March, Beloit College...
  • In Memoriam: A Light In The Darkness

    They had carried the day. It was May 8, 1945, the end of World War II in Europe, and a huge crowd cheered wildly for five people on the crimson-draped balcony of Buckingham Palace. Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood firm in the center, with his hands clasped behind his back. He was surrounded by the four members of the royal family--King George VI, his wife, Elizabeth, and their two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret--who waved and smiled at the throng below.Of these five who led Britain through its darkest and finest hour, only one now survives. Last week it was the sad task of that survivor, Queen Elizabeth II, to announce the death of her mother, who was known to the world as the Queen Mum. She was 101, an age not attained by any other British king or queen, but it was more than longevity that earned her a place in her country's history. Born Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon into an aristocratic Scottish family, she initially resisted marrying Bertie, the...
  • The New College Game

    On a brisk afternoon in late march, I follow several dozen nervous parents and teenagers into a lecture room in the basement of Byerly Hall at Harvard University. We are engaged in a uniquely American ritual: the college tour. I am just an observer, the only adult without a prospective student in tow. But as the mother of a high-school junior, I understand the anxiety as we await the start of an "information session." On the floor above us, in a room with photographs of Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill receiving honorary Harvard degrees, admissions officers are deciding who will be offered a place in the class of 2006. Around 19,500 seniors have applied; only about 2,110 will make the cut. A little more than half of them, the early applicants, got the good news in December. The rest will hear this week, when Harvard and other Ivy League schools mail their thick and thin letters.Who will get in? With a record number of well-qualified seniors, the outcome at Harvard and other...
  • D-I-V-O-R-C-E Gets R-E-S-P-E-C-T

    As the country's divorce rate soared in the 1970s, social scientists began trying to understand the long-term effects on parents and children. Now, a new book about one of the most comprehensive studies indicates that the majority of people do just fine--and a significant number even thrive. That conclusion is sure to add fuel to the already fiery debate over how to strengthen marriage, and could undermine legislative efforts in several states to make divorce more difficult. ...
  • Ruth Simmons

    Throughout her nearly three decades in higher education, Ruth Simmons has always found people eager to advise her on how to succeed in academia. Work your way up through the faculty ranks, they said. Don't get pigeonholed by focusing on affirmative action or African-American studies. Ditto for women's issues. Good advice, maybe, but Simmons, 56, the new president of Brown University, never paid much attention to it. "My career," she says proudly, "has always been about things I care about." She moved rapidly up the administrative ladder at several institutions after only a few years in the classroom. Then, at Princeton in the 1980s, she ran the African-American studies program and pushed for hiring such prominent faculty members as Cornel West and Toni Morrison. In the early 1990s, as Princeton's vice provost, she authored an influential report on the future of affirmative action at that university. When Smith College recruited her as president in 1995, she used part of the $300...
  • Generation 9-11

    The Kids Who Grew Up With Peace And Prosperity Are Facing Their Defining Moment
  • The Kids Who Saw It All

    What Michael Mascetti wants to remember now is another September day three years ago, during his first week as a freshman at Stuyvesant High School. He was a skinny kid back then, who just wanted to hang out on the corner with his buddies in Queens. That day, at lunch, Michael and some friends decided to walk four blocks from school to the mall underneath the World Trade Center. He ordered cheese-and-broccoli soup and looked up at marble walls that seemed to stretch forever. From Queens, the towers were as remote as the moon. But that day, he says, "I felt like I was in the middle of everything." He started studying harder, fell in love with math and got a part-time job at Morgan Stanley. He bought a replica of the Wall Street subway-stop sign for his room. And every day, when he came into Manhattan, he'd see the towers and feel that same awe. "I'd always ask myself tough questions in the morning like, 'Why do I go to this school and spend over an hour getting here?' And every...
  • Answering Questions

    When another teacher told Patrick Welsh about the attack on the World Trade Center, he immediately turned on the TV in his classroom at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. Soon afterward Welsh and his 12th-grade students were startled by the sound of an explosion that seemed ominously close. "I was about to say, 'It's probably nothing'," Welsh recalls, "when a kid looked out the window and saw a dark cloud of smoke." Minutes later, the TV screen was filled with close-ups of flames at the Pentagon, two miles away. "We all had trouble absorbing it," Welsh says. "It looked like something out of a videogame."Just as baby boomers will never forget the day President Kennedy was shot, this generation will always remember Sept. 11, 2001. In schools close to the violence, teachers comforted students whose mothers or fathers might be buried in rubble. In other classrooms, students worried about parents who were flying that day or relatives in New York. Even youngsters with no ties to...
  • What To Tell Your Children

    As parents recover from their own shock over the tragic events in New York and Washington, their next task is to deal with the inevitable questions from their children-particularly after youngsters have seen horrific images on television.The first rule is any traumatic situation is to assure children that everyone in their family is OK and that they are safe at home with you. Always answer questions as honestly and simply as possible. Tell them that there has been a terrible tragedy and that the police, firefighters and other public safety workers are doing everything they can to help the people who have been hurt and to make sure that no one else is hurt. If you don't know all the answers, say so. When they ask who the "bad guys" are, explain that we don't know but we're trying to find out. If they are familiar with the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, you can explain that these buildings were the targets.Beyond that, the information that you provide largely depends on the age...
  • A Year In The Life

    The statistics should scare every parent. The nation's public schools will need 2 million new teachers in the next decade, according to a recent government report. It'll be tough to recruit them and even tougher to keep them in the classroom. More than 20 percent of new teachers leave the profession in the first three years; after five years, more than a third have gone on to other careers. Money is the major reason. But rowdy kids, apathetic parents and long hours also push even idealistic teachers out. To find out more about what makes some stay and others leave, NEWSWEEK asked three first-year teachers to keep diaries. Here's how they did:Elizabeth Jackson looks so young that more than one parent has mistaken her for a student. And this is middle school. But her youth hasn't spared her from shouldering the responsibility of educating six classes a day at Nichols Middle School, and 120 students representing an amazing cross section of America: white and black, rich and poor. She...
  • Unmarried, With Children

    Today's Single Mothers May Be Divorced Or Never-Wed, Rich Or Poor, Living With Men Or On Their Own. But With Traditional Households In Decline, They're The New Faces Of America's Family Album.
  • Preschool Helps Poor Kids Do Better In Life

    Congress probably won't debate a Bush administration proposal to revamp Head Start until next year, but lawmakers could learn a lot from a study released last week on one of the nation's most comprehensive urban preschool systems. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that early-intervention programs like Head Start help poor kids stay in school and out of jail. Researchers compared 989 children enrolled in the Chicago Parent-Child Center program, very similar to Head Start, with 550 youngsters in less intensive early-childhood programs. Most of the children, born in 1980, came from families with incomes below the poverty level. The study found that 49.7 percent of preschool participants had graduated from high school, compared with 38.5 percent of those enrolled in other programs. Boys benefited more than girls--a significant result, since black males are at high risk of dropping out. Preschool graduates also had a much lower rate of arrests....