Schadenfreude: The Key to Identifying a Bully.

“It’s those who laugh, at the common man’s gaffe, who hide hate inside, that satisfies.”
-Jake McGrew

Kids are pretty clever. They’ll manipulate us. They’ll mislead us. And contrary to anything we’ll accept from the outside world, we’ll buy every bit of it. Why? The power of unconditional love is unconditionally powerful. We turn our heads and pretend our children are perfect little angels. Surely, whatever malfeasance ills the world suffers couldn’t possibly stem from our stem cells. But often, the stank is right under our nose.

Bullying is a buzzword in today’s society. I know firsthand being bullied sucks. It sucks a lot. For you skinny mean girls blessed with semi-good looks, and bros with the gift of above-average height, I can attest that being bullied is the most depressing, degrading, suicide-inducing feeling you could ever ever imagine. You’ll feel worthless. Unimportant. Uninspired. Words alone can take the air right out of you, leaving a helpless and hurting shell behind. But the marks last much longer. It’s a hot-spot I refuse to tolerate —  as a parent or as an outside observer.

So you can imagine my surprise when I figured out what’s ailing my two remaining teenagers. Turns out they’re both bullies, but of a different sort. And these little sons of bitches were honing their skills in a never-ending war against each other. It’s been eight years of someone calling someone something, and someone getting someone else in trouble for whatever. My epiphany occurred last weekend.

Apparently, Child 2 was repeatedly tossing wood mulch at Child 1 while waiting an hour to get a table at a busier-than-usual local restaurant, in which Child 3 was waitressing. Child 2 was told that his behavior was unacceptable and to stop, and he did. But Child 1 was angry he wasn’t doled prison time for his infraction, and she wasn’t going to lose this battle. Child 1 proceeded to instigate Child 2 with verbal insults, probably in order to embarrass Child 2 in front of his friend. Child 2 has a much stronger personality and less maturity than Child 1, so Child 2’s retorts ruffled Child 1’s feathers so badly that Child 1 resorted to her old faithful solution – looking sad and forlorn to attract the attention of her mother. Child 1 texted her mother across the table. Yep, she tattle-tailed. Mom got pissy, just like Child 1 intended, and of course I had to step in to diffuse the situation. I gently but forcefully grabbed Child 2 by the scruff of his neck and pulled him out of the restaurant for a little chat.

Here’s the thing. A moment after I took Child 2 away, I looked back. After at least twenty minutes of sad and angry looks, Child 1’s disposition was now miraculously sunny. She returned to laughing and giggling immediately. I realized then that we had been had. Child 1 exhibited the typical sociopathic schadenfreude behavior of a… gulp… bully.

So I went through the typical Bully Checklist to see if Child 1’s personality fit the typical bully:

  • Does my child need to feel powerful and in control? Not necessarily. She appreciates recognition, but doesn’t want the responsibility of being top-dog.
  • Is she hot-tempered or quick to resort to aggression? Yep again. Her voice raises immediately upon any conflict, and she has become physical with her parents on certain occasions.
  • Does she feel she does no wrong? Um… she refers to herself as “Perfect Child.” Yeah.
  • Does she show little empathy for others’ feelings? Well, if I had to guess considering her schadenfreude response towards Child 2, I’m thinking she leans this way.
  • Is she aggressive toward adults? Only towards the ones who love her.

I suppose I got my answer there. But how about Child 2?

  • Does my child need to feel powerful and in control? Yep. He refers to himself (in front of his peers) as “The Boss.”
  • Is he hot-tempered or quick to resort to aggression? Not really. He avoids conflict and immediately gives in.
  • Does he feel she does no wrong? He frequently states he hates his life, and can’t do anything right (the classic behavior of someone being bullied).
  • Does he show little empathy for others’ feelings? He’s pretty much a softy. This is the kid who will try to make someone feel better when he’s down.
  • Is he aggressive toward adults? Only towards the ones who love him.

My paradox is that both of my kids are slightly bullies, with Child 1 being the more aggressive one. This makes complete sense in our situation, since Child 1’s older sibling (Child 3) is five years her senior, and secretly bullied Child 1 for years. Child 1 probably thought this type of mental abuse was normal, and adopted the behavior as her norm. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this or have the opportunity correct the situation until well after its inception. Now, Child 1 may be attempting to take her revenge on a not completely innocent but undeserving and less-willing participant. And that’s not fair, or right.

Yeah, our fam is a psychological case study.

But – thankfully for others, as far as we know, 1 and 2 are only bullying each other. They’re like each other’s kryptonite. This behavior is typical in mixed marriages, with both the culprits being the former youngest of their parents. Now that attention is diluted, they search for means to increase their visibility. But I’ll be damned if bullying is going to work for either of them. And I’ll be double-damned if any snot-nosed kid thinks they’re gonna pull the wool over the eyes of me or my wife.

It’s family discussion time. The first thing I’m going to do is have all three of them read this post, and write a three-page discussion on how none of them will never be a bully again. Perhaps I too will experience schadenfreude for the first time while they’re steaming over their assignment.


How To Get Accepted To The College of Your Choice.

Forget your underpaid high school counselors. Ignore the new army of independent “collegiate consultants.” And especially avoid the idiot know-nothing laymen who offer unfounded advice on There’s a new rubric in the college admissions business, and it’s unlike anything any pro has ever seen. Here’s what you need to know.

College admissions offices have been tweaking their admissions algorithms over the past decade after finding the old way of doing things didn’t produce the best results. After all, if a college wants to survive, they need money. Not just tuition, government grants, and merchandising fees — but post-sale money from happy graduate donors. Great donors tend to be societally active, well-rounded individuals with several like-minded friends. They’ll gladly send you a check, wear your sweaters, and brag about your school to countless future prospects in an effort to look cool. Colleges have finally found that the smartest kid in the room with the perfect SAT score may become a wonderful success in life, but he or she is most likely an introverted bookworm who won’t give your school another look – or dollar – after graduation.

So begins the end of SAT and ACT scores being mandatory for admissions. Today, nearly 200 of the roughly 2,968 degree-granting four-year colleges in the U.S. no longer require inclusion of your SAT or the ACT score with your college application. Those ranks include Bates and Smith, the University of Arizona, Montclair State in New Jersey, and Weber State in Utah. Hundreds more have diminished their role in the admission process, and that number is growing. “People make too much of test-score differences,” says William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions. “People with the very highest test scores coming into Harvard do a little better than those with the lowest test scores, but they don’t do a lot better.”

If test scores are no longer the holy grail, what’s the new secret to getting admitted?

Time Magazine’s @elizalgray found that “rigor and curriculum” in high school classes were more important indicators of success. According to an anonymous admissions officer I spoke with at a popular Florida university recently, getting good grades in tough classes is the epitome of impressing the admissions department. “If there was an AP course available for the course you took, and you took it and got a B, we’ll look at that much more favorably than an A in a non-advanced class. We don’t really care what you get in the AP test either – we’d rather you take the real course here.”

“Their grades, their GPA, the strength of the curriculum and the strength of the course work in the field they were interested in is the best predictor (of college success),” writes Kedra Ishop, an admissions officer at the University of Michigan. “If there were two AP courses available and you didn’t take them, that’s going to be looked at more closely than 20 points on the SAT.” Many colleges rely on a “rubric,” an algorithm that spits out a ranking calculated from GPA, test scores and extra points to represent things like AP courses. The weight of each factor in the rubric depends on the college.

In 2014, William Hiss, a former Bates College admissions dean, and researcher Valerie Franks published results of a study of 123,000 student records from 33 colleges with test-optional admission policies, analyzing the high school GPAs and the graduation rates of the two groups: matriculants who had supplied an entrance-exam score and those who had opted not to. Their conclusion was that high school GPA–even at poor high schools with easy curriculums–was better at predicting success in college than any standardized test.

There is no longer any one-size-fits-all solution that applies to all schools. Your best bet? Call the admissions office at the school of your choice as early as possible, and ask them outright what they prefer to see. They’ll tell you. Then call again in a few months to see if the landscape has changed. Follow their preferences to the letter. We visited Gainesville when our daughter was a sophomore in high school, followed up with several phone calls and e-mails, and are adjusting choices and applying their prescribed formula.

One undisclosed factor that all colleges seem to prefer and weigh heavily is the number of extra-curricular activities you’re involved with. Not just sports – they want to see clubs, groups, organizations, and especially volunteer activities. Many scholarship programs require a minimum number of volunteer hours during the four years of high school. Think about that for a moment – if you performed the minimum number of required hours, and the next applicant shows ten times that number, which is not as far-fetched as you might think, who would you pick? Leadership positions in any of those activities will probably get you a multiplier in the admissions algorithm, so don’t be afraid to shine and brag about it like a boss.

And here’s another secret – take as many dual-enrollment classes as you can handle. Two reasons why this is beneficial. One, these are free and real college credits you won’t have to pay for at a four-year school. There is no AP test or score to worry about. Pass the course, and the credit it yours. Additionally, as many as 1 in 3 first-year college students won’t return for sophomore year. Family problems, loneliness, academic struggles, a lack of money, pregnancy, injuries from hazing, overdoses, whatever — life happens. It’s much easier to get admitted to any school as a sophomore or even a junior if you have enough transferrable college credits under your belt. A school may get 50,000 applicants for freshman spots, but sophomore applications are typically much more lean. Check with your dream school to find which dual-enrollment credits they’re more apt to accept.

Meanwhile, college admissions officials are still searching for better tools to understand applicants. Two years ago, the MIT admissions office started soliciting something it calls a “maker portfolio,” a method for talented students to submit videos showing off things they’ve created – from computer software and robots to glow-in-the-dark socks. As Dawn Wendell, a mechanical-engineering lecturer at MIT who worked in the school’s admissions office, said in a recent presentation, “We recognize that you are not fully captured in the numbers, so we are looking at you as a whole person.” Schools like MIT particularly want more evaluations that they consider open-ended – that is, exercises for which there is no single precise right answer and which can’t be distilled to any multiple-choice question. This is one reason that students’ Advanced Placement tests results are coveted by some admission officers. AP tests are highly open-ended, and require people to grade the answers. In that regard, AP essays may be a better indicator than the results of any standardized test.

Singapore, which topped the most recent global school rankings from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, uses a government-run test for college-bound students. The unique test requires students to complete a group project over several weeks that is meant to measure their ability to collaborate, apply knowledge and communicate. Ironically, these are skills both American educators and employers say are critical for the future economy. Look for this evaluation method coming to a school near you sometime soon. Even if it’s not required just yet, think how good that would that look on the extracurricular activities section of your college application…


Most of this opinionated blog post borrows heavily from an amazing Time Magazine piece by Eliza Gray at Well done, Eliza. Best Time reporting I’ve seen in months.

Here are the colleges who are already SAT/ACT optional:

Check to see which of your schools bleed freshmen:

America’s Heroes are Zeroes.

In 1989 Will Smith was arrested over an alleged vicious assault which took place in Philadelphia. Smith – who at the time of the arrest was 20 – was involved in an argument which resulted in a man almost losing sight in one eye. Today, Smith is revelled as one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors and is worth an estimated $250 million.

Jack Black spilled his guts to a school therapist telling him he felt guilty about stealing from his mom to get money for cocaine. “In ninth grade, I did acid and cocaine. I wanted desperately to be an American badass. There’s something so romantic, when you’re a kid, about being a criminal. You want to belong to the tough-guy club. Running from the cops. Hiding in the bushes. Making schemes and plans to get it over on the Man.” Black is worth an estimated $20 million.

Just 16 in 1988, the boy who would become film star Mark Wahlberg assaulted two Asian men while trying to steal two cases of beer from a convenience store. More than 25 years later, Wahlberg, a devout Catholic and philanthropist, has made a much publicized and much debated request for a pardon for his crime. In Philadelphia, he was invited to introduce the Pope. Wahlberg is estimated to be worth about $200 million.

Fans assumed they knew everything that there could possibly be known about Kim Kardashian’s sex tape with Ray J. It was that very intimate video that helped catapult the reality star’s career. It all started in 2003, when Kim Kardashian made a sex tape with her then-boyfriend, R&B singer Ray J. Four years later, the tape was allegedly leaked to Vivid Entertainment and released to the internet for the world to see. Today, people line up in stores to dress like her and smell like her, although she hasn’t really done much of anything. She’s worth an estimated $85 million.

Monica Lewinsky is a former White House intern with whom United States President Bill Clinton admitted to having had what he called an “inappropriate relationship” while she worked at the White House in 1995 and 1996. As a result of the scandal, Lewinsky gained worldwide celebrity status; she subsequently engaged in a variety of ventures including designing a line of handbags under her name, being an advertising spokesperson for a diet plan, working as a television personality, and then leaving the public spotlight to pursue a master’s degree in psychology in London. In 2014 she returned to public view, discussing the scandal and speaking out against cyberbullying. All this from giving head to a president. Lewinsky’s reported estimated net worth? Are you sitting down? $12 million.

Don’t even get me started on discussing virtually any hip-hop mogul, Michael Vick, Aaron Hernandez, Mike Tyson, Bill Cosby, Paul Reubens, Robert Downey Jr., the Hiltons, or virtually any Wall Street broker. It seems to be American policy to reward the misbehaving and unworthy. Can anyone explain why?