Home Colleging

(Because You Have No Choice)

In 2011, the fictional Florence Lumpkin informed her son Bradley that he been accepted into Lumpkin Home College, inviting him to continue living at her school/home—“situated on a sweeping quarter acre in a center-hall Colonial that could use some paint”—in a “Shouts and Murmurs” column in The New Yorker. No doubt this is not what Bradley had in mind for a college experience, but if he ever asks “Why Lumpkin?” his mom has all the answers: It’s “because of that thing with the police…. Because ‘Drinking’ doesn’t count as an extracurricular activity…. Because $43,879…. Because that doesn’t include books….” And so forth.

From Bradley’s perspective there is little to like about Lumpkin and its mandatory work-study program, which features Laundry 101, Intramural Leaf Raking, Intramural Snow Shoveling, and the Art Club, which requires a healthy appreciation of house painting. And though Lumpkin is #1 in many college rankings, those accolades (including its unbeatable faculty to student ratio) are nothing to write home about.

Of course, there are some advantages to Lumpkin. Living at home, Bradley has the opportunity to save on commuting, laundry, alcohol, and entertainment. Naturally, fun is not allowed at Lumpkin, and anyway, the institution does not have a liquor license. The academic offerings aren’t all that stimulating either, with the course catalog headlined by Laundry 101, Music Un-Appreciation, and Logic and Logistics 202, the latter taught by Mr. Lumpkin, who explains why “Because I said so” is always sufficient. Worst of all, perhaps, is how Lumpkin discriminates against women—at least those who can’t provide Bradley with jobs and money after graduation, a momentous occasion that Mrs. Lumpkin plans to commemorate with a diploma/eviction notice.

Interested in learning more about Lumpkin Home College and its short but storied history? Buy the book. It’s how you’d expect a pair of Harvard Lampoon alumnae—that is, co-authors Patricia Marx and Sarah Payne Stuart, who also collaborated on “How to Regain Your Virginity”—to portray the life of a home-college student. As for Mr. and Mrs. Lumpkin, well, the Lumpkin Home College mission statement sums up their philosophy: “We’re just trying to make the best of a bad situation.”