This is an edited version of something I wrote in early 2014.
I’m sitting in another General Education class as I write this. That’s correct, I am not paying attention to what the teacher is saying. But a quick survey of the room reveals that I’m not alone – I’m just perhaps being the most purposeful in my inattention. The girl next to me is snooping on facebook. The guy in front of me staring at a creepy piece of art on his laptop called called “All Shall Perish”. Most other people are either staring at the front of the room with their eyes glazed over, or haven’t moved a muscle in so long that I suspect they’re having out-of-body experiences. Oh, and, about half the class seems to be skipping today. You’d think the professor would be bothered by the fact that most people don’t care about what he’s talking about. I mean, we did pay thousands of dollars to be here. But nope, he’ll just keep talking, because unfortunately, I suspect he’s used to this.
The most alarming part about this whole thing is that any student who’s reading this article is probably thinking, “Uh…it’s like that in all my classes. So what?”
AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THAT THIS IS A TWISTED IDEA OF WHAT LEARNING IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE?
Let me rant further, since I don’t think everyone is quite aware of just how pathetic things are. In my Shakespeare and Music class, not a single person said a word in class for three weeks (I eventually spoke up a few times because I enjoyed the look of shock on my colleagues’ faces). Most of my classes tell us to read books, but no one but the keeners actually bother to get a hold of them, let alone read them, because we’re rarely quizzed on them, they’re on topics that we don’t care about, and half the time we don’t even talk about the reading in class anyways. I sometimes don’t get a word of feedback on essays that I spend a week writing. A few times I haven’t even gotten a grade back. I remember walking 20 minutes to get to class one day, only to discover my history professor wasn’t there, and 20 minutes later, his assistant showed up and put in a movie that was more like French porn than a history lesson, after which I had to walk back home. You’d think “higher learning” would have at least heard of online streaming.
People being bored isn’t what concerns me – everyone deals with that. It’s the fact that we’re paying to be desensitized to actually learning anything. If this continues, what happens when we ACTUALLY need to learn something? How will we even be able to tell the difference between stuff we actually need to know for life, and stuff that’s just there to fill up a semester?
And what happens to the idea of taking initiative on something? Everyone’s passionate about something – but do we still know how to take action on those things? Or are we waiting for someone to assign us to take action? Scary thoughts when you consider that our generation’s gonna run the world someday.
If you didn’t notice, this is an issue that I am fiery-burning-hot-passionate about, because, having spent 4 years traveling the world and learning all sorts of great things before coming to college, I am concerned for those of us inside the degree machine. It’s not that everyone’s in a bad spot (I’m apparently getting one of the top 10 most pointless degrees, little surprise that I’m ranting hmm?), but even for those who’ll get good jobs after college…do we need to become some morbid cross between a chained animal and zombie for 4 of the best years of our lives?
You’d think that since the United States has one of the most expensive average college tuition costs in the world, college would have something important to say. But when I talked about college to a guy who started a media company that’s just about to release their first full-length action thriller film (something I’d be game to do someday), he said he taught himself everything he knows, and that college is only good for networking. Yikes.
Look, maybe back in the 1700s, colleges had the corner on the education market. But with the dawn of the internet age, I’d say the playing field leveled out a bit. You want to learn graphic design or animation? Go to youtube or lynda.com. Want to write? Listen to podcasts. Join competitions. The thing is, you actually will have to TAKE INITIATIVE yourself to do it. This is, unfortunately, what college seems to be educating us NOT to do.
OK, jut so I don’t get an unnecessary amount of nasty comments, I’ll give you the positives in college. I’ve made some great friends, really enjoyed my theater professors, and two internships, and had lots of other cool opportunities. I’d argue that I really had to pursue some of of these opportunities though (it took 3 meetings with professors and 6+ emails for me to get organized enough to submit an application for a scholarship). I also got 2 summer jobs through connections here (one job pays me 30 cents more per hour than I was making before I went to school! Yes!).
Another great per about college is the fact that people feel sorry for you when you’re in school, so they’ll do whatever they can to help you. Academic discounts, Museum passes, respect from relatives, etc. I mean, as long as you’re paying the big bucks, you can be puking jungle juice in some basement for four years – as long as you’re not in your PARENT’S basement doing something silly like, you know…getting a free degree online at University of the People.
But you say, “Yes, but you haven’t graduated yet. Wait till you get that degree”. Yes, well, some of my friends HAVE graduated, and they’re even more broke than me, and they themselves are complaining about how much school DIDN’T prepare them for.
This is also not an attack on professors. I’ve really enjoyed some of my professors, especially the ones in my major. Honestly, I think professors are getting the shaft just as much as the students – I don’t think most of them are making the big bucks.
And I’m not going to say a degree is meaningless. Not yet.
But the problem I’m getting at in this article is the idea that students are paying to get something that they’re not actually getting – USEFUL KNOWLEDGE – and never realizing it till they’re 21, scared, broke, and $20,000 in debt, because they’ve been too drugged up with football games, frat parties, and a false sense of “school pride” to even realize how swindled they were. It’s kind of ironic that this is the measuring stick that we use to separate the knowledgeable from the deficient…
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Be sure to watch the video I posted above – I’m not alone in these thoughts. This was a rant, but if I could pick one moral of the story, it’d be simply this: if college is teaching you to shut up and stop taking initiative with your life, you may need to re-evaluate what you’re doing. Fair enough? All right. Oh, did I mention I’m still in class? I guess I’ll tune in…for now.