Every time I write or speak about college, I tend to upset many parents and other decent, educated people. They are righteously offended at the mere suggestion that college isn’t necessarily the only way to go. Angry mothers email to tell me that my “anti-college” message is polluting the minds of their children. They don’t want their kids to skip college and become hobos and drug addicts. This is understandable. I should know — I’m one of those malcontents who decided not to get a four year degree. And what a tragedy my life has been ever since I made that fateful decision.
I’d like to apologize to anyone I’ve upset by relaying my own experiences and perspectives. I am NOT anti-college. To prove it to you, I’ve written this Message About Education. Call your kids into the room, this is addressed to them:
Hi kids! Hey, let’s discuss college! Actually, this is not a discussion. You WILL go. You MUST go. Only lazy, dirty losers don’t go to college. You aren’t a lazy, dirty loser, are you? ARE YOU?
Good. I didn’t think so.
This week, the President has been making his pitch to “fundamentally rethink and reshape” the higher education system, and so the conversation has once again turned to the importance of cramming as many warm bodies as possible into colleges and universities — at any expense to themselves, their parents, and the taxpayers. Over 70 percent of college students are already on some form of federal aid, and damned if we can’t get that number to an even 100 percent. Meanwhile, outstanding student loan debt has long since surpassed a trillion dollars with no signs of slowing down. If you had a math degree you’d know that a trillion dollars is, like, a lot.
You see, kids, as executives at the academic and banking institutions make billions from this setup, a bunch of 20-something’s with no assets, little to no income, and no work experience, are left with an accrued debt many times higher than the GDP of a small European nation. Millions of college graduates haven’t been able to find a job, with even more either moving back in with their parents or refusing to leave the nest in the first place. We are now faced with legions of young adults who have sacrificed their financial future — and whittled away several years of potential life and work experience — all for the sake of a piece of paper and a severely damaged liver.
Clearly there just isn’t any conceivable reason why any rational person would want to miss out on all of this!
Although formal “higher education” is obviously necessary for people who wish to become doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, etc., some rebellious souls might question whether ALL young people should be pushed into universities. Some crazed anarchists are beginning to suggest that this situation could be brought under control if we stopped positioning four year colleges as the ideal for all kids. These troublemakers claim that purchasing a six figure education on a credit card might not be in the best interest of those who haven’t a clue as to which job path they will ultimately pursue. These barbarians run around insisting that you should try to figure out what you want to do with your life, and then only invest a considerable amount of time and money into a four year college if it will actually be necessary to attain your goals. These psychopaths even go so far as to claim that, often times, skill and experience are more important than a piece of paper from an expensive college!
These voices should be silenced immediately. Cover your ears, kids. Don’t listen to them. Don’t question these artificial societal constructs. Don’t question anything. College is normal, you should want to be normal. Don’t strive to be an exception. Don’t attempt to break any mold or venture outside the box in which you’ve been placed. Some have made this grievous error, and they’ve all become failures, bums, terrorists, and cab drivers.
Kids, consider this an episode of Scared Straight. I’m that hardened, hopeless, caged criminal, reaching out, imploring you to avoid making the mistakes that I’ve made. I didn’t go to college, children. I arrogantly ignored the pleas from guidance counselors and college recruiters. While my friends were off to tour campuses and attend college fairs during the summer before our senior year of high school, I lazily and selfishly went to work and learned life skills. How could I have been so foolish?
Well, it’s too late for me. My future is broken, my potential is shattered and wasted. I’m an uneducated failure.
People enter college for two specific reasons: First and foremost, the experience. Nobody wants to miss out on the once in a lifetime experience of college. As a far, far, distant second, college is also pitched as a means to an education. Now, allow me to tell you how my life has been ruined by missing out on these two things.
The college experience opens your mind and expands your horizons. A bunch of kids from the same age group follow the same path and go to the same colleges where they live together in a controlled environment. There, they go to the same classes, dress and speak the same way, do the same things on the weekends, drink the same crappy beer, develop the same priorities, and even vote the same way on election day. Also, they learn a lot about diversity.
My experience, on the other hand, wasn’t nearly as fulfilling or eclectic. Like the unambitious sloth that I am, I got into my car at the age of 20 and drove 150 miles to a place I’d never been, in a state I’d never visited. I rented an apartment with my own money and got a job at a radio station and a second job as an assistant manager at a pizza joint. I met and learned how to work with people from all different age groups and backgrounds. I set out specific goals for myself and worked to achieve them.
Needless to say, without college, it was all in vain. Seven years later and now look at me. It’s the classic tale of failure and despair: Married, two kids, a career, a long term plan for the future, no debt, and I’ve never been unemployed. Please, avert your gaze. I am so ashamed.
As you can no doubt tell, I am teetering on the edge of full fledged illiteracy. Kids, when you’re told to “get an education,” remember that you can only learn things about things if you pay exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege.
I did not do this, so — just like all of my fellow non-grads — I am uneducated and uninformed. Such is the fate of anyone who does not attend an educational facility. Sure, I can go to bookstores and libraries and read books on many different subjects. Yeah, the internet, if utilized properly, can be a magnificent portal to an infinite expanse of information; but none of these things qualify as an “education.” I merely research topics and explore ideas because I want to know more about them. My motivations can not match the purity and fruitfulness of someone who learns what they’re told to learn in order to pass a test.
Recently I got into a debate with someone about the War Between the States. He argued that the Civil War was fought primarily to end slavery. I contested that economic and cultural factors played a much larger part, particularly in the lead up to the conflict. Halfway through our discussion, he angrily responded to a point I made about the Morrill Tariff by blurting out, “Please! I have a history degree! Where’d YOU go to college?!” End of debate. Trump card. Me, I’ve read books and essays on the subject. I’ve traveled to various battlefields and reenactments. I’ve spoken to people well versed in Civil War history. But I don’t have the piece of paper to prove it, so my knowledge is unsanctioned and illegitimate.
Education is something that happens in buildings specifically designed for that purpose. Then, after a few years, you walk across a stage and — POOF! — you’re educated. You’re done. Education complete. You are officially an educated person. You completed all the steps, followed the path, solved all the puzzles, made it to the final boss and killed him, and now you’ve beaten the game. Time to kick back and take it easy!
But not me. I’ve no experience, no success, no way to learn anything about anything. I can only crawl back under that bridge where all the other non-graduates live. It’s getting crowded under there, in the mud, amongst the nameless failures. Maybe one day I’ll tell you the horror stories about some of the other miserable mopes in my community. Many of them have had it WAY worse than me. Losers like Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg — trust me, their stories would send chills down your spine.
So go to college, kids. No matter what. Just go. It’s the only way to avoid a life of sadness and disappointment.