February 3, 2011

February 3rd, 2011

Dear Sofia,

I confess, your dad and I are not very inclined to send you to college. Now, don't get mad; just because we don't love the idea doesn't mean you're not allowed! But a lot of things would have to fall into place for us to say 'yes' to that desire.

For one, we would have to think it was worth it financially. Blame it on your mom's practical side, but this is a big detractor to me about so-called higher education. Call me crazy, but I don't want you to be paying off student loan debt for fifteen years after college, therefore detracting from the wages you're earning!

Two, it would have to be worth it personally/spiritually. Your dad will talk to you more about that one, about all the dangers both on the surface of academia and imbedded deep within the curriculum. In fact, you will not even need to ask him!

Full disclosure to adult readers: I come from a family steeped in education, both as teachers and students. They hold "education," meaning, the kind you get sitting in an accedited liberal arts locale, in very high esteem. There are positives and negatives to this mindset. On the good side, it meant my parents planned for the possibility of my going to college and set aside money for it. That was an amazing thing they did and I am grateful for the opportunity it provided, especially when I think of all the brilliant people I've known who would've loved to go - and would have excelled - who didn't have the money to do it.

On the negative side, their interest in having me go to college created the expectation that I had to go, whether I wanted to or not. As it turned out, when senior year rolled around I was neither interested in any field in particular, nor interested in paying for something so extravegant just because I could. Yet, I wanted to please my parents, and get away from them at the same time... two pretty lame reasons to go to college.

I don't want to disparage my parents or come across as conceited because I'm retroactively rejecting a major gift. But I've concluded that college wasn't worth the time for me. I was encouraged to do things that I liked to do, which meant I was going to gravitate toward what I had natural inclinations for. So, I ended up a double major in studio art - because I am somewhat good at it and just plan enjoy looking at/talking about it - and philosophy - because it provided some direction to the drifter I was.

This is all fine and good, doing things you "like," unless of course you want to make money doing them. It will come as no surprise that both of these fields are completely saturated and, thus, highly competitive. You can't just be a figure drawing artist, you've got to be drawing like Michaelangelo himself is crawling out of your conte crayon. And philosophy? Forget about it as a career, unless of course you're willing to get the masters degree and be brilliant in a PhD program after that. We'll talk about the pitfalls of graduate school much later...

Since I went into the education experiment without any discipline, I stayed in that same mindset. So, I couldn't get any better; all I could do was rely on natural ability. To this day, I don't know what "working hard" means or how to "study" something unless I can do it with my hands. This is why art appealed to me; I could physically see where I was going wrong and what I wanted to change. Alas, I don't have the creative mind needed for being a professional artist. As far as philosophy went, I could only understand what I could understand! I never figured out how to teach myself what I didn't know, which is crucial.

Since college I have had several jobs, some of which I turned out to be pretty good at, but virtually none of them employed anything I learned in school. The job I hold now only required I had a degree to apply, though most of my colleagues didn't go to either a two- or four-year institution at all. So, I could've probably gotten my foot in the door with my boss and then convinced him to give me a job, even if I hadn't gone to university.

Are there other reasons one should attend college besides job training? Some people will say yes, that one can get outside-the-classroom benefits like "becoming who you are" or being "exposed to diversity of people." Both of those arguments are easily rejected. For a Christian, self identity is truly found with Christ. Neither going to college nor abstaining from it will change that. [Allelujah!] The other pc statement is rebuked just by walking out my front door; we're exposed to diversity just by living in the world. No place is completely homogenous, and manufacturing one's exposure to preordained "diversity" isn't necessarily beneficial. (It's one of the reasons why trying to make a workplace diverse fails; it's artificial, everyone knows it, and certain people are subsequently looked at as tokens.)

Lastly, it creates a huge amount of debt. I had scholarships, fellowship money and a tuition stipend (thanks to my dad being employed at a sister school) but still ended up with thousands in debt. I've probably only earned $5/hour at every job since college after you subtract from my wages my student loan debt with interest. That means every dollar I earn today is reduced. The point after school is over is to earn, not pay.

Why go then? It's expensive, does not provide actual job training (for most disciplines), takes up time in one's life when real money is out there to be made, and provides little other benefit...

*What do you [adult readers] think? Did you go to school and found it a waste of time and money? Or did you always wish you could go? How has your "education" helped inform what you "do" for a living now? Eager to hear your thoughts!


Burkulater said...

I think that the majority of required courses did not adequately prepare me for a career, however, there are certain jobs that require a degree, so this is what we do. We all wish for better, and less hoops to jump through, and lower tuition costs, but I really don't think it will change much, unless requirements increase as well as tuition. I think it's important to work, and if the work you want to do requires a high education, then you should go. We aren't saving for our kids' education because we don't have the extra money, but we wouldn't limit our family size based on whether or not we'll be able to send them to college. That's something that gets me more fired up than college in and of itself.

Aunt Julee said...

Agree wholeheartedly!

Victoria said...

Hmm.. but what if you don't know what you want to do? Is studying liberal arts-ish subjects going to instill a mandate to working in higher education? And is the same true for if you go to a trade school?
It's a tough decision.. wherever you go, you're using TIME which means you're less likely to keep wanting to go to school for something else.. and delay your moneymaking even longer...


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