I appreciate every opportunity my parents have given me. Without fail for twenty-one years they’ve earnestly acted in my best interests and cultured me using the most contemporary knowledge available to them at the time. After several meaningful relationships and witnessing how many of my peer’s families function, I feel very comfortable saying that I have an exceptional family – which is something I used to believe was common.
As just said though, I believe my parents raised me using the best knowledge available to them at the time. And even they will admit – hopefully not as regret – that they’ve learned things over the years that have changed their philosophies, and would have made them act differently. Living in an age where culture and knowledge is so tumultuous and dynamic makes this inevitable.
Now nearing graduation after staring college roughly four years ago, I know that I will never mandate my own child to pursue higher education. The inherent value of a college education that my parents believe to be true is one that my own experience has revealed as outdated. I’m fully aware that my experience is not universal, so please consider the following as no more than an honest account by a critical person – pertaining to an institution believed to be invaluable to one’s growth and development.
The majority of American universities are believed to be, and advertise themselves as, places for experiential learning. I’ve found this to stem the fact that these schools no longer have the staff or competency that is necessary to providing what they were historically designed to offer, theoretical learning. The experiential learning that has always been considered a peripheral enhancement to the college experience has now widely become the main reason to attend.
It is very easy and un-investigable for a university to claim they have the perfect environment to “try new things”, “explore one’s potential”, and “meet exciting, well-connected, and motived people”. It is even easier for them to sell such rubbish for a high-price by playing off a parent’s protective concerns by saying that such opportunities are provided in a safe and controlled environment for their loved one. But this is a lie, because true experiential learning is only learned when a person is willing to take risks and pursue ambitions. And it is immoral for any person, or institution, to advertise that they can stimulate such life learning more meaningfully than life itself.
Just the other day in class my professor declared that he expects us to be industry leaders within the next five to ten years. The topic being discussed was hotel management, and minutes after him stating his expectation he suggested that we, “snatch-up any opportunity to work as a concierge or doorman at any London 5-star hotel, and never let it go” – explaining that such a job would earn us enough money to live comfortably on as he enthusiastically illustrated how simple it is to open and close a door.
This is a simple anecdote from just one professor, but it is an accurate innuendo into a troubling reality. Most professors no longer know what they are supposed to teach us. Is it to inspire us to take chances and lead? Or is it to caution us to opt for safety and security? This confusion is not the professor’s fault, it’s the institutions fault. No longer are they operating in the best interest of their students, but instead in their own interest – because their core purpose has transitioned away from being academic hubs for learning and growth and towards highly lucrative businesses.
I do believe that (most) all of my professors wish for their students to pursue dreams, take chances, and achieve ambitious goals. However, encouraging such behaviour conflicts with the true goal of their employer, which is to achieve high college rankings and itself a “capable” reputation.
The lessons taught, grading methods used, and admissions standards followed are devised to enhance the school’s image, not the student’s experience. They aim to maximize employment rates, boost test scores and GPA averages, and win the school accolades similar to those awarded in high school yearbooks – “most likely to X” or “best Y”. Meanwhile, everyone seems to have forgotten that tuition fees are paid so that the school will work for the student, not the student work for the school.
This is unbelievably frustrating to experience as my parents pay tens-of-thousands of dollars to a business that doesn’t hold their customers experience as its highest priority. However, in a very disheartening realization, I understand why it operates as so.
College has become a standard. Something that everyone now accepts as a requirement to live a successful life and discover one’s fullest potential. While the purpose of a traditional education is said to encourage critical thought, creative thinking, and condition a person’s mind to be more aware and understanding of the world around them, the primary purpose of college has evolved to simply incubate employees.
If everyone is going to be allowed to participate in something, it has to be something that everyone is able to do and understand. And, unfortunately, not everybody was born to be a critical thinker or leader. Some people find such a statement offensive, and I can understand why since it suggests that some are unqualified by nature to partake in experiences believed to be aspired for by all. However, even though all men and women are born with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, the aptitude necessary for a true education is far less common than any other quality.
As a student, I’m tired of having my complaints with school be dismissed by the reasoning that, “no student likes school” and “it’s just something you have to do”. Coming from a home-schooled background, I learned to love learning. And that it was most fulfilling and valuable when done on your own. Thankfully, this lesson was learned way before any institution was able to turn learning into a meaningless and repetitive chore.
It is common to hear that, “it doesn’t matter what college you attend – it’s what you make of it”, and the meaning behind it suggests that it doesn’t matter where you study, as long you engage. However, after processing my own experience – thus far – I’ve come to believe that this over used statement should be changed to, “It doesn’t matter if you go to college – life is what you make of it.”
When speaking with my parents I can hear in their voice how important they believe graduating college is. I know that if I weren’t to complete school they would feel as though they failed on some level. And because of that I’m committed to them to finish. However, even with only one semester left, if they came to see eye-to-eye with me on the true “value” of what I’m experiencing, I wouldn’t waste another day at this worthless yet overvalued sleep away camp.
– Sebastian Scholl