A Student’s Manifesto: Wasting Four Years at a Company Called College

0A9A9025-2I 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inherent value of a college education that my parents believe to be true is one that my own experience has revealed as outdated.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.

0A9A1514The 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.

0A9A1058This 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.

Prague Soldiers

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.

Taormina

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.

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–  Sebastian Scholl

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: College Student manifesto | TBARRAMEN48

  2. It is true enough that not everyone is capable of critical thinking. Many mistake belly-aching for critical thinking. However, neither is it true that everyone is capable of being successful (however defined) without the appropriate piece of paper to hang on the wall.

  3. Your perspective will change quite drastically over time. As an employer, a 4 year degree is a basic requirement. Earning that degree demonstrates your ability to focus on an intellectual task and achieve it. Without it, you simply can’t compete. I would also wager that your communication and analytical skills were developed over the four years of study to a level they would not have had you just gotten a job or plied a trade. In the future (and not too distant, at that), you will be thankful for your education and more appreciative of your parents’ old fashioned values.

    • Have you ever spent a day working in the real world, not your daddy’s shop? I find that college grads, especially females, are fairly worthless for about 4 years. The time necessary to unlearn all the socialist crap that was shoved up their a$$es in college. The business isn’t here for them. If they are not here for the business then they are not here. Nuff said!

    • Laurence, thank you for your comment.

      Saying that a 4 year degree “demonstrates ones ability to focus on an intellectual task and achieve it” seems a bit unjustifiable to me. The reason being that the benefit of an education is to be able to think critically and act intelligently in life – and if someone isn’t finding meaning or value in a system, but simply accepting that it is valuable because others have told them it is, how can that demonstrate an intellectual ability? It is actually quite the opposite. It demonstrates that someone is willing to take orders, be obedient, and not question or go against the norm. I understand you are an employer, and many companies would consider the perfect employee to have just those qualities. However, modern industries are much more dynamic these days, which does call for employees – or business leaders – to constantly re-evaluate and think critically of every part of their companies.

      Even though colleges claim to produce capable and ready adults for the work force, they curriculums and methods still are geared to a time when the “Gold Watch” was commonly earned. Making the education outdated.

      My communication and analytical skills have most definitely improved over my college career. However, I cannot accredit much of that development to my university. Most all the skills I’ve built through life have been developed through exploring passions and interests outside the classroom – Blogging being one of those passions.

  4. I wholeheartedly concur with this young man’s assessment. He will be a success in whatever endeavor he pursues. I wish him well in life after graduation. I commend him for completing his education, if only to honor his parents sacrifices for his future.

  5. Laurence: This wasn’t true already 20 years ago. The intellectual task, if you want to dignify it with such a name, one accomplishes in college is how to keep your GPA up by regurgitating what the professor wants to hear. Independent thinking that does not pander to the professor’s prejudices, no matter how fine-quality the thinking is, will hurt you in the GPA. As to communication and analytical skills–this young man is homeschooled. It’s a reasonable assumption that his skills in these areas were well-honed before he ever set foot on campus.

    Luckily for my young children and Sebastian’s future children, it is likely that higher education will be fundamentally changed from its current form even 10 years hence.

  6. As a successful business owner who never attended college, I have to say I find Sebastion’s essay to be spot on. A degree used to carry a certain cache, but I would much prefer to hire someone with real world experience rather than someone emerging from the unreal bubble of the university. Experience has shown that recent graduates must first unlearn the things they were taught that just aren’t so. It’s exhausting and simply much easier to employ people who’s brain haven’t been turned into theoretical mush.

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