(I plan to start writing more now that I am past the undergraduate phase of my life and into the liberal arts degree unemployment phase. This is the first installment of this, hopefully weekly writings about whatever, just to keep it fresh with my writing skills in tact.)
College is an interesting time, because whatever skills you think you have are quickly diminished next to your peers who are all of equal talent and interest – only they try harder. Even at a small, private institution – influenced by Christian ideals it is hard to come away with the confidence that you are the best and that every company/organization should totally hire you. Percentage points of GPAs rarely matter, it’s all about making a name for yourself. Placing yourself into the center of as a many venn-diagrams as possible. For the social minimalist, the degree is the easy part, it’s the résumé game that kills.
Maybe this is just my background though. I did grow up with a healthy amount of third wave emo and 00s pop-punk blasting through my speakers with suburban kids whining about being suburban kids. Armed with a self-deprecating wit and a pension for sadness does not help one glide through a world that thrives off of who you know and making people know you. Self-deprecation may be charming, but not the kind of charm you see George Clooney displaying.
Instead, there’s this whole other mantra: You’ve got to get yourself out there! Cultivate that image! Enlarge your circle or network or web! Well isn’t that socially exhausting, thanks emo!
But college was great, really. I am blessed and grateful to have had this experience. This stage of life where exams are the pinnacle of existence and by paying enough and turning in assignments you suddenly are advantaged over millions of others. I was able to take in ideas, learn from professors and work with creative people to enhance my own skills and abilities. Trying to come up with 25 pages of material is a strange anxiety to have. I am exponentially better off than a lot of the world when it comes to a sustainable future living in wealth. It’s an unfortunate reality, but one that I will not take for granted.
This leads me to another thought I have been having lately. After paying close to 60,000 dollars to get a degree (that for only two years), it seems sort of ridiculous. Many of the major universities are putting students into debt, unless they fall into certain income brackets or gain access to scholarships. Those who obtain these usually have been primed to do so. I worked with an organization for a class this semester that prepared Jr. High students from a low income neighborhood for what it would take to get into college. It’s not like they did not have the ability, they simply did not have the lexicon to know where to start. The smart parents start saving for their kid’s education from an early age, others know that scholarships tend to be available or push their kids to do sports, leadership programs, and other activities that look good when applying for school. Those outside the world of college-speak seem to be at a disadvantage – other than programs, government or otherwise, that help to provide support. College is a great hope of the future, but does it widen the gap between wealthy and poor?
Well maybe, maybe not, but I think the future points to a collapse in the great collegiate system. Technological advancements and the widespread availability of information point to a world where all college is worth is those great connections – the ushering into the “Boy’s Club”.
Will Hunting says it best in thick Southie accent “you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you coulda’ picked up for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library” (how do you like them apples!?).
Will the piece of paper be worth it? Will the connections be worth years of debt trying to pay them off?
For a nation built on supply and demand, reading Wikipedia pages or paying for used textbooks off of Amazon is a cheaper alternative to gain the basics of knowledge. Education won’t be worth the hefty price that must be paid, so people will figure out ways to go around it.I see more and more companies starting their own private training institutions where they recruit high school students, pay for their training, and usher them in to their company early on, similar to European soccer clubs or the minor league baseball system.
One of the reasons The Social Network was so great was because it showcased this changing world. A student forsaking the traditional ladder to find his own way, where there is no need for finals clubs or extracurriculars. The world has changed, power structures have changed and in a sort of Marxist fashion the old way will topple.
Well perhaps this won’t happen. Perhaps the university will remain the pinnacle of Global North existence for years on end, after all, what do I know? I’m just a college grad.