Thursday, February 4, 2010

if you want to sing out, sing out.

I don't know how to start off this blog eloquently, but basically, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the concept of higher education in American society.

Obviously, I'm an advocate of going to college--I'm currently going into massive debt to get my Bachelor's degree. However, recently I've been questioning how necessary getting a degree is; or rather, how necessary getting a degree should be. Does it prove something, and if it does, should that be a determining factor in someone's career? I'm not suggesting that an average Joe can just want to be a lawyer and become one; obviously, there has to be some sort of training for certain jobs. But for the countless number of us liberal arts majors (you know who you are, you English/History/Film/Anthropology/Mass Comm people!), is a degree really necessary? What would getting a Bachelor's in Russian History do in terms of working well with people in an office? Unless you're lucky enough to become a professional scholar on the Russian Revolution, chances are you're not going to be working on something related to your degree. I'm not trying to be mean here, I ask this considering that I almost majored in Russian History! Most of our degrees aren't teaching us practical things...they're teaching us theory, and they're teaching us how to think, but in the real world (and I say this based on my limited experience working out there), knowing Marx's theory of false consciousness doesn't mean a thing. I mean, it's an advantage I guess, but at the same time, if you can't unjam a copy machine what good does your fancy education do you?

I understand the value in going to a university, or at least, I do in the traditional sense. Those who are better educated are theoretically better citizens, and the better the citizens the better the democracy. Going to college used to be a rare event, reserved for the elite and the brilliant; as it becomes more accessible it also becomes more commonplace. Getting a degree used to mean you were special, that you had worked harder than anyone else and were getting prepared for a career. Nowadays, anyone and everyone can get a degree, and although the accessibility is wonderful, at the same time it diminishes the distinction between one person and the next. Once you have a degree, that's it...and you know what they say, even C's graduate. These days, one has to go the ~extra mile~ and go to graduate school, law school, or medical school in order to truly stand out among their peers. What, you mean my four years of undergraduate work don't matter anymore!? To be honest, the only reason many people go through undergrad is to get to the graduate level. I even had an advisor once tell me that my undergraduate major doesn't matter at all because I'm going to have to get further schooling anyways. Really? Way to be motivational!

In addition, people's motives for college have changed somewhat. Obviously, one goes to get a higher education to prepare them for a career. However, what happens if you want to go for a career that doesn't require a law degree, or a medical degree? What if you want to be a writer, and you've done writing workshops, and you just have a natural talent? Should you be required to go through the same educational system as someone pursuing a degree in engineering? I get that they're not the same thing, but it's just really frustrating to think that people feel obligated to get degrees, even though they can't afford it and they don't necessarily need them. Furthermore, a lot of technical colleges have lost support over the years, and so people no longer have as many 2-year options, so they are forced to get a 4-year degree.

Again, I'll restate the fact that I'm one of many, many people getting my degree. Personally, I view my education as an investment, and the experience itself of going to a world renowned university and moving out and all that jazz has been amazing. I'll defend my choice to go to school to the death...I love going to school and learning and as much as I complain about the work, I really do enjoy it. On the other hand, I'm acknowledging the fact that this system isn't made for everyone, and that it shouldn't be mandatory for those who, in all honesty, don't really need it. There are plenty of brilliant people I know who don't go to college, and they're a hell of a lot smarter than I am. Getting your degree and studying should be something you want, rather than something you need. I just wish society could be as tolerant about a ~lack of education, because a lack of a degree does NOT mean a lack of knowledge, skills, or talent!

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