What Are We Doing Here?

A few months back I gave my grandson the hardest piece of advice I’ve ever passed on. He was not looking for advice from me and had already decided his short term path, which was to gather some money and take a trip to meet his biological father. College was not in his short or long-term plans after one semester of community college and a fairly awful experience with what passes for high school in Minneapolis. When he asked me why I was going back to school, I told him my reasons and his would be very different. At 67 and retired, I was in the Southeast Community Technical College Guitar Repair program because I hoped to learn about guitar repair and construction, but going to college isn’t about that for a young man. Our education system has been selling itself on the educational/broadening-your-horizons claim for years and it’s bullshit. You go to college to get a degree; a piece of paper. If you get distracted by a drive to learn something you’ll fuck up the march to the degree and you’ll end up discouraged, disoriented, broke, and paperless.

“I don’t need this,” is the natural response to test material. You cram for the test, temporarily memorize the materials, take the test, and dump the faux information. Learn it and dump it. This is what passes for education. Teachers justify this process as “teaching students how to learn,” but that’s also bullshit. Kids know how to learn. They don’t know what to learn and too often the characters who end up at the head of a classroom in most colleges wouldn’t know useful information if it smacked them in the face.

As Garrison Keillor said, MFA stands for “my fabulous adolescence.” More often than not, kids are going to college to get their parents off of their backs, so they can continue their childhood activities with room and board included. They aren’t driven by any sort of occupational passion because kids rarely are. Their passions are for silly shit like noodling around on a musical instrument, playing video games, reading fantasy books, bullshitting with their friends (usually virtually via texting because carrying on a conversation in person would be too taxing), and watching movies or television. An education that provides some value to this kind of kid requires discipline, expertise, and a solid foundation in the sciences, liberal arts, mathematics, and the hard stuff. College has never been for everyone and building a higher education system that accommodates every lazy-ass wannabe is a waste of resources. Let them carry on their fabulous adolescence on their own time.

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