Notes on education from someone without a degree
I'm graduating from college in exactly two weeks.
I'm not walking in the graduation. My parents aren't even coming (because I told them not to worry about it), because what's going to change that day? Besides the fact that I will no longer be covered on my parents' health insurance, auto insurance (no biggy, because I won't have their car either), or cell phone account―nothing is going to change. My diploma doesn’t mean much of anything. I have a bachelors in English….wow, I'm set!
Let’s take that for starters. What’s your first response when someone says they’re getting a bachelors in English? Do you say, “Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher?”? If so, please stop. English majors don’t spend all their time diagramming sentences and learning vocabulary words, okay? That’s ridiculous. “English” is a misnomer. First and foremost, we study language, in the context of English, our mother tongue. That’s why 70% percent of law schools in
Furthermore, English as a university major, from my experience, is the most expansive and inclusive major one can follow. As a senior, I have taken upper-level classes in many different departments at my university. I’ve had political science students asking me to help them understand political theory, I’ve debated concepts of physics with professors, and I’ve held my own in economics discussions with economics majors.
So, now you’re saying, either those people were idiots, I’m lying, I think I’m a genius, or I am a genius (not likely…I mean, I did start the sentence with a conjunction). None of the above. I’ve studied everything from Adam Smith to Newtonian theory to trends in architecture that correlate with colonization in classes on 18th century literature; I learned psychology from reading modernist literature; etc. There is essentially no philosophy (scientific, linguistic, political, etc.) that is not incorporated in some way in the study of language.
On top of that and, perhaps, most important.....I really want to learn everything.
To study language is to study the means by which all knowledge (our concept of the world) is spread, so it seems pretty obvious that the study of language should be a prerequisite to studying the world, whichever aspect of the world that one chooses to focus on?
One obvious fault in my tirade may be to say, “Well, yes, Robert, that is pretty obvious and that’s why even the best science universities in the country have very strong humanities departments.” My response in that case is that most, if not all, of the universities in the South missed that boat―which is to say, the boat that took all the good education with it.
The South is the land of the “go to school to get a good job” folks. We lack reason. My university, for instance, prides itself on the starting salaries of its graduating students (myself not included), and consequently it never says too much about the increase in salary its alumnae experience as they advance in their careers. That’s because my university is a science-focused university. One-third of all incoming freshman (about 3,000 a year) are engineering majors. The problem with our graduates: they were taught (well) to do a job. They were not taught to innovate.
So (He did it again with the conjunctions at the beginning of the sentence!!!!!), our graduates hit a wall after several years. They don’t advance salary-wise, because they don’t have the skills to do so. On the other hand, everyone (not just at my university) sort of chuckles at humanities students for their choice of focus in studying, because we don’t deal with reality and we don't make jack-squat when we graduate. They overlook the fact that, statistically, the salaries of humanities students after graduation never stops rising.
Take a look at how many people on the Fortune 500 list were liberal arts majors at some point in their lives. I doubt, seriously, that many of them were engineering majors.
I hate that I even bring up money. It’s not about that. It’s about the lives of a lot of people that I know that just aren’t very happy because they did what they could do, not what they wanted to do. Our society drives people to do what will make you money, because that’s where happiness comes from. Because of that, a lot of people pick majors that will make them money after graduation, and......here's the kicker.......the find that money isn't happiness if your're working 70 hours a week at a job you hate.
Conversely, a lot of folks will gladly work 70 hours a week and get a crap salary if they're doing what they're passionate about. But, alas, I'm surely not being realistic.....I was an English major.
We need to get away from the idea (1) that college is for everyone, (2) that in order to be successful you have to go to college, (3) that you should decide while your in college what you want to do for the rest of your life, and (4) that you should ever go to college for anything but to learn, nothing more.
I don’t think kids should go straight into college. I changed my major 4 times my freshman year, only because I had no idea what I wanted to do. Sure, I learned from the experience, but it would have been nice if I hadn't come to college because it was the “next” thing that I was supposed to do.
The idea that we have to go straight into college is a post WWII/GI-Bill idea. It was right for the time, but the idea that college will help you unquestionably in the real world is a misconception. The fact that parents make their kids believe that is exactly the reason that having a college degree is losing its value. Now, kids have to get seven degrees, do a hundred internships, publish a couple books, and swim three miles while reciting Shakespeare before they’ll look good on a resume. For instance, I just finished editing my resume the other day, and it’s 3 pages long, single-spaced. Do you really think that people back in the 60s had that much to list on a resume before they started grad-school?
Maybe so. I never deny the fact that I could be over-reacting. I'm just a bitter, under-apprecieted, self-righteous English major.