How many more times can I put the word "school" in the title?.
Since this series is about college in general, you're probably wondering why I don't call it "Why College Sucks". The simple answer is that I never liked the idea of school as it exists today, and so even though I'm only referring to college, I would like to call out all of it if only through the title. Possibly a bit immature on my part, but it's my blog.
I believe that the purpose of college is to help you build a more sophisticated worldview and give you the tools to help you grapple with reality a bit better. If that's not what it's for than it needs to be wiped from the face of the earth and only exist for the careers for which it is mandatory (doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc).
The reason that I have any sort of beef with college is because now, 3 years out, I keep seeing how unprepared for the world college students are. Certainly, there's no being fully prepared for the outside world, any older adult could tell you that. There's a sort of bubble that is created in school, particularly in college, that's great for preparing you how to survive more school, but not necessarily how to survive real life. College has, in many subjects, lost sight of any world beyond itself.
I studied art and marketing, and I graduated in a stupor. I didn't know how to apply anything I learned, because I wasn't taught how to exist past the world of homework assignments. The funny thing is, I'm fully exercising the two topics of my major! I work specifically with art and marketing as a job, yet everything I do now had to be painstakingly taught to me post-graduation.
I've noticed that the people in an undergrad program who love school, often times, find ways to live in the school system forever. And they've come to the right place! What better place to learn about living and working in the school system than learning under the school system. Want to be a professor? Well you just have to keep paying for a new level of higher thinking until you reach the top and then you'll go clea-- I mean, get your doctorate.
Part of the reason college has become so inapplicable to real-life is because of the idea of the "career professor". No doubt that getting "Dr." in front of your name is a difficult task, and more power to anyone who can do it. I certainly don't want to belittle that. I would like to contend with the parallels of say, a "career professor" and a "career politician", however.
We typically don't like "career politicians" (that's why phrases like "drain the swamp" exists) because they've never had to live and work in the real world, yet they are expected to understand the people enough to make and pass laws for them. The same goes for "career professors": why would you go to someone for knowledge about how you should survive with your art or skill when they live so separately from the outside, non-theoretical world? If you want to learn, again, "How to Survive School" they are an excellent resource. If you want to learn how to create or join a marketplace to sell your artwork and the types of buyers you should focus on, you may just have to figure that out yourself.
For instance, I went to college right when social media was piquing. Instagram was huge by the time I was a junior, grandparents had already taken over Facebook, and tweens were making a healthy living on Youtube. There were very few remarks from my professors about the recent digital boom, if anything, there was almost a distain for it. (I've sat through many lectures in almost every single class about the dangers of social media in some form or another...snore) It was clear to me that professors weren't staying on the cutting edge, and were still teaching the same things they taught years and years ago. There was some advancement, they started a digital photography class in my time there, but the world was changing so much faster outside the classroom.
College was actually when I built willmalone.com, during Christmas break my freshman year. Never were we told we may need some sort of online portfolio or a social presence if we wanted to sell our art or services. That's something I had to ditch my homework for and start working on while I was in college, because keeping up with the world is a much bigger task than keeping up with college. Early on, I was kind of treated as a joke in the art department from time to time because I spent so much time putting up my photos and blogging online (in lieu of doing assignments, to be fair). By the end, everyone was rushing to buy their URL and set up an Instagram account, because when they got out into the world, they realized that's just what you did and it didn't undervalue your work.
If I were to build a college, my dream would be to only have adjuncts as professors, who were currently part of another career so they could report to students what their experiences are in the ever changing world. I would also remove the idea of a "full-time" student, so that students could be working somewhere that benefitted them and come to school at night or something. (my ideas are not original, by the way, I'm not claiming they are)
My adjunct professors were my best ones, because they actually wanted to challenge students as they would, say, challenge their real-life employees. There's often an air of "cutting through the bullshit" that I appreciate with part-time professors, because a person who works for a living in a whole other profession doesn't have time for the fruity, dreamy ideas about the theoretical world.
To be fair, some subjects are hard to teach: Marketing for example, is kind of a "you got it or you don't" type of thing. You can read case study after case study, and you still just might never actually understand marketing, while the person next to you becomes the next Steve Jobs. Anna (my wife) and I just went and saw The Founder with Michael Keaton playing Ray Croc, the "founder" of McDonalds. When talking to one of the McDonalds brothers he said something to the effect of "You built something great, but you never knew why it was great. You never understood why people lined up for your product. It wasn't the burgers, fries, or milkshakes. It was the name. McDonalds. Sounds wholesome. Sounds like family. That's why people come to your restaurant." (Great movie, by the way, highly recommend.) There are some subjects and situations that nothing but experience can prepare you for, and I think business (and maybe even art) in general is one of those things.
The idea that school isn't reality isn't a new one, but colleges aren't doing anything about it. It could be argued that college is working its hardest to make students less prepared for the real-world than ever. Look at big universities today, they look like 5 star resorts. Being a full-time student was almost a vacation; I find myself longing for the huge amounts of free time I had back then. The "career professors", who have cushy jobs from what I can tell, teach increasingly more elitist, unrealistic ideas about the world in which they've never really lived. It's close to the point where students pay to hear what they want to hear and chill for 4 or more years. I could go on, but I'd rather you read George Will's piece about about the "intellectual emptiness" of college.
There's a balance to be struck here. One should certainly have at least some knowledge of the theoretical world and not simply a view that is cynical towards some sort of "hardened" or "dog eat dog" world. I have definitely been benefitted by my education in some ways. College today, however, has tipped the scales the opposite direction and often churns out students lacking in logic or any sort of real world sense.
During the election (don't get deep into politics, Will. You promised.), I was always annoyed with the differentiation between voters who were college educated and those who aren't, as if those who weren't college educated were less than. The liberal stereotype of a Trump voter is essentially a non-college educated redneck. This implies that if you've gone to college you've suddenly unlocked the secrets of the universe, and are above those that don't. That's the kind of elitism that I believe is the result of a typical college experience today.
Many of the people I know who didn't go to college are some of the smartest and most logical people I know. I found myself having to re-acquire a lot of basic sense after graduating, and I've seen other friends after college doing the same thing. It's almost like you have to snap out of it after 4 years of sitting in classrooms.
Part One of this series was an experience I had during college, this one is my basic overall experience of college, and Part Three is going to be about the experience around college (a more positive post).
I finally got to indulge myself with all these ideas I've been thinking about them for a couple years, but as always I love to hear from people with differing opinions. Shoot me a message with what you think or if you're just pissed about this post and you just want to call me names.