Archive for the ‘College Sucks’ Category

College Sucks: An Epic Post of Higher Learning Suckitude

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Behold the American Dream laid low. While the university system exists to edify, uplift, and provide boundless opportunities to eager young minds, all while promoting valuable research meant to represent the best intellectual offerings of our times and promote cultural and technological progress in American society at large, it seems to do little of either these days. Or, to put it bluntly, college sucks.

This is just an undergrad student’s perspective. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from those poor souls entrenched in grad school and the faculty. No offense, but I hope to never join your ranks.

This rant may come off as petty and self-indulgent, but so be it. I’ve gone to several colleges over the years (for rather boring reasons) without a lot to show for it, so I’ve got some pent-up complaints on the subject. So, why exactly do I think college sucks?

1. General Education Requirements. They suck. In countries that aren’t retarded, they’ve already taken these classes in high school. This isn’t solely a complaint about the university system per se, as it is America’s dysfunctional primary education system that regularly churns out a stream of ever more functionally illiterate, lazy, self-entitled morons. I understand the sentiment behind a broad liberals arts education, but forgive me if I just want to get on with my life at this point. Not to mention it’s something easily studied on one’s own–watch a movie with subtitles once in a while, my fellow ugly Americans.

2. School is sexist–against men. Now hear me out. Females are, on the whole, better students than males. There are any number of theories to explain this, though I suspect it comes down to innate differences between men and women. Studies have shown that there are, indeed, basic differences between the ways the two sexes tend to think, which boil down to the fact that men tend to have linear, single-track minds that can focus intently on a single subject, while women are better multi-taskers. Guess who’s going to excel at taking five or six radically different subjects in a single semester? As a male, I have personally performed much better during short, focused summer sessions or during intense, single-subject study in the military.

3. Transfer credits. Thinking about transferring schools between states? Don’t. That is, unless you enjoy navigating the byzantine waters of transfer credits, where your previous hard work is often wiped clean off the record for no particular reason. Which brings me to my next topic:

4. Out-of-state tuition. Is there any bigger joke in the state-sponsored educational system? While it seems logical on the surface–people who pay state taxes have presumably contributed more to college funding–it’s not like these American states are islands of autonomous economies. You think people graduating from a certain state college will hesitate to take the right job out-of-state afterwards? Of course not, it’s ridiculous. Besides which, it’s not like you build some sort of “tax credit history” with a state while you pay its taxes; you can live in a state for 25 years, change your residency for one day and you are instantly boned. To top it all off, the whole thing might just violate the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.

5. Government funding and promotion. Despite the best efforts of state legislatures to fairly distribute tuition costs between residents and “non-residents” (which don’t exist legally except to school bureaucrats), the cost of tuition rises every year. This is due to several factors, but the big two are the current cultural emphasis on the importance of going to college (which is overblown, as college isn’t for and shouldn’t be pushed on everyone) and government funding. This began decades ago with the introduction of the GI Bill, which seems great (and is a benefit I have used myself), but what do you think is going to happen when more students are suddenly flush with cash to spend on education? Tuitions rise. In order to combat the rise in tuition preventing the poor from attending college, the government creates grants to subsidize the costs for some people. So, tuitions rise again. The government ups the benefits, etc. And now the school employs a small army of pencil-pushers to do all this paperwork, and costs rise yet again. It’s an endless, absurd cycle, and in the meantime those that are above the income thresholds (or don’t want to kill foreigners) are forced to take out loans for the ever-increasing tuitions and fees. I suspect even a 100% across-the-board subsidized college education which some other countries have (and I don’t support) would be preferable to our broken system that makes debtor-slaves out of millions (is it any wonder the powers-that-be like the status quo?). I would place some of the blame on corporations for, for many years, lazily demanding degrees of nearly everyone, instead of looking at their actual job skills. There’s so many graduates now, however (and coming from schools with plummeting academic standards), that possessing a degree is no longer a reliable litmus test for finding a bright future employee, more technical degrees being generally excepted.

6. Increasingly uncertain payoffs. Your degree will probably not be worth much. The government-touted figure about college grads making a million more dollars in their lifetimes than high school grads is dubious at best, an outright lie at worst, and in any case it depends highly on your specific degree (and, you know, things like the economy, your work ethic, etc.). In our tanking economy (the recovery of which never quite seems to get started when the “experts” predict), the job market is crowded with underemployed college grads. Unless you enjoy and wish to enter the world of academia for a lifetime (if you’re lucky), please for the love of all that is good and holy do not pursue a liberal arts major. Degrees in medicine and engineering are still likely good bets, you know, because they might actually teach you marketable skills. Which brings me to my next point:

7. The gulf between college and the workplace. Let’s face it, most people go to college in order to land a better job, but in most cases the two are nothing alike. Why do we insist on continuing this farce? Do companies really think they can get away with not having to train their employees? No matter what the industry, specific on-the-job training inevitably follows hiring. What happened to the days of apprenticeships and working your way up? Or why not have industry-specific trade schools for the 90% of students just looking for job skills, and leave the university system to the minority seeking to go into academic research?

8. Parties and weekend football. I’ve never cared about any of this, so it’s a minor detail for me. I could never fathom why state-funded colleges can get away with having highly profitable sports franchises in the first place, much less why people actually care about the teams. (Also, the crime of college athletes being unable to seek a fair wage for the services they provide.) As for students who only attend college for the party atmosphere, they and their parents are going to find a four-year binge-drinking vacation an increasingly unjustifiable luxury. Also, they are idiots.

9. The Researcher-Lecturer. An ability to conduct top-notch research does not confer an ability to lecture to undergrads. I imagine this set-up comes from the long-gone days when universities were truly elite places of learning and only a handful of students would closely follow and assist the work of a professor. In the mass market diploma mills today, this system is unworkable. Would a system of separate, professional lecturers catering to the unwashed undergrads be so bad? Students might later advance to working side-by-side with a tenured researcher, most students aren’t going to college to do research anyway, they would leave earlier to hit the job market.

10. Group projects. Professors often assign group projects, likely so there are fewer projects to be graded, usually with the excuse that in the “real world” group projects are the norm. First of all, college is not meant to mimic the real world; this is a filthy lie designed to imply that college is actually teaching you job skills, which it usually isn’t. Secondly, you are assessed and graded as an individual to determine if as an individual you have demonstrated the learning necessary to progress in your field. This is the purpose of college. Whether or not you work well in a group is irrelevant if you have not personally mastered the requisite skills. You will learn quickly in the “real world” how the group’s dynamics function. Finally, you are likely to be saddled with lazy, stupid teammates, who have skated through college thus far thanks, in part, to group projects (and later export their well-honed mooching skills to the “real world”). Many students do not have (or ignore) the obvious incentives to work well with others that people in industry have. Also, forgive me if I’m not inspired to work in groups when the half the people in them will never graduate.

Sadly, there may be a sequel to this post someday.