Is it all a waste of time?

I have been vastly preoccupied lately about the removal of people like me from among those who are considered worthy of civil rights protections.  I wrote about that here:  If only you were gay….  It was one of those pieces I wish everyone at Daily Kos would have read in order to gain maybe just a smidgen of insight, but as usual, people had more important things to do, like bash the other candidates.  Issues get set aside at times like this.

But I did manage to read a few diaries on education during the week.  Some were very good.  Some were appalling, from my point of view.  But I don’t only link to the ones I agree with.

This made the Rec List at Daily Kos.  So it is later than usual.  

I mean, really:  College keeps poor people poor and The uselessness of graduate school?  I didn’t have much time to stick around, but it seemed to me there was mostly agreement in the commentary with the sentiment that college and grad school were a rip-offs than people who thought they were valuable life experiences.

Already extremely discouraged about a fifteen year educational effort having proven to be insufficient, I learn that I have also wasted the past 31 years by being a college.  I wasn’t providing what students desired, which is a piece of paper which should get them the job of their dreams with minimal effort and expense.  I was wasting my time trying to teach them how to be better people.

I initially wrote two comments.  The first was to the diarist directly and the second was in response to the diary.

I’m sure glad…

…you were never my student.  I tell them on day one (well, those who bother to show up on Day One) that if they are not in my class to learn, but rather only to earn a degree, then we are not going to get along, because they are in college for the wrong reason.

A better job is a byproduct of going to college..

…and learning something.  It is not the purpose of college.  The purpose of college is to provide those learning opportunities.  If students do not take advantage of them, who is to blame?

I was told this:

I understand what you’re afraid of.  Losing your power.

To which I responded:

Fuck power.

I’m trying to defend millennia of education from people who think that the good of the human race is served if they get the job they want.

I was that education was only for the idle rich and I was their tool, even though I teach some of the poorest college students in the country.  I was told education was a commodity.  I was told education was worthless if it didn’t lead to a better job, that it had no intrinsic value of its own.  Even the usage of the word “value” was jumped on, by someone who apparently can only interpret value in terms of dollars.

And that’s a shame.  Three decades of my life dedicated to help people to improve their lives is seemingly unappreciated if this current crop of respondents have any say.

From the second diary, the one about graduate school, which I did not participate in because of the ENDA stuff, came these nuggets:

It is not a place to construct new ideas.

Formal education is too busy being up its own ass of inaction to be of much relevance to the real world.

I wonder how anyone could attend graduate school and develop those views.  I wonder about what this young person is doing with the time there besides constructing new ideas.  I realize that I went to graduate school decades ago, but when I was there, it was all about constructing new ideas.  No degree was going to be obtained without some original thought.

I firmly believe that one gets out of education what one is willing to strive for.  It is something to be hard-earned…with the emphasis on the earned.  One has to learn to fight for oneself against the sea of ignorance and test the limits of self and knowledge.  If a person is not willing to do that, I have to wonder why that person is in school.  If it is a waste of time, why do you do it?

And I have to note from a teachers perspective, since I do have students who think this way, the quality of education for your classmates is diminished if time has to be spent on students who do not appreciate that education is about learning.

I have one last comment I made:

But it would be nice if the people who want to get a decent education weren’t penalized because people like you who think it’s all about getting a job want to change college into the minor leagues of corporate enterprise.

Typos, etc, were corrected in the above comments.  I am an editor at heart

31 comments

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    • Robyn on November 10, 2007 at 10:05 pm
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    …as time permits.  I hope everyone is doing well.  My spirits need some raising, apparently.  I’ve got to figure out how to accomplish that.

  1. Interestingly enough even though the diary about college keeping poor people poor was intended to a a populist screed I actually found it reactionary in tone. It was supremely anti-intellectual and sounded not unlike the sort of attacks one might hear on Fox decrying colleges and college professors.

    It was not particularly well written or argued.

    If I may be so bold. Part of the problem might be the number of bullshit degrees that are conferred. When I first moved here I worked with a woman whose husband was getting a degree in “sports marketing”. What the hell is that? I realize there is not much of a market for philosophers but maybe *that is the problem*. Intellect is seen in this country not as a capacity but a commodity.

    • Edger on November 10, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    and only one person learns… is it all a waste of time?

    Since there is now you, and one other person, who can teach.

    And if each of you try to teach a hundred people and only one person in each group of a hundred learns… is it all a waste of time?

    I don’t think so. But what do I know? 😉

    • RiaD on November 11, 2007 at 12:45 am

    I wish my girl had you as a prof…I think you’d both love it! She’ll graduate in May with a double major- Bio/Chem and is applying to graduate school. She is finally thriving…on the new ideas, the new possibilities & directions that are opening to her. Her main problems are that there are too many paths she wants to explore…and the other students are so juvenile. She’s nearly 30 so is a bit older (&more mature) than most there. She rails against the ‘jr high drama mindset’.

    If you open just one persons eyes (& future) you’ve done your job….if you change one person each year, you’re doing more than your share to save the world.

    • snud on November 11, 2007 at 1:14 am

    And I couldn’t agree with you more, Robyn. There are all sorts of aspects to this that are both demoralizing and yet socially fascinating at the same time.

    I realize that you, as a teacher, experience the former a helluva lot more than the latter.

    For example, the American sense of entitlement is rather astounding. That is, if I just show up for class and make a “Gentleman’s C” I’m owed a $200,000 a year job, that  mostly consists of sitting on my ass.

    I think you might’ve touched on another pet peeve of mine that I get flamed over all the time: Athletics. I don’t live too far from Virginia Tech where the coach makes millions a year and an English teacher is probably making under $50K.

    Now I realize a bazillion people and a network like ESPN aren’t going to pay to watch the English teacher do his or her thing but this still sends a powerful message. Football is everything here and being really smart is just, well… not cool at all.

    And then we wonder why countries like India, South Korea, Japan and even China are kicking our ass economically.

    It’s bad enough that you probably can’t find someone who makes anything with their hands anymore in this country (primarily because they can’t make enough money) but when the majority of its citizens place more value on one’s prowess throwing, kicking and catching some stupid ball over the ability to do science and math, then we find ourselves moving ever closer to an Idiocracy.

    There are people in my hometown who’d much rather have their son grow up to be a football star than an astronaut. So guess what “Junior” does every day after school?

    I guess what I find fascinating is most people are aware of this and yet are apparently too stupid to care. This will come back to bite us on the ass – assuming something else doesn’t first.

  2. Yes, it’s what you make of it — but in the end it’s just another pursuit of alienated labor under capitalism, and “education” is a poor substitute for revolution.

    The educational institutions themselves are pointed in the wrong direction, because they are caught in the web of commodity production (“diplomas”) and thus are mere accessories to ecosystem-destroying capital.

    One means of redemption for colleges, as I’ve indicated here, is for them to devote themselves to community gardens as a beginning-point for the development of education for sustainability.  But otherwise forget it.  Time’s a wastin’.

    • pico on November 11, 2007 at 4:35 am

    But it’s the pretty typical kind of whining you see: a combination of personal frustration with anti-intellectualism = sweeping comments about colleges and universities from people who haven’t experienced more than one or two (and they accuse academics of living in bubbles!)  I thought this comment was a pretty terse smack-down, and couldn’t have put it better.

    • banger on November 11, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    increasingly reactionary along with everyone else. But having said this they are our repository of what is best about Western Civilization and the lineage of knowledge passed on from student to teacher that is our deepest treasure along with our classical arts, literature, dance, music, poetry, theatre. I see young people increasingly turned away from those things that give such immeasurable value in those of us still left who love those things.

    The most imporant movie of our time, in some ways, was Animal House which because it was so brilliantly done masked a reality we would be facing–a world where Bluto becomes a U.S. Senator and, in fact, is now President. Mr. Bush represents an America that has explicitly rejected the civilization that has led us to this time.

  3. I will encourage my children to be life long students.  Life is too short to just find your rut and dig in in my opinion.  There is too much out there to see and discover and do and be.  Things seem rocky right now, certain things have morphed into directions that aren’t the healthiest but what it is unbeneficial will fall away.  Education has always been able to educate itself at some point.  I’m sorry this is a rough time right now.  I do understand, our culture has become over stressed and feeling very hand to mouth, we live like we are on the edge of immediate destruction everyday which allows our eventual destruction to continue to brew.  We’re all freaked out right now and could really use a vacation or just a few mental health days off or better yet a rational not of the END TIMES President 😉

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