Have you ever seen Goodwill Hunting? If not, I highly recommend it. It is one of my all-time favorite movies. The reason that I bring this up is that Matt Damon, or Will in this instance, is a self-taught genius. He didn’t go to school, but just spent hours everyday reading books. He is more intelligent than his graduate school girlfriend, and the graduate school dudes trying to hit on her. Yeah, his IQ is through the roof, but there is something very novel about a street rat that can outwit anyone with no formal education.
This is going to be the trend that future generations take. Right now, I am in my senior year of college. And what do I have to show for it? What AM I going to have to show for it? My Diplomacy and World Affairs and Spanish Degrees are NOT going to help me with the possible job that I’m going to have, because I’m getting the hell away from any political or cultural studies field. My parents worked their asses off to fund my 50k a year education (thanks mom/dad), when truthfully, I could have learned everything that I have by going to a public library or personally browsing Wikipedia a few times. Or even just ordering books on Amazon. For my liberal arts degree (I cannot knowledgeably speak on hard science degrees such as engineering, or trade school degrees), I know that my family is grossly overpaying an institutional structure that is in place to essentially give me a piece of paper proving that I am not a useless idiot. But that isn’t a safe generalization as I know people that drop out or that don’t attend in the first place that are much more intelligent and driven.
I can think of several counterarguments for the funding of this over-payed institution. Not to say that my school is completely useless, my teachers are nice/intelligible, and I have met awesome people, but imagining the amount of money going into this institution and the quality we are receiving in exchange is a gross thought. But I digress. Some argue that it is important to have an excellent student-teacher relationship or to have mentors to inspire and guide you. I agree. The problem with this is that I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to study or do before going into college, and I still don’t. Hell, I regret the decision to study what I studied. I could have learned so much more about myself and what I wanted to do if I had taken a year or two off and just read books of all sorts. None of my teachers have particularly inspired me, though I know that relative to professors at larger universities, I am getting by default such a more intensive experience with these brilliant minds and it still hasn’t mobilized towards a passion. I can attest that many students around me feel the same way. There is honestly not much I can tell you about international relations EVEN THOUGH I’M STUDYING IT, and have very solid grades. I would argue that reading and personal development, as well as cultivating a student-mentor relationship can be effectively done outside of a classroom just as easily as in it. I also think that it is easier to inspire yourself without even going to school, if you take the time and active role to learn about what there actually is to do out there. There is also a college mindset that is incredibly flawed in that after school you can either “get more schooling” or “work for somebody”. To me that is depressing and myopic. I know words are cheap and I’m not exactly in a position to give advice because I’m returning to the institution I am tearing down, but maybe I’m just not brave enough.
Others argue that this Liberal Arts degree is not important in teaching you not what you learn but HOW you learn, and how to think, and there is some validity to that. Many of my friends’ perspectives on how to view the world prior to coming in as bashful high school students have been shattered. People are finding themselves more conscious about the world, about the environment, that they are developing into new people. But is that really worth 200,000 dollars? Look, there are so many opinions out there that it is exhausting to listen to all of them. Again, I argue that if you were to take the time to just read your mind would be blown in the exact same way. In fact if you take it upon yourself to educate yourself, the entire apathy that surrounds school might just disappear.
Thus far, all I have talked about is why college is worthless. There is so far little correlation to my title and thesis. People are smart, and are going to start learning this. Hell, UC Berkeley is already putting up free courses on podcasts. I believe that I heard they are experimenting with something similar in video classes. The fact is that if you want to learn something, the information is most likely out there for free on the internet or in your library. Personally I wish I had the courage to drop out of college. People are already realizing that they don’t need to go to school to get an English degree. Even computer programmers can teach themselves how to program just by looking online. I agree that it is important to have mentors in life, and to try and find inspiration to do something you love. That’s all great and true. I just think that it is not worth the disgusting amount of money to learn the few practical skills and to meet people that will “change how you think”, when all that is available to you without massive student debts. For free.