Sunday, January 25, 2015

Kollege Part XXXIV (Part Deux)

College has morphed from academic study to an excuse to party for four years.   Why is this?

As I noted in a previous post, something happened to "college" over the last few decades, to make it, well, different than the "college" experience that many of us had back in the 1960's, 1970's, and even 1980's.   College has largely become more expensive, more irrelevant, more dangerous, and more, well, more of everything bad that college was.

Many people today probably would be better off not going to college than going.   Concentrating on a career or trade early in life (as I did) ends up being a better way to focus your abilities and get ahead, than simply "growing up" for another four years in an environment that encourages young people to, well, act like children.
An article in the news a while back, illustrates yet more reasons not to feel sorry for college students with staggering student loan debts.  At UVA, they've found the body of a student that went missing a few months back.   She was 18 years old and everyone said what a great student and athlete she was, etc. etc. etc.

She was last seen leaving a bar at 2:00 AM being following by a man the Police now think killed her.

I'm not playing "blame the victim" here.  If I left a bar at 2:00 AM, drunk out of my mind, and someone clocked me over the head and took my wallet, you'd have little sympathy for me.   After all, I was being irresponsible by putting myself in a situation where I could be easily victimized.

An 18-year-old girl, leaving a bar at 2:00 AM, miles from campus, by herself?   Even stone cold sober, this is not a smart thing to do.   And with the drinking age now 21, what is an 18-year-old doing in a bar in the first place?  Isn't she supposed to be in college?  Isn't the drinking age 21 now?

This isn't sexist advice:  Ladies, there are men out there who prey upon women.   You might want to watch out for them.   Just as anyone wouldn't think about walking through a bad part of town late at night, one should never leave a bar alone at 2:00 AM.   You have to look out for yourself.

And hey, there are men who prey upon men:  Just to take your wallet, or just to clock you over the head for the fun of it.   And yea, I've been there so I know of where I speak.   Walking alone in bad neighborhoods late at night is just a bad idea for anyone of any race, gender, or whatever.

But getting back to the point - why was this young woman who was supposed to be getting a college education, hanging out, underage in a bar?   Isn't the point of college to get an education?   Shouldn't she have been studying her coursework and calling it an early night?

I know what some of you are going to say.  "Well, didn't you hang out in bars when you were in college?"   Short answer: NO.  First, the drinking age had been raised to 21 (which was really unfair, as I was "legal" to drink just months before) so no bars would admit me.   Second, there were few bars in Flint, Michigan, that I would want to "hang out" in.   Yes, I did go to some fraternity parties and got caught up in "partying".   See my posting about dropping out of college.

That's the whole point.  If you want to "party" in college, expect to waste a college career.  Again, I know this from experience.

When I went back to college, I realized that I had wasted a great opportunity first time around.  And this time around, I had to work my way through.  So I ended up delivering the pizzas to the partiers, instead of ordering them.  And yea, I took their tip money, too.   Even though they probably needed it more than I did.  After all, I wasn't the one graduating with student loan debt, they were.

Irony alert:  I wonder how many college grads who can't find jobs and are saddled with student loan debt, are now reduced to delivering pizzas, and thinking back how it was just a few years before when they were ordering the pies and tipping the delivery driver.  I am sure there is more than one!

And back at the shop, I served pizza slices to drunken undergraduates at 2AM.  2 AM is what we call "closing time" - and if you find yourself leaving bars at closing time, I might suggest that you re-think where your life is headed.   Sadly, many 18-year-olds, liberated from parental authority, end up doing dumb things like this - partying instead of studying.  Most just flunk out.  Few pay for it with their lives.

But partying seems to be the name of the game these days, in college.  In Keene, New Hampshire, college students once again trashed the town during the annual pumpkin festival.  If this were an isolated incident (or even the first occurrence in this town!) it would not bear comment.  However, it is one of a series of festivals or post-game celebrations that in recent years have turned into beer-fueled destructive riots.  Kids it seems, have a lot of time on their hands, in college.

And that is the dirty little secret of college.   While guys like me had to hump with two jobs and Calculus to study, many other have an awful lot of time on their hands and courses that are anything but hard.   One way to reduce the amount of nonsense going on in college these days would simply be to increase the amount of coursework.   But since students don't like that, it isn't about to happen.  The college installs a new climbing wall in the student center, instead.

These college riots have little or no cause, other than to cause mass destruction.   Yes, other socioeconomic groups have been known to riot on occasion.   But usually these are the side-effects of some sort of protest gone awry.   What are these college kids protesting?  Not enough beer?

And ironically, it is these white fraternity brothers who would be the first to condemn blacks for rioting in response to an incident of Police Brutality or the like.   "Those stupid N-words," they would say, "always busting up their own neighborhood!  Say, did you get the Molotov cocktails ready for this years P-fest?"  Irony is lost on them.  A lot of things are.  Fraternities suck.

Speaking of which:  Ladies, if you don't want to be date-raped, you might want to avoid fraternity parties.  Not a year goes by where we don't hear about at least once incident on campus where a young girl is violated at a fraternity party.  Just don't go.  You are in college to get an education.  And fraternity brothers are generally self-centered jerks.  The kind of guys who think women should be drugged and raped.  You know, nice fellows you'd like to bring home to Mom and Dad.  Sociopaths.

Sadly, college has become the new high school, and that is scary for a number of reasons.   First, High School sucks - it is a popularity contest, not an educational institution.  Morphing college into high school creates whole new problems.  Since kids are now alone and unsupervised, their worst instincts are now completely unfettered.   And since college is so staggeringly expensive, this four years of partying ends up costing them dearly - effectively mortgaging the rest of their lives.

Yes, kids partied and protested in years gone by.   Well, maybe not so much before the 1960's, when college was not viewed as a right, but a privilege.   In the 1960's, at least, the protesting was ostensibly about issues - the Vietnam War, for example (although most protesters probably had a deferment and were in little danger of being drafted).  And yea, there was a lot of "free love" and partying going on - and some were showing up just for the party.  But a lot of others were not protesting (which is not talked about) and were pretty serious about their educations.

I talked before about my Brother, who partied his way through college in the late 1970's, proud of the fact he was spending the then-astounding sum of $40,000 of Dad's Money and taking "gut courses" like "Drugs in Perspective" and "WW II in films".   (A typical "school day" consisted of getting stoned and watching old John Wayne movies - at least he trained well for his career path as a chronic stoner).

But at the time (1980), he was more the exception than the rule.   And at the time, parents could "afford" to send their kids to college and college wasn't so staggeringly expensive.   Today, the rules have changed, and yet today, people take college even less seriously than before.   College tuition rates have gone up at 2-3 times the rate of inflation for decades, which means the real cost of college has increased dramatically since my brother majored in Bong Science.

The job market has also changed dramatically since those days.   Well, actually not that dramatically.  My brother found it hard to get a job with a low grade average and a transcript that had "party boy" written all over it.   Majors in nebulous things like "communications" or "anthropology" or "psychology" generally don't lead to jobs, unless you are one of the very lucky few, or are prepared to go to graduate school.

Today, the situation is worse.  Gone for good are the days when a Liberal Arts degree was enough to get you an entry-level white-collar job in Corporate America.   Corporations have shed millions of jobs over the years, as computers and automation replace both blue- and white-collar workers.   In order to find a job, you have to have skills that plug-in to our new, technological society.

This does not mean you need to know how to code, or design semiconductor circuits, only that your skill sets be relevant to our world today, not the world of 60 years ago.   And to graduate without any skill sets whatsoever?   Well, you can occupy Wall Street all you want, it ain't going to change the fact that there is no job opening for you - and that you wasted $80,000 in student loans on four years of partying, that you must now pay for for the rest of your life.

But again, as I noted before, the system is stacked against students.   We ask them to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, at the age of 18.   We entice them to colleges that look like "fun" by installing rock-climbing walls and offering gut courses.   We feed them normative cues that are completely skewed.  And since they are young and naive, they bite on them, big time.   Teenagers are the most suggestible lot out there - which is why we draft them to fight our wars (old people would balk).

President Obama has suggested that we make Community College free.  I am not sure how this will help anything, other than to devalue (further) the worth of a Community College diploma.   College has to be made more relevant to the real world, and not just some abstract exercise in academia.

Regardless of what area you study in, getting real experience in the world is going to be more helpful to you in the long run, than sitting in classes listening to professors blather on.   It is a shame that more schools don't offer more "hands on" courses and engage businesses and industry to offer internships and other job experiences which could really enhance a student's understanding of a field - and perhaps persuade them not to go into that field.

I was fortunate that the fields I chose to study, someone was willing to hire me, pay me, and then pay for my education in that field.   In Engineering, that is still true today.   In the law business, perhaps less so.   In many other fields (bullshit degrees) there is no one willing to sponsor an intern or a co-op student for the very simple reason that there is no business in that business.    The sad fact of the matter is, the vast majority of college students are graduating with degrees that mean absolutely nothing to them, or the job market.

College is basically broken.