Wednesday, 12 November 2014
The Modern University System Is Already Dead, Needs Burying
I never thought I’d hear myself saying that. I was, after all, a product of that system. And if you had asked me back when I was in University; had you been, say, a teenager questioning whether they should bother to go to university or not, I would have told them that they MUST! That there was no other way to guarantee a good future for themselves, and no better way to grow and learn and discover the wonders of both knowledge and critical thinking. I was perhaps a bit naive and optimistic even then, but its also that this was another world. If a teenager were to ask me today if they should go to University, I would ask back “Do you want to be a doctor? A lawyer? Some kind of job that absolutely REQUIRES that you be in University? Are you absolutely sure it requires it? If so, then you’ve got no choice. But if not, then DON’T DO IT”.
The system makes no sense anymore. For starters, it doesn’t guarantee a good future for yourself anymore; in fact, it almost does the opposite: it straddles you with the equivalent of a house mortgage, but no house to show for it.
Yes, there were student loans back when I went to Uni. And even then, there were problems with the concept. But back then, it was mainly due to idiots who got into problems with it due to their own fault. I took student loans out, the absolutely minimum I needed to make up my tuition, and I paid these back as quickly as I could after graduating, much faster than legally required (I’ve always hated being in debt). Meanwhile, other idiots would max out the possible student loans and go vacation in Hawaii, and then have the gall to come back and complain about how awful their debt was. But back then, you were only saddled with massive debt if you wanted to be; if you worked even part time, or had any help at all from family,or got some of many available scholarships, you could get through a 4-year degree (or more) with no loans or just a reasonable amount, the kind that could be paid back in a year or two of actual working, like I did.
Today, its a totally different story. Tuition has exploded in an absurd bubble. Why? Because of two factors: student loans is itself the first. The fact that the Higher Education Mafia knows that all students can get them means that they can feel fine about raising tuition rates to absurd levels. Its the problem with any such scheme; unless you’re also price-fixing, any all-around general increase in access to wealth will also mean an all-around increase in costs. The modern North American education system is like a California gold rush town.
The second reason? Because we created a culture that said everyone HAS to go to university. They have a captive audience of teens that were told all their lives that the only way to make something of themselves, to “guarantee a future”, was university. Between that and these teens having near-limitless access to loans, prices skyrocketed. Today, its not about working hard, its not about cutting costs. There is NO WAY (other than having your parents swallow the cost for you, and how many can really do that?) that you can get out of university without a near-crippling level of student loan debt.
And this idea of “guaranteeing your future” has, meanwhile, become bullshit (if it was ever real). Just the act of being in a University, or graduating from it, does nothing to assure any kind of future for you today. Certainly, there are a few jobs (as I mentioned above) that absolutely require university to do, justifiably, because they require very advanced skills. Eventually, I hope that in a post-university-system world, they will be handled by specialized schools not unlike trade schools; people won’t go to university, they’ll go to “doctor school” or “engineer school”. In some ways, that’s already happening, as some ultra-specialized colleges are created or emerge.
But for most jobs, either you don’t need university or you SHOULDN’T need it, and soon won’t. There is of course this fleeting but current phenomenon (because of that cultural concept that we “must” go) where some shoe stores demand a bachelor’s degree to even be considered for employment. But this will soon start to fade, because we’ve gotten to the point where a university education has become so devalued that… well, that shoe stores are demanding it. At that point, a bachelor’s degree in anything that doesn’t lead you to those few aforementioned specialized fields is less valuable than toilet paper; and in great numbers of areas, business is starting to realize that.
Likewise, in the new world of the future, University is being left behind. To create things with computers and the internet, you have no need of university, nor does having gone “guarantee” you of even a drone-level job anymore. The world moves too fast.
And this brings us to the motherfucking Humanities! Even in the best of times, it was seen as something of a joke to think that a humanities degree was worth anything on the job field. Today, it means even less. The two reliable fields you could enter into as a humanities student was either “public school teacher” or “humanities professor”. The former is its own abomination of corruption and warped useless infrastructure that needs to someday be torn down and ultimately rebuilt, and you’re practically a traitor to mankind if you go that route (not to mention that it is not a “guaranteed future” in any economic sense; its a horribly-paid horrible-job (as it exists) that rather than contribute something to our civilization is actively working against it, and is usually the last stable-employment refuge of either the incompetent or the slightly-intelligent-but-lazy). The latter almost doesn’t exist anymore in its tenured form; and even if it does, is this a sensible justification for having such programs? Is that not a self-feeding monstrosity?: “The thing that humanities is good for is to create people to teach humanities to recruit more people to teach humanities”?!
But what about “discovering the wonders of knowledge and critical thinking”? Surely that’s the whole point, right??
Remember that I speak to you as a Humanities graduate. I will say this, to any youngster who might be reading and considering these issues: there is no “wonder” in what is taught at university anymore, and very very little critical thinking. What does exist is a worthless poisonous miasma of drudgery; of postmodernism, relativism, ideological litmus tests, fashionable socialism, pretentious drivel masked as intellectualism, and a horrific destruction of any sense of wonder at the scalpel of academic “theory”. The current methodology of the humanities is not an inspiring look into the potential of the human mind, heart and spirit; it is, as Lee Seigel recently put it, “a fig leaf for mediocrity”.
You want to be inspired? READ. You want to develop critical thinking? READ MORE, read the philosophers (not aging hippie marxists talking about the philosophers!) and then learn how to think for yourself.
Then write. Or draw or paint or dance or whatever. BECOME a thinker, a poet, a writer, an historian. You won’t find any of those (except of the worst most tedious quality) in universities today (you rarely ever found them there at all). You’ll mostly find instead people who talk a lot about thinkers, poets, writers, historians (not even history anymore, really, just other historians), and usually with a cutting and cynical, almost nihilistic tongue, wanting to talk and analyze western civilization out of existence.
You want to learn about philosophy, or mysticism? Become a philosopher, or a mystic. Don’t go to an institution where you will be shown “Examining The Hunger Games: Class Politics and Marketing" or "The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie" (Both real courses).
There’s a famous joke among religious studies students: a religious studies professor dies, he finds himself in a mist-enshrouded room. He looks up, his eyes filled with wonder and terror, at a door. The door is labelled “Through here is God”. The man approaches tentatively, very nervously, then suddenly notices another door. His eyes light up with relief and joy, and he rushes through there instead. That door was labelled “Through here is an analytical seminar on the development of god as myth”.
The humanities as it exists sucks all the virtue, force, life, terror, and meaning out of anything it touches. Its an intellectual and moral black hole, no light escapes it. And do not mistake me for an “I don’t want no book-learnin” barbarian; if the humanities in its current form in any way contributed positively to our intellectual development as a society, I would be all for it. But it doesn’t. In fact, great parts of it are being run by people who are actively rooting for the destruction of our society.
What will save civilization is people learning how to think and looking at the wonders and value of what we have produced, either on their own or in new models that will emerge as alternatives to the university system. We live in that most difficult of times: a transition period. And this period demands that those who really want to excel, to be at the forefront, take measures to break free of the weight that’s dragging our evolution down and take a chance on educating themselves.
First, consider whether the kind of work you want to do even needs university! If you don’t even know what kind of work you want to do, but just want a good steady job that pays a lot of money, go to trade schools. Plumbers, Carpenters, Electricians, Metal-workers and all other kinds of tradesmen are in enormous demand, and are usually paid vastly better than a significant percentage of university-based careers. They even pay you while you learn, rather than the other way around.
If you know what you want, and its something that really totally does require university, you’re stuck. For now. But sooner or later that will change, and either the place where you become those kinds of physician/lawyer/engineer jobs will be somewhere else, or that’s what the rump remnant of universities will turn into. Good luck.
If you know what you want to do, and you know that you don’t really need university to do it; whether its being a salesman, starting your own business, performing as an artist, or doing cutting edge shit with computers, then just go do these things and don’t bother with university. I know you were told you had to, I know you were told that it was “safer”, but you don’t have to and its not. You know what’s safer? Not coming out of four years with a piece of paper and a $200000 debt just to get a start on something you could have had four years of actual experience doing by now, with zero debt.
If you’re not sure whether the career you want requires university or not, here’s a simple test: can you think of (or google) anyone who has successfully done what you want to do without going to university? If so, then you DON’T NEED UNIVERSITY. They’re trying to scam you. Get out.
Finally, if you don’t know what you want to do but its not about having a good job and getting lots of money but “finding yourself”, go travel. Work a bunch of different shitty little jobs. Read voraciously. Develop a personal spiritual or mental discipline. Have a lot of really good sex. There are many much much better ways of inspiring yourself and finding yourself that won’t require you to get a shitty mediocre education where you’ll pay through the nose to be fed drivel that kills the subject with boredom and navel-gazing from second rate pretentious quasi-marxists.
If the point is to become an Individual, and to learn, and to learn how to learn, then why begin with following what everyone else is being collectively corralled into? Why sacrifice your own intellectual self-assertion in favor of submission to a huge relic of a dead way of thinking, that may once have had value in life but is now just a stinking corpse, collapsing in on itself in putrefaction, while being fed on by opportunistic intellectual parasites?
But hell, while not going to university, you have so many opportunities to learn that you can even, say, take university courses if you want! You can take shitloads of them, for free, being offered online. And not fake courses, or by shitty community-colleges. Top rate universities are doing this now.
Want to go to study at Yale, absolutely free? Here you go. Want more, much more? Here. You’re welcome, I’ve just saved you $200K, if what you want is to actually learn things, and not just pay a shitload of money to get a piece of paper that won’t even get you anything anymore.
I’d strongly suggest a class on Logic. Its a scarce resource these days.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Oversize + Image Latakia
(originally posted July 13, 2013; on the old blog)