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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)


  1. Thank you.

    The thing I would add would be that if you must go to college (for science or lawyering or whatever) then you should absolutely start with community college, for all the same practical reasons. Get 2 years out of the way for much cheaper. The quality of the education has more to do with the effort of the student than anything else, and why not pay much less money?

    But as to the rest, my wife and I are absolutely planning on recommending this course of action to our children, and training them for it. As long as parents are responsible and make sure to provide social environments for their kids, 4 years playing Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress would be a better preparation for life than any public school or university.

  2. Nearly all universities now are seminaries for the religious left.

  3. This is mostly bullshit - i went to 4 universities and ive seen slides in quality in Some ways and many reasons not covered here. Many problems your talking about are American ones. The funding bubble you desscribe is a real problem. The cost in America is a real problem. I agree with you on these points. Anyone can get a free uni degree in Norway and many other countries are cheaper even if you have to borrow for living expenses are better value. In fields i work in minimum standards are rising not dropping and benefits of my humanities degree has helped me even if not directly related to my chosen fields of work. People who read philosophy will not develop same critical faculties as people who study philosophy. Studying it for one or two years will not be as deep as three years. Most self taught wanna be philosophers I meet are selfish pricks who only pick up threads that they want to. They frequently misinterpret most texts and have no interest in how others interpret them. Reading in a intellectual vacuum is more like cancer than learning. Your abusing people with humanities educations is probably only thing Ive really disliked on your writing. Since the Berlin wall collapsed university culture has been increasingly right wing and driven by the dollar and unprofitable courses slashed even if popular. Most first year humanities courses at least try to debunk racism which benefits every community. I know you have claimed certain kinds of educated persons persecute you and maybe some do, but you kind of lump everyone together as if it is only product of the system. Those people have other vested interests and motives for slagging you off and telling fibs even if they use faux academic speak to abuse you. Your blaming brush is a bit too wide. Unqualified poorly researched opinion as fact is killing people and driving us backward. There has been more legislation against women and gays passed in the last 12 months world wide than the last 50. The 90s are looking progressive by comparison. Good humanities education debunks the bullshit this is based on better than people reading books in isolation ever could. Sure you can cite terrible courses in back rubbing at a university for easy credit (for real they exist but your robbing yourself with very expensive bullshit instead of challenging yourself). I know I am unlikely to change your mind but if you dislike people abusing you with untruth and crude generalisations I think some of your characterisations of education are sometimes unfair. Im sorry you've had such a negative experience of the system and some of the idiots that went through it without learning anything. I pretty sure I would be an over opinionated argumentative poor-hating jerk if i didn't go through it. Ive seen peoples lives saved and transformed by it. My dyslexia would probably held me back more if I hadn't studied uni. My involvement in student life and media made me friends and gave me skills the courses would never teach. In my country trade schools are going down in quality and prices prohibitive without any loan systems. Id rather see more polytechnics for technical trade schools and less colleges try to get university status. Education, even a mediocre one is better for the world than no education.

    1. You are an example of what universities do to peoples minds.

    2. I should point out that I AM a person who got "a Humanities education", to the post-graduate level. I'm neither a high-school dropout nor a college dropout, nor one of those evil STEM or Econ types who looks down on the poor Arts-degree people.

    3. I know you are intelligent and articulate and educated - I apologies if im defensive when I feel people tell me I wasted my life with study and I still think it does more good than harm

      evil STEM or Econ types - i dont know what they are?
      You sometimes refer to types of persons I presume products of academia that I dont really get so apologies for my ignorance.

      Shonathan Muse you are making some kind of personal attack or a compliment I'm unsure?

      by "example of what universities do to peoples minds" do you mean my income is five times higher?

    4. If you learned something, you didn't waste your life. But you may have wasted your money; what I'm saying is that the new ubiquity of information allows for a new revolution of educational freedom. You don't NEED to go to a University for a liberal arts education; there are other, much cheaper ways.
      Nor does the university degree, the piece of paper, mean enough these days to be worth the investment of debt.

      "STEM" means Science, Technology, Engieering, Medicine. That is, stuff that isn't "Arts/Humanities".

    5. Thank you. I never cared for the piece of paper really. Personally I found high school more of a waste.

      I think the peer reviewed system of knowledge if helpful institution.

      The cost vs value debate will vary from country to country obviously. If I was in North America I would agree more.

  4. This reply is directed primarily at Konsumterra's remarks:

    Your comment's lack of paragraphs, proper sentence structure, correct grammar, and intellectual cohesion leads me to believe that your university education was less useful to you than you think.

    I have completed two university degrees during my lifetime: one in the Fine Arts and another in the Humanities and neither of these degrees has helped me to secure fulfilling and/or profitable employment. My partner has had a similar experience with regards to her Humanities degree. The only positive is that neither of us has any remaining student loan debt. Having been finished with my university schooling for three years I am now contemplating obtaining employment in a well-paid trade for the reasons discussed by the Pundit. The job I work at currently in order to make ends meet is neither fulfilling nor profitable and certainly does not require any post-secondary education; interestingly, all of my fellow employees are in possession of an educational background similar to my own.

    In short, I couldn't agree more with what Pundit has to say in his original post. I wish more people would be as honest with today's university bound youth.

    1. I'm sorry about your experiences and hope things improve for you and your wife.

      I'm sorry about my slab of text too - it was a rant pure and simple - I'm fairy dyslexic and grammar blind and take hours to edit my work and I dont usually bother for off the cuff online responses - I save for when I'm paid to write or getting graded - If I didn't study I wouldn't have been a paid writer or worked in press or marketing or have been taken seriously in many of my other careers. I dont have a team of editors when I'm online.

      I'm working a low stress unqualified job at the moment by choice with half what I earn self employed or teaching and I still get more shifts than others because I have skills from my education. I do one shift teaching earns as much as 15 hours my unskilled job. The real benefits I got had nothing to do with my income or earning potential.

      I can understand If people have issues with me responding with a slab as I did. It was a late night rant. But those errors dont invalidate everything I said.

      I agree university is not for every one and people do degrees for wrong reasons. I got what I wanted and knew what to expect. I agree universities have become greedy and in the US you seem to have a terrible loan system. My government is trying to ad $67000 to a curse I finished 7 years ago when the politicians doing this paid zero and were part of student protests against fees in 80s.

      My friends who did not study or bullshitted through have got into psuedo science, conspiracy theories, dangerous alt medicine, racism, hatred of the poor and many uncritical beliefs. Worst of all they feel they are always right and have exclusive truth. One friend refuses to use life saving medical equiptment in workplace because he feels it is unsafe with no evidence to base this on. If people only do first year and come out less racist that is a good outcome. If they do a degree and never read a book again they missed the point too.

    2. No apologies are necessary. I've made my choices and my life is, on the whole, quite good. I live in a safe and relatively peaceful part of the world, I have friends and family who love and support me, and I get to sleep next to the love of my life every night of the week.

      I apologize to you for attacking what was obviously a quickly-conceived rant in the way that I did; I should have taken the high road, but this subject stirs up strong feelings for me and I found myself unable to resist jumping in. Your reply makes your arguments much clearer and, if you're willing, I think we could engage with this topic further.

      To clarify, I don't live in the United States. I'm a citizen of the Pundit's home and native land. We've had government-subsidized university education here for decades. However, funding has been steadily decreasing while tuition continues to rise. Completing a university degree still costs less than here than in the US but many of my friends and acquaintances who completed their undergraduate degrees without working a part-time job during semesters or enjoying financial support from parents easily accrued student loan debts in the $50,000-$80,000 range. This is, in my opinion, a huge investment in debt as well as lost earning potential for a credential that, as the Pundit mentioned above, is now being expected by employers recruiting salespeople to work in a shoe store; such a job in my part of the world will usually pay at or slightly above minimum wage which in most of Canada is between $10-$12 per hour. I leave the calculation/evaluation on return for investment up to you. Whether such work is fulfilling for an individual with an undergraduate education is a separate matter entirely.

      As for individuals who ascribe to pseudo-science, conspiracies, alternative medicine, racism, 'hatred of the poor', and whatever other philosophies/world-views you or any of us may find odious, it has been my experience that such people are found everywhere and in all walks of life. I have spoken with tenured university professors who believed that Satanists were secretly controlling world events and I have had fascinating philosophical discussions with a person who worked on the back of a garbage truck. Going to university certainly results in an individual being better educated but I am unconvinced about the efficacy of a university education vis-a-vis making an individual more intelligent or better at critical-thinking.

      I'm in agreement with most of what Pundit has to say on this topic. If you wish to debate specific points that he or I have made on the subject, I would welcome the discussion.

  5. Thanks all, for the comments.

  6. I am speaking in terms of the United States as I don't know what the rest of the world is doing so please keep that in mind.

    Fuck college. Seriously that is nothing, but a scam anymore. I used to be RPGPundit and thought you NEEDED college. Now that I am older and wiser it turns out you don't need college any more unless your taking up a career that demands a lot of knowledge base on actual fact instead of make believe. I one hundred percent agree with RPGPundit.

    The best thing to do for college and education is to cut the college loans. Don't forgive college debt because that would ruin the economy, but at least make sure that there won't be a new batch of victims for every year beyond that. In the long run that would help out the USA economy.

    1. I agree that the student loan system is really destructive to the American economy (and the Canadian economy, and that of other countries that use it). I really can't fathom how people don't get that.

      The problem is, the student loan concept is a consequence of this idea that EVERYONE needs to go to University. It would be viable to make university affordable if you could create different tiers of secondary education to fit more practical ambitions, and more stringent requirements for entrance in terms of things like academics. This would also restore some of the utterly lost prestige of having a college degree.

    2. Gough Whitlam introduced free university in 70s Australia my parents both missed out and paid own way. I worked a few years after highschhol and friends my age paid nothing same as politicians now trying to make 100 000 dollar fees. Fees started returning with long term CPI adjusted loans in 1bout 1990 I had a debt of about 20 000 with promise fee would never go up. Latest government attempting to say this was not a legally binding promise, ad to my fee to a minimum of 68 000. Biggest problem for me in all this is introduction of fees scared of many ethnic groups from system who rightfully assumed government promise would be broken. Current attempt in fee rises will preclude poor and say single parents and recent immigrants of ever getting education. It is being done to decrease Australian egalitarianism along with many other policies. Through 90s we had a massive increase in foreign students and several foreign students generated enough cash to pay for a citizen easily. Women still earn less than men with same qualifications so they will be less able to pay the exact same course with same job outcomes.

      Germany now has free university in all states. Norway will accept students from anywhere free. So it s possible to have developed country do this and a scam to have ridiculous fees.

      I think lots of parents saw Uni as a way of securing social status and nagged kids to go when many dont really know why. Some Uni's stopped students entering law and medicine without a year in humanities first as students since watching US law and medical dramas were immoral arseholes with no ethics who didn't care about helping people.

      I know people go through system and come out dickheads. I tutored some dumb attractive girls who got better grades than me and even they thought it was unfair. I know people can be intellectual without formal study.

      Universities have a thousand years of western civilization behind them. It would be a shame to piss it away in a generation of stupidity.

      I think so much knowledge would be lost if economic outcomes solely defined universities and the experience of it for students and graduates. Archeology would die and be left to crackpots. Very few will study old English or the language of Beowulf. Read all the philosophy you like - without criticism and feedback your reading will probably be limited and flawed.

      Probably not much point in me continuing this but thanks for your thoughts.

  7. There is one thing Pundit is not taking into account here - if uni education is so devalued that you have to be a bachelor of something to sell shoes, then not being able to pass the low bar of finishing college makes you (at least in the eyes of your potential future boss) all the more suspect.

    This is a kind of a prisoner's dilemma - you can know the education is worthless (I would argue that it isn't but that's not the point here) - and everybody would be better off if we all agreed that we won't get it, but as long as you make decisions only for yourself it is always more rational to go to the damn school and save yourself the indignity of being the only kid in town who didn't pass the low, low bar of finishing university.

    So higher education would still be good for you even if literally everybody got it - if it's so easy everybody can do it, then there must be something very wrong with you if you're the only one who didn't, right?

    Of course you might be better then them, but if you're not planning on making it big by yourself (and most people don't) then have fun explaining to your future boss that those four years you spent reading, traveling and working at McDonald's are more important then the other guy's diploma.
    It might be true of course, but believing you is risky for the boss. He would have to do a lot of fact checking, and the chance that you are so much better then the other guy to warrant that cost, is so slim that he or she will just stick with the fact checking college has done for him/her.

    I've read a lot of criticism that sounds exactly like what Pundit is doing here - and everybody who is making that point finished college. Some of them are after graduate school, some of them are professors. And guess what - their children will be too. I guess looking at what people do is a bit more important then listening to what they have to say.

    1. Learning is important, developing skills is important. In certain jobs and companies there is a policy-based demand for a piece of paper; those are usually shitty jobs anyways. I'm not saying being a shoe salesman itself is a shitty job or undignified, but a shoe store that requires a bachelor's degree is going to be a shitty company because they're already not matching the right skill set to the job - and you can bet that will be only the start of a bunch of really stupid policies.
      If what you want to do, or feel you're qualified to do, is to be a salesperson, then you'll want to get some experience in sales, and then find a company where you can prove that this experience is what matters.

      In most places worth working for, getting a job is going to be a question of personal impressions with the person doing the hiring. If you're apologetic about not having 'higher education', you'll probably not get a good job because the impression you're giving out is that of having something wrong with you. On the other hand, if you are educated enough to know that's a sucker's game, and you approach with confidence in your own strengths, you'll do fine in any place worth working in.