What Good Is a University Or College Degree?

Back when I was was first working for the telephone company in outside craft as a lineman and cable splicer I was continuing my own education, something I have done ever since I discovered the world of books. I always hated the public school system. Yes, I tended to be a bit lackadaisical about school work, homework tended to be a bore and there were so many other things in life to explore. In fact it wasn’t until community college when I had to spend my dime obtaining a degree that learning in that formal setting became palatable. But back to fourth grade for a moment. My love of books goes further back to the time my older brother by three years went off to school and brought his books home. I could not read the words but I could sure read the pictures. That is one of the habits elementary teachers must break their pupils of doing. although one learns a lot for pictures, something I still do.

But in forth grade the corporation called Scholastic Services Corporation, funny I should remember that name after all these years, created a publication for use in the four to sixth grades called My Weekly Reader. The teachers used it as a supplement and I, along with all my classmates read the thing, although I must admit is tended to be a bit boring. But after a few weeks from the start of classes we received a simple catalog of paperback books that the corporation sold at a slightly discounted price. Now the thing was, there were the normal juvenile fiction that I seldom touched with a ten foot stick. It was hard enough to get me the read a volume of the Hardy Boys. Good old F.W. Dixon, who wrote perhaps twenty percent of the stories and farmed out the read to ghost writers. But somewhere along the line they added adult volumes. I read biographies, autobiographies, war memories, war histories, a lot of adult books. Yeah, it would take me a while to get through them each six weeks but I carried on through, reading for comprehension. The stories interested me in ways that the standard school books never could. this was my process of self education and it served me very well.

So I continued my habit into junior and senior high school. I even managed to obtain a library card at Swarthamore College (now University) library when I was fifteen and the coeds thought I was a sophomore there. I read what I liked, what intrigued me. well I was both stubborn and contrary, a trait that I still take still enjoy. what can I say, I love libraries. My personal collection is very large, over four thousand volumes. Of late I have been increasing my collection with fiction. Not just any fiction, mind you, I want the old classics, the forgotten masterpieces, the popular well written literature film producers found exciting. Good literature should be exciting, it should tell its story well without concern for awards and prizes. Good literature sells itself. I was a rebel, I read the forbidden, the stuff judged as trash (Mickey Spillane), Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, and a host of anti-establishment writers. I always surprised my high school English teachers with the selections I made for their dumb book reports.

You see, education is not about following the rules. Why should you at the age of sixteen read Silas Marner? George Eliot is boring at that age. Give me Richard Roark and his raw fiction, let it capture my mind just as H H Munro had captured the minds of previous generations. What’s wrong with King Solomon’s Mines except there is no sex in it? Why should I take an introduction to Psychology or Linguistics when I want to know something about language learning or abnormal psychology? Actually, a history of psychology is far more useful as is a survey of social linguistics. do you really need to start with world history or american history to understand the historical process? Read through Churchill’s History Of the English Speaking Peoples or Arnold Toynbee’s History of The World. Read some Weber or Locke. If you really want to learn something then research it, find a few books on that subject. Find lists of books that others recommend and then go to Amazon and look them up, find the ratings and read the three and two star ratings. Those are the honest reviews, the ones that are sugar coated words of praise sure to curry favor. College won’t teach you these strategies. The books are assigned and may or may not be of value, but they will cost you a pretty penny one way or the other. And even now I still make book notes although I am not always consistent about it.

College and universities are businesses, like large corporations. They are not run for your benefit. Even though you are the customer you are ignorant of their product and its value. We have been told that a degree is the key to our future. We have been led to believe that by obtaining one life will be made easier. Yes, a degree is that employment security we all want. I remember back in 1972 reading a book written by the President of Avis Rent-a-Car, John Townsend. The title was Up The Corporation and made pretty good reading. I love what he said about MBAs. If you hired one you should put them in an office somewhere, give them some busy work until the position of vice president comes open. Now it seems that if you want a chance at a junior level position you need an MBA degree. If a BA in business management has become so worthless for obtaining a position as a manager then why is an MBA any better? You study the same subjects in slightly more detail. What I’ve discovered about that side of the house is that MBA means More Bullshit Analysis. If one has a good acquaintance with marketing, accounting, finance, and supervision (behavioral psychology), then the real question is: What are you going to manage? It”s like getting a degree in education. Go and take the classwork to teach mathematics in secondary school from the education department and you have not learned much of anything. But you will spend six years getting your degree and teaching certificate and thus can be gainfully employed as a public school teacher. But none of your math classes you took in college are worth a dime’s worth of warm spit. The Math department will not honor those courses. Now go and get your four year degree from the Math department and try to obtain a job teaching math in a public school. Can’t be done. first you will need a certificate attesting you took all the bullshit classes on how to fill out lesson plans for the school year (two courses, by the way) along with a host of other useless course work. these people are teaching your children. Do you know what a Phd in Education really is? A degree in how to fill out forms for the local, the state, and the federal government. A BA in psychology with a major in educational psychology knows more about “education” principles that any public school principal. Yet, spend the money to obtain one of these degrees and you can get a job. Except so many are now taking the easy way and getting the teaching degrees that there is a waiting list of applicants unless you want to teach in inner city schools and who would be fool enough to do that?

But what did you want, a degree or an education? You see, public schools make a big deal out of education, which is simply shutting up, sitting down for long periods of time and filling out the test sheets. I can’t say that my time in public school ever taught me much but to hate that waste of time. sports taught me something about discipline and perseverance. When you are number three or four on the depth chart you have to show up early and try harder or quit. Geometry was one of the courses that actually taught me the value of memorizing the basics so that I could deduce from those theorems the answers I needed. Mechanical drawing thought me how to visualize three dimensional objects in my mind. Beowulf was boring and I never was a fan of Dickens. I got to make aspirin in chemistry but I don’t remember much about doing it. But the one thing public school failed to teach was how to learn. The teachers wanted parrots and I wasn’t interested in squawking Polly wants a cracker.

It was the early classes or college level course work that taught me that skill. As I said, when it’s your dime you tend to pay attention. I have well over three hundred courses completed at the college level and that include graduate courses. The saying, the more you know the easier you learn is so very true. In the end, we educate ourselves. Teachers and professors love to believe that they are the direct action of our learning. No so and never will be. A good teacher can take the complex and explain it is several different ways so that you, the student, can comprehend. That is what a good teacher does. It has nothing to do with lesson plans or educational theory. All that is bullshit. A good teacher cannot teach creativity but can recognize it and praise it. The world is full of good teachers, the unfortunate part is very few of them work in public schools. So what good is a university or college degree? It depends. If all you want is a job then its value is strictly an economic one to be sold to the highest bidder. It’s now a three part transaction. You, who pays for the piece of paper, the college that sells it, and the employer who pays you for your piece of paper. Thus the worth of a college education is the price of the degree. On the other hand, if you have learned how to teach yourself well, if you can think on a much higher level than most others, then that education has a far greater value than money. You’ve learned how to think and that is a most dangerous habit, for it sets you apart from the herd. Maybe that degree got you a job, maybe it didn’t. My degrees never got me much of anything. My aptitude for learning and my desire to always be one of the top three “A” in the class got me a 3.98 GPA and election to an honor society. But it was my own self education sans classroom that got me into better jobs and into very high tech for a few brief years. It ain’t the school, it ain’t the piece of paper that makes the difference, it’s you. That is what your college education should have taught you. If it didn’t you paid too high a price for nothing.


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