Fred rants against schools: (324, Abolishing Universities)
See, first you learn that you have to finish twelve years of grade school and high school. The point is not to teach you anything; if it were, they would give you a diploma when you passed a comprehensive test, which you might do in the fifth grade. The point is to accustom you to doing things you detest. Then they tell you that you need four more years in college or you won’t be quite human and anyway starve from not getting a job. For those of this downtrodden bunch who are utterly lacking in independence, there is graduate school.
This is the same ground covered by John J Emerson:
OK, fine, you got your liberal arts B.A. sometime in the last five years. What does that mean?
It means that you’ve succeeded in joining the non-industrial proletariat.
He goes further and shows the waste of time involved in obtaining a Ph.D.:
A frighteningly small percentage of new PhD’s ever gets a secure, full-time, tenured job with full benefits. Most limp along as the academic version of temps if they get jobs at all, and eventually most of them end up limping their way right out of the profession.
and Half Sigma does the same for the law degree:
[L]aw school is a big lie. People enter law school with the idea that a law degree is their ticket to a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle. In fact, just the opposite, law school for most is a ticket to a worse financial state than if they had not attended at all.
These ideas are not really new; educational institutions, at least in the US, have mostly been self-serving and insular, feeding off of society much more than they have contributed. The same criticisms that apply to primary and secondary schools apply to postsecondary schools. The main difference is that college costs more and it is voluntary; therefore, its problems serve to illustrate the stupidity of the general population, whether they attend college or merely genuflect before the credentials.
That is not to say that school cannot be valuable; if it directly serves the interests of businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, or the students themselves, a school can be worthwhile. The bottom line is that education must begin by benefitting the individual student, and the benefit to a minor should be determined by the parents, while the benefit to an adult should be determined by the student himself.
However, most adults have no idea what is in their best interest, so they just follow the herd up whatever winding ramp it wants to go, and their myopia may eventually lead them to a nasty surprise.
In my own case, I eventually determined that I was not going to learn actual job skills in college, but I still needed the degree to comfort my ego. I thereafter chose only classes that I thought I would enjoy, regardless of their apparent difficulty. Eventually I also learned to apply only for jobs where I could clearly demonstrate that I was more proficient than most of the other applicants. If the question of college majors came up, which it rarely did, I used my meager rhetorical skills to show how those “other” majors were actually inferior to mine. Here’s the plan summarized:
- Do want you want to do, so that you’ll be motivated to do it better and more thoroughly than anyone else.
- When you can’t do exactly what you want to do, do what you can naturally do better than anyone else, so that you won’t have to work at it.
- Do the work that will pay you for doing what you want to do, or else pay you for doing what you do better than other people and still let you do what you want to do.
- Most job applicants lie, as do most hiring managers and all human resources personnel. They lie because they don’t actually know what they’re talking about, and the truth scares them. Therefore, you should disarm them all by telling only the truth, while taking advantage of the weaknesses inherent in their lies. Even if you don’t get the job, you have still shown what a bunch of losers they are for dodging the truth, which means you don’t want to work with them anyway.
Each of these requires you to do some research and find out the truth for yourself, and doing that will end up being more important than having any particular job for a length of time.
But, all you earnest liberal arts majors will protest, what about my cultural enrichment? Unless you attend an exclusive, small college with lots of upper-class professors and students, all the enriching culture you will absorb during college will come from publicly accessible books, art, or music; none of it will come from textbooks or lectures. As Fred writes,
The truth is that universities positively discourage learning. Think about it. Suppose you wanted to learn Twain. A fruitful approach might be to read Twain. The man wrote to be read, not analyzed tediously and inaccurately by begowned twits. It might help to read a life of Twain. All of this the student could do, happily, even joyously, sitting under a tree of an afternoon. This, I promise, is what Twain had in mind.
But no. The student must go to a class in American Literature, and be asked by some pompous drone, “Now, what is Twain trying to tell us in paragraph four?” This presumes that Twain knew less well than the professor what he was trying to say, and that he couldn’t say it by himself. Not being much of a writer, the poor man needs the help of a semiliterate drab who couldn’t sell a pancake recipe to Boy’s Life. As bad, the approach suggests that the student is too dim to see the obvious or think for himself. He can’t read a book without a middleman. He probably ends by hating Twain.
When I am dictator, anyone convicted of literary criticism will be drawn and quartered, dragged through the streets as a salutary lesson to the wise, and dropped in the public drains.
So, what is the downside to self-education? According to John J Emerson:
There is really only one sacrifice you’ll have to make if you read all the time: if you do that, you can forget about being normal. People will regard you with suspicion. More successful people will fear you because you’re smarter than they are and are suspected of having a bad attitude. Self-made men and bitter, unsuccessful people will despise you as a failure. Slackers will avoid you because you’re too serious and think too much. So you basically have to give up on all normal human relationships, but given today’s baseline for normal human relationships, you may come out ahead on this.
And if you ever happen to be invited into the home of a successful liberal arts graduate, you will have the pleasure of seeing their college books gathering dust on their shelves while they talk to you about their real estate, their hot tub and their yacht.