College reconsideration

Joe Bandy and Young Koh

To many aspiring high school students, the immediate goal is, of course, college. Being in a college is the end all be all to a successful life, and if you want to flip burgers at McDonald’s, just keep your resume at “high school graduate.” No respectable person would willingly submit to a life of manual labor. No, that thought is simply too horrendous. To live in a house and have a life and a car and all the things that we attribute to a successful life, COLLEGE IS A REQUIREMENT.

Or is it?

The stereotype that has been placed on the entire concept of college is mainly how prepared for society one can be with a college degree. Reality speaks to the contrary of that rather skewed opinion.

The whole fantasy can be attributed to three main misconceptions:
1) That you will have the career of your dreams”
2) That college benefits ALL occupations
3) That the (economical) value of an occupation is inversely correlated to the time not spent in an air-conditioned office.

Realistically speaking, what will you be doing in 20 years? Most of us will be desk-bound in some Fortune 500 company, looking back at our youthful days and shaking our heads at our own naïveté. Some of us will work as manual laborers (oh no!), and some will not even have a job. Only the select few, the crème de la crème, will be working at their respective jobs of their dreams (or the jobs of all our dreams). And all the rest of us (a majority) stand at the sidelines, cheering, booingand looking up at them with envy.

College used to be the gathering place of the rich and the ridiculously intelligent. Today, the majority of Americans are middle class, and most middle class families have placed a higher value on a college education.

College is losing the privilege that it used to bring as it becomes more and more common. The college degree magic touch that used to bring people closer to their dreams is waning.

In fact, sometimes college even creates a barrier between you and your dream job. How can that be? In college, you read books with big words and have meaningful conversations about things that really matter. Well, meaningful conversations are wonderful and a rich vocabulary is never a bad thing, but how do those developments help you? For instance, instead of spending four years getting a B.A. in Philosophy, why not spend those four years developing the style and the eloquence of a writer? If you wish to become a plumber (who can make more than a neurosurgeon per hour), do you really think that a degree in mathematics is the best way to go? The order which you make this choice should be first, the consideration of what you wish to do with your life for the next 45 years, followed by second, “so, should I go to college?” instead of the vice versa.

For all of you (readers) who wish to be a doctor or a lawyer or a biochemist or philologist or something along those lines, then I wish you the best of luck in college because college is the right way to go.

However, if you presume that “good” jobs cannot be manual, you are a victim of false indoctrination. The basis on which people built professions was manual labor. In ancient world history, specialization was only possible with a surplus of food and people to work with the food. That principle does not change with time. Service industries in the United States are inflating in price as years pass, and we have to stop presuming that sweating for wages is the way to failure.

In every occupation, there are pros and cons. Somehow, society progressed to teach us “construction worker = sweat = bad” and “doctor = clean = good”. These ridiculous presumptions have to come to an end. We can’t have a city without plumbers, mechanics, and yes, we need people to flip burgers for us at McDonalds.


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