I have often thought what a cool thing it would be if you could get a refund for every bad experience you had to pay for. Don’t like the movie—give me back my money. Had a greasy mayonnaise-laden whopper, when you asked for light with no mayo—give me back my money. But even better, what if you could get your money from colleges, if you failed to get a job within six months, or better yet—could forfeit payments of these massive loan debts. You can rest assured, if that were the case, these so-called institutions of higher-learning would MAKE SURE, they’d find something for you to do.
Now of course we know that would never happen, but it brings up the question of relevancy. Should a college degree offer you anything that will be relevant, or more importantly practical in obtaining employment? Practicality tends to be sneered at by the intellectual, and yet outside of academia—meaning the REAL WORLD—practicality is a big deal. Let’s take myself for example. During my first tenure in the institute of higher-learning I was an English major. In the minds of most people that meant I was going to be a teacher, because no one could see any relevancy to this degree in the real world. Shakespeare’s nice—but what else can you do with that?
For a long while I rebelled against this notion. I loved literature; loved to write; and like a good liberal arts follower, I sincerely believed in the importance of intellectual cultivation, almost as if it were a spiritual vocation. And yet as the years went by, I started to question this, and what I actually was learning. Going back to the world of literature, the vast majority of works studied are part of the “Canon”—an almost mythological categorization drafted by scholars. Works in this canon, are nearly always from writers long dead, who have been vaulted to nearly saint like status. And yet, there are plenty of thriving artists flourishing right now, who are producing masterful works, and engaging in their culture and environment, which the academy is totally silent on. Should it not be relevant for the young budding storyteller to participate and be part of the community of their fellow contemporaries?
I suppose the debate will rage on, but for me learning is something you do life-long (if you keep your mind open). Colleges can be quite grand, but at the end of the day forcing a whole generation of youth to start their adult lives with 10, 20, 30 or even 100 thousand dollars in debt—all for the purpose of being intellectually stimulated, with no practical aim is unconscionable. Perhaps…even criminal. And although I still liked being an English major, if I had the ability to get a refund…I would.