I am anti-college. At least I am against college in the traditional, brick-and-mortar sense. I think attending a formal college is a waste of time and money. But people sometimes call me out for it, asking how I can be anti-college if I went to college myself and even had one of these unemployable majors, in Art. Well:
1) Even if I did something, it does not mean it’s useful and it doesn’t mean that I want my kids to do it. I went to college because I didn’t know any better, all my family went to college so it was the only path I knew. But I hope to teach my kids that there are better alternatives.
2) Art was my secondary major, my primary major was Graphic Design. There is a big difference. Art is a rather abstract, theoretical thing. Graphic Design is a very concrete and practical thing, very employable. In fact, when I chose my major in my first semester of college, I already had a vision of starting my own business some day in the future, and graphic design is a very business-friendly field, unlike Chemistry, for example. It’s much easier for a graphic designer to start a home studio than it is for a chemist to start a business. So the choice of my college major was made with a clear purpose, not randomly as it often happens with young college students who don’t know what they want.
3) I didn’t live on campus, I lived at home – also a big difference. Living at home allowed me to maintain a strong connection with my family, which probably saved me from many bad influences and temptations offered on campus. My friends who lived in the college dorms did all these things: drinking, clubs, boys, and more. I spent more time with my family, which shaped my character for the better.
4) If you live on campus and are fully immersed in college life, you are very susceptible to liberal brainwashing that’s raging on college campuses now. To be honest though, I still managed to get brainwashed in college even though I did not live on campus. When I graduated, I was heavily leaning to the Left in my political and social views. It took my husband, then boyfriend, to gradually open my eyes and change me into a Conservative. So the point is, even if you don’t live on campus, college heavily influences your political views, and not for the good.
5) College did give me a lot of positive moments. I made friends and generally enjoyed my college experience. My professors were all very nice and knowledgeable people, and I received a high-quality graphic design education. But, I could have received the same education through alternative means: self-education, attending workshops, online learning.
6) Most of my skills were picked up on the job, not in college. In fact, college projects, on which I spent so much time and energy and for which I got excellent grades, proved to be completely useless at teaching me anything about real-life work. Things are done differently in the professional world. If I am any proficient in my field, it’s thanks to my work experience, not thanks for my college education.
7) College made me spend lots of effort, time and money on required courses which were completely unrelated to my major, and I resented that. I was forced to take courses like Biology, Journalism, Political Science. In fact, maybe half of the courses required for my major were irrelevant to my interests and my career goals. Biology for a graphic designer? Journalism, really? I had important art reviews to prepare for, and instead I was forced to spend my time on assignments for my Journalism class, like having to run around the city and interview people about their opinions on whether Oxycontin drug should be sold in pharmacies. As if I didn’t have better things to do! Journalism may be fun, but not when you want to focus on graphic design. This is yet another example of why I am against having my kids get a formal degree – because they will have to waste time and money on courses that are required but completely irrelevant.
What could have been done differently?
I think that online education is a good option. Or a combination of online and in-person study. Online education gives the same degree as traditional education, only it’s more flexible and cheaper. Alternatively, there’s no need to earn a formal degree at all. Some college courses can be audited (taken selectively without having to pass tests and without having to earn academic credit), so you can pay the school for only selected courses that interest you and receive the necessary knowledge without receiving credit towards a degree. Some subjects are unnecessary. Some subjects can be self-taught, learned from books. Some subjects can be studied using available public resources. For example, instead of taking Photography in college, I could have attended public lectures, public workshops and events that would allow me to network with photography professionals and learn from them, I could have studied from manuals and books, and rented a public photo lab to develop my photos. Perhaps, students in other fields can use similar resources such as labs, libraries, workshops, etc. that allow public access.
The point is, there is always a way. More and more alternatives to college are becoming available. There’s no more need for rigid college curriculum, no need for a full-blown college experience, for having to live on campus and go through all these rituals and processes associated with traditional college. I love my college and don’t regret attending it, yet I could have done perfectly without it had I known about other options.
*Photo above: Simmons College in Boston, my alma mater. I love it. Yet I am still anti-college.