The Vacation of ReasonPosted: December 14, 2012 Filed under: Culture | Tags: college, culture, education 4 Comments
I have written before about why nobody should go to college, and yet I am myself still pursuing a college degree. I do this a little bit at a time, just a couple of classes a semester, while I work full-time and still try to produce brilliant, quality content every week for you, my discerning readers. Why do I do it? Is it arrogance? Is it hypocrisy? Is it good old-fashioned stubbornness? Now that I’ve reached the end of yet another in what is coming to seem like a never-ending parade of semesters, I have taken a moment to think about it, and the truth is: I’m not really sure.
Part of it, if I have to be honest, is that I like being in school. Heresy, I know, but for the most part I enjoy my classes. Once I get out of the general education requirements (most of which seem antiquated and bizarre, if not an outright bilking of students to support unpopular departments) I find that the material is fascinating. I am challenged in ways that I will not challenge myself, and as I grow older I have found the expansion of knowledge to be valuable for itself.
Also, and I won’t lie, there is something to be said for the idea of finally completing what I started so long ago. I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger, and if I can someday hang that magic piece of paper on the wall, it may not correct those mistakes, but it will at least lay some of those old ghosts to rest. It will also justify, in some small way, the vast amounts of time and money I threw down what seemed to become a bottomless pit.
Of course, like so many people of my generation, I was inculcated with the belief that you can’t succeed in life unless you have a college degree, and while I may finally have enough work experience and a strong enough professional network to nullify that once-certain claim, shaking it is as easy as a Depression-era kid shaking their need to hoard food and money. The need may be gone, but the fear is not; until I am independently wealthy I will never be secure, and perhaps not even then. After all, money comes and goes, but an education is forever (and so are student loans).
Most of all, I spent some time in deep introspection, and I realized that I can blame it all on my mother.
Now I know what you’re thinking, and you can stop. This isn’t going to be one of those typical sob stories about how my mother pushed me so hard as a child and why didn’t she love me enough. No, this is actually something quite different. Well, mostly. Mom did push me to achieve in school, but no more than any other kid. But what she really did was she went out and got her degree.
I remember when I was in high school, Mom went back to college. She worked full-time, had two kids, and she was always there for every performance (my sister was in choir, I was in theater). And yet somehow she found the time to take classes, to study, and keep going for years (it seemed like an eternity to me) until she finished her degree. She always said she was doing it for work, to get better opportunities and faster promotions, but all I remember to this day (and trust me, it’s been a long time now) is seeing her standing there in that gown, a newly-minted graduate.
It’s been a long road, and it’s still a long one left in front of me. But someday I’ll be standing there, in my gown, a newly-minted graduate. And on that day, I’ll finally be able to say “Here I am Mom. I finally caught up to you.” Even though she was behind me the whole time.
Bo, this is the most beautiful (and cherished) gift you have ever given me. You’ve convinced me that I need to go back to school myself. I love you!
Bob, I received my Bachelors degree last year after 8 years of working on it. This was 20 plus years after graduating high school. I found that I appreciated the experience much more than I would have if I had gone right after school. I do not think I would have put the effort into learning as I did going just a couple classes at a time on the Army’s dime.
Just like you stated about yourself, I began to miss the intellectual stimulation and I am now pursuing my Masters, again a couple of classes at a time. I also agree that some of the general education requirements could be removed in order to both save money and allow for specificity towards the degree program.
Yeah… one of the mistakes I made was going to college straight out of high school. That’s one I’ll be paying for for a long time to come (figuratively and literally). 😉
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