Sunday, October 17, 2010

Misguidance Counsellors, Part Two

So I'm wondering how to go about this series of posts on whether it's still a good idea to go to university.

I'll let you in on a bit of a secret: I am not a new-media kind of guy. I feel a certain affinity for old-school journalism and academic research papers and the professional standards typically associated with same: in particular doing extensive research, citing authoritative facts, and editing everything before you publish. It makes me kind of skittish about posting opinions that might turn out to be wrong.

But those are values that aren't particularly valued in the blogging realm. This medium seems to lend itself more to stream-of-consciousness, throwing out ideas as they come to you, and maybe going back and editing them out later. There is always the risk that if you say something foolish or factually incorrect, some anonymous commenter will rudely correct or berate you. However, since this is the internet, this is likely to happen even if you don't say anything foolish or factually incorrect. So I wouldn't lose any sleep over the possibility.

The other nice thing about it is that you've got a bunch of other people reading your drafts. Some of them will have useful things to say. In the ideal case, they end up doing all the work for you by posting comments that are way more insightful than anything you could come up with.

With that in mind... The university thing.

As a starting point, let me define what I mean by "going to university."

For the purposes of this discussion, I'm talking specifically about the conventional approach which high school seniors/Grade Twelves are encouraged to take by all the appropriate authorities. You start applying in your last year of high school. Once you've been accepted by one or more schools, you pick one and enroll officially as a full-time student the September after high school graduation. You take out student loans, pay your tuition, and supplement the cost of school and living expenses with part-time jobs (during the school year) and summer jobs (during the four-month breaks between school years.) Depending on the program you're in, you either choose your major field of study right up front, or else spend your first year sampling a bunch of different courses before deciding what to focus on. After four or five years of continuous study, you graduate around age 22 or 23 with a Bachelor's degree in your chosen field, whereupon you decide whether to go on to graduate school (e.g. a professional or academic Master's, or else a doctorate) or go straight into the workforce. In the latter case, it is presumed from the outset that that Bachelor's degree is both necessary and sufficient to secure a job that is lucrative enough to pay back the debts incurred in getting it. Then your life starts.

Okay, that's a mouthful. Lots of stipulations and caveats. Could probably use some carriage returns. But it is, I think, a fair representation of what your parents, guidance counsellors and teachers expect of you as the default choice. It's the right way to go about doing things. Any deviation from this plan will be viewed as unusual at best, probably reckless or irresponsible, and at worst downright stupid.

Chew on that for a bit and I'll see you later.


  1. I hope you don't think that because you don't get comments, no one is reading, 'cause it ain't true.

    Keep 'em comin'.


  2. The crushing debt is the only reason not to go.

    I remember arguements from the pro-tuition hike crowd saying we (as recent graduates) should be cheering tuition hikes because that made our degrees more valuable. This idea that education should be a method of class seperation. (which it is (which is why I want everyone to go to a real school (as opposed to an office drone factory)))

    University is not for everyone, but any mildly smart person can benefit from what it offers: access to time and space for learning, teachers and mentors, peers from a larger pool. If there has to be any limit to attendance beyond desire, it should be merit and not money.

  3. Wait, I just thought of another reason not to go. Having no interest. If you aren't ready or willing to take what you can get in University, better not to go. You can always go later.