I have been pinged a bit about my attitude of the relationship of college attendance with education. Recognizing that I can, with high probability, do nothing to either alleviate the difficulties colleges have gotten themselves into selling something other than education but in its guise, or to alter the conceptions of those who have pinged me, I plan to continue in this blog with the conviction that I began that it is a medium of my cogitations and opinions and only occasionally a dialog.
In this sense I was rather pleased with a guest article [Link] in the student newspaper of the campus of the Boneyard by a ‘recent’ graduate of college to entering freshmen. The overall tone of the article is quite hedonistic but some parts of it actually ring of good purpose as well as good sense. Before proceeding to consideration of that I feel a bit compelled to rant on the subject of college hedonism.
I feel some degree of qualification to address this matter, having done my undergraduate studies at the campus of the Black Warrior, notorious then and now as a party shul. I should admit that that fact was oblivious to me until sometime through my freshman year of study. I was not a party person in high shul. Being an introvert as well as an incipient nerd, the only parties I attended were shul functions that my parents demanded I attend as part of attending shul. I dutifully attended and generally had a miserable to blah experience.
At that time, freshmen were not permitted automobiles, so our out-of-class lives were largely a matter of walking together or cadging rides from upperclassmen – a rarity. Hence the rather trite joke of the day: how do you tell freshmen? – they herd. As a result our evening activities on weekends – week nights were dutifully spent studying in the main – were largely limited but as football season peaked I became aware of the boisterous Greek (as in fraternity and sorority, not the nationality or the ‘civilization’) parties.
From there it was a short step to discovering the party nature of the campus and once I looked about a bit I noticed that the vast majority of students selected courses not on the basis of what they could learn but what grade they could get, and were generally more interested in what party they were going to do or make than in what they had just learned in class. The old high shul distinctions between extroverts and introverts, between bogs and geeks and nerds, was still there but without the social rankings of before.
That is not to say there were not social distinctions but college was remarkably democratic in that regard in those days. Whereas in high shul the jocks and the cheerleaders had been the social elite and the nerds and geeks the pariahs, in college each looked down on the other, at least in those days. The fraternity/sorority types, the former majoring in business, the latter in home economics or education, looked down on the non-Greeks regardless of major. The science and engineering majors looked down on all who weren’t. And while there was an aspect of disdain in those attitudes, there was also a sense of some sympathy.
One of the biggest differences between folks in college then was how they partied. The Greeks partied whenever they could. They even cut class to party. The nerds primary party activity in the fall was attending football games. And only during, not after – studies had to be caught up on. But after big tests, especially semester finals, nerds quietly partied, usually in near solitariness, more cocktail party with nerd discussion than dancing and carousing. Nerd parties tended to be much quieter as well as less frequent.
Of course once one got to graduate shul, even this ceased. No wasting time going to athletic events. Of course the Greek bogs didn’t go to graduate shul. They went out into the real world and got jobs, mostly through the intervention of parents, got married and quit using birth control, and partied. At which distinction I have to wonder why they went to college in the first place unless to become educated in how to party?
Ah well, enough of that. Back to the newspaper article:
“As far as school goes, choose to be here. If your parents chose for you, get out now and come back on your terms, or you’ll likely get burned out.”
I have to agree with this. Of my freshman class I think all of us were in college because of our parents telling us for years that we were going to college. It was a result of the whole Great Depression – Great Patriotic War thing. Those who had other reasons, or found other reasons stayed; those who didn’t disappeared. Sadly a lot of those never did find anything to do with themselves.
“Give yourself an easy semester to start with; take easy and interesting classes. Get the partying out of your system.”
This is one I tend to disagree with. I got this advice from an assigned, overworked advisor as a registering freshman. I had too much time on my hands and quickly found I needed to be overloaded to do well. But I was/am an introvert and nerd. This may be good advice for extroverts and bogs.
“At the beginning of every semester, register for as many classes as possible and drop the ones you don’t like. “
I like this one but I have to caveat it. The key word here is “like”. If you are taking those types of classes where you read the book first and then go to class to discuss, and your grade is based on that kind of fuzzy stercus, then you better like the professor and he needs to like you to get a good enough grade to survive. But if you are a nerd and/or an introvert, or taking the other type of course where you have to go to lecture to get told how to read the text and then do stuff for grade, you need to like what you are learning first and the professor second, maybe not at all. And if you are not a party bog, then taking an overload is good because these things do reinforce. I once got an extra letter grade in a junior analytical chemistry class because I was also taking an electronics course in the physics department and ended up knowing more about that subject than the chemistry professor and could rescue him during class demonstration that had gone aglee.
“And as far as life after school goes, anticipate leaving school being really tough. Realize that unless you’re studying engineering or computer science, you are very likely to not have a job offer when you graduate, let alone a high-paying dream job. Plan on people with bachelor’s degrees being ubiquitous in the job market.”
Again, I partly agree with this. My undergraduate days were the best time of my life because I actually had a lot of free time, despite taking twice as many hours of courses as the average student, and could enjoy them. But the job thing was a bit different. We were aware enough to realize if you were really serious about being a nerd you had to go to graduate shul. So the job thing didn’t enter in until I got disillusioned with the academic bureaucracy. And the economic conditions were bad then, especially for nerds. And the first job I found was drek but the second was a keeper, not a dream job, because such are as fake as any dream, but one that I could make into what I could do and not what I was paid to do.
And the bachelor’s degree thing is dead on. It’s about like someone in your parent’s day having a high shul diploma.