The cliché of depicting ultimate students as drunken cafeteria jokers and studious intellectually-competitive ones as something beneath the standing of serial killers is rather feeble. I mean, even Dexter has a university degree. Many hard-working people feel that much intelligence and callidity in the world doesn't come with a piece of paper. Indeed, it may be like J T Gatto says, in Dumbing Us Down: 'No amount of tinkering will make the school machine work to produce educated people; education and schooling are, as we all have experienced, mutually exclusive terms'.
There's certain truth in this sentiment. Nonetheless, try walking down the street completely naked on a non-Pride day and see what happens? A degree may get you in the door. Can you enter without it? Like the chain-smoking centenarian and the illiterate billionaire, there are exceptions to everything. Overall, your future, for good or bad, is directly dependant on your level of education, and especially if you're Canadian. As an educated class, we're a skilled e-competent population who has priced itself out of the global manufacturing labor pool. We are like the immigrant laborer whose children have gone to university and subsequently become professionals. Their children's children cannot return to bricklaying without a giant economic leap backwards. Just as surely as naked libertarianism is anarchy and bare-toothed egalitarianism is communism, so an uneducated population will manufacture goods at global wage-rates and nations who consume more than they produce, will one day return to low wage manufacturing jobs. A grade 12 education in Canada today might not secure for you even the position of Returns Clerk at Ikea.
If you don't smoke and aren't excessively overweight, (i.e., you don't have Metabolic Syndrome), you're likely to live eight decades, and if you're female, maybe nine. You think that you might want to be in profession X, but 40 years of it? X better be pretty amazing.
A general education with business, biology, mathematics and literature covers a lot of bases. Diversify before diving in, in case you later want to revisit your decision, is a viable option. Medicine seems lucrative before you realized you're a glorified plumber working for the state. Law looks sexy too until you see that real estate fees and divorce decrees will be your bread and butter. All jobs are destine to become routine, and in fact, your best chance at variety may well be in management and business.
As we evolve into the "new" improved dumb-down for Canadian students, there is a view that for public education in Canada, like with the Toronto Maple Leafs, we pay the most and receive the least. Results are after all about expectations. Perhaps though like the Leafs, Canadian students are damn fine players, just a tad too unmotivated. It's taken for granted that systemic problems like many Canadian issues are endemic-that little can be done. In his heart, the Canuck says, "Don't worry, be happy." He procrastinates. For instance, the dropout rate is alarming and the ambivalence to finding long-term solutions to social problems is all too common.
Don't let another day go by without admitting to the problem. We've paid a horrible price for lackluster results in the managing of public sector investitures, but possibly it wasn't the mismanagement of education per se so much as the cultural bias against a student giving everything they've got to the adventure of ideas.
To Throw Themselves like a Renaissance Man into Study!
To reinvent our minds as a force tempered as steel isn't as slavish as it appears, see, Doidge, Amen, Mischel, Ariely and Sacks. All along, it was the drunken cafeteria joker who was making the charge that school was not cool. He was hedonistically blind to mind, mismanaging his life, dying young and selling a belief as stupid as, ". . . my lack of education hasn't hurt me none." Of course it did! I'm not equating schooling with education or knowledge; the love and goodness in students today is obvious to any objective observer, however, they arrive as pupils to higher education without any killer instinct in regards to learning. The last generation passed them "a state of being" by cultural osmosis. Bet your life Paul Simon has educated himself in the highest degree. This was the belief that success was a shoe-in, and freedom, a thing so entrenched, it was beyond even a need of philosophical defense. Compulsory education is not unlike prison, but even if you are incarcerated, you are still responsible for learning --- for being self-aware. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn remarked in The Gulag Archipelago, “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.” Or as John-Paul Sartre said in, Being and Nothingness, "We are condemned to be free."
Over 70 years ago, fear of poverty came from the generation of The Great Depression, reverberated loudly in the Baby Boomers. It faded away in their Echo. The following Generation X lost the worry of failure altogether, but in our current crisis, fear of not attaining success might lead to hope of renewal of both liberty and the behaviors it re-enforces: strength of character, self-reliance, frugality, economic independence, the pursuit of happiness, (versus the pursuit of material possessions), intellectual autonomy and charity to strangers. Several balloons are about to burst: the pious Right - the overweight morally inept religious consumer - is one of them. American paper-money policy - a standardless rudderless currency - is another. Maybe even US leadership in the world itself is at stake.
Less than 100 years ago, public education worked. However, having it looked on as a solution to our problems and giving it away for free was the height of constructivism.
Constructivism is the flawed instrument of political science; the belief that we should completely control our environment, thus often justifying any means to do so. Education isn't free even if it seems so. The worst of human arrogance is a belief that a piece of paper representing gold is the actual minted mineral. It isn't too late to reverse this horrifying trend in our thinking, but we must act soon. Education is not a consumer good. Students have to be beholden. They can't sit back and wonder why it isn't as interesting as a game boy, playing hockey or going to eat at Kelseys. If they're not actually participating to their fullest extent, then maybe they should look again. Imagine you actually were made to pay for your own mind with the long grueling labor of self-education; that you had to earn wisdom the old-fashion hard way, by adding to your knowledge on a continual basis or you would go stupid.
You would pay gurus, shamans, sages and prophets your crowning wealth to find the secret of the ages. Yet there it is standing before you. Knowledge itself, free for the taking but for the work to process it: thousands of books to read, centuries to study and an inner universe which like the cosmos itself expands as you fill it up with query and theory. For the most part your education is being subsidized and your betters are begging you to partake. Yet you linger in vanity, and then demur. You say, "A commitment this big is like going into the ministry."
Yet there you have it, it's no more complicated than that. Sex, drugs and rock and roll won't get you there, and it's harder at 20 years of age to sustain the work ethic of the mind than at 50, but if you didn't start it in your twenties forget about the fifties, you'll retire with nothing.
This will be your epitaph without a fully developed mind: "What the hell hit me?"
See also, Cults on Campus, Reading and Intelligence, Six Reasonable Men, How to Survive College, Those Hard Nasty Years at the Academy and The Rational Individual.
Having said all of that, a "Student Bill of Rights" as it were, has only two rules: no student should be compelled by the state to attend school; no person should be force to pay for someone else's education.
© 2017 - E. A. St. Amant