The Unasked Question: Should I Even Go to College?

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Introduction

The question of whether or not you should go to college is an important one, one that would benefit from both a close study of your personal desires and skills, as well as a close study of the education and economic climate of the day. However, this investigation only really applies for those people who are required to take out student loans to go to college, which, granted is most of the population. This question is a delicate measurement of risk vs. reward, and the reality that vetted institutions are no longer the only route available for success and self-determination in the world. For those who are passionate, a world class education can be gained through personal study and experimentation outside of a college setting. However, the most essential element to this question is twofold; 1) Who am I?, and 2) What do I want to do with my life. 

A Moment’s Pause

American culture has become increasingly fast paced and pressurized all to feed the gaping maw of the endless greed of consumerism. Those young people who are not confident about the course of their future would most definitely benefit from taking a year off after graduating high school in order to catch their breath and begin to analyze the many opportunities of life in America. The message sent by many parents and teachers caught up in propaganda is that how well you do in high school will determine the course of your future, but this is a lie. In no area of life, even college, will your entire future hinge. A person of any age with a strong sense of self, patience, and desire can bounce back from any challenge and accomplish anything they desire. 

Many students go to college unthinkingly believing it is the next necessary step in the guaranteed path of their personal American Dream. However, this can lead to falling into the trap of crippling student loan debt and a degree which does not guarantee a job which will enable the debt to be paid off, and that is if you are lucky. Many students do not make it through the rigors of college and are still saddled with thousands of dollars of debt for nothing. However, some researchers would cite the strong statistics of the types of people who are likely to succeed in college and those who would benefit from looking elsewhere, but the reality is that this is oversimplifying the issue and ignoring the power of personal desire. 

A major reason many young people do not succeed in high school or college is the corrupt motivation of the education system which fosters a total lack of desire to learn. Primary education is largely a propaganda machine preparing economic classes of students for the stations of culture which the stranglehold of classism has open for them (Petrilli). Children from wealthier families and regions receive a far different education from those in regular regions of the country. Standardization robs education of the joys it could hold, reducing it to a factory farming style of indoctrination which inhibits the cultivation of the desire to learn and the critical thinking skills which enables real learning. However, richer schools do not educate the same way, empowering the privileged students with the motivations and challenges which prepares them for the life of opportunity which lies before them. 

In reality the same vistas of opportunities could be available for anyone of any class or background if only they have the desire. Having inherited money and position cannot supplement the motivational and creative power of desire. Taking a year off from the rigors of indoctrination, and the stick-and-carrot rat race of public education will give you a chance to catch your breath, and gain a moment’s objectivity to what you value most in life. The consistent message of American culture is that money makes you happy, safe, and important. This is not true, as taking one look at the physical and psychological health of the wealthy will reveal. The real values which make life worth living are health of body and mind, self-love and self-awareness, and a grand passion in life. 

This grand passion was once called a vocation, which is a term relating to a job which transcends its role as a provider of income into a role as a provider of meaning. Finding one’s vocation should be the goal of all education, but the education system has been co-opted as a propaganda machine reinforcing all the “isms” which nourish the insecurity which keeps consumerism growing. After all, the delusions of this are clear to see: many people who have any degree of stability and wealth are constantly engaged in expanding and protecting it. All too often this is experienced as families with nice homes they are too busy to be in, filled with so many possessions it is cluttered and they don’t even know what they have, nor the time to use or appreciate it. 

Both parents are caught up working full time to pay for this good life they do not have time to enjoy at the cost of their health, peace of mind, and consistently sinking into debt to cover the ceaseless expansion “progress” demands. All the while their children are being raised by strangers, the television, and consequently missing out on establishing authentic values as they are trained in the same insecurity which will create good little consumers. Many children see this cycle in their families, but do not know how to stop it in their own lives, bereft as they are of authentic relationships with others and themselves. 

Again, taking a year off after high school can help put all of this in perspective, giving you a moment to choose what type of life you really want. During this year new experiences can be sought out, and deep rest can be taken. Often periods of rest can lead to the simplest illuminations with the profoundest implications. However, making such a choice will immediately set you apart from the status quo, and you will be confronted with ceaseless demands of “What are you going to do with your life?’ Thus, it may be essential to travel or seek out privacy to gain a moment’s respite from the incessant clamoring of social pressure. For in the context of your entire life a year is just a moment, and the choice of whether or not to go to college and what values you should model your life on are worth a moment’s pause. 

Corruption of Education

Going to college simply to go and accumulating large amount of student debt puts you in a position of indentured slavery which works well for the consumer model, but seriously inhibits quality of life. At all costs you should live within your means, whatever they are, avoiding debt which is an endless cycle of exploitation. The fruits of debt are bitter, and it is a crime that the higher education system operates at such exorbitant rates. This has been done to create a new market out of higher education, and to further stratify the classes. One Generation Y individual comments on this corrupting process;

The original intent of higher education was to create a workforce that exercised their brains to think bigger and brighter so that they could expand their minds to new things and new experiences. In the 1970’s this all changed. The college system went on a massive PR blitz to propagandize an entire generation into believing that college would provide high-level job opportunities, and it did. Universities first started by infiltrating high schools and paying off school districts to post their posters of two people side-by-side. One of which was a pudgy blue-collar worker next to a slim and trim guy in a business suit. You’d often see taglines, such as, “Which guy do you want to be?” This created a social and economic boom. (Price)

Once the new market was established the unlimited expansion capitalism greed took over, for this is the corruption at the heart of American culture which seeks to turn everything into the largest profit possible no matter the actual cost in quality. As a result of this corruption over just ten years, “Out-of-state tuition and fees at public universities rose 226 percent since 1995. In-state tuition and fees at public National Universities grew the most, increasing a staggering 296 percent” (Mitchell). The rates of increase have not been slowing and the rates of interest on debt is increasing, creating a strangling web of slavery for today’s youth. So, if you cannot afford to go to college, do not go. 

Other Options

The changing nature of the economy due to the Internet and globalization has led to many new opportunities rather than the cut and dry road to debt and the American Illusion. Many savvy employers have seen through this matrix of corruption, and now emphasize, “We need young, experienced people who have walked the walk, taken some hits, and know how to make something from nothing” (Partridge). Thus, creativity, critical thinking, and desire have become resurgent values now that the artificial inflation of the education system for profit has produced an implosion of false values (Reed). All the more reason to find what your vocation is, the essential passion which will ignite your creativity, hold your attention, and lead to innovative discoveries which come from a dedication to the spirit of play. 

Like all boom and burst economies in the inherently flawed unlimited expansion capitalist model, the current education corruption is fundamentally unsustainable. Billionaire Mark Cuban foresees, “our future will include a bursting of the student debt bubble, a significant drop in college tuitions, and an outright collapse of America’s institution of higher learning” (Partridge). This is a natural rebalancing of terribly imbalanced systems, and the young of today would do well not to trust in such obviously corrupt schemes (Stephens). Education can be gained through books, apprenticeships, experience, travel, invention, and sheer willpower. This can be done in or out of college, and the deciding factor must be if you are willing to live with crippling debt (Brockway). 

The promise of the American Dream can only become true for those who find their authentic vocation, for simply having a lot of money does not materialize the dream. Creativity creates its own support system, and the Internet offers new pathways for many who bravely step off the beaten path. After all, the beaten path leaves you pretty beaten down, as “About one-third of millennials say they would have been better off working, instead of going to college and paying tuition…Nearly 85% of college graduates will return home jobless” (Partridge). Ultimately no one can choose your life’s passion for you, though many people will try. The sooner you see through corrupt motivations the better prepared you will be to cultivate authentic ones which lead to an authentic quality of life which money cannot buy. 

Conclusion

The question of whether or not you should go to college is important, and must be approached with a level headed assessment of desire and capability. Taking some time to investigate this question outside of the pressures of the education system will create real benefits in the journey to fulfillment.

Works Cited

Brockway, Robert. “The Question You're Not Asking: Should You Go To College?” Cracked.com, 27 Apr. 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-question-youre-not-asking-should-you-go-to-college/

Mitchell, Travis. “Chart: See 20 Years of Tuition Growth at National Universities.” U.S. News, 29 July 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2015/07/29/chart-see-20-years-of-tuition-growth-at-national-universities

Partridge, Dale. “4 Brilliant Reasons to not go to college.” Startup.com, 2016. Retrieved from: http://startupcamp.com/4-brilliant-reasons-to-not-go-to-college/

Petrilli, Michael J. “’Kid, I’m Sorry, but You’re Just Not College Material.’” Slate, 18 Mar. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/03/college_isn_t_for_everyone_let_s_stop_pretending_it_is.html

Price, Michael. “7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Go To College and 4 Things To Do Instead.” The Huffington Post, 17 Jun. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michaelprice/7-reasons-why-you-shouldn_1_b_5501111.html

Reed, Matt. “Not everyone should go to college.” Inside Higher Ed, 8 May 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/not-everyone-should-go-college

Stephens, Dale J. “Do you really have to go to college?” The New York Times, 7 Mar. 2013. Retrieved from: http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/do-you-really-have-to-go-to-college/?_r=0