My Thoughts on a Liberal Education

I keep getting questions from students and parents regarding college. Though many people are starting to realize that film school is a waste, the next question becomes “well, then what should I major in?” Rather than respond individually to these many inquiries I have decided to republish this response I sent to one of my students.

A also highly recommend everyone check out the following websites and articles:

1. The Huffington Post’s ongoing chronicle of Unemployed College Graduates:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/21/the-unemployment-chronicl_n_653641.html#undefined

2. This article on how 85 percent, yes eighty five freaking percent of college grads are moving home in 2011! That’s right, even with their degrees, most students can’t even figure out how to make enough money to pay rent. Read the in depth study:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/13/college-graduates-moving-home-debt_n_861849.html

3. This recent article on the top 11 most unemployable majors:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/08/the-11-majors-with-the-hi_n_1081625.html

 

Hi J,I can appreciate your situation with your Mother, even though I come from a different background. I used to argue with my Mother as well. In my family we all went to college, but I still have two cousins who graduated from school and have no idea what they are doing.

First, read this article:

http://www.martynemko.com/articles/americas-most-overrated-product-higher-education_id1539

I find that the issue of college is more about class differences than anything. People who didn’t go have this perception that they “missed out” on something. Truthfully, I don’t believe college makes you “well rounded” at all. It is a cultural myth.

What it does provide, for a lot of people, is 4 years of a summer camp type environment. You live in a dorm with other people your age. There’s a lot of sex, drinking, and drugs. And some classes.

The best thing that I got our of college was losing my virginity 1 week in. That was awesome.

But as far as the classes in college impacting your life, this is a complete myth I believe. I went to NYU and graduated in 3.5 years with honors. I took classes in physics, English, film, history, and anthropology. Were some of these classes interesting? Sure. Were some boring? Absolutely.

Did any of them help shape me into the person I am today? Not at all. And personally, I hated writing term papers and taking tests. It’s such nonsense!

College courses are just a more intense version of high school courses in these subjects. Longer papers, etc. Personally my real growth in life occurred after school in the world. I lived in Hawaii, in the woods of Northern California, met interesting new people and learned about life by living it. I took continuing education classes and meditation classes and read books and learned a ton about life.

Never at one moment did I think back to any of the classes I took in school.

I think the idea that college makes you “well rounded” is a cultural myth from the 70s and 80s. People I know who were douchebags before they went to college didn’t change much from taking some literature classes.

At NYU they were so pretentious and said that “their students make better films” because of the liberal arts classes. That’s such horseshit. No 20 year old makes a film of any depth or substance because he read “Huckleberry Finn” for the 10th time and wrote a paper on it.

Also there is tremendous cultural pressure to go to college. I know one blogger who tells people not to send their kids to college, and sometimes he gets death threats because people are so weird and emotional about this issue. Like it’s blashphemy to speak out against going to college as a viable life choice.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-altucher/dont-send-your-kids-to-co_b_409900.html

http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/01/10-more-reasons-why-parents-should-not-send-their-kids-to-college/

http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-02-08/news/30010408_1_student-loan-debt-college-degree-learning-on-college-campuses

But this pressure to go to college, in my opinion, is as prevalent and destructive as the pressure to get married. If you aren’t old enough to know people who feel pressure to get married, take note. It’s the same kind of weird cultural pressure.

But we have a divorce rate of over 50% and student loan debt averages $34,000 per student.

It’s lots of hype with no substance. I suggest avoiding the herd mentality and do your own thing like the other success stories. You’re already on the right path. You needn’t be worried about missing out on college. It won’t make you “well rounded”.

If you are really arguing with your Mom about this, then that is not a good reason to go to college anyway. It sounds like you’d only be going because she thinks you should. How can you expect yourself to sit through lectures and write papers if you aren’t there for you, but for another person?

You can always go to college if you want. Let’s say in a couple of years you feel you really want to go, you can apply and go. There’s no “age limit”.

(FYI My Dad went back to law school when he was 40 and then went on to become a judge. So it’s never too late to return to school!)

That’s my opinion on the topic. At the end of the day it’s your life and you get to choose how it goes.

Whew, I get worked up about this! Alright, we’ll talk soon.

Best,

Seth

Quoting J

[Hide Quoted Text]

Hey Seth,Also in the argument with my mom about a degree, she constantly says I’m “I’m cutting short my education and a degree would make me more well rounded”. What is your opinion on it making you more well rounded?

I also think that because many high school students are not taught the basic skills of how to pay rent, get a job, use their credit cards, buy groceries, etc. college becomes a “transition” where an 18 year old learns how to take care of themselves in certain ways, while still having the whole thing paid for and living in a secure environment. It’s like training wheels.

I know at NYU the best thing was having a room away from home and having to handle my own meals, making my own schedule, etc. without my parents doing everything for me.

But at the end of the 3.5 year summer camp I was still thrust into the world with little guidance as to how to survive. I picked up my own skills because I ended up living in an apartment in NYC, but my friends who lived in dorms had to fly by the seat of their pants to make the transition to “real world” living.

I had a lot of fun in college, but it’s an absurd amount of money to pay for both “liberal arts” classes and pretending to be an adult.

 

 

 

 


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