So you want a college degree.
I think it’s a fair question.
In the USA, about the only acceptable answer is “Chaaa, to get a bitchin’ new Camaro, hombre!” If you are a parent and already have a bitchin’ Camaro, you want your children to go to college so they, too, can afford their own bitchin’ Camaros. Education is just that important! More education, more Camaros.
Do you think I’m cynical? Do you think I consider my countrymen to be that crass and — heaven forfend — stupid?
Well, yes I am. And yes, yes I do.
I’ve based my conclusions on a lifetime of observations of what Americans truly value. It isn’t education, really. We don’t care what kind of low-brow, thick-fingered troglodyte dullard you resemble as long as you have good credit and faithfully participate in consumerism. A college education has traditionally been the best path to full citizenship, where you extract the maximum compensation from a corporation in order to pay for dumb stuff that’s supposed to make you happy and obviously better than others.
If this weren’t the case, we’d celebrate people who decided to study literature or languages. Instead, we sneer and say “What can you do with that? Can you get one-a-them good payin’ jobs with that? What about a Camaro?”
So really, I support free college for everyone. I’d like college degrees to be so common that they no longer represent any potential income advantage at all. I’d like to see the market flooded with not only liberal-arts majors, but also engineers, doctors, scientists — everything. At that point, we’ll all be living with mom until we’re 40 while working at Starbucks, and this whole spurious correlation of degree with income will be a distant memory. We’ll get to study whatever we want, and to get back to actually valuing education over GM’s answer to the Ford Mustang.
You with me on this? I hope so.
But you probably aren’t.
Anyway, when politicians on stage talk about making college more available or even free, some people in their audiences get excited. The people who get excited are people who haven’t yet gone to college, or parents of people who haven’t yet gone. Then, there are those who get resentful. These are the people still making college loan payments.
In the minds of the people who get excited there floats one specific image. It’s not an image of long nights spent inhaling the wisdom buried in books, nor hunched over a laptop writing the one research paper to end all research papers. It’s not an image of long conversations on campus with other seekers, when all come to some new mutual understanding of a truth revealed. It’s not an image of a lifetime spent as an enlightened citizen armed with the knowledge and cognitive tools to make good choices in one’s community and to truly participate in democracy.
No. The image is of a yellow Camaro. With stripes. Just like Bumblebee from Transformers.
So perhaps it’s only just that college not be free after all. It’s not really about education, see. It’s more like a business. Put in your 4-6 years and your $100K-$250K and if you’ve played your cards right, you have income for life. But the only way this can work is if there is some entrance fee. Gotta keep it exclusive in some way. There aren’t enough Camaros to go around.