BIG ED …

It was a proud moment for me. 

My wife and I were tucking our (then) 6-year-old son in for the night, when his mother mentioned something about him going to off college one day and how we’ll miss kissing him goodnight. She was talking baby talk and doing all that stuff moms do at bed time with little boys. He darted straight up, looked us in the eyes and said, “I’m not going to college…I’m going to Vegas!” 

My wife was horrified. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. 

The truth is you can get a college education in Vegas on any given Saturday night. Don’t ask me how I know. 

Anyway …

The standard line in this country is “you can’t get ahead without an education.” And that is absolutely true. But we instantly make the leap from “education” to “college.” 

I contend that the two are not mutually exclusive. 

I limped through only one year of junior college, where I carried a solid 2.0 GPA. By my last month there, I was failing two classes (which I did not attend), placed in academic suspension (which I didn’t rectify) and was confined to my dorm room (which I didn’t obey). I was clearly not college material. So, I left after that year and I never looked back. But I do have some regrets. I regret that I went in the first place. I could’ve really used that money. 

37 years later, I have a successful career, a home and a family and all the things they told me I needed a college degree for, without it. And the college I attended? It doesn’t exist anymore. 

Vegas is still there, though. But I digress …  

When it comes down to it, a lot of education is about reading. Believe it or not, anyone with a library card and the internet can get a world-class education if they’re motivated enough. Very often, it comes down to your own self-determination. And I fear we are orienting generation after generation to lose their sense of knowledge independence, in favor of institutional constructs. 

Many colleges and Universities in this country have gone from bastions of free thought to citadels of lock-step indoctrination. 

More than a few college students spend their college years in an activist stance, protesting and campaigning against public policies that favor business innovation and industry expansion. Then, once they graduate, they wonder where all the seventy-thousand-dollar-a-year jobs are. 

Hey, Caleb: you protested and voted for policies that kept that cool new job from being created.  

Here’s a free lesson for all the college students: jobs are created by risk takers and visionaries, many of whom put everything on the line to fulfill a dream. There is never a guarantee their endeavor will last a month, much less long enough to provide you and your spouse a lifetime of upward mobility, dental benefits and $20 bottles of wine every Saturday night. 

Business creation should be sacrosanct in this country and we should always remember and revere where jobs come from before we start demanding them (and what we are entitled to out of them), right out of college. 

Statistics show that people who don’t go to college end up being more conservative than those who do. 

Conventional wisdom (the kind that comes from academics in the faculty lounge) says it’s because those without degrees are probably tradesmen and blue collar workers and “those people” tend to be more right wing. In my own case, it was because I created and owned song catalogs and worked closely with people who relied on venture capital for startups and new music business endeavors. 

Go a few rounds with government red tape and that will be a college education in and of itself. Your whole purview of the role of government, and how much or little you want to deal with it in your life, will change dramatically. 

Where many of my friends had mountains of student loan debt, I (a college dropout) spent most of my adult life paying large portions of my self-employment income to the IRS. That means one of us borrowed money from the government to learn how to do something, while the other one of us did something…and payed the government for the privilege. 

So, when I hear people yelling and screaming for the government to forgive their student loan debt or (worse) pay for everyone’s college outright, you can imagine my concern, as the forgiveness of that debt, and the cost of that tuition, would most likely be at the expense of people like me, who actually PAY taxes. 

And it is happening as we speak…

As of the writing of this piece, the current president is actively trying to get at least a portion of student loan debt “forgiven.” And I get it. It’s crippling for some people…probably most people. And it’s easy to see this as relief for those under the crushing weight of debt. 

But it’s something else.  

While we rail against subsidies for oil companies or corn producers, we aren’t seeing this debt forgiveness for what it actually is – a way to continue to prop up big Education, while not indicting anybody in that system for overcharging and fleecing the customers. 

Instead of perp walking (like we did car manufacturers, in 2009, for flying in private jets) college boards and presidents, that keep raising tuitions beyond anything the average person could ever pay, and grilling them before congress about how and why they are price gouging the consumer, we just accept the tuition rates and the predatory loan process (that is run by the government itself) and try to simply off-load that debt onto the shoulders of tax payers. 

Nothing to see here, folks. This is all okay. And you idiots without college degrees should just keep your mouths shut. 

Trust me – if this scam were being run by a loud-mouth capitalist in the free market, they would’ve already been brought up on S.E.C charges and had a 6-part Netflix documentary made about them.  

But when it’s nameless, faceless bureaucrats in button-down shirts and dark suits, somehow it doesn’t get questioned. And that’s what makes it all the more sinister.  

It has been 10 years since my son said he was going to Vegas. We are now in the process of thinking about and discussing, on a daily basis, his post-high school plans.

But we are keeping college as an option, not an imperative. 

I know too many millionaires who never stepped foot inside a college, to limit my son’s life options to four years of learning only ONE way…in exchange for a loan that will never be paid down…which (lean in close, I need to whisper this) is the point, in the first place.

   

Until we start making colleges compete with other life options, like apprenticeships and trade schools and businesses that offer out-of-high-school programs for kids who already know what field they want to go into, the Big Education syndicate (I call it Bid Ed) will always be overpriced and too culturally powerful. 

And if you open your eyes you will see that what a lot of these kids have been saddled with is an MLM scheme with school colors, dorms, and a piece of paper (at the end) that isn’t worth a fraction of what they paid for it. 

THAT’S what we’re bailing out. The system. Not the students. 

If you really want to affect change in the college loan issue, start doing to colleges what many of their professors want done to other facets of the free market…start capping salaries and tuitions. Make tenure illegal. Stop providing government backed loans. 

I don’t actually propose any of that (I have a different solution I’ll be posting on my Patreon site tomorrow). But it’s exactly the kinds of things your garden-variety college professor proposes, anytime they believe a consumer is being abused by a rogue capitalist, out in the free-market world. 

Well, this is exactly THAT…just with elbow patches.  

R

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2 thoughts on “BIG ED …

  1. I really enjoy your stuff. I don’t understand Patreon. I’d like to have a preview before committing. Anyway…

    I was in academia for a while. I think your view of academia as a whole is probably accurate, but misses some of the swirling underneath.

    The serious side of academia – physics, engineering, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and some I’m not recalling right now – has, well, serious academics. They don’t care about the petty politics of micro aggressions and courses about Taylor Swifts song catalogue. Their time is spent working, thinking, reading, brainstorming, etc. They are right on the edge of solving that 1000-year-old problem. They love serious students. I’m not saying brilliant students because I’ve worked with students who were absolutely hopeless but cried in frustration. We worked hard together even though we both knew it was in vain. I loved them as much as the brilliant ones.

    These serious academics eschew faculty meetings, faculty “parties,” and such. They tend to be the “weird ones” at gatherings. “Too serious.” The Taylor Swift professors are front and center. Guess who is in charge? Guess who makes the rules? Guess who decides summer pay? Guess who decides courseload? Guess who decides tenure? We’re wired differently. It’s the other side the public sees. It’s the serious ones who have to kiss @&$ just to be left alone.

    We’re not politicians. We’re probably autistic. Blaming us or changing us is not the right approach. Things are just off the rails.

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  2. And also to your point: I was getting my hair cut near the college campus. The barber asked my major. I was so tired of saying “finance” because I’d be asked about CD rates or the stock market trends. So I said “math.” The barber then asked my opinion about Euclidean geometry, the Riemann hypothesis, and more. Finally he said, “You don’t seem to know very much about math.” That was a lesson in humility that I will never forget.

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