Culture

College? Chya Right

James Franco
James Franco
On September 23, 2010, Franco made the erroneous public announcement that he received a "D" grade in "Acting" class at the NYU Graduate Film School. It was in fact a "Directing the Actor" class. Franco admitted to missing most all of his classes that semester. | Photo: Aaron Stipkovich, StipkoPhoto.com | James Franco, Actor, Nyu, Student,

A Rebuttal to the Social Push For a University Education

While watching a program online the other day I came across a commercial, one of many, with a central theme you have likely heard before: getting as many people to attend college as possible. The commercial ran in typical fashion and ended with the text onscreen "What if every child went to college?" Well yeah, what if? That sounds like an absolutely horrible idea.

One commercial for icanaffordcollege.com goes like this. It shows a man working construction, the same man walking through a library, and the man finally carrying an x-ray film in a hospital; under each section text reads: "Tony Alvarez, construction worker", "Tony Alvarez, community college student", and lastly "Tony Alvarez, x-ray technician". After all that, text comes on the screen: "Everybody deserves a comeback". This commercial seems so idiotic I am insulted by it. Now he's an x-ray technician, great ' who's going to build the hospital building for the x-ray machine now? There is a vast, forced ignorance in America in which many choose to forget that the country is run on the middle class. Not everyone can be a fancy doctor or lawyer; they still need to buy food, and where does the food come from? We still need farmers for produce, construction workers for buildings, truck drivers to bring gas/food/computers/furniture/etc., bank clerks, street cleaners, grocery store stockers, snow plowers, on and on.

It seems such a simple equation of economics that I ask anyone about it if the topic comes up. The point to getting a degree would ultimately be to get a job, or a better one; but jobs are not governed by capability, they are governed by employee comparability. A business only needs so many employees and they are going to hire who they think are the best. Say a hundred people apply for an engineering job and only three of them have a degree; if the other ninety-seven suddenly gained the skill and subsequently the degree, there would still only be the one job. It is not about how good you are, it is about how much better you are than everyone else around you.

Perhaps it is the above argument in the context of international competition. If America is full of intellectuals then the jobs that need them come here; we are trying to be better than all the other countries around us. This seems like a building doom, though, because competing with the rest of the world in an intellectual Hobbesian arms race will simply build debt for millions of Americans, of which many will go to college not for a passion in medicine or engineering, but because they were told to. My point is that those who want to go to school for something technical and demanding, by sheer point of the subject being difficult, are almost definitely going to have the desire to go whether a commercial told them to or not. Those that the push would affect ' those on the fence about it ' I doubt would suddenly get the insane passion, out of nowhere, to study rocket science to NASA quality. No, most all of them I suspect would go for a communications, or art, or business degree; hardly degrees that would have jobs flocking to America.

Expansion? Maybe it is about company expansion? If there were more smart people then businesses could build more departments in more places. This implies there is currently a lack of smart people ' the millions of unemployed graduates will politely tell you to go to hell. Business expansion is dependent on what the market does, supply and demand, that sort of thing. It is not something as simple as: more smart people=more jobs.

So why is there this ubiquitous, nearly obnoxious push for college attendance? I can only place it in emotional rhetoric and fear. Obama trying to look good, that sort of thing. Everyone going to college does not create more jobs, but it does raise the bar of normalcy to annoying, pointless heights. I am sure many have seen job ads with this infuriating qualification: "Bachelor's Degree". Not a bachelor's in anything ' just a bachelor's. Recently I scanned through Craigslist and Monster and saw ads for receptionist positions requiring any bachelor's degree at all. Because, of course, having a bachelor's in physics somehow makes you better at answering phone calls and seeming pleasant in conversation.

I do not mean to say that college is a completely horrible idea, obviously, but what I do mean is that unless you are going to college for something specific to get into a specific career field you are fudging the system by raising the normative bar. Go to learn something specific, go if you would like to be a voracious intellectual who simply learns a lot of things, but please, please do not go because you saw a commercial on TV.

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Updated Apr 22, 2017 9:06 AM EDT | More details

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