My college experience

I just got done (mercifully) doing a double-delete on a post I was writing about higher education. I was out of my depth. The post was completely derivative and based on a book I am reading called The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations by Christopher Lasch, first published in 1979 and said to be a “national bestseller.” It is a fun book, in fact, even exciting for me is it mentions so many names, movements, perversions and attitudes that I grew up in, through and around. (Just to name one, there is the mythical female orgasm. Trust me, it doesn’t happen.)

I was going to cover his Section VI, Schooling and the New Illiteracy, that is covered from pages 125 to 153, but I realized as I sweated it out that it was completely derivative. I know nothing of what it is like now or in decades and centuries past to attend Harvard or Berkeley or to be home-schooled or, as my mother, educated in the basics in a one-room prairie school.  I have only my own experience, and it hardly qualifies to pass judgment on anything  or anyone else.

All I can say from observation is that these days teachers like to call themselves “educators,” and that the end-product is high school graduates who are highly susceptible to advertising and know nothing of compound interest, have zero resistance to propaganda, who are owned body, soul and mind by media. The military feasts on our high school graduates, as so many appear to have so little hope for a better life otherwise.

That’s pretty general, I know. I don’t embrace herding them into buildings and forbidding them even being in the hallway between bells, what our friend Steve Kelly calls “warehousing” of kids. They are getting them out of our hair, boring them till they imagine boredom to be a required course in life. The twelve years of education we all endure could easily be reduced to a couple, but then what would we do?

All I can say with certainty about my own “higher” education is that when I graduated college, I had a very good grasp of the principles of accounting, little else. I remember now a few other courses that impacted me. What follows are the few memories that stand out:

  • Finance taught by a professional investment advisor that took us to the nuts and bolts of bonds and stocks, refreshing and enlightening. He taught us about “whole life insurance,” a scam that in those days few understood
  • Business Law, a thing of beauty based on English common law, comprehensible and beautifully logical, now set aside. It might be considered “quaint.”
  • Real estate taught by a goofball, Cody J., who was a real estate salesman and who once sealed a deal on a farmhouse by accepting a goat as down payment, putting it in his back seat and driving it back to Billings. I cannot shake that image.
  • Introduction to Logic, my first and only exposure to that subject, wherein I discovered that matters discussed in the classroom often do not translate easily into real life. I was going to enter life easily identifying fallacies, only to learn that they are deeply embedded and hard to uncover.
  • A history course covering the period leading up to World War II wherein the professor described the various types of craft used to transport soldiers from ship to land. It was fascinating, but I’ve now misplaced that knowledge, the only interesting thing in the entire course.
  • An creative writing course wherein the professor broke down in tears one day, reading a piece he wrote, and then saying it reminded him of “old friends.” He was not self-absorbed. He was self-saturated. He was married to a woman who did movie reviews for the local newspaper, also self-absorbed, giving high praise to some seriously bad movies, she the movie aficionado, the rest of us unable to distinguish shit from Shinola. He died young, and she insisted that a small memorial be built for him on-campus. I wonder if it is still there.
  • An English course I decided to challenge … I sat in a room with maybe fifty others, and was told to write an essay about a cliche’ and my real-life experience with it … I sat there for maybe twenty minutes trying to come up with something, and finally had an inkling and wrote. It was very hard work. When it came time to face the music, I sat opposite a very nice man who calmly explained to me that very few pass muster on challenges. He was surprised to open the folder before him and say “Hmmm, you passed!”
  • A course in tennis – PE was still a required subject. I was not and never would be very good, and yet when it came time to show my backhand, always thereafter my weakness, I nailed that sucker! I had some grace under pressure.
  • A class in jogging wherein I discovered 1) if I held back, I got to meet some very nice girls and chat with them at length, and 2) that the course that followed, some legal thing, found me sweating like a pig, even after a shower. My body slowly cools down. I sat in the back of the room, a mess. Did I mention that it was a summer course?
  • Two very nice men, Dr. Aaron Small and “Shorty” Alterowitz, both Ashkenazi Jew (I suppose), both wise and knowledgeable, patient, never showing disdain for any of us poor cretins darkening the doors of this land grant college. Shorty advised us one day (in a health course) always to make sure the woman is satisfied first, that illusive female orgasm thing. Even this wise and learned man would fall victim to myth.
  • A course in Administrative Theory and Policy wherein I was challenged (this was more or less a graduation exercise) to work with a small group and analyze a small hospital and its accounting and other policies. I had to make a long presentation and be grilled by the other classmates. At the beginning I was visibly nervous, probably sweating. I picked up a pointer and began to review some data, my voice shaky, other students probably sympathizing. Something kicked in. I found my confidence, nailed the presentation, owned the room. It was not life-altering, as I still had so much ground to cover. It was only grade-altering.

That’s about it. I look back now on my college days and marvel at how little I knew or understood as I left that institution in my past. It taught me a few things, I transcended a few barriers, but in the end it only left me able to perform accounting tasks with any measure of competence. Everything else was to be figured out slowly and down the road, an ongoing process.

10 thoughts on “My college experience

  1. ”Just to name one, there is the mythical female orgasm. Trust me, it doesn’t happen.”

    WHAT? Am I reading this right? You don’t believe women have orgasms?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I really don’t know what to say.
        To have witnessed one you would have had to have been there so, how can I gently put this, could the problem be you?
        More worryingly still, the other half of the equation didn’t even feel the necessity to fake it. ………………………otherwise you’d have ‘witnessed ‘ it but not believed it. Poor choices all round by you.

        Like

  2. Interesting, thanks. I’m curious to read what was left on the cutting room floor…

    You might like The Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom, a 1980s bestseller (but very intellectual) about college. It caused a ripple of controversy and debate at the time (which I read about later… There was even a book that collected most of the essays for and against Bloom.)

    Like

  3. Nice post. I’ve always thought your strength was relating personal experience. I enjoy your travel reports.

    I’m noticing less sympathy for our current institutional educational system, cf Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education from January of last year; in part because we can now look everything up on a phone. Many historical greats had little schooling; smart people teach themselves.

    Any reflections on yourself compared to a cohort who did not attend college? Capable people tend to do well, regardless. I like the studies where, at age 25 or so, they put school dropouts in a room with graduates, and education professionals can’t pick out who is who. If you have a job that makes no discernible difference, why keep you around at vast expense?

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  4. FWIW, the single best thing I took from my many years at university was a better understanding and appreciation of the concept/field known as ‘logic’.

    In one single semester of introductory philosophy, perhaps twelve weeks of classes and a few small projects, I learned more about thinking and ‘truth’, than in most of the rest of my two decades of education combined.

    That is, I got more from that one class than I did from years and years of rote learning nonsense in the years leading up to my taking the class in question.

    What is a logical fallacy? Why does it matter? How can we easily identify logical fallacies? What are the most common fallacies? What is a standard form argument and how can we use this approach to improve our thinking / communication? What are the benefits and drawbacks of ‘logic’, what are the benefits and drawbacks of ‘rhetoric’?

    Most school-leavers in my country would struggle to answer any of these questions satisfactorily, and I honestly do not believe even the brightest of school-leavers could answer most (let alone all) of these questions. If my suspicion is correct, what does this say about the education system in Australia?

    I’ll tell you: it is doing its job. The education system does not exist to equip young people to think or even to self-teach. It exists to churn out homogenised, compartmentalised lemmings. And it does this job well. Very well.

    So well in fact that those of us who break free from the conditioning are considered mad, bad, sad, and certainly very strange. When everybody else is so alike, why would anybody want to be different? And yet to think for oneself, for even just a few moments, is to be different.

    The only way to accept the myriad lies and deceptions of the modern world is to refuse (or simply be unable) to THINK for oneself. As I said, the education system is doing its job.

    Just look at how many people to this day still believe in, among other things, ‘ancient history’. It is blindingly obvious that ‘ancient history’ is a HOAX. There were no ‘ancient greeks’ or ‘ancient romans’ or ‘ancient egyptians’. This sounds absolutely insane to the average person today. Blasphemous even. Watch the lemming rage when it is suggested to him that Caesar is a fictional character.

    Oftentimes the same lemming will tell you pompously that Jesus was a fictional character! But it is so offensive to him to suggest that, just as Jesus is a fictional character, so too is Plato, so too is Herodotus, so too is every single character of ‘ancient history’ because ‘ancient history’ is make-believe. It never happened.

    It is as though the average person can (in some cases) see the tip of the hoax, but are permanently blind to the rest of it. Ancient history MUST be real, or else somebody would have publicised the hoax by now, right?

    One or two decades of school will do amazing things to a human.

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