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comment by galen
galen  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: College May Not Be Worth It Anymore

Please stop pressuring people to go to college who have no business being there

It is so difficult to genuinely grow as an academic while surrounded by the "elite" fucking man-children of the 1%, who only care about signalling their eliteness and "boosting their social capital"

The German university has plenty of problems of its own but at least you can generally assume that if someone's there, it's because they genuinely care about their own education. Otherwise they'd be at a Berufsschule.

kleinbl00  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  



I go to two community colleges. One of them is effectively a trade school. They teach machining, welding, cooking, dental hygiene and, like, a couple other trade school things. The other one mostly teaches art and prereqs for going to a 4-year.

The art school is having a prom.

I've heard people my age gripe about kids and how inappropriate they are and how everything is different than when they went to school. Know what's different? From the top down, administrators are infantilizing the ever-loving shit out of students. There's this assumption they can't fuckin' hang so they teach to the lowest common denominator.

They're doing no one any favors.

galen  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The foreign language exchange program I'm on has 8 participants this semester. Disastrously low numbers, even for a program with historically very low participation. The administration responds:

Better advertising? meh

Better financial aid? eh

Bolstering the university's foreign language requirement? nah

"Switch to an English language program or we shut you down."

The first week we were here, a stranger in a bar guessed our university based solely on the fact that we are the only Americans who even attempt to speak German. On a campus with 5000 international students.

b_b  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  

If you're in a place where you're surrounded by the children of the 1%, and you think that's the main issue, you're missing the point entirely. Those people may be annoying to you, but they're decidedly not the problem with higher ed. The problem with higher ed is that it aims at mediocrity, by definition not the 1%. The person who did just enough in high school to get into a reputable college and is now doing just enough to get the degree that will get them the job they're after, but who lacks any concept of intellectual curiosity is the person to whom college is cratering. That person exists in replicates in every lecture hall in America, and it's a problem of hating the game and not the player. Once we define a college degree as being necessary to maintain a middle class life, then the system will automatically cater to people who seek a middle class life, i.e. most people.

Most people are not interested in the things that make college interesting to the few people who are there just to learn. That's ok. Someone else's lack of rigor shouldn't reflect on you. You can always go the extra mile. The instructor will be happy that someone in the class cares. It's hard to keep that in mind, but it's true: you can only be you, and if you love to read books that were translated from English to German so that you can retranslate them back to English, then more power to you. But definitely recognize that most people are never going to share your passion for that. That's a good thing, because it gives you something to differentiate yourself with. Learning is personal, so always look inward. I'm not scolding, but merely relating what I've learned through many years of schooling and life.

kleinbl00  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Naaah, dawg, I'm with galen on this one.

20 years ago I had to take tech writing. Okay, makes sense. I'm gonna be an engineer. But it wasn't tech writing. It was ESL. Every graduate of every engineering department at the University of Washington was required to take ten credits of ESL. Because Boeing and Microsoft were sick of hiring these kids that could run the numbers but couldn't type a sentence. And you know what? I was on scholarship and the foreign kids were paying full rack rate. Because of my test scores UW was mandated to kick money back at me while the Chinese kids had to pay $10k a year (a princely sum at the time). But since we all knew it was ESL, the Chinese kids got graded on whether they could write in English while the rest of us got graded on whether we could print a slide out of Powerpoint that looked good on an overhead projector (PROTIP: if you used an inkjet, you lost a letter grade).

Now? Now I have to take drawing for my jewelry certificate. Know what we spent 20 minutes on Wednesday? Cropping. How to make an image smaller and more focused by eliminating the stuff from the frame that detracts from the subject. Theoretically, I'm supposed to be learning about the techniques of rendering an image in charcoal. Practically, we've spent three weeks on single-point vs. double-point perspective. "draw this silo from three different eyelines, have it on Monday."

Everyone else's lack of rigor does reflect on you. You don't get to learn important shit if the class has to focus on unimportant shit. I had to give a persuasive speech in both tech writing classes. Had it been intended for professionals we could have talked about rhetoric. Instead we spent a class period on not saying "uhm."

b_b  ·  308 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm in no way arguing that dumbing down of college is a positive development. Rather that since it's apparently a given at this point, that it creates opportunities to differentiate oneself in new (sometimes easier) ways (of course that doesn't apply at all to vocational learning where specific skills and not signaling are what you're after). Sort of like dating these days. Nobody asks anyone on a date anymore, so if you're the one guy who calls a girl on the phone with your actual speaking voice and says, "Will you go on a date with me", she's probably going to say yes. More complicated in school and the work place, but same idea. If I have any advice to give to young people it's (a) be the one person who asks people out on real dates (figuratively and literally) and (b) read everything. I don't actually know if that's good advice, but it's how I live and I do well by it.

kleinbl00  ·  308 days ago  ·  link  ·  


You're talking about signaling without understanding signaling. You're espousing your own baseline as the one true baseline. Knock it back a notch: when you were a kid, you'd work up your nerve to call a girl on the phone. "The phone" is your baseline. Was "the phone" your parents' baseline? I'll bet it wasn't. I'll bet asking in person was the baseline, or passing a note. Asking on the phone was quite possibly sloppy. Were your grandparents old enough to ask the girl's parents if you could take her out? How would that go over with your parents? How would it go over with you? My wife was asked out via letter when she was in high school. Perfectly acceptable in what? The 1930s? It made the dude a dangerous deviant in my wife's eyes and rightly so. He's ignoring the registers of communication and going straight from "casual discussion" to "papal bull."

It's possible cell phones were a thing by the time you graduated from high school. You may have known a few friends who had them. But I reckon you also grew up with answering machines. And aside from phone calls, notes in class and in person, you had three different ways to flirt. Now? Your channels include

- snapchat

- facebook

- instagram

- text

- phone

- face to face

...and shit, dude, I'm older than you. I'm probably missing half a dozen. But I also know that I communicate with people in their 20s differently than people in their 40s differently than people in their 60s and none of them appreciate mixing it up.

And who are you signaling to, anyway? "I wish to strive, give me extra knowledge!" might interest a professor for a little while. It will certainly signal to everyone around you that you're a brown-nosing sonofabitch. That professor? You're done with them in 12 weeks. Those classmates? That's your dating and friend pool. It's not an automatic decision.

Not a week goes by my art teacher doesn't apologize to me for the elementary bullshit we're doing. But not a lesson goes by that we don't do a bunch of elementary bullshit. I have no doubts that if it weren't a 100-level course, we might be doing different stuff. But I'm stuck in exactly the same inertial glidepath as the girl who asked today "so what's the ratio between the circle's circumference and its diameter?" ("3.14") "Precisely?" ("well, no, precisely pi") "every time?"

Every time, babe. Every time.

galen  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Hole in your logic, hombre.

    you're surrounded by the children of the 1%

That is, children of the economic 1%. Old money.

    The problem with higher ed is that it aims at mediocrity, by definition not the 1%

The economic 1% =/= the educational 1%. Yes, higher education aims at mediocrity. But these people "who did just enough in high school to get into a reputable college and is now doing just enough to get the degree that will get them the job they're after, but who lacks any concept of intellectual curiosity"? That's 99% of the economic elite too. But as for why, you're right on. It's structural. Which is why I said: please stop pressuring these people to come to college.

I don't want to spend all my time with other German studies majors. That'd be horribly boring. I want to spend my time with other people who understand the importance of their own education enough to give a shit.

b_b  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  

There is definitely not a hole in my logic. First off, there aren't enough children of the 1% to make a difference to anyone. Second, "old money" 1% is a far smaller part of the population than the 1% generally. Third, you clearly don't spend a lot of time with a diverse mix of rich people. I do (even though I am not one of them). The "economic 1%", as you term it, are on average far smarter than the average for the rest of the country. Your sense of superiority is misplaced. I'm the last person to argue for "meritocracy" as conceived by certain rich people, but those people are not the ones who are dumbing down your classes.

galen  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  

All I'm saying: you claimed that the economic 1% are "by definition" not intellectually mediocre. That's straight-up false.

I've met plenty of rich kids-- old and new money, thanks--who are just as intellectually vacuous as your stereotypical ASU student. As for the kids of the 1% being too few to make a difference? First of all, they're influential by virtue of their socioeconomic position, not by virtue of raw numbers. And second of all, my only claim was that they're indicative of a wider societal pressure, which you also identified and criticized.

b_b  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You're trying to turn an education problem into a class war problem. Not everything is a class war, even though that's en vogue in certain circles right now.

You are reading what you wanted to believe I wrote, and not what I actually wrote. 1% by definition are a small segment of the population.

galen  ·  312 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You're projecting.

I never claimed that the 1% are the problem. I claimed that at my university, the children of the 1% exemplify a problem that runs through our entire society. I don't read class war anywhere in that claim.

What you actually wrote:

    it aims at mediocrity, by definition not the 1%

If my understanding of English syntax is correct, your relative sentence "by definition not the 1%" refers back to the antecedent, "mediocrity."