To Degree or Not to Degree: A Rant

(NOTE: Yes I appreciate the irony of this post immediately following one about critical thinking and argumentation. I said this was a rant, and I meant it.)

So I’m watching a stream today. I LOVE this stream. The person who does it is one of my favorite people on the planet. He’s smart, funny, kind, generous, etc. Today he said something on his stream which sparked a conversation with his more than 300 viewers that upset me. Now granted, he didn’t say it to be offensive, and he isn’t feeling well, but the conversation bothered me. A lot.

Let me start by saying that I have told my daughter numerous times that she doesn’t have to go to college if she doesn’t have to. I realize that in a time where people are convinced that the smartest and most successful go to college this is not a normal thing to say. However, I think it is important that she follow her dreams, loves what she does, and doesn’t let the creativity get smooshed out of her. The below video is my favorite TED Talk describing and speaking to exactly what I mean (Thank you, Ken Robinson. You’re an inspiration).

apple vs orangesThat being said. THAT BEING SAID… just because there are those who are educators, academics, therapists, doctors, and others our society considers “the most educated”, who get things wrong, are socially awkward, or like to one-up everyone, doesn’t mean that ALL of us are like that. Yes, D is for degree, so you don’t have to pay a ton of attention to get a piece of paper, nor do you have to learn all that much. Yes, there are tons of people who get degrees and then go work at Taco Bell for the rest of their lives. Yes, there are people who pay tons of money for 30+ years after school getting a degree in something they HATE cause their parents expected them to. And on and on. But in this conversation I saw people effectively defecate on education as a whole; the higher the degree the harder they raged against it. Only one other person bothered to say that he went to school for himself and he loved it… that social smarts and common sense are not the same as book smarts. I absolutely agree.

My opinion, which I expressed in chat but which I’m sure no one saw (hence my frustrated post here) is that a degree is not always just a piece of paper, just as those who do not have degrees are not always idiots. But, by ripping on those who have chosen academics as their path, regardless of the reason, these people are lowering themselves to the place those that degrade them live. You are no better. It is a choice. There is no “right” choice. There is only a “right for you” choice. People without degrees one-up others too. People without degrees can, and will, correct a statement with an inaccurate remark that is maddening. So what you’re effectively telling me is that if I have a degree, I can’t be human? Isn’t that the attitude you’re fighting? I’m not perfect, but I’m not claiming to be.

All I’m saying is I LOVE learning. I am STOKED to get my PhD because it will allow me to do the thing I want to do; teach graduate school. And WHY do I want to teach graduate school? To avoid, as much as possible, those who do not WANT to be in school. Here, the atmosphere is peaceful, we disagree without contempt (for the most part), and while we have the assholes who make everyone furious with their pompous nature, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE. And I’m okay with that. I like a little bit of pompous with my cereal.

Also, to the one in chat who said that he ragequit college because his English teacher told him that ’empirical evidence’ is NOT just something you can observe with your five senses, she’s right. Good grief.

2 comments on “To Degree or Not to Degree: A Rant

  1. I think we live in a really interesting turning point in academic history. With the advent of the internet and proliferation of information, more than ever the intellectual playing field is being levelled. When once you had to have an advanced degree or PhD to separate yourself from the crowd, now its just as easy to be a highschool drop-out with a good idea and a youtube channel, and you can be successful. I guess its more about how you choose to absorb infomation and what you plan to do with it right? i’m a huge advocate for education, and more so education specifically tailored to the individual, rather than the old way of educating en masse. I can see where some people would have a problem with the old model, and not want to go through a rigorous education process just to collect debt and learn a little more than what they could learn from 100hrs on Wikipedia. School still makes sense for practical application, and hard sciences, and things where you can’t possibly figure it out online or order stuff off ebay and tinker. I’m surely not going to trust someone with “chemistry experience” unless they have a degree as well! But I’m sure thre are tons of dotcom millionaires with web 2.0 businesses and kickstarter campaigns that will never see the inside of a college and be just fine.

    I think the best part of your post is when you said, getting a degree or an advanced degree like we are striving for is the “right choice for me”. To each their own. However I have very low toerance for ignorance, and worse ignorance for the sake of laziness. If you reel against educational institutions, but you teach yourself by some other means, and you can find answers when you need them fine. But if you reel because you don’t like standardized tests or being learned how to talk good… I have no sympathy. Ignorant or lazy intellects (a la, reality TV celebrities… I’m talking to you, parents of Honey Boo-Boo) make me insane. But I digress.. Thank you for letting me blog inside your blog… lol.

    I have the perfect solution for education by the way.. stop giving out degrees all together. Stop forcing people into grade levels for social development. May from the ages of 5-12, fine. But instead, why doesnt everyone get an avatar, and experience points and instead of graduating from grade to grade, why don’t we level up?? Move at your own pace and absorb information that you care about. Have certain prereqs for levels, so you can’t become a Lvl 50 finger painter, which is useless in life… but make it so those kids who are gifted in technology can focus on computers or electronics, rather than forcing them to take Home Economics and Physical Education. Same with the artists, programmers, mathemiticans, etc. Let them level up and find their own path! I think we would diversify and expand alot faster if we did. Besides the world is going to have 1 giant super computer like in Star Trek in 20 years anyway. Anything you want to know you will simply just ask into the air and wait for the answer. Hell, we have Siri already. How far away is the omnicient version? Personally I think I would be a Lvl 50 Wizard armed with gaming and media production skills and a +10 sneaking… but thats me.

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