[Originally published in the Long Beach Union (student paper at Long Beach State), in my bi-weekly column called...]
Another Useless Column
Recently I was informed by a rather boisterous individual on campus that I’m going to hell. I’m so relieved to have that situation resolved.
Despite my inevitable damnation, I continue my education. Why? There seems no contingency for avoiding fire and brimstone by flashing a bachelor’s degree at the time of death. But maybe there’s part of the Bible that addresses education that doesn’t get much attention.
Clearly, something pertaining to this mortal coil drives this quest for knowledge. (Okay, that presumes I’m learning anything here; as I near the end of my collegiate journey, I do wonder how much I would have just figured out on my own, for thousands less.)
Preparation for a career? I think not. This isn’t a trade school, it’s a university (says so in the name; I checked). Sure, the law of averages states that some people will acquire skills or knowledge her germane to how they earn a living. But no classes are offered in looking busy in a cubicle, or carrying heavy trays of food (well, we’ve already got that down), so I must conclude the focus of the university is somewhere else.
Like all institutions—prison, for instance—this place primarily prepares a person for the environment of the institution.
At least criminals have the sense to commit more crimes after release, so they can return to a place where they fit in. College students emerge from academia and have to acclimate to a world where being able to identify the finer points of abstract expressionism counts much less than being able to get a jammed piece of paper out of the copier.
Professors are the exception. They never had to leave. Were it not for administrators making their lives difficult, they’d be eternally blissful.
So if it’s not the score points with the Guy Upstairs or get a job, what does that leave? Advanced studies in sociology—er, socializing. Yes, getting dates! Meeting interesting people, or at least people who are interesting after several beers. It’s all kind of a big singles bar with midterms.
Is learning worthwhile as an end unto itself? Will the experiences afforded me at this university have benefits in ways that cannot be fully articulated but are nonetheless valuable? Is my dog getting enough cheese in its diet?
The sad thing is this: I bet when I get to hell, life will not have prepared me for it. Not that it should.