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Published on June 27th, 2014 | by Richard Black

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A Brief Review of Household Toilet Habits Followed by Semi-Coherent Rant on the Value of Higher Education: Part Two

Before my last post jumped the tracks I believe I was attempting to make a point about the racket that is higher education in this day and age.

The fact is that not everyone needs to go to “college”. Trade schools these days get a bad rap (do people say ‘rap’ anymore?) and it’s a sad thing in my opinion. Apprenticeships too now that we’re out of the 1800’s and the practice doesn’t amount to seven years of indentured labor.

That said if you have a passion for 17th century French Poetry and a hundred grand to burn at the nearest liberal arts college of your choice go nuts. Just be prepared to obtain a Masters in the same field when it’s all said and done, a PhD shortly thereafter and then bounce around the lower 48 states for the next ten years in the hope that one of the three positions in your area of interest opens up.

Other than moving out of my parents home, drinking myself stupid every other day and trying to screw just about the anything that was relatively ambulatory the ostensible reason for obtaining a liberal arts degree was, and I quote, “because it teaches a young mind to question.”

I should note that this is precisely the sort of thing someone who hasn’t thought much about their future would cling to after blowing tens of thousands of dollars on four years of humping and substance abuse between the occasional class.

I graduated from a small liberal arts college with a degree in English Composition which is about as useful as a tea set in the Australian outback. If I were more forward thinking I could have majored in Computer Science, an up and coming field way back when, and enjoyed a lackluster career in consulting. If I were more logically inclined and plugged through the courses in Statistics and Economics I may have also joined a consulting firm but I wasn’t and I didn’t.

Upon graduation it turned out that there wasn’t a screaming demand for BA’s in English Composition and I’m fairly certain that prospects for the field haven’t improved over the past 20 years. Read “Madame Bovary” all you want or even “One Hundred Years of Solitude” but I haven’t found them to be all that helpful when trying to secure a job.

Sure my degree and three minors have come in handy every once in a while. It’s always nice to meet someone who’s actually read “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and pretend that I’m familiar with the work but it’s a dubious pleasure and one that’s few and far between. My extensive knowledge of the socio economic structure of 11th century Europe is always a show stopper at parties and I’m fairly certain that my understanding of Pre-Columbian art will most likely land me a management position at some point at a Taco Bell but until then I’m left to my own devices.

And just what those really are is a question for which I have no satisfactory answer.

I can do a lot of things these days, most of them at the same time and occasionally I can perform them passably well. Multitasking is really just a way to screw up many tasks at the same time; a fact I’m reminded of every time I take Darcy to the grocery store and a quote I’ve blatantly lifted from someone whom I’m too tired to google.

While I was whining about my prospects for work a few nights ago a friend mentioned that I had a number of skills, most of them relating to cooking and cleaning and the ability to give a crowd a hearty laugh once I’d consumed a few drinks. It was a nice gesture and one that I’m certain was heartfelt but until I find someone willing to fork over a few hundred grand for BBQ and Asian Fusion restaurant/laundromat with daycare service I’m out of luck.

Of course there are the intangible skills one gains from being a stay-at-home parent. Patience is one I hear of most often and an attribute I’m still trying to perfect. I’d always thought that having a child would make me a more understanding person and in many ways it has but only in regard to how impatient I really am and others tend to view me as a judgmental asshole.

I can now truly appreciate how difficult I was an an employee during my infrequent bouts of employment and I suppose that’s of some benefit although not one I see as being a selling point on a resume.

“Less of an asshole when my opinion differs from management” might get me a few laughs but not much in the way of interviews.

The fact is that at the age of 22 I graduated school without much in the way of skills be they tangible or not.  I had no understanding of how to balance a checkbook for example nor the ability (or patience) to comprehend the fine print on a rental agreement. I had difficulty making hard boiled eggs for fuck’s sake not to mention the large gaps in my ability to dine in polite company, personal grooming or how to turn down (or accept) an advance from one’s boss when invited into a threesome.

I still can’t balance a checkbook by the way but that’s neither here nor there.

Fortunately I have a solution because, after all, what’s the point of describing a problem without providing a solution?

At the very least I’d like to see colleges and universities require a few courses on reality.  One on grooming and dress would be on the top of my list but rudimentary math skills should probably play a part.  Etiquette regarding dining and the proper behavior when attending happy hours and strip clubs would be a must and there should be something about lowering your expectations when entering the workforce. Maybe a “hands on” semester pulling out cow anuses at the regional slaughterhouse.

These measures would still just a BandAid on the whole situation.

In my humble opinion I think that all institutions of higher learning should stop acting like a semi intellectual resort and more like a gulag. Instead of dumping countless millions of dollars into building luxury suites for the students I’d be in favor of a government mandate to devote the money earmarked for such into scholarships, grants, decent pay for non-tenured professors, and meaningful infrastructure.

Let the kiddies live in cinderblock rooms the way I did with two or three or four guys to a room.  Sure it was uncomfortable in the infrequent occasion one of us brought a girl home or one of us used the others’ towel and we all caught a virulent strain of jock itch but we were all there, ostensibly, to learn.

Gruel and bread would be served at every meal and all students would have as many stewed vegetables as they could eat. Protein would consist of largely tripe based dishes which is disgusting but just think about the cost savings and the ramifications?

Instead of having college be a another step in a process for the dubious promise of financial and job security and a life’s worth of debt, let’s bring higher education back to what it used to be; an institution for young adults who truly wish to learn and better themselves as well as society.

The idea makes me giddy and not just because the looming specter of my daughter’s education is a constant concern.

By the time Darcy is eligible for college four years in a private institution is projected to be something like a quarter of a million dollars and public education will go for about a hundred grand.

That’s a lot of money to teach my little girl how to drink and have awkward sexual encounters while she gets a BA in the nuances of the pre-industrial political structure of tribes in Vanuatu. I’m sure she’ll make the most of it and go on to get a doctorate in the field and spend the rest of her life on a tiny island in the Pacific when she’s not teaching at a community college somewhere in North Dakota.

Still I will have always hoped that she would have chosen a more lucrative endeavor like hedge fund management or a position in the janitorial services,  something with potential and a good 401k that would afford her with enough time and money to take care of her bankrupt parents once we’d blown our entire retirement on her education.


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