We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, February 17. 2013
McArdle: Before you send in that application . .
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Basically correct and useful. I average around 120 students per semester [usually about 25 grads] and the number of jrs/srs who still don't know what they want to do is just staggering. Plus even though our total student costs are relatively low, too many seem to be accumulating 50K+ debt.
The dropouts of course fare even worse. I would heartily second working for a year after HS, learn to read, write, and do math better [many of our post-grad employers make this point to us over and over and over], find a professor/mentor [I always seem to have a half dozen or so, but too many students never interact with me except in the classroom], and do some undergrad research.
Don't borrow a doggone dime that isn't absolutely essential. Live cheap. No matter what some of my colleagues [way too darn many], good jobs aren't out there waiting for anyone who didn't seriously apply themselves and actually learn something useful, and even those who did may have a hard time landing a good job.
Pay attention to the world outside your little "post-adolescent bubble". Ah, well.
The recommendation to not get a Ph.D. undermines the entire premise of how universities (supposedly) teach. From 10th grade on, our education system is organized to produce the end product, the Ph.D. Of course, most don't make that and for the longest didn't even try choosing rather to cut their losses and find useful work outside academia.
I've long found Paul Graham's view of the weaknesses in the university, especially, the English classes, to be spot on. The university isn't useless it just lingers on the wrong things and terribly damages writing by forcing students to write about literature, for which they are singularly ill-equipped, instead of real topics for which they can use real knowledge. (Instead of playing academic without the requisite research work). Students aren't stupid and see they are being given make work just when their internal focus is on learning useful skills. So they tune out and produce but apply no effort to learning how to play professor.
High schools imitate universities. The seeds of our miserable high school experiences were sown in 1892, when the National Education Association "formally recommended that literature and composition be unified in the high school course."  The 'riting component of the 3 Rs then morphed into English, with the bizarre consequence that high school students now had to write about English literature-- to write, without even realizing it, imitations of whatever English professors had been publishing in their journals a few decades before.
I've done the analysis of whether getting a PhD made sense. Of course there were lots of assumptions.
In the end, even being optimistic w/ what I could get w/ just a BS, I think I've done better w/ the PhD. But the time and stress had other costs.
That was then. These days, I don't know. Probably best choice would have been an engineering degree.
What I can tell you for certain about doctorate degrees is this: DO NOT go to a weekend college. I call them beach front universities, they usually call themselves 'institutes'. The majority of these frauds usually focus on behavioral studies of some sort. You know what I am talking about--spend five days at the private retreat, then go home and work for a term, come back for a weekend retreat, go home and work for a term, come back for a weekend retreat, etc., etc.
These 'institutes' usually advertise an appeal to your unique one of a kind special self. YOU are different, therefore you shouldn't go to a traditional school, yada da, yada, da. HOWEVER, what everyone in the academic world knows to be true is this: these are places that people with average academic records go to get a paper to hang on the wall. We all know that these places do not demand the rigor that a traditional on campus doctorate requires in terms of research, rigor, and quality. I know BD and the Barrister would like to believe that these beach front schools are just as good--but the fact is by the time you are old enough to pursue a doctorate you either have a GREAT academic record or you do not. If you do not then you will not become a great scholar, or intellect at one of these knock off joints. The only thing you will be doing is helping to make the mortgage payment for some private entity to purchase a nice chunk of real estate. I call them beach front so as to clarify the process. However, some these 'institutes' are house in fanatastic manors in the best part of town. I have even seen them offered from dude ranches. Kumbaya and campfires do not equal academic rigor. If you REALLY want to be a scholar go back and do the hard part. Get a master's degree at real university with an international reputation for work in your field of interest. If you can't get into that program, get into one that is close to it at the same school. Then after you have shown that you can master the skills pertinent to your field, then apply for the doctorate at that school.
I would like my HS sophomore to take a year off between HS and college. I think it will help him focus on his college studies once he learns how hard it is to make a living.
I don't think the wife will go along with the skipping out of school for a year thing.
JKB, we are right now struggling with the English lit essay. He has to write about The Scarlet Letter. I went off and read the Paul Graham essay you linked. Very good stuff. Thank you.
Get your wife reading the "crippling college debt and no job" articles that are everywhere these days. Don't expect her to come 'round after one article. Did you?
I have a brother who is an unemployed college theater professor. He made a good living as a lighting designer but wanted the academic cachet and life. His whole life is now ruined - has worked only intermittently for four years - though he is an intelligent, talented person who merely followed a stupid dream.
Faculty wife - not all for-profits are beachfronts.
The water of college costs gradually boiled and the frog died. It's not the same as 1970.
The year off does have some risk. I worked since I was 12 and in the formal economy starting at 16 (restaurant kitchen). My first years in college, I worked in a toy store. They wanted me to enter the "management" program. My manager, however, gave me good advice to stay in college. The money looks good to an 18 yr old but it isn't long term.
As it was, I stayed in school but did move from engineering to physics which made finding a job more difficult. I would have loved to have take some classical liberal arts classes but the few still offered weren't conveniently scheduled for those not pursuing BAs. I didn't give much thought to a BA since I was poor and needed to find useful work. In the early '80s, one needed to study useful subjects if you were poor. Who knew Reagan would get the economy going again?
As an aside, my manager had been seeing a girl at Kent State when he was my age. I forget the reason he happened not to be on campus during the shootings, but he mention had he been shot he would have been listed as an external instigator.
The Kent State incident was a more complex thing then "the shootings". There was a violent mob which would have been called terrorists today. There were thug leaders pushing the students to burn and destroy. There were, dare I say, communist influencing the riots. The governor made a mistake and called out the guard. They weren't even a full time unit and would have need training to go into a actual theater of war. (No offense to the guard but this was not the guard of today that rotates into actual duty and is made up of people who actually wanted to be in the military. This was remnants of a draft dodging guard that hoped to avoid any military action.) The rioting mob, which outnumbered the guard, was better organized (did I mention the outside communist agitators) kept pushing the guard into a corner and was threatening to overrun them. For those unaware of military tactics when you are overrun the enemy kills you even using your own guns agaiunst you. The situation the governor put these untrained troops in was dire and the young inexpreienced officer in charge was justifiably worried when someone in the crowd of rioters fired a gun. The reaction of the guard, while regretable, was understandable and predictable. they didn't have riot shields or tear gas, they didn't even have riot helmet and night sticks, they had one thing and that was their rifles and when the young officer said fire they did. It was a sad event for everyone including those citizen soldiers placed in an awkward and dangerous situation beyond their control. But no worries, the media dressed it up as planned and made it appear the entire problem was the government attacking innocent students and for most people today that remains the belief. Who were those communist agitators? Where were Plivens and Ayers and some of those other agitators that day? We will never know because the MSM showed no interest in finding out who the student leaders were and who was behind the curtains.
#7JKB I think it is the right choice to stay in school once you are enrolled -- I've seen people take a year or a term out and be successful, but it is always harder when your cohort moves on without you and you re-enter later.
But the year out for gainful employment between HS and Uni is a different beast, after which more study is the start of something new rather than the picking-back-up of something left behind.
I find that students who have spent time working and interacting with real adults have a much better handle on what's important than those whose interactions are largely within their own age cohort.
Oh, and I agree that the McArdle article is spot on.
Douglas2 B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Cohort? I went to class, went to work, studied and went to sleep. College wasn't a party for me. It was a means to an end.
I suspect there are more like me. It seems many complaining about student debt are those who treated college as a social event rather than a means.
I was like you. That time was made me realize that college was being oversold...and that articial demand was raising prices for people like me...people who wanted a degree so they could pursue their aims.
Getting a degree just so you can manage a hotel, write for a newspaper, or study sociology is just nuts. Those jobs never required degrees before or provide no value for your tuition payments. They do however increase demand and bureaucracy at colleges/universities.
kollege was a necessary step towards the professional license, so I made sure it was a fun step. football on Autumn afternoons (marching to the Coliseum with the band to trash Notre Dame or UCLA, etc.), all the Animal House diversions, had a girl, car, pocket money from minor felonies, it was an idyllic life. I'd recommend it for anyone.