Why I Left College

“It’s not like…” tends to be the way I begin my writing. That and “It’s almost as if…” which I think is a sign that I’m losing my mind and the creativity that has been core to who I am. I’m not one of those people who blindly accepts facts because someone in authority says them. Authority is notoriously overrated, and frankly, I like to find out about things on my own. Which is why college was such a tremendous pain in the ass, and why I left early. Well, partly.

Recently there has been a bit of a brouhaha about Ward Churchill who is a complete moron with tenure. Apparently, some people think this is a new thing. For a more complete read on this topic, start here. Once again, it’s Dahlia Lithwick proving that she should be heading up a school, and I would be the first to apply. I might possibly be the first to be expelled, too.

I find it interesting that the article pushes aside the bigger complaint about colleges in that there are morons who enforce the status quo on the campus, which tends to be a liberal bias with a decidedly conformist bent, to the extent that they expect college campuses to really be a group of individuals who all think alike.

I did not get along with many of my professors. I was combative, antagonistic, hard-headed and bright. I’ve managed to keep all of those traits through 15 years in the corporate world, however I can’t imagine that I’ve kept them at the same levels. I used to be upset when someone told me a truth without letting me figure out. I’ve got better things to do now, like figure out a way to make the truth unimportant. Always fun for the Christians of the world, to be sure.

I like puzzles, but I’m sure that the puzzles that I like are the ones that upset the apple cart for most everyone around me. Such is life, folks, change is the only constant, and I happen to enjoy it.

I’ve learned many things about myself since leaving school, and in many ways, I think people like me lose more in school than we gain. In the 11 years since college, I’ve found that I can think critically and not have to remember dates of wars or the cosine of anything. I can analyze a process and decide if it’s a good thing or needs change, and can apply my mind to finding out how to make things better. All good puzzles are just that – finding a better way.

And a better way for schools has to be found. A friend is writing a book showing how his schooling is taking away his mind, and I happen to agree with the premise and I even, bless my liberal thinking, think he’s right about the reasons – even though the reasons are the liberal foolishness that takes away the ability to truly create.

There is no passion on campus outside a mob.
This is the basic problem with college when I was there, and I suspect it’s always been the problem for people like me, is that it’s about conformity and regurgitation. And while I’d like to use this as an excuse for why I didn’t get a degree, the truth is, I just don’t believe in one. Every person that I’ve met who has a degree is using about 1% of what they learned in school and 99% of their own thinking, creativity, passion and beliefs. They got the degree because they are reasonable people who understand that having a degree gives you a leg up in the world, but doesn’t give you a free ride. Even scientists who have doctorates in whatever it is they chose, had to take a few undergrad courses that, if nothing else, wasted their time. In some cases, those other courses were so far from what they wanted in college, I’m sure it knocked a few points off their IQ for a year or two. I’ve met a few of these people, and I share their angst, minor though it may be when viewed through the lens of years.

My life-ride has been less than easy, and I’ve gone places I’ve never expected, done amazing and amazingly stupid things. I pride myself on not putting up with much B.S., and frankly, those slips of papers from colleges and universities are just pretty ways of saying “Yes, I can put up with some level of bullshit from you, you should hire me.” and that’s not me. Not at all.

And now we have a college that schedules a speech by another college’s faculty and finds itself at the center of hate mail and death threats because of the idiocy of the schools. Not the school that hired Churchill, nor the school that scheduled the speech, but all the schools in the nation that churn out graduates at an ever-expanding rate without ever teaching them to think.

There was a time in this nation when people read the newspaper for news. There was a time in this nation when the teacher could discipline the student and make them pay attention or get out of the class so that others could learn. At least, I think there was, but I have no proof.

However, it’s not too late to teach kids to think. I’m much better at thinking than memorizing, although I have a pretty weird memory, which comes from my mother. Playing Trivial Pursuit with her was a good way to see just how much useless and esoteric minutia was retained by our gray matter, and the amount was usually staggering. But that’s because we both learned in school that learning wasn’t important, just memorize the B.S. and call it a day.

And be sure to go along with the crowd, it’s easier for all concerned.

However, my best memories of school are of in class debates that were few and far between because of the blood pressure generated by the dumb kids. I’d constantly take the unpopular side, and growing up and realizing that I’m queer, this does make some sense. I’m usually on the outside of any topic.

But the bullies and popular kids would have to defend themselves from me and a few other kids. We had the ability to think, create, and deduce. We could follow an argument to it’s logical-yet-disturbing conclusion to stop the other side from ‘winning’ because they were locked into the dogma. We were our teachers’ prides-and-nightmares all rolled into soft cotton t-shirts and raggedy jeans. I was just generally a nightmare for them, however, because I lacked a filter to stop me from saying what I thought. I still lack that filter, and now my vocabulary includes more vicious and dangerous words. Which is always fun.

But again, those days when we got to prove that we could think were few and far between. They were the real treats at school, although having a day when gym was cancelled was a close second, as being both fat and queer didn’t lead to a positive gym experience, even with the showers.

I think it’s very sad that Bill Gates thinks that we need more international programming students in order for this country to survive. What he’s really saying is that U.S. schools don’t teach our kids, so we have to import our future. It’s sad. And why do American students choose ‘easier’ courses away from the sciences? Because they are easier. All those courses require is that you regurgitate facts and remember it all – there is not much thinking involved, and very little creativity. And science is very hard to learn if you’ve never been taught to think.