Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Wed, 16 Aug 1995

Not a good day yesterday. I was sitting in the student union savoring a cold Coke and sucking on a Tootsie Pop and dreading having to emulate a Mad Englishman and go out into the noon day sun that was creating a heat factor of 124 degrees! A student, an eighteen year od whom I had in one of my first year classes, came over to say goodbye. I looked up at him.

"Goodbye?" I asked. "There's still a week and a half to go in summer school. I'll see you around."

"No you won't." he replied. "I'm dropping all my classes today."

The look I gave him must have made him feel like explaining. He said something like, "I know. We talked a lot about me leaving school to take this job. And I thought a lot about what we talked about. But, I came to school to get a good paying job. What's what everyone I heard says college is for, and I just got offered one that one we talked about one last time. It's take or leave it, now or never. It has a good future. Maybe I'll go back, but right now no one but you has really talked to me why I should go to college and think about whether I should get a degree or take this this job. I know this won't be the only job, but it's one I want. And, they'll train me on the job and send me to their own school. Don't worry I'll remember the lessons from our class: people, not things."

"Well," I said knowing that all had been said months ago. "Then, if you're sure, go with it. Don't look back, and be the best manager they ever have had. But, don't stop learning."

I wished him luck, and told him to keep in touch. With a wave of his hand, he turned and walked out to become a manager of a store in a national auto parts chain where he had been working since he was fourteen.

I don't know if he understood that he asked a heck of question: why go to college? We talked about it alot when he was in my class during the winter quarter.

Why go to college? To get a job? To be taught what is needed to know to succeed in a particular career? A good reason. The problem I have with that is that so much of the preparation provided by those professional courses will be dated almost before the students leave campus and the job markets probably will have changed.

Why go to college? To soak up information? You don't need college for that. You need an encyclopedia, a library, and a computer. And again, you probably are cramming your brains with job-oriented information that will soon be dated.

Why go to college? To learn how to think, how to concentrate, how to solve problems, how to perceive problems, and above all, how to ask questions? That's better, but to what end. It's one thing to ingest and quite another to digest.

You don't go to college merely to soak up information; you don't go to college merely to prepare for this professional world or that one; and you don't go to college merely to get thinking skills. You go to college for all that--and more. You go to college to grow and change and develop morally and ethically as a person. You go to college to become socially conscious. You go to colleage to help you perform the roles beyond the workplace. You go to college to learn how to learn on you own and become your own teacher so that courses and credentials become irrelevant. You go to college to find, appreciate, and respect your unique, genuine, and independent voice. You go to college to acquire a connectedness with others, to hear and respect the unique, authentic, and autonomous voices of others; you go to college to prepare to live in the world. If a student doesn't see or is taught to see much beyond a mass of information and technique crammed into the brain, if his or her understanding of an education isn't broadened beyond a GPA; if his or her vision isn't raised above a diploma, his or her college experience, then, is indeed a waste of all those hours and all those dollar signs. But, I'm not sure college has a monoply on the way a person can walk to acquire these understandings and visions. At least, not the way so many of us inside the ivory tower and so many outside it so emphasize the singular vocational and informational the purpose of a college education.

Have a good one.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
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