Smithsonian magazine talks about a report that the US is only in the middle of world-countries in math and science—especially women.
The US Department of Education starts a campaign to encourage more female participation in those areas. They make T-shirts: SCIENCE—IT’S A GIRL THING. The campaign fails miserably.
Meanwhile, students find themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt—student loans that will never be paid off. Why? So they can go to college and earn a degree to get “a good job” so they can earn enough money to pay off their student loans. Most will not.
The Economist reports:
The cost of university per student has risen by almost five times the rate of inflation since 1983, making it less affordable and increasing the amount of debt a student must take on. Between 2001 and 2010 the cost of a university education soared from 23% of median annual earnings to 38%; in consequence, debt per student has doubled in the past 15 years. Two-thirds of graduates now take out loans. Those who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2011 graduated with an average of $26,000 in debt, according to the Project on Student Debt, a non-profit group.
At those prices, who can afford to waste money studying USELESS subjects such as art or language? No math unless it’s accounting. No science unless it teaches you how to fiddle chemicals into something a drug company can patent for big bucks. Anything else is useless. It won’t get you a job.
What is USELESS, anyway?
In 2013, useless means not putting money in someone else’s pocket. Useless means not consuming. Art is useless unless you sell it. Music is useless unless you create PRODUCT. Music is even tangential to music. Ask any band on tour—the big money-maker is the T-shirts. Nobody buys records. Nobody buys music.
Liberals push for university for all, so even the poor will have a chance to be educated…and get good jobs… and contribute to society (AKA General Motors, Walmart, Citibank, Million Dollar Real Estate).
Conservatives want students to pay their own way. Borrow from the bank. Enrich Citibank before they can even start working for them. Standing on your own two feet, they call it.
FLASHBACK: It’s 1988, September. Classes are just starting. It’s my first day learning Gilyak. In the world, there are about 500 speakers of that language. I’m gonna learn it. This isn’t a speaking class, though. It’s a grammar class. We learn about the structure of Gilyak, how the grammar relates to the phonemes. Like in Mongolian and Finnish, they have vowel harmony. But unlike those two, the harmony isn’t in the front or back of the vowels. It’s in the height of the tongue position. We’re lucky enough to have the world’s leading expert on Gilyak teaching the course.
BANG! The HAND OF THE PRESENT reaches back in time. Slaps me on the back of the head.
“Yo Mykel,” says the VOICE OF THE PRESENT, “what the fuck are you gonna do with Gilyak?”
“Yo PRESENT,” I say, “why do I have to DO anything? Why can’t I just learn something interesting? Just LIKE learning it…even if I forget it next year. Why can’t I enjoy finding out stuff for itself? Learning is fun.”
“Because,” says the VOICE OF THE PRESENT, “you have to live in society. You’re going to college for a purpose. You’ve got a life ahead of you…you’re less than a third of the way through. How will this contribute to your future? How will Gilyak make you a better member of society? Get a job? Be productive? What GOOD is it? You’d better plan for your future rather than waste your time with fuckin’ Gilyak.”
FLASH TO NOW: It’s my niece’s college graduation. She’s got a BA in marketing. She aced the class How to Do Business on the Golf Course. I shit you not.
I’ve taken the train to Delaware to attend graduation ceremonies. I stay at a Holiday Inn right near the university.
I have a few minutes to explore town before pre-graduation dinner.
I make sure I have the stupid little keycard, close the door, and head down the hall toward the elevator. I’m in room 44—easy to remember: Reggie Jackson’s number. The door to room 42 is not quite shut. As I pass it, I stop and listen. The sound of panting comes from inside. I nudge the door open with my foot, trying to be as quiet as possible.
Yep, there on the bed, an attractive young man rests a computer on his naked stomach. He’s reaching behind the machine to stroke his short but alluring stubbiness. I watch quietly as my own short but alluring stubbiness hardens.
As in every piece of imperfect timing, at this point the door squeaks.
“What the fuck?” he says, quickly putting himself together.
I recognize the VOICE. It’s the VOICE OF THE PRESENT.
“Hey,” I tell him, “I know you.”
“What the fuck?” he repeats.
“You were jerking off,” I tell him. “Just lying in bed jerking off.”
“So?” he asks. “Like you don’t jerk off?”
“But what’s the purpose?” I ask him. “How will this contribute to your future life? How will this make you a better member of society? Get a job? Be productive? What GOOD is jerking off?”
Universities used to be places of learning. You’d study things that were absolutely useless in the job sense. You’d learn art, philosophy, interpreting Egyptian Hieroglyphics. At Columbia College, I took a course in the History of Violence and Pornography. (I aced that one.) Universities were places of agitation, socialization, give and take, pranks, and interracial drug-taking.
Now, most classes are given through the Internet. Jerking off at home, rather than having REAL SEX. But jerking off with a purpose: to earn a degree, get ahead in life, get a job, contribute to society. AHHHRGH!
If you want to learn math because numbers are the most fascinating artificial construct, fine! It’s not much different from learning Gilyak. If you want to learn math because AT&T needs number crunchers or because the US Army needs to better direct its killer drones, not fine.
If you study to get a “good job,” you are wasting your time. Not only your time now, but your future time. And you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to convince yourself that owning THINGS…having an SUV or an Internet TV with 453 food channels…is a valid substitute for actually living.
What is it with HAVING A JOB? Why do we care what you can DO with that? How long before universities stop all of the Gilyak classes and instead offer Creative Accounting for Hiding Business Profit 101?
OK. In today’s American society, you NEED a job. You also need to regularly take a shit. But do you really have to go to college for either? And should your life be a vague goal of a “good job” (oxymoronic)? Or should you be LIVING NOW, enjoying knowledge for itself…feeling the bliss of each fart as it escapes into the atmosphere?
Yeah, you work because you have to. But that is neither a goal nor the a reason to study.
Besides, is ANY job better than the real freedom of NOT WORKING?
Instead of men asking for the right to stay home and take care of the kids…or just shop…women demand EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK. Huh? How ’bout the right NOT TO WORK? What kind of life is it when all your time is work? For what?
In the old days, women stayed home, did some shopping, cooking, cared for the kids when they weren’t in school, watched TV, read books, took day classes. They led real lives while their stupid husbands crowded into stupid cars or commuter trains to earn a sliver of the money they were making for someone else.
Now women want EQUALITY IN THE WORKFORCE. Why? Equality to what?
How ’bout forcing the idiots who WANT to spend their lives EARNING MONEY…those who live for greed…for riches…to pay for the rest of us?
Instead of creating a society where MORE women are entering the workforce…where MORE women are in executive positions…using their math or science to make money…why not create one where MORE men (and women) LEAVE the workforce… ang out at home…have a personal relationship with their kids? NO BREAD-WINNERS, because the bread shouldn’t have to be won. It should be there for the eating.
In Scandinavia, where people are happiest with their lives, it’s easy to get welfare. The rich pay up to 90% income taxes and they still live well. In America, life is hell, the rich are the Devil, and you get no more protest than people demanding to burn equally.
The right to work? What about the right to learn? The right to adventure? The right to jerk off at your leisure? In China, people jump out of windows from the strain of building iPhones so you can instantly notify your friends of a cute-boy spotting. Is that your RIGHT? Is it right?
Is it worth giving your life to some corporate monster with MAYBE two days a week where you’re not a slave—to report a CUTE BOY? I don’t think so.
We’re asking the wrong questions. It’s analogous to gay marriage.
In that case, instead of asking, “Why do people have to get married at all?” or “Why does the government intrude in the marriage business?” or “Why does marriage give rights that being single doesn’t give?” homos ask, “Why can’t GAYS get married too?” AHHHRGH!
People should ask: “Since most work is dangerous, environmentally destructive, soul-destroying, useless, why do people have to WORK at all?” or “If women traditionally stay home, prepare and LIVE life, why can’t men do the same?” Instead, they ask, “Why can’t women earn the same money as men for the same work?” AHHHRGH!
Instead of asking, “Is Gilyak an Indo-European language, or is it related to Mongolian…or maybe an isolate, like Basque?”
People ask, “Hey, I got this new nose-hair counting app on my cellphone. You want a link to it?”
Add your own AHHHRGH! here.