Cartoon Captures a Snapshot about the Failings of Higher Education
Chan Lowe created a portrait of Higher Education in the United States “The American Undergrad’s Prayer.” (I am repeating the prayer here, just in case they pull the cartoon from this blog)
“O, Lord! Please protect me from campus killing rampages so that I amy earn my worthless degree and drown in student debt forever and ever, AMEN.”
This creative soul has captured the tragic feelings of many lost undergraduates in our country.
Lowe Has a Narrow View of Higher Education
As I have mentioned in an earlier blog, I grew up just outside of the now war-torn Detroit, Michigan when the “Big Three” automakers were responsible for the economic growth and well-being of millions of people. Almost everyone I knew worked for one of the Three or a factory that supplied parts and more to the Three. One of my cousins designed automobiles, an uncle worked on designing and testing tires, and an uncle-friend built plants for GM.
I knew that General Motors had an institute where I could learn to be an engineer. But I wanted more out of life than to work on a factory floor like my mother and father and many aunts and uncles. I had been around the making of cars my whole life, but I wanted to see life outside of an engine magazine and a transmission on the floor of a garage.
I was privileged to come from a family of working poor and knew that I could survive on very little. I did not go to college to study something that would guarantee a job. I knew I could find a job to support myself at any plant around the corner.
And here is where I think Lowe makes a huge mistake. Money is not everything in life. There are a lot of other values that propel people to attend college.
I wanted a challenge and began studying languages with different scripts. I wanted to travel. I wanted to write. I wanted to understand world politics and social issues. I wanted to help others to understand each other and the peoples on the planet. I wanted to be involved in life in a different way. And, even after retiring, I am studying music. It is adding a wonderful dimension to my life.
Worthless Degree. Life is more than a Job
No degree is worthless. If you have studied well, you have learned how to read and write and communicate with the rest of the world. These are basic skills that undergrads lack. Many of my students could not spell, write a good sentence, reason critically, and were extremely lazy and undisciplined. They could not understand what was being offered to them, so they threw the time in college away.
I often worked three jobs in order to pay for my college. Rarely could anyone borrow money to go to college back in the 1960’s. So you either had to get a grand scholarship, come from a well-to-do family, or work your way through school. College students should be required to work when they attend college. It would help them with time-management and, perhaps, with their negative view of the future.
Most everyone I knew thought that my degree was worthless. I have a PhD in Hebrew and Greek. But, I had a tremendous career with many different job opportunities, traveled the world, and created many, many books, lectured on cruise ships, gave academic papers at national conferences, and more. You learn to turn your degree into many interesting pursuits. How do you know that the skill you are learning is going to be relevant when you graduate. Liberal Arts skills are always relevant and will help you to re-create your future.
If you want to go to college just to get a “job” then don’t go to college. Find a nice program somewhere that gives you the skills you need to get into the job market.
I finished a Certificate in Web Design and learned how to create Websites recently. It only took a couple of semesters, not four years, and I could be hired as a designer today at a good salary. Study one programming language that is in vogue, and you will be given offers by several companies. But you will have missed what I think is the the heart of education, which is the Liberal Arts that connects with history, people, poetry, great literature, art, music, theatre, religious studies, and more.
Violence on Campus
At my previous university only one student and one professor were murdered during my tenure. This does not compare with what has happened on other campuses, but both of those killings should have never happened.
I stopped teaching in the classroom about 8-10 years before I retired and developed classes online. They protected me from abusive, manipulative, and violent students. It did not stop them from emailing and calling me a “motherfu…”
I had one student place a gun on my desk demanding a better grade. I had five Middle Eastern students attempt to bribe me for a better grade. Several offered me free sex. One student stood outside my office swearing and walking back and forth threatening me. Another female clenched her fist in my face after she received a grade she did not like. There is so much more that I could list here.
And students are allowed to act out such behavior because university bureaucrats don’t want to lose one student. That would hurt their student-credit-hours and cash that they would lose to fund their own private parties and trips. Students know they are “used” and they resent every minute of it.
Students are Lost
Students don’t know what they want today. They can’t see their own future and this is the despair that is reflected in the cartoon. They are so wrapped up in their phones, their games, their sport’s teams and parties, that they don’t have time to think about the importance of those wonderful classes in which they are enrolled.
And the top officials of universities are in the same bucket. They are wrapped up in their own careers, and salaries, and influence, to the detriment of our students.
They are also lost, and so they lead the students into a bitter darkness reflected in this cartoon.
I may write another blog on this cartoon that addresses even more of the cancer that I have experienced on campuses.
My apologies for being away from the desk since August. I have had five surgeries and been floating around Colorado for three weeks. Several people have asked me to begin writing again. This was a good day, because it is my last surgery, and there was time.
Talk to you soon. As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.