Friday, September 09, 2005

B.A. IS A JOKE: One of my favorite commentators, John Emerson, invaded this Crooked Timber thread (via Henley) about how the emphasis on higher education may be limiting social mobility, and linked to his own piece, Forget the BA, which I--a person with a creative writing bachelor's--heartily endorse. Zizka's right--become culturally aware on your own time. Use your education, university-based or no, to get a J-O-B.

I love this passage:

Some years back a sociologist friend of mine told me about a study of why people went to college. None of the reasons given (economic, cultural, etc.) quite explained what was happening. There were too many exceptions, and no matter how you cut it, some students ended up going to college for no apparent reason. His conclusion was that going to college after high school is an "institution" -- like marriage for example. And one of the definitions of "institutions" is that you don't have to give any reason for them except that "everyone does it".

So is Zizka a know-nothing? Not at all. I spend most of my time studying liberal-arts-type stuff on my own. It's my substitute for TV. Books are one of the least expensive forms of entertainment, and if you've got a halfway decent library in town, books are free.

There is really only one sacrifice you'll have to make if you read all the time: if you do that, you can forget about being normal. People will regard you with suspicion. More successful people will fear you because you're smarter than they are and are suspected of having a bad attitude. Self-made men and bitter, unsuccessful people will despise you as a failure. Slackers will avoid you because you're too serious and think too much. So you basically have to give up on all normal human relationships, but given today's baseline for normal human relationships, you may come out ahead on this.

And if you ever happen to be invited into the home of a successful liberal arts graduate, you will have the pleasure of seeing their college books gathering dust on their shelves while they talk to you about their real estate, their hot tub and their yacht.

I would only quibble that, thanks to Netflix, movies are pretty cheap these days too. Not cheaper than free, of course. And the sacrifice of all one's normal human relationships should not be done recklessly either (and I'm not really endorsing that part, more his explanation of the worthlessness of the contemporary liberal arts B.A.)

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