I’m not saying that going to a university will just make you stupid and therefore you shouldn’t go. You can learn a lot of invaluable information at college, and it will help you grow into a better person. A college education is so important that everyone should go for free. However, there are some massive design flaws in America’s current higher education system that cause many students to get dumber in certain ways even as they get smarter in others:
1: Standardized essays and regurgitated facts
During your college orientation you’ll be told that college will crack open your mind like an oyster and transform you from a mindless robot into an enlightened uber man. But the two most important skills you need to succeed at college are the ability to memorize a lot of information very quickly and write good formal essays.
Most of your college career will be spent reciting information like a parakeet, and even when your professors are psychotic and obviously wrong about something, you still have to give them the answers they want to hear or you won’t pass. You’ll also have to write formulaic essays in more than half your classes. These essays will require you to regurgitate information in a standardized, mind-numbingly formal process. Your professors will demand that you back up every statement you make by citing authoritative sources. While this is a valuable skill to learn, it doesn’t train you to think for yourself and formulate new ideas. It forces you to become a professional regurgitator and to value popular knowledge over independent thought. Forcing students to think like that for four to eight years straight can seriously stifle their creative potential.
The reason colleges give students so many tests and essays isn’t because that’s the best way to learn. That’s just the way it’s always been done, and not enough people have questioned that tradition. The reason tests and essays became the collegiate standard is because they’re cut and dry ways of quantifying student activity, which schools need to be able to do in order to prove to the government that they’re doing something. That’s the primary goal of for-profit colleges: reporting student output. That’s the bottom line. Colleges need to measure that you did something, because if they can do that, they can tick the right boxes on the right bureaucratic government forms that keep their profits flowing in. So they designed their curriculum according to their needs even though it wastes your precious time that you could be spending learning.
If you stay in college long enough to base your sense of self-worth on your academic achievements, you may find yourself defending the institution and its practices blindly too. If you grow up in a bureaucratic maze, you’re going to take it for granted that the world is one giant bureaucratic maze and the best way to succeed is to just accept it, don’t question your duties and give the person above you whatever they want. These are horrible life lessons our higher education system has taught to millions of people, and since college graduates end up becoming the leaders of the world, these are the values we’re instilling in the leaders of the world. It should come as no surprise that the world is such a high-stress, unforgiving, dog-eat-dog place.
2: Awe of rank
Schools tell you that you should address professors as “sir,” “ma’am” or “doctor” out of respect for their prestigious accomplishments. However, if you choose not to address them with a superior title you’ll be verbally reprimanded. So you’re not really “saluting” them out of respect, you’re doing it out of obedience.
It’s illogical to treat another human being like you’re a second-class citizen to them even if they did something with their life. They’re not going above and beyond the call of duty. They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. At any rate, one person’s success is not another person’s failure. Spending 8 years doing something doesn’t indebt strangers to kiss your ass. Nothing does. Demanding that other people treat you differently than they would anyone else is oppression. It might not be apartheid, but it’s still oppression.
If you can teach a person that they have to place another human being above them for any reason then you’ve made that person dumber. And when you indoctrinate an entire generation of young people to believe that their elders are one rank closer to God than them, you’ve set the stage for an entire generation to be manipulated and exploited.
Another negative consequence of convincing young people to be in awe of their elder’s rank is that young people will believe their elders’ teachings without question. Even though colleges say they don’t want this to happen, they go out of their way to idealize their professors’ authority.
Not only does worshiping rank close your mind, it also distorts your sense of self-worth. Every human being is equal. Period. Everyone is deserving of equal respect and love. And in the end, everyone’s shit stinks, and we all die. That’s reality. Indoctrinating young people to be in awe of man-made ranks teaches them to see themselves as second-class citizens. This is hurtful and disrespectful to them on a personal level, and on a larger scale, if you can convince an entire generation of humans to believe that the natural way of the world is for society to be divided into social classes in which the upper classes are treated like royalty and the lower classes are treated like children then you’ve set the stage to exploit generations of poor people.
Schools are going to keep enforcing the tradition of students subjugating themselves to their superiors because it helps the teachers control the classroom, and it makes schools look more prestigious when their faculty wears an aura of holiness around them.
3: Untrained/unaccountable professors
You may learn a lot in college, but possession of a college degree doesn’t make you a higher form of life worthy of a grander title. There are actually a lot of really, really stupid people who graduated college without learning very much. Some of those people got jobs as college professors. Some of those professors have learning disabilities and mental disorders. Some of them may be brilliant on paper but are woefully unsuited to command a classroom. Most professors have less training in formal education than K-12 teachers, and it shows. Sometimes even the most well-trained, competent professors will interject bizarre personal beliefs into their lectures.
I’m not saying all professors are stupid. If you go to four years of college you’ll find at least one that will inspire you and change your life, but I guarantee you’ll also have a few nut jobs who have no business being anywhere near a classroom. These teachers will teach you irrational bullshit that will make you dumber. Some of them will just teach you their entire life story. Some just won’t teach you anything. Either way, they’ll waste a semester of your life that you could have spent learning.
The cost of a higher education is oppressively expensive. It’s so inflated that it constitutes a glass ceiling to professional advancement for the poor. It’s still a major financial setback for those who can afford it, and for those who take out student loans, their debt is an inescapable source of stress and an ongoing strain on their finances.
The inflated cost of tuition causes poverty. It locks the poor in poverty and drags everyone else down closer to the poverty level. There’s a positive correlation between poverty and lowered mental abilities. In other words, poverty will make you dumber. Colleges are making the world dumber by being so expensive.
If you grow up in a capitalist bureaucracy where everything costs as much as possible, and you spend half a lifetime’s wages to go buy the credentials to unlock the glass ceiling, there’s a good chance you’ll just accept that kind of behavior as the status quo and end up defending the system despite the obvious damage it’s doing to society.
In addition to the long-term stress of paying off student debt, colleges also submit their students to intense intellectual stress while they’re attending classes. Colleges push you so hard that many students resort to using drugs like Ritalin and Adderall to keep up with the workload, because if they can’t keep up with their unreasonable workload then they’ll lose all the money they paid for those classes, and they’ll lose their chance at getting a golden ticket through the glass ceiling.
And there’s no mercy for the weak. It’s sink or swim in college. Growing up according to those values teaches you that if you can’t endure inhumane stress for long periods of time then you don’t deserve to have a good life. You’re a failure, and your worthlessness proves you deserve to spend the rest of your life scraping the bottom of the barrel. These aren’t the values of an enlightened society. These are the values of a greedy, selfish, oppressive, cut-throat dystopia.
No professional mental health expert would ever suggest that submitting young people to intense, prolonged stress is in any way good for them. That’s a recipe for mental health disorders. Some people crack under it completely and are scarred for life. They might still graduate, get a good job and be a productive member of society, but they’ll carry avoidable scars with them that will bleed into their lives in subtle, negative ways.
Colleges are for-profit businesses. Even public schools, which are supposed to be non-profit still try to make as much money as possible in order to grow and pay their executives more money. Sports are big business. So universities enthusiastically host and promote their own sports teams. You can tell how important sports are to colleges by how much they pay their coaching staff, which is often considerably more than they pay their teaching staff.
There are positive things to say about sports, but sports aren’t as important (let alone more important) than academics. The more time students spend carrying a ball back and forth between two lines the less time they spend learning about the world around them and the problems facing humanity.
If the college propaganda machine succeeds at convincing you that sports are so important that you should wear body paint, scream euphorically in the middle of a crowd and/or argue with people who like other sports teams then they have succeeded at manipulating your values for their own benefit. There are more important things going on in the world than sports. We should be screaming about poverty, income inequality, corruption, pollution and civil rights. The more colleges convince people that collegiate-level sporting events are important enough to devote time and money towards they’re distracting the world from issues that actually matter.
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- They’re giving away free superpowers on the internet
- The Alphabits analogy (Why it’s bad to be stupid)
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- Why you should have high intellectual standards
- Recommended intelligent books and videos
- We have never raised an entire generation of adults, ever
- The rising tide of vagrant intellectuals
Flaws in the Public Education System
- The glass ceiling of higher education
- It’s time to stop oppressing the academically disinclined
- We need to do more to help people get the job they’re suited for
- A modest proposal on the moral imperative of teacher accountability
- The quality of our leaders reflects the quality of our higher education system
Improving Public Education
- The entry I submitted to Google’s 10×100 contest
- 1 way to improve college education
- School and work should be fun, and they can be