Years ago, when I was living in New York, I played ice hockey. I was a decent player, but I had a problem making abrupt stops and tight turns. So to up my game, I decided to get skating lessons.
Getting skating lessons seemed easy enough. I lived in Long Beach, and literally five blocks from my condo was the Long Beach Arena—a hockey facility renowned for its leagues and skating instruction. And, as an added bonus, the arena had just acquired the services of a wicked good Russian instructor who immigrated to Brooklyn after the fall of communism. “This is going to be great,” I said to myself. “I’m going to wow my teammates next season.”
When I went to sign up for skating lessons, however, I was in for quite a shock. I entered the arena and saw a girl handing out rental skates. So I went over and asked her how one goes about signing up for skating lessons. She told me I had to speak to the admissions director. “Okay,” I said, “where is the admissions director?” She then pointed me to some lady sitting at a desk in an office next to the snack bar.
The admissions director was delighted that I wanted to improve my skating abilities. But before I could hit the ice, she informed me, I had to complete an application. She then handed me an application.
The application seemed simple enough at first, but then I noticed that I was required to submit an essay, a letter of recommendation, and a history of my community service. “Whoa,” I said to the admissions director, “are these requirements really necessary?” “Yes,” she retorted. “We need to make sure you’re serious about skating.”
Weird, I thought to myself. But that’s okay. I’ll write an essay about how I always dreamed of making the perfect hockey stop, get a recommendation from one of my teammates, and hope my years of picking up dead animals at my job will suffice for the community service requirement.
I then asked the admissions director how soon after I submitted my application could I expect to start taking lessons. “About six months to a year,” she answered. Six months to a year! Why? Was there a waiting list? Nope. No waiting list. The admissions director then explained to me that I couldn’t begin the lessons until I completed all the prerequisite classes. She then handed me a piece of paper outlining the prerequisites.
- History of Power Skating
- Sociology of Skating
- Math for Skaters
- Skating in Modern Cinema
- Frozen Modalities: The Intersection of Income Inequality and Zamboni Machine Operation
“Really?” I said to the admissions director. “I just want to take some freakin’ skating lessons. Why are you making this so hard?”
The admissions director didn’t answer me. She just looked at me rather sadly and said, “You’re obviously not serious about skating, Mr. Groovy. I think you should go somewhere else for lessons.”
The above story obviously didn’t happen. I went down to the Long Beach Arena and signed up for 10 skating lessons. And while I didn’t exactly wow my teammates when the next season came around, my skating abilities were measurably better (thank you, Russian instructor).
But what if I didn’t want to become a supreme skater? What if I wanted to become an accountant, or a nurse, or a Ruby on Rails programmer? The above nonsense, assuming I turned to college for instruction, would be all too real.
And I don’t get it. I have a degree in journalism. Of the forty classes I took to get that credential, maybe a third pertained to writing and journalism. The rest were bullsh*t.
Why are we making the acquisition of skills so hard? Why are we forcing people to buy more schooling than is necessary?
The current business model of higher education sucks the big one. And if you don’t think so, just imagine if you had a choice. You could get the same credential (a vaunted college degree) by taking forty classes or by taking just the twelve or fifteen classes that pertained to your major. Would you take the bullsh*t classes if you didn’t have to? Would you advise your son or daughter to go for the full college experience and take all those bullsh*t classes?
Higher education fancies itself as the linchpin of civilization. It’s not. It’s glorified trade school. And the sooner we recognize this, the better we’ll be.
It’s time to humble the college-industrial complex. Allow students to un-bundle the college experience. Americans need skills. They don’t need professor-led navel-gazing and massive amounts of debt.
Okay, groovy freedomists. There’s my rant for the week. Have a great weekend.