'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
IS COLLEGE WORTH IT?
I had a discussion about college with a couple of co-workers the other day. Their kids are still young, but knowing that my eldest daughter is away at college, they asked me about the cost of sending a child to school. I refused to offer an answer until they each put some coins in my tin cup. And that’s only because my daughter goes to the state university. If she was enrolled in a private college, I would not have been begging for spare change. I would have been out in the parking lot stealing the stereos from their cars.
My co-workers’ jaws hit the floor when I chronicled all the expenses involved, even when I repeatedly pointed out that the cost of a state school nowadays is considered to be a bargain. “It’s upwards of three times that amount,” I said, “when a kid goes to a fancy private school, such as Yale or Harvard or Biker Bob’s Institute of Creative Tattoo Art.”
Our discussion then shifted to a different question: Is a college education really worth it?
“Everything I know about the business world,” one co-worker explained, “I learned in the business world. Sure, I received a business degree, but I didn’t really learn anything useful in college, except how to tap a keg of beer and how to sleep late.”
“I don’t think you needed to learn how to sleep late,” my other co-worker said.
“Good point,” came the reply. “I was born with that special talent.”
We kicked around the topic for a while, and decided that a college education is probably useful if a person is planning to enter a specific skilled profession, for example, heart surgery. We came to this conclusion when it was noted: “Do you want the first time a doctor ever sees the inside of a person to be when he has to replace your clogged arteries?” which was quickly followed by an imagined operating room monologue… “Eww! It’s so gross in there! Nurse, what’s that thing? Should I just slice it off? What?! Oh, so that’s what a lung looks like. Well, I dunno. Just stitch him back up and send him the bill. I’m sure he’ll heal on his own.”
“Yeah,” it was decided, “doctors should definitely go to college.”
So except for people who plan to be heart surgeons (and people who plan to be creative tattoo artists), we agreed that higher education is a complete waste of time and money. Our discussion even devolved to the point where we were making the case that a college education was not only useless, but actually harmful.
“I had a pretty good work ethic when I graduated from high school,” someone said (who might have been me, but I’d rather not say). “But after four years of college, where I slept ‘til noon everyday, spent no more than three hours per day on classes and studying, and partied like I was auditioning for a role in the movie ‘Animal House,’ my work ethic was shot. It’s taken me over 20 years to get back to the point I was at in high school.”
“Hmm, I guess you weren’t too motivated in high school,” someone else observed (possibly in response to me, but I’d rather not say).
It’s obvious our views of a college education were a bit jaded because we are now the people who are—or soon will be—writing the tuition checks. We realized we were being somewhat extreme, and decided that overall, college is a good thing…if the child really wants to go, and if the parents can afford it.
After a slight pause, one co-worker said hopefully, “Maybe I’ll get lucky. Maybe my son won’t want to go to college. Maybe he’ll get a job right out of high school. Maybe we’ll hire him here and he can work with us. You know, most of his teachers say he’s a classic under-achiever.”
“Great!” we all agreed. “He’ll fit right in.”
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