By Amirah Ahmad
It was only the other day when I asked myself the rather epistemological question: Is college really necessary?
When applying for colleges during my senior year, I thought college was simply another step in the process of life. First came elementary school , then middle school, high school, and finally college. I firmly believed college was the only option for me, and I thought it was the best decision I could make at the time.
After several eye-opening classes, professors, and stimulating discussions, I’ve realized that college may certainly be one of the biggest mistakes 18-year-olds can make.
The first of many drawbacks to modern-day college is the astronomical cost. Since 1980, American college tuition has risen about 75.7%. What’s more, the average student debt after graduation is $33,000. Is education this expensive even worth it? Putting an outrageous price tag on higher education is absurd, since it immediately deters low-income, struggling families from considering college. Even for the middle-class and upper-middle-class, paying college tuition is no easy feat . All of us college students are aware of the incredibly high price of our education, which puts many of us under unnecessary stress to do well. Additionally, these high costs have transformed college. Rather than being a haven for enlightenment, truth-seeking, and self-discovery, college is an investment.
Today, college is a transaction between the student and the school. Recently, my professor asked the entire class of about 100 people whether we feel like students or customers at our university. About three people raised their hands for feeling like a customer. However, I have no doubt that many of us, including myself, were too scared to admit the truth: students are merely customers.
By no means am I invalidating college in general. College in its most natural form is a magnificent idea. It’s a place that fosters intellectual thought, deep discussions, questioning of societal ideals and norms, and more. Today, however, fierce competition, business-minded executives, and money have contaminated the very idea of college in America.
When I mention the issue of business-minded executives, I am referring to the prominent leaders and contributors of various colleges that are more concerned with business and wealth than the genuine advancement of the institution. Take the example of Mitchell Daniels, president of Purdue University . Prior to this position, Mr. Daniels was the Governor of Indiana, the CEO of the Hudson Institute, and President of the North American Pharmaceutical Operations of Eli Lilly and Company. Does this man sound like an academic to you? Should he be trusted with managing an education institution when he’s been so involved with professions in business and politics, professions that are obsessed with gaining favor and profit?
Recently, there has also been backlash against the billionaire Koch brothers that have been donating to colleges and universities across America, and allegedly influencing the curriculum. It is said the Koch brothers donate to colleges and universities with liberal faculty and patrons in order to counteract the left-leaning biases. Through their donations, the Koch brothers are indirectly preaching pro-business civics to American college students.
This absolutely sickens me.
It is unnerving to find out that money and business have taken over colleges and universities. The fact that such vice has an influence on college curriculum tarnishes my faith in humanity.
Competition between colleges has also created an atmosphere of constant construction, artificial improvement, and rising costs. It seems like colleges and universities are enhancing their aesthetic appeal more than they are hiring more qualified professors and obtaining more resources for student learning and research. For example, Texas Tech has a lazy river, in which students simply drift atop the water in tubes. It is 645 feet long and cost a total of $8.4 million. University of California at Berkeley offers to its students a skate park, rope course, and even water sports like kayaking and sailing. Every college essentially tries to outdo the other with luxuries students do not ask for or need. These amenities do not contribute to a student’s education and are hiking up college costs unnecessarily.
An easy solution to the problems I’ve listed is to skip college entirely, to refuse to pay into the system that is poisoning the sacred action of learning. The problem is that it’s not as easy as that. Society is structured in such a way that a college isn’t an option. It’s required. There are few employers that would consider hiring an individual without at least a college degree. There’s always the option of inventing something revolutionary and starting a business, but the risk associated with such an action can often be exponentially higher than the reward.
If society hadn’t dictated college was essential for future success, I would have dropped out a long time ago. The information available on the Internet suffices for an entire college education. Furthermore, travelling and experiences like internships and fellowships can replace modern-day college education. In fact, I could argue that these experiences surpass college education in numerous ways.
Although I’ve spent a considerable amount of time and thought dissecting the issues that pervade modern-day college education, I realize the benefits of college. The networking experiences, the amazing professors, and the stimulating discussions make college worthwhile. The people I have met and the organizations I have been involved in are incredible experiences. Had I not gone to college, I’m not sure if I would have landed my summer internships and fellowships.
Therefore, I am suggesting a modification and not a transformation of college. First of all, patrons and donors of colleges must never have the ability to influence the curriculum being taught. Presidents of colleges and universities must only care about the wellbeing of the students and faculty and the preservation of education at their institution; moreover, they mustn’t be business people looking to enhance the reputation or overall wealth of their respective college.
Lastly, and most simply, we must remember what college is and why we have it. College is a place to instill critical thinking, analysis, doubt, and inspiration in the minds of our nation’s young people. College should be the home of new thought. Only after we realize the true merits of college can we begin to preserve its integrity.
1. epistemological: 认识论的。
2. elementary school: 小学。
3. stimulating: 激励的，刺激的。
4. drawback: 缺点；astronomical: 极大的，天文数字的。
5. tuition: 学费。
6. outrageous: 无法容忍的，令人吃惊的；price tag: 价签；absurd: 荒谬的；deter: 阻止；struggling: 穷苦不堪的。
7. no easy feat: 绝非轻而易举。
8. haven: 天堂；enlightenment: 启迪。
9. transaction: 交易。
10. by no means: 决不，并未；invalidate: 证明……错误，使站不住脚。
11. magnificent: 宏大的。
12. foster: 培养；ideal: 理想；norm: 规范。
13. fierce: 激烈的；business-minded: 商业头脑的；contaminate: 污染，损害。
14. 当我论及有生意头脑的主管这个问题时，我指的是各个大学里有头有脸的领导和捐助人，比起学校真正的进步，他们更在乎生意和财富。prominent: 杰出的；genuine: 真正的；advancement: 进步。
15. Purdue University: 普渡大学，美国的一所世界级名校，被誉为“美国航空航天之母”。
16. prior to: 在……之前；Governor: 州长；Indiana: 美国印第安纳州；pharmaceutical: 制药的。
17. 任他如此跻身于商业与政治领域，醉心于获得好处和利益的行业，还能信任他去管理一个教育机构吗？be obsessed with: 醉心于。
18. backlash: 强烈反对；Koch brothers: 科赫兄弟，美国石油产业大亨，旗下的企业集团以石油、能源、化工产业为主；donate to: 捐赠；allegedly: 据说；curriculum: 课程。
19. liberal: 自由派的；faculty: 教员；patron: 资助人；counteract: 抵消；left-leaning: 左倾的； bias: 偏见。
20. preach: 灌输，鼓吹；pro-business: 支持（自家）生意的；civics: 公民教育。
21. sicken: 使厌恶。
22. unnerving: 使人紧张不安的；take over: 掌控。
23. vice: 道德败坏，堕落；tarnish: 玷污；humanity: 人性。
24. atmosphere: 氛围；constant: 经常的；artificial: 人造的。
25. 看起来，比起招揽更多合格的教授和为学生学习和研究争取更多的资源，学院和大学更倾向于美化自己的吸引力。aesthetic: 美学的，审美的；qualified: 合格的。
26. Texs Tech: 得克萨斯理工大学；lazy river: 懒人河，漂流河；drift: 漂流；atop: 在……上；tube: 内胎。
27. University of California at Berkeley: 加州大学伯克利分校；kayaking: 皮划艇。
28. outdo: 超过。
29. amenity: 设施；hike up: 上涨。
30. sacred: 神圣的。
31. 还是总有条发明革新、自起炉灶的路，但这一举措所带来的风险往往大于回报数倍。exponentially: 成指数地。
32. dictate: 规定，要求；drop out: 退学。
33. suffice: 足够，使满足。
34. internship: 实习职位；fellowship: （大学的）研究员职位。
35. surpass: 超过；numerous: 数不清的。
36. considerable: 相当大的；dissect: 仔细分析；pervade: 遍布，渗透。
37. modification: 改良。
38. 大学校长必须只关心机构中学生和教员的福利，以及教育的维护；另外，他们绝不能是着眼扩大自家名声和总体财富的生意人。preservation: 维护；respective: 各自的。
39. instill: 灌输；critical thinking: 批判性思维。
40. merit: 价值，优点；integrity: 诚信，正直。