Monday, April 4, 2011

Original Ideas: No Vacancy

College is dead.

This revelation came to me just this evening during a talk with my writing professor. We were discussing an essay I had written about how and why capitalism and the media had become the principle driving forces behind sports, and how they’ve changed sports. One of the parts of it that I loved the most was a piece about current Orlando Magic point guard Gilbert Arenas that illustrated a key point of my argument, that athletes have been so remarkably changed by money and media time.

For those who don’t know about Mr. Arenas allow me to enlighten you. He is probably the strangest man in the NBA today. He plays poker on a computer part-time. He once traded a pair of shoes for 50,000 All-Star game votes that he cast for himself over a one month time period. Arenas made a free throw ritual just so little kids would copy it. And he owns a hyperbolic tent, a contraption that simulates high altitude oxygen levels by sucking the oxygen out of the air. All of this is strange because Arenas chooses to share it in a world were NBA stars are not supposed to be strange or remotely controversial.

The reason I bring this up is that my professor had issues with me bringing it into my argument because it was subjective and thus not arguable. At the same time, I’m supposed to come up with an original argument that hasn’t been seen before. On one hand I’m forced to conform to what has already been argued, keeping in line with what has already been said while being tugged by forces that say, “NO. You have to keep it original,” by coming up with something of your own. This is a no win situation, but more importantly it’s the reason why college is dead.

No one wants you to come up with your own ideas. Yes, you’ll hear stories about how some undergrad student testified before Congress for migrant workers’ rights or something similar, but colleges really can’t take credit for it. Colleges will say that innovation by their students is one of the most important things they want to accomplish, but colleges don’t structure themselves to foster independent thinking since learning in college is so much like high school. The teacher tells you facts, you commit them to memory, you regurgitate them onto a piece of paper, you get good grades, and the school gets funding. This is a cycle of bullshit that I thought would end in college. This is not the case. The first test I ever took in my first year of college was multiple choice, the ultimate embodiment of remember-and-repeat schooling. The vast majority of learning is rigidly structured. There’s no imagination when it comes to schooling like this, no chance for the mind to grow outside of the box that your curriculum sets for you.

Should I be that surprised though? After all, colleges are institutions with bureaucracies, red tape, and everything else that comes with being a monolith of American society. College has become a process, a business that over time has become set in its ways and patterns. The only place where the truly free and independent college student exists is in the naïve fantasy of high school seniors leaving for college, fresh-faced and bright-eyed.

So yeah. College is dead.

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