Like a Pro: What's my degree for again?

By The New Hampshirite
On December 5, 2011


In a couple of months, I'll be sitting at my college graduation commencement with my graduating class.

We'll be sitting out on Memorial Field listening to someone talk about how it is our turn to make a difference in this world. They'll say something like "sure the economy isn't great right now, but you can still be successful. Be the change that you want. Make the world a better place."

A few months after that, I'll receive my degree in the mail and it will say "History." But what it should say is "bullsh*t."

One of my favorite musicians is the witty singer-songwriter Todd Snider. In his song "Statistician's Blues" he sings, "Seventy-four percent of what you learn in college is a bunch of bullsh*t you'll never need." I used to think that was the case more about high school, but sitting where I am today, I'd say Mr. Snider hit the nail on the head. And he didn't even have to go to college to know that. 

I'll admit I've spent some nights at the bar when I should have been in Dimond Library doing work, but I also know I've spent many nights in the library when I should have just gone to the bar. Is it a lack of motivation? Probably. But at the same time I can get away with it, and it's not because I am particularly smart either. 

A few weeks ago one of my professors went on a brief rant about the education system today. He's been around for a while and has experienced it from many different sides.

He quipped that the content of courses and the expectations and quality of work done by students and even professors has worsened over the years. A couple classes later, I handed in a 10-page rough draft of a research paper to him. When we sat down to discuss it, he said that I'm doing really well with it and he could tell I put a lot of time into the research and writing process. He even used my draft as an example to the class. I wrote the entire thing and did most of the research the day before I turned it in. Pot, kettle, black. 

If the education system really isn't what it used to be, who is to blame and how can it be improved? I don't really know, but I do know this: here at UNH (and probably at the majority of public schools in the country) it definitely relates with the school's budget. When schools are short on money, big, broad lectures become more common because those classes are cheaper and easier to run. This is exactly what President Huddleston complained about to Concord when the budget cuts were being discussed last year. Experienced professors are pressured into early retirement and lecturers who haven't become professors yet and who are much cheaper replace them. President Huddleston makes about 10 times more a year than the lowest salaried lecturers at UNH.

In May of 1970, three well-known protestors from Chicago appeared at UNH. The most famous among them was Abbie Hoffman. 

It was the day after the Kent State shootings, and the three men were originally scheduled to speak on the Vietnam War, but when the school's board of trustees tried to shut it down in fear of possible riots, their speeches became more focused on the freedom of speech and the university system.

One of Hoffman's partners, Jerry Rubin, stole the show. Due to vulgarity, I'll have to paraphrase (see the uncut version on the blog), but he basically compared taking an exam to using the bathroom. You gather it all in and when you take the exam you flush it out and never use it again. I think he had a pretty valid point.

After the rally, UNH went on strike, the last two weeks of classes became voluntary workshops and finals were cancelled. UNH denies the strike ever happened.

I think it is important to really examine everything you have learned in college and think about what is really important. You can know all the names and dates and formulas you want, but if you can't actually learn from them and apply them to life and critical thinking, then it doesn't matter at all.

The most important thing I've learned at UNH is how to think. I've learned to pay attention to the things around me – the news, politics and life in general. Names, dates and formulas are for the textbooks (now Google). Use your mind – it can be a beautiful thing if you know how.


Stay classy, not UMassy,

The New Hampshirite

By The New

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