University as the Beginning of Education

I suppose I, a lowly sophomore, have no right to write or lecture to anyone about the university experience. I’m a solid +2 years away from heading off to college, don’t have a professor (at least a tenured one) parent, or even live in Ames. But like all Ames students, I’ve felt the pressure that is put on us to consider a college education an absolute nececity. From birth (more correctly, sixth grade) it’s been fostered on us the notion that a college degree is the essential step to success at life. Once more, not any college degree will do-just an elite public school or highly selective private one will really set us on course to our dreams. I’m not going to be naive and suggest that an elite education isn’t an excellent thing and can be a gateway to great things-far from it. But there are things lacking with the mindset many students have. The first is that a college education is notr the end for education. Putting aside that a large chunk of life in college is devoted to the more hedonistic acts, the stated reason for going to college is for learning. But let’s not forget that education is a continuing process, and that a degree is just a start. Keep this in mind. Especially via the internet, self-study is very very easy. Classes from MIT, UC Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, and many more are offerred online in various forms and on different subjects. God knows, they’ve kept my interest in learning alive throughout the low points of high school. William Deresiewicz (himself an Ivy Leaguer), writing in the remarkably pretentious The American Scholar, described the issues with an elite education as the following: “ The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you. Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous. “ Further, he writes that: “ The second disadvantage, implicit in what I’ve been saying, is that an elite education inculcates a false sense of self-worth. Getting to an elite college, being at an elite college, and going on from an elite college—all involve numerical rankings: SAT, GPA, GRE. You learn to think of yourself in terms of those numbers. They come to signify not only your fate, but your identity; not only your identity, but your value .” So, to the seniors who are trekking off to Amherst, Berkeley, Michigan, and to the rest of you (Adam Hanson, you finally matter), keep the faith and remember why you are going to a college to begin with.