Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What's my degree for again?

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.

He shouts "school is just an advanced form of toilet training! That's what school is! And taking an examination is just like taking a shit! That's what it's like! You know you gather it all in and gather it all in and you wait for the right moment when your fucking professor tells ya 'this is the moment' and then the moment comes along, you been conditioned and then you let it pour out, you just flush the toilet. All the shit comes out and boom it's over and you feel so good afterwards! It's got nothing to do with education."

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 Google. Use your mind – it can be a beautiful thing if you know how.

Stay classy, not UMassy


  1. You've got it right- you DO learn how to think in college, if you put in some effort.

    I wrote about 85% of my final History senior thesis the day before. Got an A. Spend the last two weeks drunk till graduation. You're smart to get it out of the way first semester.

  2. While I think this may be true for a lot of majors, it is not true for all of them. I am a med lab science major and I know for a fact that 95% of the stuff we learn is brought up in the real world and that we won't make it in the field without it.

  3. and if 74% of what you learn in college is bullshit, why don't you pay 74% of your tuition back to you parents who are footing the bill...how about a little perspective New Hampshirite? You get out what you put in.

  4. Don't agree with all of this, but I think you're major point is right - the way you learn to think in college does more for you than anything else. I think a lot of people miss that and get caught up in facts when learning to use your brain is what will make you a productive part of society.

  5. def. lost a lot of respect for you after this article. strongly disagree

  6. I agree with the previous commenter about it really depending on your major... but that being said thinking skills and the way I've learn to learn and learned to think are really important to me. I don't think enough students appreciate that fact.

  7. Anyone who says they use everything they learn in college is a total liar. It doesn't matter what your major is.

  8. It's who you know not what you know

  9. I usually try to stay above commenting, but this isn't working for me. You've brought up those protests a few times, and as a history major, I'd expect you to see the difference. People's LIVES were at stake during these riots. These Yippies not only seen the Kent State killings, but also Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F Kennedy assassinated back in '68. Correlating the Yippie movement to education is one thing, saying that we should have these types of protests almost belittles the original intent. By the way, two of the men you mention (Hoffman and Dellinger) hated college so much they went to grad school. Is it only ironic that Rubin - the dropout among them - is the one saying college is shit? By the way, there was an Occupy Durham - Did you go? There was a discussion led by Pres. Huddleston over Occupy Wall St. - Did you go? Today there was an MLK Summit info session - Did you go? There are plenty of opportunities for a collegian's voice to be heard at UNH without having to be inflammatory like Hoffman, Dellinger, et al. That's what I've learned at UNH: I can be civil and intelligent while still getting a strong, clear message across. The next time you end up spouting off at the mouth about the Chicago 7 (8), remember those people risked their lives for that cause, are you willing to risk yours for "state funding" and "admin/union fights"? Also, the only reason more weren't killed at Kent State is because a PROFESSOR begged the students to diperse, otherwise, who knows how much bloodshed would have been spilt. And that's the kind of thing you want at UNH?

  10. I think a lot of you didn't realize what he was actually saying and are hating on him because you clearly misinterpreted. Its quite plain that he is saying college is not hard for a lot of majors and because of that he was able to do work the night before easily and get good grades for it, therefore doing what most of kids at college would call "bullshitting" work. He is not saying at all that he doesn't appreciate college! I think some of you were pretty harsh.

  11. College is all what you make it. Some people learn a lot. Some people drink a lot. The best students can do both.