PoetGrant's Press

Inside the Mind of PoetGrant

Education and Productivity

May 15, 2019 — Grant Ford

I am 30 years old. I went to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature with several minors and multiple studied in languages and linguistics. It has done a lot to improve my ability to reason and understand concepts. The study of language and literature has been an important part of my life and has shaped how I see the world. However, and yes there is a major however here, all of my studies have not helped me achieve any sort of financial security in the world.

I am not here to say that something is wrong with the world because I can't support myself with my University degree. When you go to the root of the issue, you will find that it isn't a societal problem that an English degree doesn't pay well, it is a problem of Supply and Demand. There is an overwhelming supply of English graduates in the world and not enough demand for such students of literature and language. When I chose to major in a language and literature path, I was not considering the ability to gain employment afterwards, even though that is the sole purpose of higher education. I was looped into the delusion that it didn't matter what I studied, as long as I completed the coursework and gained the paper that says that I am smart enough to finish at a private university with rigorous coursework. That is a bad conception of education, but I didn't know that at the time.

In graduate school, I eventually took a Literary Theory course, in which we discussed the purpose of our department and how we hold any significance to the university. It was then that I realized that my studies were a sham and a drain on the funds of the university. The only way the head of our department could legitimize the growth of his department was to say that we need to publish papers and make advances in literary theory. His explanation didn't interest me as much because it sparked a thought in my mind. How sustainable is a field of study that doesn't produce anything of value? Sure, it is fun and helps to explore the wanderings of the human spirit. However, millions of dollars go into this department and produce graduates that are unable to gain employment. That isn't a sustainable model at all. A few weeks later I cancelled my application to continue study the next semester and began studying on my own time and for free. That is what led me into another vein of thought.

When I began studying on my own, I started to work through a set of Old Norse primer books that I had purchased a few years earlier and used them to help me translate Icelandic poems into English. I also studied Python at this time and began to realize the power of computer languages. I also began using Udemy for some other computer based studies. In addition, I began translating some Old High German poetry into English in order to better understand the evolution of the German language. Why do I tell you all of these things? Perhaps you think I am flexing my abilities and propping up my own ego? Perhaps, but this devulsion of skills is an attempt to show my dear reader that I was able to learn all of the things that I would have learned at university for something like $3500 per course. I did it for free. I maybe spent $200 on books and discovered the wide world of EPUBs for learning and my book bill became immeasurably less.

So what was it that I was paying for at university? The teachers were substandard, though that may have been due to it being a state school. The required books excluded many sources and reference material and were geared toward selling more of the professor's material and ideas. Because of my experience and abstractions from my time at university, I have discovered that a Bachelor's of Arts at the university is a complete waste of time. In today's world, it is much less expensive and more productive to study the arts on one's own time. The cost of higher education should be an investment in a person's future. Since university is so expensive, it wouldn't make any sense to invest in something that promises nothing in return.

Community College

So this is a hard transition, but here we go.

Since graduation from university I have remembered back to a time before I decided to go to university. The last three years of my highschool career I was at a community college. Highschool was not very engaging and my parent's looked into a private school, but it was more expensive than community college, so they looked there to see if there was a way to get me in there. Luckily in Kentucky, WKCTCS allowed highschool students to use their courses in place of highschool and allowed those course to go towards a degree of some sort. So I started there.

Now, I think community college would have been a vastly better investment of my time and money since it would have resulted in employment. Perhaps I would have never encountered the beauty of the German and Scandinavian languages and the stories and histories behing the languages. But I beg to differ a little with my own assessment. I have always been interested in language. When I was in highschool I already began to learn German on my own since my school didn't offer it. I read and re-read Tolkien's essays on Beowulf and other medieval manuscripts. So perhaps I would still have encountered everything, but at the same time I would have graduated with a degree in something useful.

Community Colege has a goal to help people seek a higher level of employment. It has a goal to help people invest time and money wisely and in return the students pay them enough to help more popular departments grow. If career availability shrinks in one sector of the economy the community college will not likely have a large department in that sector. Community colleges must change with the markets so that they stay relevant and continue to survive.

As an added point of interest, good community colleges are decentralized in such a way that each individual college is geared to cater to their local community. That means, if your community has a need for Python programmers, your local college will have plenty of resources to cater to that. How do they keep up with this? Well, most community colleges (especially those that I experienced in Kentucky) have solid relationships with local businesses. Even small businesses can tap the college for graduates to help employ someone who doesn't need much training to start being productive for their business immediately. It is an efficient way to allocate human resources.

In contrast, University doesn't require that a degree adapt to demand. University has a loose relationship with employers. University is a monolithic institution that has a hard time adapting to economic changes. I therefore believe that a university education is quite inferior to a community college education.

So, perhaps with all of this praise for community colleges you must think that I plan on going back to college to get a certificate or degree that is useful? Maybe. I already have a decent job making decent money. I get vacation for the first time in my life and health insurance for the first time in my entire life. At this point it may be more of a setback for me, but I have been considering an adventure back into the college system. We'll see.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this little blurb.