Dude, I’m just here to get an “education”
What can I say? We live in difficult times and, in classic Chicken Little fashion, everyone’s screaming, “the sky is falling!” People running here and there, sending their resumes and CVs everywhere, and I’m just here trying to make mom and dad proud.
Perhaps especially because we’re the microcosm of politics and partisanship that we are, AU falls prey to the ever present nationwide issue of universities and colleges becoming workforce factories. The modern college experience hyper-emphasizes the millennial struggle to “do everything smarter and better than the last generation.” And that sucks.
There was a time when college was about finding a future, not pre-planning it. You go to classes that, theoretically, inform and impress the knowledge required to make something of yourself. You get cultured and you grow as a person, taking those experiences with you to improve the new spaces you occupy rather than merely existing in them. These days, it’s just immature man-children populating office spaces. What happened?
People who’ve failed to escape classroom environments where conventions dominate thought now populate offices where they’re expected to not just perform but innovate and contribute. And they can’t. Because people like this have never learned how to be people, only how to perform tasks in a vacuum, getting them hired and fired to oblivion. It’s scary and boring. I can only think, “This is nothing like what my parents said college would be like.”
My father never fails to remind me how awesome college was for him: late-night shenanigans with life-long friends and auditing classes just to see my mom. Y’know, the kind of stuff popular media depicts the college experience to be like. And that’s really what my dad always said, “college is an experience.”
Now I know someone’s ready to hit the comment section, “College isn’t just about having new and fun experiences! That’s no longer a privilege college kids have! We have to work extra hard now, so don’t invalidate the hardships and struggle of first gens and low-income students!” Hold your horses, partner. I was gettin’ to that.
College isn’t just a factory for “future leaders”. It’s a place of learning; all kinds of learning. Whether I’m popping tunes on my radio show or spreading awareness about intersectional social issues, I’m learning to recognize this wonderful freedom to become someone better than the me of yesterday. Someone who is more me than yesterday. And this person is better suited for a world that may or may not give a damn about how many internships I’ve had on Capitol Hill. I know it.
As we enter this coming semester (and year) with hope in our hearts and soon-to-be pizza in our stomachs, I sincerely urge students, faculty, and anyone else reading this, to pump the brakes and take a few detours. Who knows? You might find another path more appealing.
Tyler Lin is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and a columnist for The Eagle.