Why College Is Still The Right Choice

People have always debated the value of a college education. With the cost of attendance constantly on the rise, it is natural to wonder if the time, money and effort required to obtain a bachelor’s degree is really worth it. In the face of the Great Recession many insist that it is not. Citing to prospects of higher student loan debt with lower job opportunity it is an increasingly common belief that college is a waste of time and money. However, in focusing strictly on the economic issues associated with higher education, those who support this belief ignore the vast number of benefits conveyed by a college education, most of which are not reflected in its cost.

The latest iteration of the anti-college argument is advanced in Saying No To College by Alex Williams. See Alex Williams, Saying No To College, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/fashion/saying-no-to-college.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (Nov. 30, 2012). Focusing on those who found success in the recent app boom, Williams portrays those who dropped out of college as “swashbuckling” millennial “mavericks” who, following in the footsteps of geniuses like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg, found success only because they were liberated from the chains academia. This is not a new argument. The legend of the uneducated genius has persisted for a long time. Those bad at math (or tying their shoes) cling to the fact that Albert Einstein was himself a failure. Need a reason not to go high school? Well if Thomas Edison can invent the light bulb with only three months of formal education certainly there’s no need for 12 full years. Success stories abound, each case of mavricky uneducated triumph has one thing in common; these people were all exceptions, anomalies even, 1 out of several billon. Foregoing college is no guarantee that you will end up in the long line of triumphant truants. In fact it is much more likely the opposite will happen. That you will end up working a lower paying, low skilled job for which a degree is not required. To suggest otherwise is simply to focus only on the good statistics, an intellectually dishonest argument with no real traction.

The next problem with the argument in favor of foregoing college is that it ignores the fact that many of the unbatchelored idols it follows attended college while they developed the ideas that eventually made them successful. It was only once their ideas grew to the point where it was necessary to drop out that they made this decision. For example, it was at Harvard that Bill Gates found the time, resources, and people like Paul Allen, that were needed to start Microsoft.  Or where Mark Zuckerberg enlisted the help of his roommates to spread Facebook and turn it into something different from the other social networks available at the time. In both cases it was the university environment that help spawn their success. This should come as no surprise. Universities have long been hotbeds of innovation. Placing students, professors, and intellectuals from all different fields in one environment leads to great things. Downplaying the benefit of attending a university, even if it is just to develop the next great idea, is foolish at best.

Lastly, those who downplay the value of attending college improperly look only to the potential economic gain conferred by earning a degree while ignoring the intangible or non-quantifiable benefits derived from higher education. This kind of limited cost benefit analysis pairs the cost of attending college with the expected salary upon graduation and determines that, given the expected return on investment, college is a bad idea. There are other things that could prove much more lucrative that cost much less money. Williams identifies this mindset in Saying No To College as a feeling of “[w]hy should I load up on debt just to binge drink for four years when I could just create an app that nets me all the money I’ll ever need?” The answer is simple. First, let’s just point out it is extremely unlikely that you will create such an app. Second, college is more than just a time to consume copious amount of federal loan money and lite beer. It provides an intellectual foundation and period of growth many are unlikely to find elsewhere. There is a benefit to forcing students to read, study, and think about subjects that are outside their comfort zone. Sure some take their studies more seriously than others and yes, Will Hunting, you may be able to get almost the same education for $2.50 in late fees at the Boston Public Library but let’s be real. Given the time, almost no one is going to spend their day at the library making sure they receive the same education they would have had they attended a four-year university. There is a reason that only happened in a movie. College forces people to engage in ways they would not otherwise. That, in and of itself, is worth the cost of attendance.

College gives people depth. The loss of that depth is the true cost of not attending. While it may be easy to justify letting a 20-year-old wunderkind go because he is able to write code for a silicon-valley start up, it an extremely shortsighted decision except in limited number cases. The odds are that college drop out or gap decade taker are not the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Thomas Edison. They are simply average like the rest of us. And like the rest of us, what they leave behind in failing to continue their education is a perspective on the world beyond the compiler, refugee camp, backpacking hostel, public library or whatever area they use to fill their time. That is something that cannot be valued by a cost benefit analysis and is a gap that persists regardless of whether they end up successful or not.

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The Hateful Habit Of Heavy Drinking

I was lucky enough to be invited to a lot of parties this summer. As it turns out, most of my friends had a killer year. Some graduated from school, others got married, a few moved on to new jobs or just got older. Every time we celebrated. Most of the time that involved drinking. Some of the time that involved a mess and a few times I spent the morning hungover.

We’ve all been there. Whether it was back in college or last weekend. There’s always that time when no matter how much fun we had the night before, come morning we vow never to drink again. Where with blinds drawn and Advil in hand we curse the name of the man in the bottle, crying out DAMN YOU  Jack, Jose, Sam, Jim, Johnny or Bud. I will not feel thine fury again. But this promise is about as strong as a new years resolution. While taking refuge in a baconeggandcheese and large bottle of Fiji water, friends are texted, stories are shared, things are remembered, and plans are made. The cycle starts again.

We continue to drink even though no one ever has anything good to say about the process. In fact the way talk about getting drunk is almost violent. What emerges from those crazy nights out are war stories. Tales of insanity told in gruesome detail that recount every shot taken, every soldier down, and everyone left behind. Like passengers in a car accident, we don’t recount ever feeling good, only getting fucked up, wasted, trashed, retarded, hammered, shitfaced or tanked. The trauma is so bad that sometimes we blackout and emerge from our bunker all banged up.

Maybe it’s a bad thing that what becomes important at the end of the night is not why we felt the need to celebrate in the first place but that we survived. Or maybe the extreme aftermath is only a testament of how grand the occasion really was. A viking send off isn’t exactly supposed to be an orderly affair. What remains consistent is that no matter how torn up we get, we will always climb back on that soggy horse to ride again. Weekend warriors off to the fray.

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My Life As A Comparative Loser

I am a child of the age of encouragement. In the 1990’s everyone was a winner. Parents shuttled their children to and from a myriad of after school activities, all which bestowed numerous meaningless awards. From 9th place ribbons to 10-year-old black belts there was no tamping the achievement of children.  Trophies were even given out at birthday parties rewarding whichever child gave the “best effort” while playing miniature golf, or was the “most improved” at bowling by the end of the day.  Children were even told in school that they could be anything they wanted to be. In the middle of America’s greatest boom, no one could lose. We were all comparative winners.

 

Not so in my house. Where I grew up we were always comparative losers.  My parents, as umpires of the world, called it as they saw it. And in that sense, for a white boy in Westchester, there was always someone who could trump anything that I did. While other parents lauded each of their child’s mediocre accomplishments, jumping for joy when Johnny was able to ride with the training wheels on, my parents would use any opportunity to teach me how easy my life really was. For example when I learned to ride a bike, I wasn’t congratulated, rather I was remained that there are people who can do that without legs.  

 

Years before the #firstworldproblems this comparative loser scheme operated as a kibosh on any whining or complaining. No matter what problem I was having, someone had it worse. In 6th grade when I broke my arm and had to wait in the hospital for a whole day, my mom reminded me to “be thankful its just an arm, you could have cancer be waiting for chemo right now.” If I was hungry, “you know there are people in this world who have no food.” When things weren’t going well at school, I was told to “be thankful you even have a school, there are children in Africa who are not so lucky.” And so by age 10, I had no expectation of being good at anything. No matter what I did I was almost certain to lose to someone better or worse.

 

Now, looking back things, I am grateful for the morbid wisdom my parents passed on. As a result, I am better equipped than many of my friends to deal with the everyday disappointments that life contains. Outside the bubble of trophies and ribbons for non-accomplishments, we are very rarely rewarded. No one cares about mediocrity. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you don’t get the job you want, you don’t get a second date, and you don’t an A. For my friends who grew up as comparative winners that often comes as a shock. I, on the other hand, continue to press on, always remembering that somewhere out there is a Somilian refugee with no mouth trying to eat a bowl of rock soup.

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8 Characters Or Less: The Rise of The Vanity Plate In The Social Media Age

I never used to spend that much time behind cars. For the last 7 years of my life I lived in Manhattan, a city where it seems as thou everyone takes public transportation. Certainly no one I knew owned a car. With garage fees approaching rents for comparable size spaces that was too expensive to even dream of. Those fortunate enough to have a parking space were not spending much time hanging out with.

Recently I moved to the suburbs where a car became a necessity. As a result I got myself a small reliable fuel efficient vehicle and began spending more of my time waiting in traffic. After a few days I began to notice something. So many of the cars around me had vanity plates, custom badges of vehicle registration, plastered to the front and back of their cars.

In a world where tweets seem long, the effort to communicate something in a license plate is heroic. Limited to only 8 characters it takes true economy of words to say something special. Not to mention, this epithet will be displayed to the driving world, on a constant basis, so it better be good. And so I cannot help but wonder what goes through people’s heads when they choose the words inscribed on these plates, especially when the subject matter covers such a wide range of topics.

Some plates sing words of praise. A woman in my building proudly exclaims to the world:

“IDOITALL”

Yet I have no idea what she does to warrant that title. It better be something extremely important. Some are punny like a car I stopped behind the other day,

“JAGROAR”

Clearly displayed this Jaguar owner’s lame ass sense of humor (you know he thought it was so clever when he ordered that plate). Others are obnoxious like

“2FAST4U”

On the back of a Ferrari. Yes clearly you have a faster car than my broke ass Impreza but you probably hate your life way more than I do. At least enough to spend $200,000 on a car to forget about it. Some just make no sense, like

“LUZCHNG”

I cant tell if this is supposed to be “Loose Change,” in which case I’m even more confused about why one would be proud of having a large of amount of the least efficient form of currency. Or “Luiz Chang” a proud homage to an individual of mixed asian and latino heritage. Whatever the root it clearly meant something to this person.

I’m sure everyone has seen their fair share of interesting and entertaining license plates. But what strikes me as more intriguing is that only recently did I notice a proliferation of these titles. In the past we were content to run around with whatever random 7 letter and number assignment the state supplied. Today, however, its like there’s a need to customize everything. To stand out on a highway I otherwise identical, although differently colored, cars. I associate this with the impact of social media. Just as we are encouraged to share every bit of our lives with others in one form or another, everything we do must no become a statement individuality. Where Facebook, Twitter and Instagram leave off, the license plate picks up. A constant status update to the world. Whatever that status may be.

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EchoFriendly Finally On The App Store

After what feels like forever we finally got this app up and running. EchoFriendly is a location based chat program that seriously is going to change how we interact with each other. The app centers around location based chat rooms so you can create rooms and talk to people near by. The list of rooms always sorts and updates so the nearest rooms are at the top of the list making it super easy to find out what local people are talking about.

 

So excited to see how this grows and develops. Thank you everyone who helped us along the way for your support we couldn’t have done this without you.

 

Oh yea and you can download it here:

 

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/echofriendly/id501978574?ls=1&mt=8

 

 

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Supercommittee Schmoopercommittee! Why I’m Not At All Surprised They Failed

What a shocker. The supercommittee to end all supercomittees has announced that baring some miracle on par with Isabella Swan’s ability to carry a demon baby to term (shout out to all you Twilight fans) they will be unable to reach an agreement on how to solve our nations debt problem. Who would have thought? I mean if our immovably partisan Congress couldn’t reach a deal as a whole certainly breaking out 6 of the most fervent card carrying members of each party was sure to reach a deal. Come on. Sometimes I wonder if Congress thinks the rest of us are sipping the same BPA-Fracking Fluid-Medical Marijuana laced Kool Aid they are. This whole smoke and mirror show was doomed from the start as just another way for the members of our government to drop back seven and punt. Its no wonder their approval rating is so low.

But that’s not really what pisses me off. As part of fleecing the American people into letting this plan go forward, both parties agreed that if they failed, certain mandatory cuts would take place. Republicans have since announced that they plan to fight the defense cuts they agreed to from taking place. WTF. You mean to tell me you sold us a bill of goods to get this crap plan through initially and now you don’t want to take your own medicine. Ugh.

Where is the Occupy outrage about this? Someone needs to stand up and tell this group of idiots that is not OK to lie to your constituents. I think this is something everyone can agree to. I don’t care what party you’re from. You can’t possibly think that passing a law that says one thing and then refusing to comply with your own law is a good way to run this Government. Outrage.

I swear if that happens I’m going to Bed Bath and Beyond to stimulate the economy by buying some pots and pans and taking to the streets.

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Don’t Hate The Defense Attorney Just Because The Prosecutor Sucked

My mom called me after the Casey Anthony verdict came down this Tuesday. She was pissed off.

“We’ve been OJ’d again!” she cried.

This has become the default reaction every time a high profile case turns out the opposite way common sense says it should. I don’t think any one, even Crazy Casey, actually believes she didn’t kill that baby. But the fact that she got away with murder is not an indication that justice doesn’t work. It’s an indication that the prosecution sucked.

I’ll admit that I didn’t watch the whole trial. I had things to do during the day that required I not stay glued to HLN. What I did see was the last weekend or so of summation. From that alone I can see why Casey Anthony was let free.

The facts of the case were not that difficult. Young mother kills baby in an attempt to regain the freedom she lost with motherhood. There was plenty of evidence to get the job done. A decomposing hair found in the trunk of Casey’s car, a baby blanket taken from inside her house, pictures of a hot body contest entered just days after Caylee went missing and a tattoo from the same period ushering in the “bella vita” that was about to start. If that wasn’t enough, there was the three pieces of duct tape, place over Caylee’s nose and mouth that could have no rational explanation besides an attempt to put her down for good. All of this was lost in summation.

Instead of laying out a clear story the prosecution presented a confusing mess of facts. As I listened, it sounded as though they were trying to use every piece of testimony to make every little fact fit within their story. This approach is generally counter productive. In summation less is often more. Rather than give the jury a clear picture of what happened, why Casey had to be the one who did it, and why the jury needed to find her guilty, the prosecution jumped from point to point, grabbing facts here and there but failing to weave them in to the bigger picture.

After that, the defenses job was easy.

To their credit the jury did their job. Those who spoke about the process, and at least one has, made clear that they were heartbroken when they decided to hand down a not guilty verdict. In their gut they knew that Casey had done it. But gut instinct is not the law. As much as they wanted to see Casey punished, the prosecution had not carried their burden. That may not be a satisfying result to those who followed the trial but that is justice.

 

 

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