“Higher Education… and the death of critical thought, creativity, and innovation”

They work their asses off to get straight A’s…

But many of these brilliant artists, musicians, performers, and inventive types are destined to metaphorically flip burgers and sell shoes, perhaps to never again experience that feeling, when a hot rush of creative thought, action, and pride wells-up in their loins, perhaps to never realize the full potential of their craft, nor contribute meaningfully to their society. These creative spirits are bludgeoned then wither, as our unapologetically capitalist society compels them to give-in and be just another consumer zombie bitch.

Meanwhile, on entering the ‘real’ world, those former students of English, History, Literature, Philosophy, and Education often feel obliged to shut down their thought and questioning process in order to pay their debt… to become part of a bureaucracy; obedient and expected to do, say, and regurgitate what they have been told.

Then, of course, there are those unfortunate few who never pursued a degree, yet who are brilliant in their way… who though meritorious, are unfairly discriminated from ever getting higher paying and meaningful employment, simply because they have not yet paid into the system.

They only wanted to pursue their interests, be more productive, learn how they could apply themselves in a meaningful way, and perhaps make a difference. They felt the need to recognize their muse, follow their respective passions, and make a tangible contribution; perhaps to shed a shred of light onto the murky darkness our species has draft over the planet and our collective consciousness, or perhaps to advance our society to the next evolutionary square on the game board, or maybe to try to better of our world through understanding how they can make a difference in their own sphere. But all this, my friends, is just what it is… and what this has become, is in the service of paying one’s debt to some nameless bureaucrat or money-lender, because many of us feel we must borrow in order to better ourselves.

Who’s to blame? The kids who had too little money, who might otherwise have been only qualified for military service or a cashier’s position at Walmart? Or the colleges and universities that operate more like a business trading on the Stock Exchange, rather than fulfilling their purpose as an institution of higher learning; accepting no less than a dollar amount that might purchase a dean a fully-loaded Lexus each year.

Meanwhile, the wealthier peer, without an obligation or a worry, studies whatever s/he please, does only as well as befits his/her mood, then, when it is all said and done, whether with glowing recommendations, or nodding heads, s/he walks away scott free and laughing.

Later, because his/her family has the fiscal resources and social connections, s/he opens a gallery and sells paintings of colorful squiggles on canvas to the elite! His/her family’s rogues gallery of superficial and surgically-altered friends and business associates laud him/her for his/her work; paying top dollar. But s/he also accrued millions in debt from publicly subsidized, business improvement loans, and the reckless use of a triple platinum card. No worries! Whether his/her gallery business succeeds or fails, s/he knows that his/her family can afford the very best accountants, the most crooked bankruptcy attorneys, the finest business consultants, and perhaps even a politician to put in their pocket; to identify the loopholes, to soften the blows, to hide away any unpleasantries, and to get him/her started on his/her next half-hearted endeavor (with everything but the former business’s name in-tact). Besides, guess who is next in-line to inherit the family fortune?

Many years later – having paid five-hundred thousand dollars on their $100K loan, having been mired in half-a-lifetime of federally sanctioned and unforgivable indentured debt-servitude – our former thinkers, creators, innovators, and educators have become mere shells of their former, vibrant selves. Into their latter years, ever deeper in debt, they remain trapped and feel resentful, regretful, and empty because when they were naive and hopeful teens, no one told them what pact they were signing, nor did they understand the lifelong consequences. There was no escape clause.

So, dashed onto the rocks of society’s shoreline; great ideas are casually and forever washed away…

3 responses to ““Higher Education… and the death of critical thought, creativity, and innovation”

  1. And don’t forget that even those lucky few who get to be part of an artistic profession still cannot freely express themselves, as they end up having to serve a commercialized music/art/publishing etc. industry. Have to please your client or publisher or radio station, you know…. There’s no way out.

  2. An old friend chimed in through a private message… I would like to share his thoughts…

    “Craig – I read your article and it was really good. I agree with you to the degree that gov’t interference is prevalent. When I went back for my Master’s I realized how politicized everything had become. But the good thing is that colleges do prepare us academically for the challenges that lie ahead. Unfortunately, Big Brother and the reckless spending in our country AND in Trenton provide little opportunity for the graduates to, at best, succeed. Well done, buddy. Nick”

  3. So true Eurobrat! In the system as it exists, it seems so very difficult to support oneself doing what we do best, feel passionate about, and consider a meaningful contribution. In order to ‘get ahead’, it seems we must sell our talents and our souls as cheap gimmicks.

    And Nick… Thanks so much for giving it a look and for sharing your opinion :)

    But I kind of have to disagree with you. Though I think college certainly gets the brain’s motor in high gear, and a lot is learned and gained during that period, I don’t really think it prepares us for the ‘real’ world. Many of us enter as idealists, wanting to do good and earn an honest living, but so many are broken by the system and societal expectations. We’re like wild horses when we enter, yet we are mere donkey’s with our spirits broken, wearing blinders, pulling carts for the rich a few years after we leave.

    With regard to the disciplines I mentioned in my initial write-up, how many people do you know who studied one of these fields who are genuinely valued in today’s marketplace? And if you do know someone who is in performance, art, music, history, philosophy, and (of course) education, are they being paid their worth? Or having to accept a pittance in order to do what they consider important? And regardless of what discipline a person studied, how many folks do you know who are actually pursuing what they studied? It seems the only disciplines that are able to pay back their loans in short order are those who study business, money, and law. This suggests a system that is wayyy out of balance.

    As per government interference, I agree to some extent, however I think it’s moreso the adoption of a profit making business model that has made universities and colleges so prohibitively expensive. In fact, back in the 80s, it was Reagan who decided that public monies that were supposed to go directly to students in need would better stimulate the economy if moderated my intermediate lending institutions, making these institutions billions while saddling the naive student with unforgivable debt.

    Personally, I believe health, education, and the likes of NPR and PBS should be off the capital opportunist’s table and reliant solely on public tax dollars and private donations that are accepted only on the condition that no strings are attached (genuine philanthropy), rather than needing to cow-tow to corporate sponsors, advertisers, and fickle public ratings to guarantee their funding. Mixing profit with these basic human needs (health, education, nutrition, information) has, over the past 30 years, demonstrated a recipe for disaster.

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