by David McElroy
When I was a student at the University of Alabama, I never seriously asked myself why I was in school. It was just understood that I was there to get a degree that would prepare me for a career. My parents both had degrees and it was just an assumption in our family that everyone gets a university degree.
If you had asked me why I was in school, I might have struggled to answer. I might have wanted to say that the purpose was to be an intellectually well-rounded and thoughtful person, but if I’d been honest with myself, I would have admitted I was there to get a piece of paper that marked me as acceptable as socially acceptable for employment. (The photo above from a UA graduation two years ago suggests to me that students still mostly see graduation as a ticket to employment.)
As much as I love learning, I’ve come to have serious doubts about the way the university system works in the United States today. (For readers in other countries, “college” and “university” are used interchangeably for practical purposes here in most usages.) I’ve come to see college as a long series of expensive hoops to jump through — which mostly just show that someone has the tenacity and willingness to stick to a plan and follow orders.
On Monday, a friend posted a link on Facebook to an article questioning the value of getting master’s degrees in library science and suggesting that some sort of apprentice program would be more useful. My friend is a librarian and a very bright woman. She’s decided to get a master’s in “library science” — which in itself as an odd name — but it’s not because it will help her do her job better. It’s because she’ll be paid more.