stick it to the man

Boycotting College vs. Changing College

stick it to the man

We can talk all we want to about how college should stop doing this and start doing that, or how it just should not be a requirement, etc. etc. We have been talking all we want to for years now.

Are we changing anything yet?

In some ways, we are. Though we are still in the minority, the rise against higher education is happening. Some of us have started our own businesses, some of us are traveling the world. Some of us have sought life’s answers outside the doors of a university only to find, years later, they are led back to those doors, with tons more purpose and determination.

This morning I read two interestingly similar articles sent to me by my friend Todd and my mom, respectively: “My Fellow Americans, It’s Time to Boycott College” by Matt Walsh, and “4 Radical Ideas for Reinventing College” by Margaret Rhodes.

In the first article, Matt Walsh (a man whose ideals and ideologies I usually detest but we seem to be on the same side on this subject I’ve done my best to get over myself) details a story about his friend who couldn’t get into a field he had years of hands-on experience in because he lost every job prospect to a recent college graduate.

The entire post is very stand-up-and-rise-against inspirational/motivational stuff, but what he is proposing is, unfortunately, worlds away from happening, if ever – let’s literally boycott college. Let’s just not go, not advocate for our children to go unless they want to be a neuroscientist, and I guess by default all those lazy employers will realize, “oh man, all of my applicants only have real-life hands-on experience, so which one am I supposed to pick??”

This would be a fine and dandy notion to entertain if we could actually just convert the majority of would-be college-goers to not going to college and then go around explaining to businesses the drop in degreed applicants – it might take a few hundred years, but it could happen!

The second article explains how Design Students from Stanford University put together a video interview project with subjects from the school and from other backgrounds such as leaders of rehabilitation programs and people from varieties of different careers. (The second half of the headline of the article, “Drawn from Stanford Research”, is highly misleading, sounding as if this was an official academic study; and though it is absolutely not, the Design Students came up with good points regardless.)

The Design Students took into consideration the thoughts and feelings they were hearing again and again in these interviews and came up with the “four smart proposals for reinventing college.”

Mostly, these proposals boiled down to all the stuff we’ve been saying for a long time. “Liberal arts” degrees don’t apply to everyone or ever major. Classes need to be less lecture, more hands-on. Picking a Life Path right out of high school is stupid (but high schoolers are the only ones who see this, and not the grownups?). Et Cetera.

Like I said, we’ve been saying things need to change. But are we going to change it? Yes? Then how? What are you going to do right this second to change the entire college-centered system of the western world?

*blink* *blink*

Now, I will grant you that those students at Stanford are indeed taking their findings and starting a true campaign for universal life-long learning.  The official website is set in the future ‘looking back’ on how the higher education system was transformed around the year 2025.  It’s really, really cute.

But.  Perhaps the whole notion shouldn’t be how we are going to change the world by reinventing college, or how we are going to change college by reinventing the world.

That is not going to work, and we cannot just go around in life expecting anything that doesn’t work for us to change around us so that we can have a better chance at success. The antelope doesn’t just loaf around thinking, “Well if things would just get better in the food chain I wouldn’t HAVE to be on the alert, I wouldn’t have to drop dinner at a moment’s notice an run for my life, I could eat in bloody PEACE for once in my life, why doesn’t somebody DO something???” No. That antelope fucking pays attention and RUNS LIKE HELL. So – life lesson from the antelope today: pay attention and run like hell. You aren’t going to succeed without a degree if you’re just waiting for the system to change – you’ve just got to go succeed anyway. It’s a hard, hard life in the safari – but don’t give up. You’ll make it.

Dreams vs. Reality: Fearless Following

Dreams vs. Reality

“How hard would you work, and for how long, if you knew you could have your dream for sure?

My dad often asks me this, and I reply by sighing reluctantly and pretending to think, hoping that the subject will magically change. Time has always been so imminent for me. Patience is easy for me in traffic or while waiting for my turn to take a shower.

However, when it comes to the big stuff, like perhaps starting an organization to help mistreated pets – that would take years! Years of doing nothing else other than sitting around working on this one thing! I’ll never get to accomplish my other dream of going on safari in Africa if I’m attached to a big organization. Even if that organization is my ultimate dream. I’ll just put it off five more years, then see if it happens, maybe magically.

But – dreams are meant to be accomplished, not stewed in your brain while you go off and do lots of procrastinating, eventually leaving them rotting on the side of the road because they are “too big.”

The reason we do this is that we have to work for our dreams, and work really hard; oftentimes, we become afraid of that hard work.

Even though we really want roast chicken, rosemary potatoes, and baked asparagus for dinner, it’s hard work throwing that kind of meal together, and you are already hungry. So what are you going to do, eat more Kraft Dinner and put off the roast chicken for another night? If you keep doing that, your chicken is going to go bad.

But what if we were really willing to work for our dreams? Could we conceivably believe in ourselves? Or maybe we don’t actually. Maybe it’s just too hard, or the dreams too far out to actually come true. They are called dreams for a reason, right?

I don’t think so.

So how hard would you be willing to work? How far would you be willing to go? How high would you climb? How long would you take? What would you do if you knew you could have your dreams for sure?

This is a two-step process, the dreaming and the working for the dream. But you have to do the dreaming first, right? Right. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Make sure to dream big. Don’t limit yourself. If you have longed to be a famous author, singer, or movie star since you can remember, don’t hold back because of others’ predictions that you’ll fail. At the same time, don’t limit yourself in the opposite way – if you have always yearned to be a farmer, prep cook, or a ditch digger, don’t let anybody tell you those are simple, undignified dreams. Whatever YOUR dream is, dream it YOUR big and don’t let anybody else define it for you.

You’re never done – always doing. I believe it’s a common misconception that there is a point in our lives in which we “accomplish our life goal.” Yes, I suppose that applies if your one life goal is one very concrete and specific thing, such as skydiving with your true love over southern New Zealand; however, is that really the one and only thing that you have lived your entire life to do, and now you can live mundanely and be bored for the rest of your existence?

I am a “List of Life Goals” maker. Things to do are always popping up in my head, and I have to write them all down in order to keep track of them.

One thing that was on my list for basically my entire life was, “Be the one who holds the snake.” To me, this meant that I, for once, would be the person holding the snake and showing him to other people, namely kids, educating them on how amazing snakes are, and, best of all, letting them pet the snake. I had always wanted to do this because I was always that kid who got to pet the snake that the person was holding, but I couldn’t hold it myself/take care of it for legal reasons, of course. As I grew older, I became more and more discontent with my spectator role, and was determined that it shouldn’t be forever. It was a big, important goal of mine, which I recently got to accomplish while working at the wildlife center this spring.

After working my first festival (where I met many little Jessicas), I came home beaming, talked forever about it, and wrote a very long entry in my journal. And, while I felt very accomplished, it was then that I realized that this was not a finite point, or the end of this goal necessarily. It was just the kick-off. I wasn’t discontent; to the contrary, I felt amazing.

All of that to say, goals are very progressive, which is a little hard to see when just dreaming them up. Some people like to plan out their goals in steps of smaller goals; personally, I like to just set a goal and see what comes of it. “Live in a hostel” became a work-trade in the beautiful town of Ashland that planted the seed for an interest in the hospitality business. “Work at a summer camp” became a dishwashing position at one of the freest and most accepting summer camps outside of unschool camps which wants to hire me back on kitchen staff next year. “Travel to cool and interesting places” became an undying wanderlust, all because I finally decided that maybe if I actually went somewhere for a change, the concept would become a little more like second nature.

Doubt is inevitable. So, what are you going to do about it? Cures for doubt are not one-size-fits all: different people have different ways of dealing with different types of doubt for different things. But when it comes to dreams, doubt plays your biggest antagonist, so the first and best thing to do is nip it in the bud, and beware of it at all times, because like telemarketers and little siblings, it doesn’t just go away.

(On that note: also beware that occasionally, doubt often comes in the form of laziness. Don’t be fooled.)

Live in the moment, for the moment. I have to regularly remind myself to stay in the present. It is too easy for me to get caught up dreaming and planning and working out details that don’t need to be worked out for weeks, months, or even years. I get like Luke Skywalker: “Never his mind on where he was – what he was doing!” (saith Yoda.) It’s a horrible habit that I have to consciously work on. I’ve gotten a lot better, but I still need to be careful.

All in all, never forget that you only live on this earth once. The least you can do is not purposefully do something you would rather not do. Like I said, in my next entry I will talk more on the subject of being realistic. For now, just dream, for real.

Here’s an “assignment” (don’t cringe – this will be fun!): in May 2010 when I worked on the Homeschool Leadership Retreat, one day Blake had everyone, staff and campers, write down a list of 100 goals that we would like to accomplish in our lives. Believe it or not, it took me a good part of the day to think of 100 things, but I did it, and had lots of fun.

So here is what you should do RIGHT NOW, or over the next 24 hours or so as you have time: make your own list of 100 goals. No less, though more than 100 is certainly acceptable. And feel free to list some/most/all of them in the comments here if you’d like! I would love to see what y’all come up with.

Comfort Zones

You have followed others’ directions ever since you can remember.  The thought of finding your own way is attractive, but terrifying.

Even though you want badly to forge your own path, why would you?  Why take the wily, unbeaten way when you could continue doing what you’ve been doing since you were 4?

To continue studying half-interesting material at someone else’s set pace, taking mandatory tests, doing assignments for someone else’s deadlines – instead of stepping out into the real world and having to design your own way?  I can’t blame anyone, it sounds blissful to sit back and let life happen.

College is a comfort zone; a plateau.

Say you have a weightlifting routine. In this routine you have a set weight and number of repetitions. You do this workout 5 days a week in order to build your strength in the targeted muscle groups.

However, there comes a point, usually after 4-6 weeks of the same routine, where your body does not build muscle anymore with those particular exercises, weights, and reps.  Your body has become used to the movements.

The solution?  Change the routine up. Perform different exercises, use heavier weights, and/or do more repetitions. This way your body never becomes so accustomed to something that it stops changing; it never gets too adaptive so that it becomes immune to shaping up. It never plateaus.

In the same way, as a person you want to keep growing and changing. To move through life and stay only in comfort zones prevents this from happening.

This does not mean that a stable, settled life is harmful to your personal growth; quite the contrary. However, as living, breathing, thinking, and feeling people, we need that element of change and diversion constantly in our lives.  

This variance does not have to be big scale – unless you know a complete change of scenery.  Perhaps you could exchange weekend bowling for some horseback riding lessons, or go on a hike and take pictures instead of spending your lunch hour clicking away at your favorite social networking site.

Listen to your soul: whenever you feel yourself getting too comfortable, take a little time to examine your situation, your motivation, and your attitude.  Go where you need to go, do what you need to do, and stay when you need to stay.  Just make sure you aren’t selling yourself short.