Friday, March 3, 2017

College life in the 1980s...versus today

A viewer of my YouTube channel recently asked me to talk about college life in the 1980s, and how it differs from college life today. The video below is the result of my reflection.

I would encourage you to watch the video, of course. (I would encourage you to watch all of my videos, naturally.) But if you simply want an overview, here it is:

College has always been expensive, and decisions regarding what to major in/which classes to take, etc., have always been important. It was always better to be an engineering major than a sociology major--assuming your ultimate goal is to make money, that is. 

That said, I think college students of my era (the late 1980s) had a bit more latitude: You could meander along the way to getting a degree (as I certainly did), and you could pick a somewhat off-the-wall major (as I certainly did), and everything would work out okay, so long as you got that diploma at the end of four years (or 4.5 years, in my case). 

Today things are different: College is ridiculously expensive, and there are people with masters degrees working in the mailrooms of large corporations. Degree inflation was just beginning in the 1980s. In this century, degree inflation has made many degrees essentially worthless (from an employment perspective).

I also make some obligatory observations about how the Internet has changed the experience of higher education--both for good and for bad. I didn't like waiting in long lines to register for classes in those pre-Internet days; but I also believe that the trend toward online classes is fundamentally diminishing the college experience. 

And finally, I mention politics: not what my politics are, specifically, but how the prevalence of "issues" has changed on campus. 

My college years were wedged between the counterculture chaos of the 1960s, and the never-ending battles over race/gender/sexual orientation/immigration/trigger warnings/speech codes/microaggressions that so preoccupy us today. There were, of course, students and professors who were "political"; but acrimonious political debate was not a primary fixture of my college experience.

In this regard I feel fortunate: I made it through four years of higher education without ever listening to a single debate about transgender restrooms, or whether the use of "he" or "she" in a sentence constituted sexism. For that much, I am grateful. The present times do, in many ways, seem insane to me. 

Perhaps that is merely a sign that I am getting older;  but it may alternatively be a sign that the present times, with their nitpicky preoccupations, really are insane.



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