The College Game

university of texas

When you were an impressionable preschooler, your companions would ask you if you wanted to play “house” or “school” or “work.” When you are eighteen, or nearing it, your friends and others start asking if you want to play “college.”

One of these endeavors is often a waste of time with little to no practical life value; the other was your childhood game.


If you choose to play the college game, once more every cent means something to you. Finding a penny in the parking lot elicits as much exuberance as it did a decade and a half or so ago.


Just like in your preschool years, there is a huge emphasis on “sharing.” Hurting anyone’s feelings results in a strict administration of kindergarten-like social justice. Offering up an opinion and arguing your point are two cardinal academic sins: after all, we have to have a free and tolerant exchange of ideas where nobody is criticized.


Suddenly meaningless skills start mattering again—except instead of burping, imprisoning insects, or shooting rubber bands, it’s whether or not you can write a politically correct film evaluation for a required credit.


Those who were good at aiming rubber bands stole the show and ruled the roost back in the day; those who are skilled in regurgitating test material and those who sacrifice true academic pursuits for mandatory courses like Etymology of the Twinkie and Squirrel Imitation 101 get ahead in college.


Students interested in education probably fare well; those interested in learning do not. However, unlike in your preschool years, you do not have as much choice this time: in your early childhood you could reject a fantastical game and its irrational rules with little consequence.


You’re not so fortunate now.


If you want to enter a technical field, you have little choice but to get further training; if you want to learn about anything categorized under “Liberal Arts” your studies will oftentimes be rejected unless it comes along with a $400,000 piece of paper saying you took some classes.


Unless you are either an incredibly brilliant individual or fit into an arbitrary race and income bracket, you probably will get little help with scholarships. Student loans are a racket from the start, and cheap college is an oxymoron.


Many things about colleges are part of a game, one invented by universities, fostered by bureaucracy, and sustained by government subsidization. Whereas in a free market a profit motive encourages excellence, low prices, and innovation, in a situation where jack-booted IRS thugs are involved and the intrusive arm of the state controls all, political entrepreneurship is the only worthwhile effort.


Completely unrelated courses are suddenly made mandatory; fees multiply; strange research projects and building boondoggles pervade the campus; religion and free speech, as a matter of course, have to be scrubbed because of government funding and control.


Alternatives to traditional college accreditation are starting to pop up—things like CollegePlus, dual credit, online classes, apprenticeship-like arrangements, and CLEP testing—thanks to innovation in an area which has for decades and centuries been dominated by monopolistic state-owned, state-sponsored, or state-controlled institutions.


As for learning without official accreditation, thousands of websites akin to Udemy and Khan Academy teach everything from calculus to music theory. Learning isn’t as hard as it used to be.  If you can’t avoid a mandatory Slovakian Finger-Food Etiquette course, at least the free market is making it possible to avoid some of the exorbitant cost.


Well, do you want to play “college”? If you’re the kid with steely resolve and a sense of direction, you might be the one—just like in preschool—to say no and play a game with different rules.

About Rachel Clark

Rachel hoards office supplies, has 12.5 hours of Bach on her iPod, and occasionally forgets her own name. Other than that she's a normal person who likes to write.
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