Saturday, January 19, 2013

What About College?

I’ve been asked some variation on “are you going to college?” more times than I can count, and I don’t generally give a more elaborate answer than “no.” Occasionally, when pressed, I say that what I want to be doing (cooking!) doesn’t require a degree. Or that I’m doing more interesting things (to me) than going to school. But when I was asked that question online recently, I finally wrote a response that explains in more detail why I’m not going to university*, and that response has been re-worked into this post. You can also find this article posted over at Cooperative Catalyst.

So, am I ever going to go to university?

I don’t like to say never, because lots of things change, but I definitely can’t see myself going to university full time or for a degree in the foreseeable future. I’m sort of vaguely considering just taking a class or two sometime in the next year, or maybe, possibly, going to culinary school at some point, but I haven’t really made any decisions on either of those possibilities yet.

Why don’t I want to go?

As for why I don’t plan on going to university full-time, I have many reasons. A list of bullet-point reasons, even.

  • There is nothing I want to be doing right now as a job or “career” or whatever that would require a degree, so the only reason (and this is a good reason to go to university for many people!) would be for pure enjoyment/learning purposes, which leads me to…
  • I’m not very into more academic subjects, as a rule. Most of the things I enjoy doing tend to be really tactile and immediate. I like cooking and gardening and having one-on-one conversations. Sure, I like reading about feminism and social justice and radical education. Hell, a major focus of my life for a few years was reading and talking and writing about unschooling! But I sort of feel that what I really want and need to be doing in my life right now is just that: doing, not studying.
  • I don’t enjoy learning-for-the-sake-of-learning (and having said that I swear I can almost hear a horrified gasp from lots of people in my unschooling community). For me to enjoy and take in information or learn a skill well, it has to feel genuinely important and relevant in my life and/or the lives of the people close to me, my community, etc. I’m very happily reading through a large book on fermentation (Sandor Ellix Katz is awesome) because I want to be fermenting more foods and beverages. I’m going to pick up a really awesome looking book (The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer) on wild edibles soon, because I want to be foraging a lot more with my sister come spring. Social justice issues, radical politics, and radical sustainability are important because I want to be a good person, act in as kind and non-oppressive a way as possible, live in a genuinely sustainable way, etc. University has always seemed to me to be so incredibly removed from the rest of the world, and I really don’t want that, or think that that removal is generally a healthy thing.
  • I hate how inaccessible academia is. Both the price, though that is at least less of an issue where I am than many other places**, but also the very language and culture of universities and academia. Though I’ve seen and been bothered by this on multiple occasions, a specific instance that stands out to me was one time when I was at a talk, and this one dude just started bringing up objections and questions in the most ridiculously academic language you can imagine, and referencing books and authors I’d never heard of. As the conversation between the speaker (an academic herself) and the audience member continued, I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about. And I say this as someone who is generally read as well educated (by people unaware of my being an unschooler, since then of course folks start to think otherwise), a native English speaker, and someone usually considered skilled with words. It just hit me very profoundly that if this seemed inaccessible to me, how much more inaccessible is it to so very many other people? It just doesn’t sit right with me.
  • Also, when I think of being in classrooms for some four years or more, I feel like I’d be trapped. I’m literally mildly horrified at the idea. It does not sound appealing at all.

There are more personal reasons, and there are far more nuanced critiques of the institution of university to be found out there. But from my perspective, those things are a very good overview of why I have no plans or desire to go to university.

Really, there are so many more interesting (to me) things I want to be doing right now in my life, things that are relevant and exciting and hands-on. No classrooms needed.

*I say university not “college” because here in Quebec, college (also known as CEGEP) is a between high school and university thing, and is not synonymous with university.

**In Quebec the average tuition per year is $2,519 (source: