Tag Archives: college education

Making yourself a slave

I went to college in Germany (there called Universit├Ąt) and the semester fees were about 23 Marks – maybe 10 Dollars. I lived with my parents but was registered at a friends house so that I could draw state funded study support, part of which was a loan. (I still owe some of that today, by the way.)

So, I have to say, my college education was pretty – – inexpensive. At least for me personally, maybe not so for the rest of the population. But my justification was always that later in my professional life I will earn well and pay lots of taxes.

OK, the latter did not really happen. First, I was self employed most of the time and I first saw my money in my account and then had to write a check (instead of it being collected before the wage earner even sees it), and that created a rather intense resistance, so I did everything possible to avoid writing big numbers on those checks.

And second, I left Germany after just about six or seven years.

At one point it becomes acute to think about those things for my son. He is still a few years away from any college thoughts, but eventually it will be something to consider.

Now I ran into this video that paints a bleak picture of the current college situation here in the old US of A…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpZtX32sKVE

There is not that much to add in terms of the facts, that it really does not seem to be worth to go to college any more, but what I do want to add is the following from my very own experiences.

I studied physics and got up to the equivalent of a masters degree – 6 years. It was fun to a bigger degree, especially my little stints down at CERN, to mingle with world class scientists – for example the internet was born down there (no, it was not Al Gore!)

But I did not go into a career in science, but moved into the computer field which was just then starting to be something to be reckoned with. What later became computer science was, in the beginning, manned by physicists and mathematicians.

So, after college I never did anything much of physics. I did practice forcing my will onto computers during my college days, but this was more or less a side effect because the experiments I conducted produced lots of data and we happened to have PDP 11 at the physics chair where I did my work. My first contacts with computers, a little bit before that, I had in my spare time when I taught myself to program a big IBM mainframe (I think it was an IBM 360) through the use of punch cards. I did this just because I was fascinated by these machines not because of any career goal.

All this happened during a time when in most cases you could still do the job you trained for, for the rest of your life. With the accelerated development in technology and science that is definitely not true any more. Sure, programming the PDP 11 in assembler gave me some basis but certainly did not prepare me for optimizing web sites and writing that occasional php application. All what I do now is self-taught and did not require me to sit in some auditorium and listen to a professor who has given the same lecture for the last 20 year, who can not be replaces by something younger and more up-to-date because he has tenure.

This is why I have to wholeheartedly agree with the implied conclusions in the above video that going to college at this time is a waste of time and money, and at these costs would just make you a slave for the rest of your life. It was scary for me to learn that not even a bankruptcy can get you out of these student loans – do I see debtor’s prisons on the horizon?

Maybe my son is really smart that at his young age he is really embracing the digital world, because that might be the area that we will be living in in 10 – 15 years. You better learn how to become an entrepreneur in Second Life.