College is a waste of time (OT)


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The Granite State.
Nov 1, 2013 - 08:37pm PT
I sometimes wonder what my life would be like had I attended college.

Growing up, my parents were quite strict, but never stressed college as something that should be mandatory. After high school I focused on competitive skiing, and then found my way to trade work as a carpenter.

I truly love what I do, but in retrospect, it would have been better for my long term financial stability to begin trade work after college.

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA/Boulder, CO
Nov 1, 2013 - 08:44pm PT
Sadly, Reilly is correct. Though many will never, ever use what they studied to get their 4-year degree, it is becoming harder and harder to get a decent job if you don't have one. I also agree with those who want more vocational training at community colleges. That is one way to get a decent job without a 4-year degree.

Nov 1, 2013 - 08:49pm PT
After I got out of college I went to college of Camp 4.

Learned more there than any stupid college.

You really learn the ropes of life there ......
Todd Eastman

Bellingham, WA
Nov 1, 2013 - 10:49pm PT
It partly helps develop citizenship...

Ice climber
the ghost
Nov 1, 2013 - 11:28pm PT
and an expanded worldview
especially if you are from Podunk

Jim Henson's Basement
Nov 2, 2013 - 10:45am PT
College, and education in general, is a tool. A tool is still a tool whether it is in the hands of an idiot, someone too lazy to make use of it, or in the hands of someone who knows how to make something beautiful and useful with it.

Bears repeating.^^

In general I don't feel college is a waste of time. Knowledge and experience is never a waste of time.

That being said.. my 6 years at CSUN sort of ended up being a waste when they eliminated my Major when I was only 24 units from graduating. I liked being in school and value the experience, discipline and knowledge I gained, but I am extremely bitter about not being granted the degree for the time I put in. I was fortunate to fall into an occupation where a degree wasn't immediately necessary, but later down the road, not having that stupid piece of paper shut the door on some major opportunities... ie:a formal apprenticeship with the Smithsonian's stained glass restoration department.

Edit to correct: It was the Smithsonian that had stained glass dept. The Getty ALSO turned me down for an internship because of no degree though.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Nov 2, 2013 - 12:00pm PT
Skip, that's what I'm talking about. They were not willing to look at your
experience and knowledge on its own merits - all they want is that piece of paper.
Of course it also understandable that they want everyone else to have
gone through the same hazing.

Nov 2, 2013 - 06:03pm PT
College isn't for everyone. Not everyone needs that kind of education in order to be highly successful in their chosen field. But college increases your chances of success.

There are plenty of examples of people who excelled without formal education. Many of them are just gifted, talented, super diligent, hard-working, or have all of these qualities. If you find yourself without a degree and complaining about your employment situation you're probably not one of these individuals who excels without the benefit of the education.

If all other things were equal, would you hire someone who has that "piece of paper" or someone who does not? If you hire someone don't you care about how well they'll do? Are all these employers so ignorant that they only care about a degree? Or is there some conspiracy against the uneducated? Or is it possible that the degree increases the chance that they're hiring someone who will succeed?

College can be highly productive, especially for the motivated self-directed individual. I myself was a mediocre student for four years and not very productive. I never used that B.S. degree but I learned so much more - including outdoor adventuring. Then later in my mid-30s I did another four years and was very motivated, self-directed and productive. That degree earned me a career that has brought a ton of fulfillment over the past 15 years.

If you ask me (I know, you didn't), ... I say, go to college.

Boulder climber
Nov 2, 2013 - 06:21pm PT
In the 1950s one of the few professions having considerable time off was teaching. So, of course, to become a teacher (professor) I went to college and have never regretted it. The subject matter intrigued me as well and I enjoyed doing a little research. I did stall around, however, and didn't really finish until 1971, about the time college teaching positions became scarce. I was fortunate and was able to get tenure and make a career in a small state university, and, in retrospect, I feel I ended up in the right place.

If I were starting out now, however, I'm not sure I'd go that direction. It has become difficult to get tenured positions, with full time professors being replaced by poorly paid adjuncts. I really feel sorry for those caught in this dilemma. A love of the subject matter can go only so far.


Social climber
So Cal
Nov 2, 2013 - 07:16pm PT
Many of them are just gifted, talented, super diligent, hard-working, or have all of these qualities.

Lacking at least some of the those qualities a degree won't make any difference.

(unless it's the entree to a government job where those qualities inspire jealousy.)

A sheepskin is proof to a prospective employer that you have at least exhibited enough of some of those qualities to earn one.

I didn't go after mine till I was in my mid 40's when I decided I was bored with what I was doing and was in a position to do it.

I'd do it over again and still go through several college level courses a year on DVD. Not all the easy ones either.

Bad Climber

Nov 2, 2013 - 08:52pm PT
Prof. Gill makes a good point, but academic positions, if hard to get, still come around from time to time. I was finishing grad school in the mid-80's with a goal of teaching at the community college level. A crappy economy and a dark forecast by many pundits made my career choice sound like a long run-out above RP's. But I was in love with my subject (English), a young Romantic addicted to climbing, and what else was there to do? If we don't pursue our dreams, what's the point of being on this wondrous orb? Still, the adjunct teaching grind almost took me out of the game, but after six years of scraping by, I started getting offers for full-time work and landed a tenure-track position shortly thereafter. I've been in my current job for about 16 years now. Summers off, winter and spring breaks, decadently sweet gig.

As a teacher, however, I see way too many students wasting their time--and mine--because they think college is the only way to go. Often, of course, they don't know what the hell they're doing. I do my best, but the body count in my classes can get pretty fearsome at times. I don't cotton to self-esteem grading, if you get my drift. But I've had my success stories, too. I'm especially proud of Maria Peneda, daughter of field workers who refused to take the extra time allowed on the exams because English was not her first language. She went on to graduate and become a nurse. Damn straight, I tell you what! Freakin' awesome gal. I have a few of these every semester, and the ones who drop sometimes come back, years later, and get the job done right. Sometimes what appears like failure is just a TR burn to prepare for the red point later on.

Sure, college can be a waste of time. It depends on what you bring to it.


Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 3, 2013 - 01:23am PT
There's an old saying about youth being wasted on the young. I think there may be an analogous, if less catchy, line about education. It too, is often wasted on the young.

I know a lot of older folks who wished they had made more of the educational opportunities that they had, as well as others who would like to find ways to go back to school at relatively advanced ages, for no other reason than to learn about stuff they wish they knew more about.

I and many of my fellow science and mathematics grad students often supported ourselves by tutoring people, usually in elementary statistics, who had shunned math all their lives and now found it essential to their chosen goals. I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard "I wish I had learned this well when I had the chance."

My mom didn't graduate from high school, but eventually got a college degree in her fifties. She felt so privileged to finally have had that experience and she genuinely couldn't understand the attitudes of many of her youthful fellow students, kids who seemed to view the entire enterprise as a distasteful fraternity initiation rite they had to go through, and who seemed determined to get as little as possible out of it. Meanwhile, she had waited half a century for societal attitudes, finances, and life-situations to make it possible for her to learn about things she had increasingly wanted to know about.

When the occasional class cancellations happen, often to the delight of my students, I sometimes joke that education is the only commodity that consumers rejoice when they get less of it for their money.

Sometimes it takes some life experience and some maturing to realize just how fascinating and enriching academic pursuits can be. It is true that not everyone needs to go to college, but it is also true that not everyone needs to go when they are 18 years old. Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to either go or return to school later in life, when in many ways people are more receptive to the benefits, especially those that are less tangible.

On the other hand, while we, surrounded by comforts and forced, by law, to acquire at least a modicum of knowledge, decry the utility of education, girls and teachers in Pakistan risk their lives every day in order to acquire just a little bit of what some of us so easily scorn.

I must say that I find it ironic to hear climbers speak of education as only having vocational value if that. Here we have a group of people who have devoted enormous amount of energy, invested countless hours, have repeatedly risked their health and even their lives, and have often committed themselves to a terribly uncertain financial future, for what exactly? A passion certainly, but not one of any "value" except to themselves. It would seem to me that these folks, as much as anyone, would understand the almost irresistable draw that other activities, including those classified as academic, might might exert on the human soul.

Education has the potential to fling open the gates to gardens people didn't know existed, to provide unimagined vistas, and to cast entirely new light on the familiar and mundane. Yes, to paraphrase a line from the Torah, many of us walk sightless in the presence of miracles. Education can open a chink in that enveloping darkness. It's a big gamble, to be sure---the candle can gutter and go out, and the darkness remains. But climbers, so used to embracing risk in the pursuit of self-fulfillment, ought not to be strangers to that concept.
Bad Climber

Nov 3, 2013 - 08:59am PT
Here! Here! Rgold is golden. Well said.


Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
Nov 3, 2013 - 09:27am PT
college is what you make it,
myne was atypical:

i lived in my car, or beneath the interstate;
i showered in the geology building;
i ate meals wherever i could
fill my instant pouches with tepid water;
i studied in denny's or the free lab at

i tiptoed around massive debt;
i stomped into my brain a viable
i explored new cultures in urban america;
and i left behind, others.

then the now became malleable,
and i continue to mold it into
new shapes and understandings.

everything is a waste of time.
time has a half-life of
never(mind) squared.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Nov 3, 2013 - 09:27am PT
My parents were the first generation in their families to have a college education.

I have 14 years of college, without which I wouldn't be one of the one percenters. You can't convince me that college is a waste of time.

Excuse me now, I'm getting ready for a scuba trip to a luxury resort in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where I'll contemplate how much better off I would have been with just a high-school education.
The user formerly known as stzzo

Sneaking up behind you
Nov 3, 2013 - 09:39am PT
"how many lines of code could you write?"

Not everyone has the wherewithal to learn best practices, theory, etc on their own.

I wouldn't want my airplanes, ABS brake system, elevators, medical equipment, bridges, and so-on designed / built by any old do-it-yourselfer.

But maybe I'm too picky...

Kennewick wa
Nov 3, 2013 - 10:03am PT
Some might argue that college dropouts will sit in their parents' basements playing Halo 2, doing Jell-O shots and smoking pot.

I thought that's what you do in college.

Sport climber
Pinedale, Wyoming
Nov 4, 2013 - 12:45pm PT
the most important things I took away from college I did not learn in the classroom. Attention to detail, finishing what I had started, and to never fear not having $- that situation is always in flux. Spell check equalizes my universe since speed bumps were invented-lots of times during those years, I should have asked for my money back..if I had a kid-I would insist on tech school first.

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
Nov 4, 2013 - 01:52pm PT
Yes, a good college will teach you critical thinking, problem analysis, and communications skills. All of which are very valuable in the working world, almost no matter what job you choose.

Boulder climber
Feb 21, 2015 - 10:58pm PT
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