Thursday, March 7, 2013

REASON 9: There Are Better Ways to Learn About the World

The best way to learn about the world.

According to the logic of college enthusiasts, the best way to learn about the world isn't to buy a plane ticket and, say, see the world firsthand.  Rather, the path to worldliness requires you to pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, to spend your nights reading theoretical texts that explain how the brightest scholars think the world works, and to spit all of this newfound knowledge out for your midterm and final exams.

I don't know about you, but I think that a plane ticket is probably the better way to learn about the world.

The claim that college teaches young adults about the world is one of the strangest claims ever made about the college experience.  First, college campuses tend to be located in isolated communities, far removed from the conditions of the real world.  Most people would agree that Oberlin, Ohio, New Haven, Connecticut, and even Boulder, Colorado are far from being doorways to the world.  In fact, students and faculty alike actually flee to the college campus because they want to get away from the world.

It is true that college may give young adults a chance to read about the world and its history, political systems, cultures, etc.  Students can even pick up a foreign language or two if they wish.  But again, if your goal is simply to gain a textbook understanding of the world, the benefits of self-study (See Reason 1) quickly outweigh any perceived advantage of going to college.  Do you want to learn about the history of Italy or the geopolitical impact of the Cold War or the economic viability of the European Union?  If you can't find lectures or open source texts on any of these topics for free, you are guaranteed to find sellers online who are practically giving used books on these topics away for free.  

Many colleges tout the presence of international students on campus to sell the idea of a "global" education.  However, in reality international students are too busy trying to conform to your culture to have time to give you any real exposure to their culture.  Visiting a youth hostel abroad is more likely to facilitate a meaningful cultural exchange than bugging the international students while they're trying to study for finals.

The biggest myth is that you need college to act as the middleman between you and the world.  If you truly want to experience the world, grab an updated copy of a Frommer's guidebook and book a ticket to any destination that captures your imagination.

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