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LostYonder wrote

I work in academia so am perhaps a bit biased. I know college isn't for everyone and each university has its own culture, but I think the idea of going to college remains a significant value. Universities are ultimately institutions driven, mostly, by the "bottom line", are extremely hierarchical, and heavily influenced by crafting an "experience" for youth defined by idiotic societal norms and practices.

One can easily allow those aspects of college to define their own experience and you will feel it will be a wasted time. However, within the university there does remain individuals, spaces, and programs that in fact allow high degrees of experimentation, real learning (non-grade/exam based memorization), and alternative politics. It can be a place to question and challenge - though one has to find those spaces.

Universities are under attack from a variety of forces including the conservative right in the US for being "liberal", from state governments for being unproductive, from students who just want to be trained for a job and binge drink on weekends, from research dollars ear-marked for advancing and protecting particular economic and political norms. It is thus important that alternative spaces, creative learning, and meaningful research be forged and that we don't cede the university to such conservative forces.

The battle for free, critical thinking within universities has probably already been lost, but there still remains alternative possibilities...


Torskion OP wrote

Do you have any idea if those alternative thought places tend to congregate in specific higher-ed institutions over others? i.e. Junior College vs Graduate programs or etc


LostYonder wrote

Admittedly, I am not too familiar with junior colleges. The basic idea of community colleges though is to provide particular training and skill sets and thus tend to be more oriented towards learning for a job. Again though, I know in different states the community college systems are quite different, in some they are pathetically bad, in others they are in fact places of quality education.

As for liberal arts colleges (granting BAs and BSs mostly) and universities (that offer graduate degrees, MAs, MBAs, JDs, PhDs, etc.) there is such a huge diversity of possibilities and programs. A place like Evergreen in Washington state is one of the few that holds to a liberal education where you can design your own major and participate in self-made study programs. Private liberal arts colleges tend to be super expensive, but you can get an amazing education with all kinds of opportunities. Some however, like Bowdoin college are for pampering rich kids who didn't get into Harvard. I would avoid anything and everything in the NE except NYC. A lot of the midwest colleges are in extremely boring places, but have some amazing programs with highly committed and engaging faculty.

State schools offer the most diversity and possibilities, but also the most rigid and bureaucratic of experiences with a lot of the student body not even interested in learning. If you can avoid those or overlook them, you can find some fascinating things going on. Much of the BDS movement is driven by university students, BLM has huge networks across universities, and many universities are struggling to support various LGBTQ movements and spaces.

Ultimately, think about what sort of things you want to study, the type of activities you want to be engaged with, where you think you want to be in 5 years and beyond, and what is practical - admissions, costs, location, etc.

I went to college with a warped mind thinking I wanted to go to law school (which fortunately I was saved from by a thoughtful professor!), decided to major in economics, rejected that and ended up majoring in Asian studies so I could travel and study abroad! In graduate school I became more focused and disciplined, but that was also some years after completing my degree, traveling and working abroad, and realizing what I wanted to do.

College should be a place opening up opportunities, not closing them off...