Education – How valuable is a college degree?

My friend, Bill Hamilton of Dealing with COPD, wrote a post regarding his school days, which hits a nerve with me. I am passionate now about getting a college degree if you want one, especially if you’re older and feel like you should have done so or if you just want one. I was 50 when I went back to get my Bachelor degree. Why would I do that?

So glad you asked. In high school, I was one of the very best ditchers they had. I was wired into the attendance protocols because a friend of mine, under 18 years of age, was dating a truant officer… At the time, the saying was “17 will get you 20,” meaning 20 years for dating anyone under 18 years old if you were an adult…. “Dating” being a euphemisim for going to bed with someone under age. My problem wasn’t brains, it was attendance. I could get the highest grades on the finals and pull a “C” grade because of my attendance. I was bored out of my mind. The ditching was boring as well, but more entertaining.

Two weeks or a month before my senior year ended, I went to give moral support to a friend of mine who was seeing the Vice Principal to formally drop out of school. Somehow, I dropped out with her. It wasn’t my intention, but I found myself walking out the door having dropped out of school… I simply couldn’t stand lying anymore. I came to regret that as people tend to regard you as less than if you do not have a High School diploma. Somewhere around 20-24, I took the requisite two courses and the GED and graduated with a High School diploma – not the GED equivalency certificate. They made me participate in a diploma ceremony, which I loathed, knowing I should have just graduated the first time around. That was in the 1970s. In the 1980s, I took college courses because they interested me, not for a degree. I treated education like guerrilla warfare: “Get in, get the info, get out.” For my entire working career, attendance was not a problem. Might have been late, but I always showed up and did the job to the best of my ability and effectiveness.

I was a legal secretary / assistant for 25 years, specializing in insurance defense, and freelance writing in my free time. I would get asked over and over again if I did not want to go to school full-time to become an attorney. God, no! All the attorneys I knew, and that ranked in the hundreds, all had a queer kick in their gallop. It was as though in law school, the law faculty removed the students’ brains, taught them to argue every point of view and just before law school ended, they reassembled their brains for graduation. The fact that a couple of pieces were still on the table, but the brains appeared fully assembled was brushed aside. It may be that truly teaching someone to argue every side of an argument does something to the initial wiring. I just know for a fact that each one had a quirk, whether a need to be a tiger in court and a wyuss at home; a controlling personality that needed babysitting; something, something was always just slightly off. I preferred to make a good salary and enjoy my time off by writing, dating, painting, etc. then to work 70-80 hour weeks.

But then, September 11, 2001 happened and life would never be the same during my lifetime. I knew that watching the planes hit and certainly in the aftermath. I had already realized that technology was replacing the need for a true legal secretary/assistant and that we would eventually be phased out by forms – fill in the blank pleadings, etc. I was born in 1955, which means that September 11, 2001, I was 46 years old. I was too old for military service, yet I did want to serve my country.

To be continued… Part 2 coming up.

22 thoughts on “Education – How valuable is a college degree?

  1. Hunt, Good morning, I see the ashes of the fire my post must have started in you, I love the passion, the explosion of words and thoughts, and I look forward to part two, I loved college because I was finally mature enough to realize that I needed both the course work I enjoyed, but for completion, the courses I didn’t care for as well. It was the learning of the learning process. In all our talks and shared notes I had always figured you to be the straight “A” student who was there every day. That upon graduation when immediately to college and was an educational success there as well. Who’s next step was to go right into industry (whatever that may have been) to once again be a major success. One of the biggest mysteries to me is how you ended up unemployed. You have all the tools, all the brains, all the ambition, and clearly your motor runs in overdrive all the time. But I am (hopefully) smart enough to realize having all the tools, drive and ambition do now always guarantee full employment. Smiling, you should have been a teacher, you would have kept their interest, and excited them, and build something of them. Take care, have a great day, looking forward to part two. Bill

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  2. You never cease to amaze me. I would never have guessed you weren’t a A student as well. I feel your passion here and your talent. Goes to show you, learning sometimes must be appreciated.
    I attended school but hated it. After working for many years, learning grabbed me and I marveled at the difference between my young and adult thinking.
    I look forward to Part 2. πŸ˜‰

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  3. We are the same age! After talking with Bill the other day I thought for sure you must be the baby of our little group! Like you I was bored in school. I almost lost my senior year of high school because of “ditching!” By November – if I missed even 1 more class in any of my subjects I would have failed the year. My father was going in for back surgery so my mother sat me down & told me to make up my mind – either I was going to finish high school or I was going to quit right then & find a job. She was fed up with my whole attitude so I needed to pull myself up by my bootstraps! I made the decision to finish high school which was a horrible long haul, but I made it. When I graduated there was no chance my parents could afford university so I went to work. Then I went to university a few years later at night school & earned almost half my B.A. before I became a mother & it became too hard with a non-supportive husband & a newborn.

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