Monday, February 18, 2013

Back to School! :D

Well, kind of. I'm doing an online course through Canvas Network, starting April 2, called Gender through Comic Books, and I'm super stoked about the whole thing. I found out about the class, which is free, through Twitter because the internet is awesome. It's just one more thing I've added to my plate, but hey, I like to keep my life interesting.
This = me always.
Of course, I'm not getting any credit toward a degree or anything, but that's not really the point. I want to learn, and if it comes with a healthy dose of interviews from leading comic book artists and writers (Terry Moore, WUT), well, then I'm all for it that much more. I actually created a whole bookmark category dedicated solely to free online classes from major universities*, and it's pretty much enabling me to accomplish my dream of being a forever-student, except without the stigma of being in college for twenty years and nothing to show for it except for a heaping pile of debt.

And see, that's the thing. Knowledge is no longer the purview of the select few that can afford it. The internet, for all its trolls and obnoxious videos of Justin Bieber, has allowed information to flow freely to whomever wants to seek it out. And this, to me, means that the current education system has begun its slow and inevitable death. And I must say this: thank God.

How things are now is this vicious cycle.

  1. Get into college. 
  2. Try to get scholarships.
  3. If you don't qualify for a scholarship, get a student loan.
  4. Finish school.
  5. Look for a job. 
  6. Can't find one because hahaha everyone has a degree and now you need more experience/training/education to get a job that will help you pay off that student loan debt before you are 85.
  7. Go back to school.
  8. Try to get scholarships.
  9. Rinse, repeat. 

It's hopeless and frustrating and ugh. I'm not even someone with a bazillion dollars worth of student loan debt (thanks, parents!), but I know sosososo many that are. And I'm not going to touch the for-profit universities that seem to prey on people since that's a whole other post itself, but I do think that in a hundred years, the landscape of education is going to be an entirely different animal. We won't necessarily need the diploma, although that will be helpful to some degree, but employers are going to want to know if we have the skills necessary to actually do what our degree says we do. I think trade schools are going to make a comeback - maybe even apprenticeships. Hell, why we ever stopped doing that in the first place is beyond me.

I could seriously go on a ten-page (metaphorically speaking, of course) tirade about how current educational standards and practices only exist to maintain the status quo, but really, there are far more better written articles on the topic. But I will say this: just because you have a piece of paper with your college's name and yours on it, saying you have a B.S. in whatever does not mean that you automatically deserve a job that pays you $50,000 (or whatever you consider excessive for an entry level job**) off the bat. You don't. I do think that businesses should provide livable wages***, for their own benefit as well as their employees', but awarding you way above what someone without a degree makes? Bullshit.

Plus, sometimes going the route of university is detrimental to your career goals. Take an old boyfriend of mine who opted to head straight into the belly of the beast instead of going to school. He came to Nashville and got hired as an assistant to a sound tech, basically the dregs of what he actually wanted to do: be a sound engineer. He'd been involved with live sound since high school, so he had basic knowledge of what he needed to learn, and he spent a while just honing his skills. Eventually, he got a job as the house sound engineer for a local bar, which wasn't a glamorous gig, but it got him the contacts and the exposure to where he could start his own one-man company. He now does quite well as a freelance sound engineer and tours with a lot of big bands from Nashville and other cities. Had he gone to college, he'd have missed out on that entire experience and might have actually completely failed in his chosen career. Who knows, really, but he'd definitely be at least five years behind himself, and he'd still have to start at the bottom.
All the RIM (recording industry major) students from MTSU once they figured out that everyone in Nashville had their degree. Plus experience they didn't have because they were in class all day. Or high. Or playing in their "band."
Of course, this doesn't always necessarily apply to all careers. I'd be a little iffy about a surgeon who was like, "Oh, I watched and trained with another surgeon for five years. I don't need to have passed anatomy and physiology." But a person to answer phones at a call center? Just some OTJ training is all that's needed there. Or an electrician? Sure, an understanding of the math behind what you do is helpful, but it isn't really necessary.

But still, this knowledge is out there. I've put the link for Open Culture down below; they have an entire section that is only engineering classes - electrical, mechanical, and civil. An electrician could learn all of this online and never once have to step in a classroom. All they'd have to do is prove that they knew what they were doing. Which means, work, y'all. Word of mouth. Continuing your education. S/he wouldn't need that diploma, as long as they were able to pass the knowledge requirements to obtain a license, which I guess is what the college part is about. Just because you have the paper does not mean you know what in the hell you're doing, though.

Now, my class with Canvas Network isn't really going to help me in my career, except maybe help me write characters better. Or maybe it will just help me understand people better. I don't know. But, like I said above, that's not really the point. It's education for education's sake (and also to hear Terry Moore's opinions about gender in comic books), and I think the more educated we are as people, the better our society will be. Not a new concept, I know, but shit, guys. I've been busy lately.

* Go check out Open Culture for starters. The selection here is actually quite impressive, and these are all courses that you can take on your own time. I love the internet.
** I'm speaking solely in regards to Tennessee here, and the cost of living in this state is significantly lower than in a lot of other areas of the U.S. It's one of the only things about this state that I like. I mean, we're going to be renting a 1500 sq. ft. house for $500/mo.
*** Minimum wage is a fucking joke. Please, tell me that you can work 40 hours per week at $7.25/hr and still be able to "make a better life for yourself and family" while paying for all those pesky necessities like "food" and "shelter." And no, abolishing the minimum wage only gives businesses an excuse to pay people less.
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