Monday, November 26, 2012

Why I Love College but Hate School

I missed over 50% of my classes this past week and I feel fine. School is increasingly feeling more and more like a chore to me. I know Columbia is technically a “great” school. I know society expects me to study hard or else I shouldn't be there. But I don't have to like it. Although I’m still trying to figure out the means to achieve my goals, I do know that the scripted system—the set of rules that high school and college and the corporate world abide by—isn’t for me, at least if I want to be happy in life.

Maybe it’s a distrust of authority. I view teachers as a form of authority. An authority figure is someone who tells you what you can’t do. A cop will see a graffiti artist or weed smoker and tell them that they’re not allowed to do those things. A teacher will look at a paper and tell their student that they’re not allowed to write a certain word or sentence. Authority is criticism you are forced to comply with. For cops, the punishment for not doing so is jail. For teachers, it is whether or not you pass their class.

More on criticism: a critic is someone who tells you what you shouldn’t do. Academia, specifically in the humanities, is all about criticism. In class, we read texts/textbooks and debate them, mock them, praise them, criticize them. Hardly ever do we attempt to write original works of our own. Instead, we pull godly ideas down to Earth and dissect them until they’re unrecognizable. Like, artists build things up, critics tear things down. Writers write and academics analyze. Criticism is giving an opinion on someone else's opinion. I don't want to devote my opinions to being about other people.

Don't get me wrong: college is awesome. I still plan on graduating. Columbia has given me so many opportunities that I'm grateful for. I love the education I’m getting. It’s like getting force-fed your favorite food—I’m learning a bunch of shit I would never otherwise take the time to learn, from Hellenic Greek society to quantum physics. Living in New York City is tight, the food good, the times chaotic. Being a young person in a community full of friends and peers yields some memorable—and impulsive—experiences. Plus, a college degree is an incredibly useful resource, and would mean a lot to my family. 

So this is not a knock against anyone’s views—I completely understand why some people buy into the whole school mentality. I still recommend working hard in school if there’s no clear-cut alternative for you to pursue. But as for me, the idea of "school" bugs me more and more every day. I love college, but I hate school. I hate the grading and homework and tests. I hate the authority imposed on me. I hate the pretension, the useless criticism. If I want to get a good grade, I have to write and act a certain way. I have to turn in assignments and go to tests on teachers' time. Although I respect all my teachers a lot (many of them are accomplished and brilliant),  I resent the system that we and them must participate in together.

"School" never ends for some people. Homework eventually turns into corporate work, tests turn into “performance assessments.” People just get told (and maybe need to be told) what to do over and over again. It’s the system. It’s the whole scripted path we’re all taught to believe is salvation: work hard in school, get a job, get married, die. But it’s like how Lil Wayne said: “I know that there’s a better way cause I’ve seen it.” I have seen it, I’ve seen it in the way that successful entrepreneurs and artists live. So I guess I’ll chase that lifestyle, and if it doesn’t work out, well, at least I was off the script for a while.


  1. I liked this essay a lot. I go to Cornell and feel really similarly about a lot of what you said. What's your e-mail address?

  2. thank you, it is, feel free to contact me

  3. love the post Zach! Im glad we were able to speak about the scripted life and how school is involved!

  4. thank you james! me too, i will be posting the article about our conversation tomorrow