The title of this post alone is guaranteed to draw readers. Just google that phrase and see how many hits come up. It is a question on the minds of a great many people, especially as tuition continues to spiral upward, students graduate with considerable debt from loans, and the job market looks bleak.
I was led to ask this question, though, not from any thoughtful reflection on tuition increases, debt, or frightening unemployment. I was led to ask it when I saw, once again, a picture on Facebook of party-hearty, half-dressed undergrads. My policy is not to friend a person on Facebook until after he or she has graduated. There needs to be a healthy distance between my current students and me. Upon graduation, many of my former students will then invite me to be friends on FB, and I always comply. It is nice to stay in touch, and some of them continue to ask for advice, letters of reference, and so forth.
What is concerning is the picture that is painted of the undergraduate life from some of their postings. Now, let's be honest here. By the grace of God, I was a nose-in-the-books, good-grades kind of young man. I mean it when I say this is thanks to the grace of God. I know my natural appetites, and nothing else can explain why I did not indulge in the readily available hedonism at the large, state university I attended for my undergraduate degree. Sex, booze, and drugs were all there, and while I did drink some my senior year, it was never to the fall-down-drunk-can't-find-my-way-out-of-the-bathroom-spend-the-night-by-the-toilet-miss-class-the-next-day stage. That was my good friend and roommate.
Yet even with a collegiate experience that, if not pure as the driven snow was at least a reasonably clean off-white or beige, I do not remember even my friends in the shenanigans depicted in some of the FB posts by my former students. I do not recall the casual near-nudity. All the time. In every location. In front of anybody.
So it makes me ask, if college is just a four-year drunken orgy, is it really worth going into debt? While a young man or woman will likely indulge in some highjinks, for the most part, the student with serious scholarly interests will not go for such a life. He will be too engaged in what brings him genuine satisfaction and joy, the pursuit of learning.
Not all well paying jobs are of this scholarly nature. Theoretical physics, yes. Auto repair, no. Most of us will agree that neither of these two areas of employment is superior to the other, although many more of us will have a direct connection with the auto mechanic than the physicist. One requires a college degree, the other does not. What, though, about other fields? Do IT people really need an undergraduate degree? Maybe. What follows here is pure speculation based on nothing, but I wonder whether certain jobs that we have said require a degree really do. In other words, could the fun-loving young man or woman not simply get a job, get training on the job, then go out after work and get as drunk and naked as he or she likes without incurring all that debt?
After posting this piece, I ran across this article on the rampant hedonism at Columbia and Yale. Read it. The details are not too salacious, but the sheer volume of details is enough to numb. Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.