This is going to get few people’s hackles up, but here goes.
My school days were what might be described as successful. I was a good scholar – top of the top form every term (semester) and well set on the road to university. But my stepfather refused to let me go down that road, and continued to refute every attempt to persuade him to change his mind. He wasn’t going to pay good money to keep me sitting on my fat arse in a classroom, he said, and told me I was to go out and work for a living like everybody else.
I was bitter at the time, but now I’m grateful. Had I gone to university, I’m sure it would have taken me longer to develop respect for free thinking. I’m sure I would have been stuck between the tram lines longer, because university is essentially a tram line institution. Maybe I would still be stuck between the tram lines now.
Ever since I started working at the theatre in 1993, I’ve met a lot of people with degrees, including some with masters. What I noticed was how narrow minded most of them were – settled firmly in the cement of either conservative or liberal axioms. The two traditions are, after all, just two sides of the same tram lines. The academics told them what to believe, and academics are clever people so they believed it. And I’ve encountered a few rare, free thinking types who’ve seriously struggled at university, despite their obvious mental capabilities, because being a square peg forced through a round hole is so damned oppressive.
The problem is that modern culture insists on a university education. The piece of paper is the badge that proves a person’s worth. Without it, you’ll never be more than an also ran, even though a lot of what’s taught in university is of little value in the outside world. Ah, but university teaches people to think, I’ve heard. Does it? That isn’t my experience, and I think we’re taking too narrow a road. There’s more to life than the tyranny of tram lines.