Why I think academia is irrelevant

academia

I may be a university student, but I have no real respect for academia. To be frank, I went to university with the full knowledge that I will gain something out of it. Since I do an art course, I’m mainly talking about the contextual studies module, which if you’re preparing to go to uni yourself, you should now this that this is the dry and academic part of your course. I frankly dislike academia, mainly because I see it as stingy and old fashioned, particularly when it comes down to research.

To be clear, they’re okay with you using Internet sources as long as you don’t just use a random blog as a source (incidentally, please don’t use this site as a source for your dissertation, I’m not liable for your carelessness), but they seem to be insistent that you mostly use books. That isn’t necessarily the worst of my problems, but it seems to me like they have no faith in a student’s ability to discern truth from misinformation on the Internet. The only real argument I’ve heard against using online sources is that there might be misinformation.

More to the point, they seem to be the kind of people who have the attitude of either you write the way we want you to, or you fail, and I can say this because I have actually discussed this with a member of staff working at the university, and we basically came to that conclusion looking at the kind of writing language you’re required to use. They’ll tell you its supposed to be about objectivity, but really it seems to me like you’re part of the Borg. Not even a shred of your own individuality is allowed in your writing at all, and yet I’ve heard that certain lecturers recommend that you write your dissertation with emotive, persuasive language. That sounds like they’re in favour of narrative crafting, the total opposite of objectivity.

To me, that’s the biggest problem I have with academia, that it’s stuck in its old and entrenched ways, refusing to change with the times. The most revolutionary aspect of the age of information has been the fact that now anyone who can use the internet has access to any kind of knowledge they want, and they don’t even have to go to university and go into debt to do it. The people in academia hate that. They have long been the ivory tower gatekeepers of information in the days before the information age, and now that the internet has brought about the free flow of information to the public, academia is left unable to stem the flow.

Of course, academia is one the core components of the reigning establishment (the others being the government, the media, and the cultural elite). Their gripes are the same as those of the rest of establishment at large – they are becoming irrelevant, and they can’t stand that. It doesn’t help that they cling to the ideology of cultural Marxism, that postmodern, neo-Marxist nonsense which you can easily use the Internet to disprove if you have at least two brain cells, a cursory knowledge of philosophy, and/or internet connection. If anything, this seems to be making academia (and academics) even more irrelevant and out of touch with the rest of society.

Those at least are my observations. I haven’t necessarily been in university for very long, but I get the sense that I don’t fit in well with academic culture. The way I see it, the kind of academic language taught in university isn’t going to be worth much when you get out of university and try to enter the job market, which as I speak is so oversaturated with degree-holding graduates that I dare say degrees will one day become worthless. All that debt for nothing I guess, and yet I’m supposed to have respect for the irrelevant spectre that is academic culture, which will offer nothing of worth to me unless I plan to become a teacher and/or a professor, thereby entrapping myself within the education system. It seems to me like an outdated system. Instead of encouraging young people to go to university, I think it would be best to encourage them to develop vocational skills and enter the job market. If anything, it may yet be more profitable for the next generation than locking them into the old, outdated academic culture that will continue to fail them in the long run.

Believing the lecturer (a rant)

listen and believe

So I had an interesting conversation with some of my classmates, wherein I talked about the contents of a previous lecture, in which the lecturer, attempting to explain the 50’s mystique, read from an article entitled “Only a Mad Woman would call the 50s a golden age”, which sort of implied that the nostalgic, rose-tinted view of the 50’s is a recent phenomenon attributable to the TV show Mad Men. That didn’t sound right at all. I know that’s bullshit, because I used to watch the 70’s sitcom Happy Days, a show that uncritically exonerates the 50’s is this golden decade in which nothing went wrong.

When I actually researched the article, I found out that this was lifted from The Daily Mail (I checked word for word, and it was the correct one), a tabloid newspaper with about as much credibility as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The article itself was written by Liz Hodgkinson, a noted feminist who writes for the Femail column (the UK equivalent of Jezebel that’s somehow part of a fervently right-wing paper).

In the same lecture, we were treated to the first episode of a 2002 BBC documentary entitled “Century of the Self”, which was made by Adam Curtis, a glorified conspiracy theorist who apparently has a reputation for manipulative film-making tactics designed to hand-hold you towards his conclusion. The central assertion is that modern consumer culture is essentially the product of Edward Bernays and the ideas of the Freud family. Even if it was largely factual, it was exquisite propaganda, and had the tendency to imply rather bold claims that could easily be debunked. For instance, one part of the film implied that Edward Bernays was responsible for getting women to smoke, which Curtis would be successful in having you believe if you’re a moron. A quick google search will yield several photos and/or illustrations that show women smoking (I found an image dating back to 1906).

Anyways, after I explained this (in greater detail, I just condensed it in this post so I could get to the point), one of my classmates apparently told me that I should just listen to whatever the lecturer has to say, with weak arguments such as “how many degrees do I have” or “how long have I been in art”. None of those questions were even fucking relevant. My argument is that you should take what a lecturer says with at least some scepticism. You should be critically analysing what you’ve been taught, but apparently he disagrees. He thought I should basically sponge up what the lecturer says without thinking about it. Effectively, he argued that I should accept academic dogma uncritically. Gee, where have I heard this before?

anita sarkeesian

There is a very good reason I don’t just sit there and accept what the lecturer has to say unless I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s factual. As I’ve written about several times on this site, you have crazy left-wing ideologues who constantly lie about sexism, racism, so-called Islamophobia, and they run rampant on the mainstream media. Such ideologues are also found in academia, in the form of far-left academics who preach Marxism and social justice as if it were gospel. As we have seen over the past few years, we know that Marxist lecturers have been using their position to indoctrinate young people into the cult of social justice, and if that’s true, how can I not be sceptical of what they’re saying?

Besides, people forget that this “listen and believe” attitude isn’t just limited to leftists. The conservative Christians also pulled this crap too when Bush Jr. was President, or did everyone forget? In fact, you get this mentality from any brand of authoritarian ideology. Given that you get at least some Marxism in every university, I have to be sceptical of what I’m taught. Failing to be sceptical would be a dereliction of every value I hold dear.

The other reason I can’t accept such a proposition is because if you apply that logic, it can become dangerous. If you just sponge up everything a lecturer says uncritically, then you can get tricked into believing outright falsehoods such as white privilege, the patriarchy, and so on. Besides, if you’re willing to just listen and believe in the case of lecturers, then why not apply this logic to priests, imams, newsmen and politicians? If you won’t, then you’re not being consistent in your values. If you do, then your naivety will be a con artist’s best friend. After all, a good old confidence trick can only work if you trust the con artist.

I’m not trying to say that all university lecturers are con artists. I’m sure most of them have standards, and I’m certainly not suspecting art teachers, but I’m saying that students should be sceptical of their lecturers, just as they should be sceptical of the media, the politicians, and organised religion. In that sense I’m applying my sceptical principles universally, and believe that everyone else should. Is that really such a bad thing?

Looking to the future

university

Not representative of what’s actually coming.

Three years ago, I would have been utterly against the idea of going to university, believing that I was defiant in my refusal to go to university when everyone else was. Three years later, I’m not only optimistic about doing a three-year illustration course in Swansea, but I also now realize that everything I believed about going to university as a teenager was complete bunk.

I’ve been in college for nearly four years, and in that time, there are a lot of things I’ve had to think about, and at some point, I ran into a critical dilemma. This would be my final year in college, but I had no plan for what to do next. I had nothing but disdain for the video games industry, and while I had plenty of creative ideas for future projects (and I still do, with more to come), and didn’t exactly specify where I wanted to go with them. It wasn’t until September that I decided to finally discuss university as an option. By this point, nearly everyone I knew was at least considering it, even if some didn’t want to go to university the year before. Unlike previous years, however, I actually saw the reason why people were going to university, and sought out my own reasons for going as well. I also want through a lengthy decision process where I contemplated fine art, illustration, creative writing, and at one point even film studies, before eventually settling on the BA Illustation course at the Swansea College of Art.

Naturally, this decision came as a shock my mother, who had thought that I was jumping into a risky decision without giving it any thought. For the first month of the decision process, she was right, but after I did more reading, my excitement and understanding grew. Predictably enough, both my parents had issue with my firm decision to study away from home, and perhaps rightly so, since this would perhaps be the most radical change in my life in nearly a decade. They tried using every argument to convince me to change my mind, even going so far as to argue that I couldn’t live in halls because I had autism. That only made it impossible for me to take their concerns seriously, since they were all based on the overprotective paranoia of neurotypical parents.

When making this decision, I fully understood that I was taking a big risk. In fact, that element of risk made it even more attractive. However, what they didn’t see at the beginning (I hope they do now) was that I wasn’t taking this chance just to leave the nest as quickly as possible. The strong desire for independence was a key factor in my decision, but I want to go to university now because I have great concern for my future. I worried that I was doomed to walk my 20’s without any idea of what I want to do, all while I’d still be painfully single, living with my parents, and trapped with the notion that my autism is some kind of social barrier (an idea I have been fighting relentlessly against). I had to ask myself, “is this my future?”

All that aside, now that I’ve decided firmly where I want to go (even if UCAS has no idea as of yet), I still have one unresolved question – where do I from there? Since the beginnings of the creative renaissance I’ve experienced in the BTEC art course, I’ve been getting tons of ideas for various projects (with some ideas coming from the strangest places), and according to the university’s website, Swansea’s illustration course provides a good foundation for a career as a self-employed artist/designer, an illustrator for a major publishing company, a children’s book author/illustrator, or even a teacher, and perhaps there are other possibilities I don’t know of yet.

Thankfully, I have three more years to decide where I want to go after Swansea (I’ll probably be offered the chance to do a master’s degree, which I’ll respectfully decline), but in the mean time, I have a vague idea of where I’m going, it’s going to be fun. The main thing I’ll get out of this is a new experience, and a new outlook on life that I desperately need. Maybe I’ll find the one thing I’ve been longing for all this time.

Education is not a privilege

education cuts

Over the past five years, we’ve witnessed the Tory government and our Prime Minister David Cameron attacking everything that makes people’s lives easier just to keep their rich friends afloat. The government seems to have a particular hatred for education, as evidenced by a checklist of their past atrocities. They’ve been raising tuition fees, making cuts to post-16 and higher education, making cuts to the Disabled Student Allowance, and trying to drop 20th century American novels from the national syllabus. If you thought that our slimy Tory government could sink any lower, then look no further. Their burning hatred of education is extending to student maintenance grants, which they are attempting to scrap without holding any proper debate (probably because they know any real debate wouldn’t end the way they’d like it).

Naturally, the very idea of scrapping student maintenance grants for the poorest students has sparked outrage from students and politicians alike, mainly because only 18 MP’s talked about it, and without any proper debate whatsoever. It is perhaps the single most undemocratic decision our government is making so far, but then, what were we expecting when we nation collectively decided to pardon David Cameron in the last election? We all knew that Cameron was going to screw this country over yet again, and many of us didn’t even want to vote for him, but apparently there was an even greater amount of morons who bought Mr. Cameron’s bullshit at the last minute, and unless something is done, the next generation will pay the price.

I must wonder what our government assumes about us young people. They must assume that higher education is just as much a privilege for us as it must have been for David Cameron and his Eton chums. The reality is that the job market is still horrendously tight. For young people like myself, higher education offers a way of acquiring not just an attractive degree, but also crucial employability skills that are vital for anyone’s professional survival. Hence, for many young people, higher education is not just an attractive prospect, but also a necessity for attaining our various career aspirations. Our parents know this as well, so when they hear about the government’s plans to scrap the maintenance grants for the poorest students, they’ll inevitably worry that this will discourage young people from even considering higher education.

As a Coleg Sir Gar student (who often asks myself what I’m still doing there) hoping to make the big leap to university, I have every reason to worry about this, but what worries me more is that millions of young people could make the same mistake I did when I was 18. I worry that many young people will dismiss higher education purely because of the costs associated with university. If I could go back in time to the year 2012, I’d tell myself not to worry too much about the financial side, because there is help out there for those who need it (providing the government isn’t planning to cut that too).

Thankfully, there is some hope. There’s a petition going around and it already has enough supporters to merit a debate in parliament. The only question is will our voices be heard? Will the petition make impact on overturning an unjust and illogical plan, or will David Cameron’s government attempt to suppress our voice once again? Whatever the outcome, it is important to remember that any attack on higher education risks silencing young voices and crushing young talent, and if we have any hope of rescuing the country from its bleak situation, then the government must consider the importance of young talent, rather than depriving them of what I now accept to be perhaps the best pathway to a career they could hope for.

If you wish to sign the petition, the link is here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/109649

Adulthood doesn’t start at 18, or 21

I don’t consider myself an adult quite yet. I call myself an “Emerging Adult”, or in my case, I’m a kid who thinks differently and likes to listen to 80’s music on my PC even though I was born in the 90’s. Maybe it’s my high sense of nostalgia for my childhood years, maybe it’s the mistakes made by the past generation, or maybe it’s something else. Either way, I don’t want to call myself and adult yet.

Why?

That’s very simple. I have a different definition of adulthood entirely. The conventional definition of adulthood is simply “the state of being an adult”. That definition, however, doesn’t stress the importance of responsibility, and is simply about independence from parents. My parents’ generation would rush into a marriage and a career regardless of the consequences, because they thought it was the “adult” thing to do. I don’t want to rush into it because of the consequences this mentality has brought on. So many marriages have ended in divorce, and many people are unhappy with their careers. It must have been pretty evident that my parents were very unhappy. Why else would they split up?

What I’m advocating is a whole new approach to adulthood in general. In my view, growing up doesn’t have to mean handing yourself over to the system. In fact, this laziness and weakness are things that I see as immature. You aren’t an adult immediately after you turn 18 or 21, because even after that, there’s still a lot we have to learn as people. Allow me to give you an example of why you aren’t an adult immediately after you leave your parents:

When someone goes to university, what’s the first thing they do? Think about their futures? Striving to be a more responsible person? Nope! They get totally drunk at the Fresher’s Fair without taking a shred of responsibility, riding on their new found freedom, never mind that their parents are paying for their education!

My point is that you don’t gain the responsibility immediately. The question is, when do you become an adult? That could be anytime in your life. An adult is someone who shows willingness to face the consequences of his/her actions, someone who can rear a family and take care of himself, someone who understands the world around him, someone who can make his own decisions. You know, all that stuff. No age of adulthood in this definition, because it isn’t about age, it’s about personal character and ability. But that’s just my opinion. What about you?