Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

How I Said Phooey to College | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on November 23, 2021

The key is for individuals to continue developing their own minds regardless of whether they are college students or carving their own path. Pursuing one’s dreams without a degree requires more self-discipline than “paying one’s dues” and serving four years on campus. One of Nietzsche’s best lines offers both an inspiration and a warning: “He who cannot obey himself will be commanded.”

by Jim Bovard

President Biden is tub-thumping for Congress to create new federal handouts to make college free for the vast majority of students. But as Ryan McMaken and other commentators on have pointed out, college is vastly overpriced and overrated nowadays.

My view on college stems from my experience as a two-time dropout. I was frightfully bored in high school and had mediocre grades. Almost immediately after my compulsory schooling ended, my long-lost love of reading revived. A month before I began attending Virginia Tech, a kindly neighbor gave me the University of Chicago Great Books list, which became my road map to the best writings of Western civilization. Reading authors such as Montaigne, Voltaire, Nietzsche, Emerson, and John Stuart Mill awoke portions of my mind that I never knew existed. I was unaware that I was loitering in mental neutral until those classics jolted my mind into a higher gear.

Early in my first quarter at college, I aspired to getting all As. But, after a few hooey-laden tests, I recognized that professors were demanding something different than what I was seeking. Many of the textbooks felt like heavy blankets smothering my mind. I was confounded to see most fellow students never venture beyond the books professors assigned them. They acted as if a secret zoning mandate permitted using only government-approved building materials for their own minds.

I spent far more time reading old books unrelated to my courses that quarter than I did on class assignments. The more active my mind became, the less I could endure tenured droning. I believed that I was more likely to develop my potential on my own than by hunkering down in a classroom. After sloughing most of my teenage years, I felt like I was far behind mentally compared to where I should have been.

As in high school, my grades that quarter were mediocre—Bs and Cs. When I dropped out after that first quarter, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. A few months later, I decided to become a writer. My ego was more robust than the articles I submitted, and my bedroom wall was soon papered with reject slips. Just because I could read a great book didn’t mean I could write a coherent paragraph. I belatedly realized that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to learn how to write. I needed expert assistance in my fight against my literary chaos.

I side railed my swagger and returned to Virginia Tech.

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