A question of degrees.

At the arse end of four educationally untroubled years, I was surprisingly awarded a first class honours degree by half of one percent. My perennial roommate was a swotty top of our class and received a £50 merit prize. I received partial liver failure and a late night Snickers habit.

A year later, the polytechnic invited me back to address the undergraduates. Their less than subtle subtext was to convince their drunken charges that if only they’d stop fondling each other long enough, they’d realise a little bit of application now maketh a successful career.

My less subtle state of undress – they really should have twigged my refusal to wear a suit or to provide a copy of my speech likely hid a fifth columnist – directed a rambling monologue on life in the real world. It can – and I’m sorry to report, it was – summed up with a single piece of robust advice “Have as much fun, sex and booze as you can now, as it’s properly miserable out here”. Surprisingly, I wasn’t invited back.

My degree is a geeky BSc in Computer Science, which in an industry fully conforming to Moore’s law renders theoretical education laughably obsolete. As were most of our tutors except those who had been found out by proper firms and returned early to the public sector. They talked a load of nonsense and we didn’t much listen which is as good an educational charter as any.

Everthing I learnt – other than some extra curricular activities for while I’ll be ever grateful – charted poorly onto a map of work and the degree was nothing more than an entry point for a decent salary. And yet, compared to others serenely wasting tax payers money, we did have at least the slimmest of vocational justification.

We shared the campus with messy engineering types; mech-eng’s designing turret attachments for their Minis and trainee sparks wiring up all manner of interesting light shows, by illegally pilfering the campus supply. As proper hands on students, they rightly looked down their greasy noses at us geeks. But that was ok as we looked south past our pen protectors to the media and modern studies undergrads.

They are not a proper degrees. It’s all cutting stuff out of magazines and watching the TV. More interested in maintaining a grungy appearance and debating “yes but is art life or life art“. Ask any engineer that question and he’ll look you in the eye, rub his chin as if deep in thought before laying you out with a tyre iron for being an arty puff.

To this den of educationally destitute inequity, add sports courses of all flavours, anything to do with Hairdressing and/or Grooming and, more controversially, History and Geography. History; read a book, Geography; look out of a window; History of Art; stop being a pretentious wanker. I am thankful that meek accountants were not part of our campusly scorn; four years to use a calculator – they’d have had it hard.

There are graduates milling around our office now like a mobile fire hazard and they’ve clearly been dressed by their mums. It’s a touching combination of naivity and arrogance that represents the future of the country. I think that probably calls for a beer. Or possibly a number of beers.

And now I see a serious scholar can undertake the rigorous and intellectually demanding qualification that is a degree in Robin Hood. About as valuable as a four year thesis on why scratching ones’ bollocks is quite so satisfying.

In fact, on that note, I’ll finish right here; I’ve important educational research to attend to.

7 thoughts on “A question of degrees.”

  1. I had a FANTASTIC e-mail from an irate history student this morning.

    “History is incredibly important to understanding not only who you are but why you are who you are, it’s your kind of attitude that’s putting future generations at risk as they will have no contextual framework on which to base their culture and aspirations…”

    It went on and on and on. And on. While I have some sympathy for his point of view, if not his breathless lack of commas, get a bloody grip.

    “Contextual Framework”? Has he read this blog? It’s about as relevant to a discussion on educational slackness as it is to carp fishing in Bolivia.

    I did consider a witty and erudite reply pointing out the flaws in his argument but instead went for a more succinct “fuck off if you don’t like it” instead.

    Can’t please all the people all the time.

  2. “History is incredibly important to understanding not only who you are but why you are who you are, it’s your kind of attitude that’s putting future generations at risk as they will have no contextual framework on which to base their culture and aspirations…?

    What a load of utter bollox! In fairness it fits onto this blog perfectly then!… 🙂

  3. 🙂 Tim was telling me that Geography is actually “just colouring in for adults”. He should know, he has a degree in it!

  4. Considering what the Modern Studies Students were left with after the “Milk Round”, she got off lightly.

    Yes, they were mostly employed on a milk round but not deemed responsible enough to actually drive the electric chariot. One was turned down for a Postman’s job.

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